Divine Word University 34th Graduation Ceremony
Keynote Address by Mr Bruce Davis
Australia’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea
Madang Campus, 13 March 2016
Dignitaries, senior officials, academics, graduands, families, welcome and good morning.
I am very pleased to be here at your campus to address today’s graduation ceremony.
I applaud Divine Word University’s plan to transform itself into a leading institution for knowledge in Papua New Guinea.
Divine Word University has been a pioneer in its use of innovative technology to deliver its programs for a number of years. This shows its ongoing commitment to keeping abreast with global trends in education.
Ladies and gentlemen, education is central to Papua New Guinea’s progress.
If we want to combat tuberculosis, if we want to reduce infant mortality, if we want to improve children’s diets, Papua New Guinea needs well-educated doctors, nurses, midwives and nutritionists.
If Papua New Guinea wants its future government and business leaders to make well-informed decisions, it needs well-educated teachers who will help today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders.
If Papua New Guinea wants to make optimal use of its abundant and rich natural resources, it needs well-educated engineers, ecologists, biologists, urban and social planners and an array of well-educated policy makers.
With a good education, Papua New Guinea’s communities will come up with the solutions to the challenges the nation faces.
With a good education, the people of Papua New Guinea will drive their country’s development towards greater prosperity.
To the graduands I say, you have gained education and technical skills which will be critical to your role in the workplace and to Papua New Guinea’s economy. They can be used to improve community services, start new businesses and to help ensure that Papua New Guinea’s wealth and resources are managed sustainably and equitably.
That is why the Australian Government works closely with the Government of Papua New Guinea in the area of education, including with universities. Education is one of the most powerful tools in any country’s development.
The Australian High Commission collaborates with both the National Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.
Because the issues of teaching quality and the quality of higher education institutions are so important to both these departments, so too are these issues important to the development cooperation between our two governments.
Over the last four years we have worked with Papua New Guinea to construct more than 400 classrooms and around 200 teacher houses, and to provide ablution and sanitation facilities to help girls attend, and stay in, school. This is important as currently only about five out of every 100 girls who start school in preparatory grade in Papua New Guinea will complete year 12.
In 2015, more than 700 students received scholarships through the Australia Awards Program. Fifty of these were for teachers studying at Papua New Guinean institutions. We are very proud of the fact that more than 50 per cent of these 700 plus scholarships were awarded to women.
We have just celebrated International Women’s Day. The Australian High Commission was honoured to have your own Divine Word University President Cecilia Nembou as our guest speaker on the occasion. The Day reminds us that educating and empowering women is the just and right thing to do. But more than that, it is the smart thing to do.
After all, it must be both women and men who build Papua New Guinea’s future. Nations do not fulfil their potential if they deny the women of their country – half their population – from important leadership and economic opportunities. And this also includes encouraging women to enrol in less traditional areas of study including the so called STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.
International evidence shows that investing in the education of girls delivers immense economic and social benefits. For example, we know that better educated women have healthier children and their children are more likely to complete their education.
That is why the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia work closely together to help ensure more Papua New Guinea girls enrol in and complete their schooling.
I commend Divine Word University for working so closely with the Papua New Guinea government, parents, community groups, the private sector and development partners.
Divine Word University is a special institution that holds an important place in Papua New Guinea’s present and future development.
During its 20 years as one of Papua New Guinea’s leading tertiary institutions, Divine Word University has transformed the lives of thousands of young Papua New Guinean graduates and the communities they live in.
Today we celebrate the success of 936 students who have successfully completed graduate and post-graduate studies across a broad range of disciplines.
We also celebrate and acknowledge the contributions of your families and friends, whose support has helped you reach this milestone today.
Your family has instilled the importance of education and supported you to pursue your studies. Your teachers have shared their knowledge and experience with you so you can forge your own future.
The knowledge and skills you have gained through Divine Word University will help you become the leaders that Papua New Guinea needs.
And you too can play a key role in shaping Divine Word University’s future.
I encourage you to become Divine Word University Alumni and to use your knowledge of technology and the digital world to help drive forward your university’s goals.
More importantly, I encourage you to use your skills and the knowledge gained from studying at Divine Word University to help drive your nation’s prosperity.
The strength of the partnership between Divine Word University and the Australian Government is very evident, and spans many years.
This cooperation has included assistance to build the library and five dormitories through the Papua New Guinea Incentive Fund. It has included Australia Awards scholarships for Divine Word University staff and support to develop Divine Word University’s rural doctor training program. Australia also supported Divine Word University’s Diploma in Education Management for 30 public servants at its Port Moresby campus.
I know Australia’s relationship with Divine Word University will continue into the future.
In conclusion, I wish all of today’s graduands a prosperous future and professionally rewarding careers.
Work hard and take pride in what you do.
You are your country’s future.