Speech by Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea
HE Ms Deborah Stokes at the launch of the
Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association Enga Chapter, 25 March 2015
I am delighted to be here in Enga at the launching of the Enga alumni chapter of the PNG Australia Alumni Association
I have heard so many good things about Enga. I often asked myself could this all be true? And now I can see with my own eyes that it is true. It is a place of beauty. It is the ‘education province’. There is strong leadership in the province. And there is a strong sense of community.
I wish to thank you for your very warm welcome.
The Australian Government is pleased to be supporting this expansion of the PNG Triple A with its launch here today of the Enga chapter.
The PNG Australia Alumni Association is almost 10 years old. Formed in 2006, it gives Papua New Guineans who have studied in Australia, a forum to discuss PNG’s development issues and opportunities – and to share ideas.
It is also an important ongoing forum for networking and provides professional development opportunities for its members.
PNG is rich in natural resources. But this will amount to nothing if PNG’s most important resouces – its human resources – are not developed.
It is PNG’s human capital – its people – who will come up with the solutions to the country’s challenges and drive development.
Scholarships for Papua New Guineans to study in Australia have been provided for over 40 years. These Australia Awards scholarships provide greater access to Papua New Guineans to advance their professional and academic skills through tertiary study both in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
PNG sees the tangible benefits of the Australia Awards, with alumni holding leadership positions in PNG’s public service and working as senior managers, business owners, health workers and teachers.
The Australian Government continues to support education as one of our key pillars of assistance to a PNG economy in transition. As the labour market expands in PNG, continued investment in human capital – a skilled and technically qualified workforce is important to ensure PNG makes the most of opportunities presented by strong economic growth.
Each year, the Australian Government provides around 150 scholarships to Papua New Guineans to undertake tertiary studies in Australia. In 2015, there are eight (8) awardees from Enga province (three women and five men) studying in Australia.
We also provide around 500 scholarships for Papua New Guineans to study at health and education institutions across PNG, helping to meet the country’s workforce gaps.
In 2015, 52 awardees from Enga province (38 women and 14 men) are being supported through the in-PNG Australia Awards program.
These include 42 Engan awardees who are studying in the disciplines of midwifery, nursing and community health work; and ten (10) Engan women who are being supported to undertake a certificate in elementary teaching.
We have made a concerted effort to ensure that Papua New Guineans from provincial areas, like Enga, are well supported through our Australia Awards program.
As part of Australia’s focused support to Enga - there were two Australia Awards Scholarship Roadshows held in Enga in October and December in 2014, and one in January 2015.
These roadshows provided information to more than 300 potential scholars in Enga about the 2016 scholarship selection process. We especially encourage women, people living with a disability and provincial candidates to apply.
At least 50 per cent of all our Australia Award scholarships are provided to outstanding women. We want both women and men to have equal access to education so that both women and men are able to contribute to PNG’s economic and social development.
Let me tell you a little more about the work that Australia is doing in Enga.
The Australian Government supports teacher education.
In 2015, we will pilot 10 elementary teacher training scholarships for women at Enga Teachers College. This is part of our new package of support focusing on addressing the under-supply of teachers and improving the quality of teachers.
We are pleased to partner with the College to support a two year elementary training program. This is the first program across PNG to train elementary teachers in this way. Usually elementary teachers receive intensive six week training with additional distance studies supported, including practical skills. What Enga is trialing is a path-breaking endeavor?
Australia has been supporting the education sector in Enga for a number of years.
In 2013, Australia’s support for the tuition fee free policy benefitted over 45,000 elementary school children in 301 registered schools across Enga through our financial contribution of K2.5 million to support the National Government’s school subsidy program.
In 2015, Enga province will receive 10 primary school infrastructure packages. An additional round of 10 school infrastructure packages is scheduled for 2016.
Each primary school infrastructure package comprises a double classroom with an office, a teacher’s house, water tanks and a separate ablution block for girls and boys. Both come with full furniture fit outs.
The provision of this package is part of the concerted effort of both Governments to improve access to education and water and sanitation for children, especially for girls. International evidence suggests that the presence of adequate, safe, clean toilet facilities encourages girls to go to and stay in school.
In partnership with the Enga Provincial Government, Australia is supporting the building of female and male dormitory facilities and a dining and kitchen facility at the Enga College of Nursing.
The Enga Provincial Government has also allocated over K2 million with Australia contributing in excess of K4 million.
This complements the provision of ten (10) in-country scholarships for students to study nursing at the college in 2015
Law and Justice
Support has also been provided to recruit a technical adviser dedicated to family and sexual violence issues. This adviser is supporting the Restorative Justice Initiative Association which is a newly established non-government organisation.
Training and advisory support has helped set up the Family and Sexual Violence Unit at Paiam Police Station (Porgera District)
– the first at a district level. The Unit has specialist police who provide legal protection and support to survivors of family and sexual violence.
Over K1.2 million (around $600,000) has been provided in small grants through Australia's - Strongim Pipol, Strongim Nesen program. This funding is supporting the efforts of organisations working in Enga on disability inclusiveness, gender equality, health and HIV/Aids support.
The Australian Government has provided funding of over K7 million to PNG Air Services to support updated air navigation charts for Wabag airport and airstrips here in Enga province. This will provide pilots with accurate reference points to improve aviation safety.
The Alumni Chapter
Today’s event is a continuation of the many forms of Australian support to Enga province. We are excited by the prospect of this new alumni chapter in Enga. It will provide Engan alumni with the opportunity to better connect with other alumni from across PNG.
Nationally, the PNG Triple A is a strong and growing group of Papua New Guineans from across the public service, private enterprise and civil society. They are a powerful network of leaders in a variety of fields, committed to making change.
Connecting to the alumni network is a wonderful opportunity for people in Enga to address the issues close to their hearts, including the development of their province.
PNG Triple A alumni, including those in this new Enga Chapter, will also be able to access professional development training and to apply for small grants to support community development projects.
And the PNG Triple A is not limited to Australian government funded alumni, it is open to any Papua New Guinean who has studied in Australia or is committed to the association’s vision - that is to contribute to PNG’s development and strengthen relations between Australia and PNG.
The Australian Government supports the first year of PNG Triple A membership for returning Australian awardees but the network is open to all returning students.
I encourage you all to join, and encourage your friends to join the Enga PNG Triple A Chapter.
The relationship between our countries is based on a shared history, shared neighbourhood and strong relationships. Alumni are a living symbol of this relationship.
It is very logical to launch this new Alumni chapter in Enga, the education province.
Please accept my best wishes for the success of the Enga Chapter of the PNG Australia Alumni Association.