Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

130708 - Speech - HOM on WHP Health Service Opening

Friday 5 July 2013

Address by Australia’s High Commissioner
to Papua New Guinea
Ms Deborah Stokes
Official opening of improvements and expansion to
Mt Hagen Catholic Health Services

Mt Hagen Catholic Health Services, Mt Hagen


It’s a great pleasure to be here on this important occasion.

I wish to thank you for your extremely warm and moving welcome.

We are pleased to work with the Catholic Health Services, a group that works tirelessly to improve the lives of Papua New Guineans in rural areas.

Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour, and our friendship is enduring.

Out two countries are joined together. Our pasts are intertwined as are our futures.

Australia is committed to a strong long-term partnership with PNG.

This is an exciting time to be in PNG. Never before has PNG faced so much opportunity facilitated by world class resource projects and a telecommunications revolution.

Economic growth offers the prospect of a much better future for all the people of Papua New Guinea.

This is my first trip to the Highlands Region, and already I can see its important role, now and in the future, as an economic driver for the nation.

The Highlands region has an abundance of natural resources, agricultural wealth and a high population, and it is a region of outstanding natural beauty.

It has some of the most productive smallholder agriculture and coffee plantations in PNG.

The Western Highlands has a central place in Papua New Guinea’s development.

In recognition of this, Australia will soon open an AusAID office in Mt Hagen.

Despite the bright prospects in PNG, major development challenges remain.

Health is one area where the needs are huge.

The Millennium 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 13 chance of not making it to their fifth birthday.

There is so much that needs to be done to turn this around.

Australia’s commitment to health is strong – it is one of the key priorities in our development partnership

In 2012-2013, we spent around 230 million kina on improving health services in PNG, and we expect that figure to increase in 2012-13.

Examples of our health assistance include the provision of medical kits to over 2,700 health centres and aid posts across PNG.

We are training up to 500 midwives by 2015.

The Incentive Fund is a unique avenue for assistance. The Fund supports well-managed organisations, such as Catholic Health Services, to build infrastructure projects that bring strong benefits to communities in Papua New Guinea.

You can see the results in past projects at the Mt Hagen and Kudjip Nazarene hospitals. And we can see the results here today in Kuruk.

Churches run almost half of PNG’s rural health facilities, and manage six of PNG’s nine nurse training facilities, and 14 training facilities for community health workers.

Church Health Services are prominent in the Western Highlands.

The churches work together across Papua New Guinea to strengthen communities and improve the lives of Papua New Guineans.

The facilities we open today will enable better health services for thousands of people in Kuruk, Mun, Fatima and Rebiamul.

There are new sub-health centres, staff houses, an ambulance and patient waiting area.

Importantly, women will have more access to supervised births and immunisations will reach further into the community.

I wish today to congratulate everyone who has been involved in bringing this important project to fruition.

I especially wish to thank the communities who have supported this project. This is certainly the case here in Kuruk where the community contribution has been outstanding.

Australia is proud of our partnership with Catholic Health services and the communities represented here today.

Finally, I wish to thank you for your wonderful hospitality on this my first trip to the Western Highlands. It has been a memorable one.

Thank you.