Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

151202 AHOM Keynote Address at Women in Leadership Forum

2 December 2015
Women in Leadership in the Public Service

Keynote Address by HE Ms Bronte Moules
Australia’s Acting High Commissioner to PNG

Holiday Inn, Port Moresby


• Ms Taies Sansan, Deputy Secretary, Department of Personnel Management
• Ms Agnes Friday, Deputy Secretary, Department of Personnel Management
• Dame Carol Kidu
• Lady Winifred Kamit
• Ms Jane Kesno, Pacific Women Advisory Board Member
• Ladies and Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here with you to mark 40 years of women’s leadership in the public service in Papua New Guinea.

We all know women are the backbones of our families and communities. We are also silent achievers, but not today.

Today’s theme is ‘Honoring our pioneer women, celebrating present achievements and empowering women leaders of tomorrow’.

We often don’t spend the time looking back to learn from history; drawing resolve and inspiration to move forward as individuals or collectively. So I am honored to be a part of this special event today – hearing more about your pioneering women leaders and learning from their example.

It’s particularly fitting to do so in this, the 40th anniversary of PNG’s Independence.

When we think of ‘leadership’, we often think of individual leadership, yet some of the most effective leadership globally is collective leadership – women working together to bring about critical changes that improve not only their own lives, but those of others as well.

In fact, women exercising this collective leadership, is by far the most important factor in successfully advocating legislation to protect women from family and sexual violence. A painstaking survey of over 71 countries by two women (Htun and Weldon) demonstrated this to be true.

We see evidence to support this in PNG, where a coalition of women leaders, called Coalition of Change, led by Lady Winifred Kamit, successfully advocated the new Family Protection Act.

Collective leadership, though critical for change and development for women, is often undervalued in European based societies which value the individual above all else.

We could learn a lot about collective leadership from countries like Papua New Guinea, where collective action is much more the norm, and provides the fabric of the community.

Today, we are here to celebrate the achievements of women, and there is much to celebrate when looking at the extraordinary women who have sat in Parliament over the years in PNG, and those that are there now.

Much of the legislation protecting women and children, was brought to Parliament through women parliamentarians. Under Dame Carol Kidu, the first Lukautim Pikinini Act was passed. More recently the Hon Delilah Gore, brought an updated version of the Act back to Parliament to strengthen its provisions.

Bougainville has three women’s seats in the 40 member Parliament. This year, one woman was also elected to an open seat. This is an extraordinary achievement by extraordinary women.

And it’s so important to see women occupying these kinds of positions. Global evidence shows that a critical mass of women in parliament will improve legislation, and policies that protect women’s interests. Lack of women’s representation is a key factor in the discrimination women in PNG face.

Australia is committed to working with PNG in its efforts to improve women’s leadership. We see that women’s leadership is connected by other factors such as the level of family and sexual violence in the country, and the limited opportunities to improve the income women earn and their control over how it is spent.

Often an intervention in one of these areas will trigger either a positive or negative reaction in the other. For example, a promotion for a woman employee may lead to less violence in the home as her husband may value his wife’s contributions more.

Conversely, it may lead to more violence, as her husband may be jealous of this additional income, or may want to use it for his own advantage. We know that control of finances can itself be a form of violence.

This is why, within the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program, Australia focuses on all three aspects: women’s leadership and her ability to make decisions over her own life; ending violence; and improving opportunities to earn and control an income.

Apart from Pacific Women, which has a specific focus on gender equality, we also mainstream gender equality and women’s leadership across our work.

We have a Post Gender Action Plan that has identified where each section within the High Commission can improve and promote women’s leadership. For example, in our diplomatic engagement, our Foreign Minister, Hon Julie Bishop, is always keen to discuss women’s leadership and meet influential women from the grass roots upwards.

Recently, Ms Bishop travelled to Enga with your Foreign Minister, the Hon Rimbrink Pato. She met with a group of local women leaders and was inspired by their ability to articulate their concerns, and prevail, in what are often very challenging circumstances.

The resilience and strength of the ordinary rank and file of village women in PNG, is extraordinary. And along with recognising prominent national leaders here today, I pay tribute to the many unsung heroes that keep families going in rural areas.

Under Australia’s aid program, we also ensure that all our investments have a focus on women’s leadership and empowerment.

For example:
• Economic and Public Sector Program. In fact, this event today has been supported by this program and we are delighted to have done so.
• In the education field, the Australian Government provides around 500 scholarships for Papua New Guineans to study at health and education institutions across PNG
o around 70 per cent of awardees last year were women.
o at least half of the approximately 150 Papua New Guineans awarded scholarships to study in Australia each year are women.
o This year, in partnership with University of Queensland, we supported 20 women complete a Graduate Certificate in Governance and Public Policy Management.

The Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct is a joint PNG and Australian Government initiative that is working through PNG partner institutions – the Institute of Public Affairs and UPNG’s School of Business and Public Policy.

On 6 December, Ms Bishop launched the Precinct and highlighted the role that private sector plays in driving growth in PNG.Women in Leadership is a key feature of the Precinct’s Executive Leadership Program. The program recognises that Papua New Guinean women are absent from political and administrative governance. The Precinct will endeavour to support women in the public sector through networking and mentoring approaches, as well as specific training.

We recognise there are many outstanding women leaders in PNG in government, civil society and business and we thank many of you for joining the conversation today.

We know that one of the most effective means of advancing gender equality is to create opportunities for women to network and work together to promote better outcomes for women. The Women in Leadership network can take this important work forward.

Investing in women and in women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.

Higher female income and increased control over income leads to increased spending on food and education resulting in improved outcomes for children’s education, health and nutrition, and leads to greater sustained poverty reduction.

Improving women’s economic opportunities requires fundamental change in social perceptions and workplace conditions, stronger anti-discrimination and anti-harassment legislation and support for workplaces.

In closing, I would like to thank the organisers for continuing this important discussion. Although there are many initiatives being established to create opportunities for women, we still have a long way to go.

We are all pioneers in our chosen fields and I encourage all of you to continue the good work. I wish you all the best in your deliberations today. It has been a pleasure to join you – you who are all prominent women leaders.

I celebrate the achievements of women leaders in PNG, in the past, present and future.

I look forward to seeing your influence unfold. Empowering women today will open doors and unlock the potential for tomorrow’s leaders.

Thank you.