Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

150313 HOM speech In't women's day tea

Address by Australian High Commissioner HE Ms Deborah Stokes

International Women’s Day Morning Tea
Australian High Commission Port Moresby, 13 March 2015

Welcome everyone.

International Women’s Day is celebrated globally each year on 8 March to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women.

Today we are fortunate to have with us one of the ‘Pawa Meris’, whose story is told in the documentary of that name: Mrs Rita Kare. Thank you for talking to us today. Everyone who has watched your story has been inspired.

Women make up over 50 per cent of our population, but are far from having an equal voice in national and global affairs.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a key priority for Australia’s international engagement, and is at the core of our engagement with Papua New Guinea.

The High Commission has been involved in many International Women’s Day events over the past week, and I want to thank everyone for their contribution. We were pleased to be part of and a supporter of the PNG Women’s Forum which has become the premier event for International Women’s Day in PNG.

I wish to thank all of the staff of the High Commission who contributed to the success of this year’s forum.

In addition to coming together this morning to celebrate International Women’s Day, I am very pleased today to be announcing two initiatives.

The first initiative is a Family and Sexual Violence Policy for the High Commission.

Women and girls are far more likely than men to be victims of family and sexual violence. In PNG, approximately two in three women experience physical and/or sexual abuse by their partners or family members. And staff at our High Commission are not immune.

Last year, through our staff survey, it was identified that the majority of locally engaged women who completed the survey had experienced violence. So had two men.

Many staff felt that it had impacted on their career progression and their ability to perform their jobs due to the stress associated with such violence.

The survey pointed to the need for a Family and Sexual Violence policy for our staff and I am pleased to formally announce this policy today.

The policy

We want to create a workplace where staff feel safe and can be productive without fear of violence holding back their careers.

The policy will help us achieve this. It will also help managers know how to provide appropriate support to victims of violence.

We know we can’t solve everyone’s problems, but we can make the workplace as safe and productive as possible.

We will recruit an Assistant Program Manager who will assist with the implementation of the policy. That person will be responsible for developing care plans for any staff member affected that include accessing Interim Protection Orders, counselling and safe accommodation.

We will have an arrangement under the Pacific Women Program for a contractor to provide secure transport during an emergency.

Affected staff will also have access to emergency ambulance services.

This policy is path breaking. We will keep a close eye on its implementation to ensure any issues are resolved as quickly as possible.

We will be promoting our policy to other employers in PNG as an example and hopefully others will follow our example. There is a growing number of companies taking a stand against violence. The Business Coalition for Women, that we fund, has over 50 members, representing most large businesses in the country.

One main reason the Coalition formed was because members recognised the cost to their businesses of violence against women. They also recognised that many of their talented employees were women who could not contribute properly to the company due to struggling with domestic violence. Our new policy is based on one developed by the Business Coalition as a model policy.

I want to thank Susan Ferguson and Steve Candotti for their excellent work in putting this policy together.

Awards for promoting gender equality

The second initiative I wish to announce today are the inaugural International Women’s Day awards for Australian Government achievement in promoting gender equality in PNG.

As you know, the Australian Government’s aid program has a significant focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Eighty percent of all aid investments must demonstrate they have effectively met the needs of both women and men.

Beyond the aid program, we also want to take every opportunity we can to promote gender equality in PNG. Including in our public diplomacy, our political engagement including our visits programs, our defence cooperation and our police cooperation.

Led by Susan Ferguson’s gender team, we have been undertaking a gender stocktake to assess our progress across all areas of Australian government engagement in PNG and to help shape improvements in the future.

From the stocktake, we know there are many, many examples of achievements across the Mission. And there are many instances of innovation.

Today I wish to recognise four outstanding efforts.

1. The Australia Awards team for best example of gender mainstreaming (Jane Christie, Jane Racancoj, Pakwasi Nyamekya, Leah Tuka, Susan Age)

2. The Economic and Public Sector team (Steve Hogg, Nick Murphy, Geoff O’Keefe) for most traction ever on improving women’s leadership in the public sector

3. The SGP Public Prosecutor team (Rebecca Christensen, Karen Moore and Adam O’Connor) for outstanding work in developing the Family and Sexual Offences Unit in the Office of Public Prosecutor

4. Susan Ferguson and Steve Candotti for their pioneering work in producing the Family and Sexual Violence Policy for the High Commission.

Other achievements that I wish to recognise are:

1. The Incentive Fund team (Kanu Negi, Belinda Gare, Belinda Conn) for innovative gender programming within an infrastructure program

2. The Safe Cities team (Winifred Oraka and Roselyne Kenneth) for innovative programming to increase women’s income

3. The Microfinance Expansion program team (Julienne Leka-Maliaki, Ire Olewale) for innovative programming to increase women’s income

4. The Law and Justice team (Richelle Tickle, Tess McSpedden, Evelyn Ofasia) for most impressive results in a sectoral program over the long term

5. The Health Team (Christine Sturrock on behalf of the whole team) for most consistent focus on meeting the basic needs of women across PNG

6. The Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen team (Jo Ronalds, Jen Clancy, Doreen Iga) for best monitoring and evaluation for gender results

7. Michelle Harris (AFP) for outstanding personal achievement working to increase protection of women and girls through Family and Sexual Violence Units

8. Rebecca Curtis (Manus) for gender mainstreaming in political engagement.

9. SGP Aviation and Maritime Team (Peter White and Bessie Andrew) for excellent work integrating gender equality in the transport sector.

I am proud of what Australia is doing to support women and girls in PNG.
I want to aim even higher and achieve much much more.
As you have heard me say many times, it is in Australia’s interests for PNG to be a strong nation.
But to become a strong nation, PNG will need the full and equal contribution of its women and girls.
So helping promote gender equality in PNG is core business for everyone in the High Commission and the Australian Government.
I want to thank Susan Ferguson and her team for their work in preparing for today’s announcements and for their leadership on gender issues.

Thank you.