23 May 2013
Speech by Australian High Commissioner Ms Deborah Stokes at the Salvation Army, Red Shield Appeal Launch
23 May 2013
Grand Papua Hotel, Port Moresby
Colonel Neil Webb and Colonel Chris Webb
Major Philip Maxwell
The Port Moresby Advisory Board
Ladies and Gentlemen
I’m very pleased to be with you here for the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal Launch in Papua New Guinea.
The Salvation Army has had a long connection with Papua New Guinea, spanning more than 50 years.
It has made a major contribution - helping communities address their pressing needs in health, education and employment.
Australia too has a rich relationship with the Salvation Army, in Australia and in Papua New Guinea.
The Australian aid program in Papua New Guinea has been a strong supporter of its work over many years.
We work together through Australia’s Church Partnership Program and more recently, Australia’s civil society-based Strongim Pepel Strongim Nesen Program.
The Salvation Army is also an important partner in our HIV/AIDs Program.
Today, I’d like to talk more about two important development challenges in PNG – health and education – two areas where the Salvation Army is making a significant contribution.
Health needs in Papua New Guinea are huge.
The Millenium Development Goals aim to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015
Sadly, PNG’s under-five mortality rate has increased since 1990.
Infants in Papua New Guinea have a one in five chance of not making it to their fifth birthday.
PNG’s maternal mortality rate is the highest in the Asia Pacific outside of Afghanistan.
There is so much that needs to be done to turn these numbers around.
The PNG Government is increasing investment in health services.
Australia’s commitment to health is also strong.
We are spending around AUD110m this financial year.
The private sector in PNG is also making important contributions to the health of their workers and the communities in which they work.
And the Salvation Army is making a tangible contribution to improving health services in communities.
The Salvation Army is training health workers in immunisation and cold chain practices.
You are also strengthening the network of village health volunteers to reduce maternal mortality in remote regions of the country.
And your HIV/AIDS awareness programs in Rigo and Port Moresby have successfully demonstrated home based care programs for people affected by HIV/AIDS.
The value of your work is that you are out there, in communities, helping to give communities tools to help themselves.
And we are proud to support you in this.
Education is another area of major need in Papua New Guinea.
In 1993 more than 90% of children went from primary school to secondary school.
By 2009, this had declined to just over 50%.
As a result of positive efforts by the Government of PNG, with the support of donors, this figure is starting to rise again.
Today’s newspaper reports the welcome news that school enrolments for basic education have increased to 70% helped by the tuition free policy.
But challenges remain in providing sufficient trained teachers, classrooms and teacher houses.
And too many people remain illiterate – depriving them of the most powerful tool for development.
For Papua New Guinea to make the most of its enormous natural wealth – and here I don’t just mean mineral wealth – there is also the major tourism potential as well as agricultural export potential –
To make the most of these phenomenal natural gifts in a way that is sustainable and brings wide benefits, PNG will need educated men and women, and that starts with educating girls and boys.
Australia has a strong commitment to supporting education through nearly AUD100m this year.
The Salvation Army is an important partner in our work in education.
The Salvation Army runs primary schools in Port Moresby and Lae, an elementary school on Kainantu and a high school in Port Moresby.
The Salvation Army also runs vital literacy programs, working with over 120 community-based literacy schools to build the capacity of community literacy teachers and trainers.
The Salvation Army continues to train and empower youth.
Last year the Salvation Army ran a two week basic welding workshop for 14 youths from settlements around Port Moresby. Of the 14 youths, 10 went on to get occasional contracts for basic welding work, and one has found regular work with the PNG LNG project.
As in health, all parties need to redouble their efforts to achieve education for all in Papua New Guinea.
And with more resources, organisations like the Salvation Army will be able expand its education, literacy and youth programs.
Finally I wish to say a few words about the role of communities.
A month or so ago I was fortunate to hear Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision, give a speech in Port Moresby at an Australia Week event.
Tim Costello spoke about the vital and hard to define contribution a strong community can make to the wellbeing of ordinary men and women.
But what makes a strong community? There is no magic formula – but we do know that it is much more than government programs.
It includes neighbours caring for one another and people working together for a common cause.
These community efforts can take many forms.
A recent example was the National Haus Krai.
Thousands of people gathered in Port Moresby, and hundreds gathered in city centres all across PNG, to call for an end to violence against women.
In Port Moresby we saw politicians, government officials, private sector representatives, teachers and students.
There was strong support from business chambers, Church leaders and the international community.
Hopefully the momentum of the Haus Krai – a courageous community effort - will be long-lived and lead to effective action.
Churches and other community-based organisations have a powerful role to play in mobilising and harnessing community aspirations and energies.
This is why organisations such as the Salvation Army are important partners for Australia in Papua New Guinea.
They bring an important understanding of the needs of people, they bring a unique network of partners in the community and they harness enthusiasm and commitment that cannot be priced.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Papua New Guinea has travelled far as an independent nation.
Economic growth has brought new opportunities, and offers the prospect of a better future for all the people of Papua New Guinea, women and men.
To really make a difference in PNG communities, government, business, churches and community organisations all need to work together.
I encourage you to be generous today,
If you help people in communities to meet their own goals, you strengthen the entire nation.