International Women’s Day Breakfast
6 March 2015
Address by Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to PNG
Ms Margaret Adamson
• Lady Lynda Babao-O’Neill
• Business and Professional Women’s Club of Port Moresby President, Susil Nelson
• Distinguished Guests
• Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a pleasure to join the Business and Professional Women’s Club annual International Women’s Day Breakfast; an event Australia is proud to support each year as the Club continues to provide much needed support for young Papua New Guinean women’s educational opportunities such as Mary. Mary, your story is an inspiration to all of us, and underscores what a difference this kind of support can make, for the recipient, and then for her students and wider family.
International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on 8 March all over the world, to highlight the economic, political and social achievements of women. Today’s theme is about women’s empowerment through sport and I look forward to hearing the panel of speakers talk about their experiences, especially the role of women in sport and their own leadership journey. A member of the Australian High Commission, Julienne Leki-Maliaki, will speak on the panel about her experience as a sports administrator for netball.
It is wonderful to see Dika Toua here. Your Gold performance at last year’s Commonwealth Games is a great achievement. We need to celebrate success stories such as yours and to show young girls that women can accomplish great things in the world of sport. We need the media and potential sponsors to ‘get the message’ about promoting women in sport.
With 70 per cent of the world’s poor women, gender equality and women’s empowerment is a key foreign policy priority for Australia. It is also a central pillar of our engagement with Papua New Guinea.
In December last year, Australia’s Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop and PNG’s Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development, the Hon Delilah Gore reaffirmed their support to promote gender equality in our two countries, highlighting that women who are economically secure can better access education and health services, and have expanded opportunities to take on leadership or decision-making roles in their communities and workplaces, boosting economic and political participation.
One of the best ways to achieve stronger communities, societies and economies is to empower women and girls. Apart from fairness, the simple arithmetic fact is that women and girls make up over half of our populations.
Australia is investing in women’s and girls’ empowerment in PNG. Over the next 5 years we will invest Aud$55 million dollars in PNG to enhance women’s leadership, increase women’s incomes and reduce violence, and access to services through the Pacific Women Program.
We are actively supporting the law and justice sector, helping police, prosecutors and magistrates to improve legal protections for survivors of family and sexual violence.
I would like to commend the PNG Government for its continuing work on implementing the Family Protection Act. I know the Coalition for Change played a major part in this.
In September 2013, the unanimous passing of the Family Protection Act criminalised domestic violence for the first time in Papua New Guinea and signified the Government’s strong political commitment to reducing family and sexual violence.
To ensure that practical measures are available to access protection under the Act for all Papua New Guineans, the Department of Justice and Attorney General recently brought together the law and justice sector, non-government organisations and civil society to draft the Regulations of the Act and allocate key priority tasks to relevant agencies and institutions. We look forward to the regulations becoming law.
In the education field, the Australian Government provides around 500 scholarships for Papua New Guineans to study at health and education institutions across PNG. Around 70 per cent of awardees last year were women. At least half of the approximately 150 Papua New Guineans awarded scholarships to study in Australia each year are women.
In addition to these efforts, Australia is also leveraging sport to promote women’s participation and leadership opportunities, and to stop violence against women.
Sport is a unique vehicle that contributes to development through social inclusion, and by changing attitudes between women and men. Sport builds healthy families and increases equality between women and men.
It’s an understatement to make the point that our countries are both passionate about sport. There is a great pool of sporting talent in PNG, which will be on display in July when you host the 2015 Pacific games. And, aside from rugby league, when it comes to team sports, netball and cricket are also popular codes. Perhaps you are not all aware that the PNG National Men’s, Women’s and Under 19’s Cricket teams are currently ranked Number One in the East Asia Pacific Region. In 2014, PNG was awarded One Day International status for the first time. Having this status can provide economic opportunities, just as it has done in other cricket-loving countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Supporting campaigns to reduce violence
Last year, in partnership with Rugby League, Australia supported a ‘Women in Sports’ Fun Day, modelled on the League Bilong Laif program which promotes literacy, healthy lifestyles, respect for women and girls and social responsibility. The event raised awareness about attitudes to violence and highlighted the role women can play in sport.
Also in 2014, Cricket PNG hosted a women's cricket exhibition match based on the same anti-violence theme 'Awareness starts at home'. Teams included women from Pari and Tubuseirea villages.
Today, I am delighted to announce we will provide Aud$40,000 to Cricket PNG for a Girls Empowerment Through Cricket Program. The program aims to increase the number of girls in high school playing regular cricket, provide employment opportunities in the cricket industry, and increase awareness about health and education. We will work through the Kriket Blo Olgeta Program: a partnership between Australia, Cricket PNG, the International Cricket Council and Cricket Australia.
These initiatives are examples of how sport can be used as a way to increase women and girls participation in sport and to help promote gender equality messages. They also focus on changing attitudes to violence and to help empower young girls to feel confident and to take up leadership roles.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak. I commend BPW on a great job organising the event this morning, building on a strong tradition of promoting International Women’s Day. To continue the sporting imagery: you have a long track-record helping to empower the women of PNG so they can contribute to their country on an equal playing field, on every playing field – from home to the workplace, in education and before the law, in the world of sport, and to higher office.