Recently Griffith University farewelled a group of remarkable individuals from PNG who have been in Australia since January undergoing a Graduate Certificate in Counselling and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment through the Australian Government funded Australia Awards PNG program.
At a dinner event held in Mt Cootha’s The Summit restaurant, it was obvious that this group has gained so much from the program, whist having made a lasting impression on the lives of the academics, educators, and support staff who have worked alongside them over the last six months.
Luckily, the journey is not over just yet. While the group is no longer in Australia, they will once again join together at home in PNG in October to share stories of the implementation of their new knowledge into the workplace, present their individual projects and finally graduate from the program.
To celebrate the achievements of this remarkable group we have interviewed two individuals from the program who highlight the diverse, passionate and hard-working nature of the group.
Onnie was recently recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for a Member of the British Empire award for services to victims of sexual & family violence. Having worked in the community development and social work field since 1971, Onnie started working in the domestic violence space in 2002 when she was approached by the City Mission of Port Moresby to run their new refuge centre. Onnie describes the refuge as a significant and crucial investment for the community and knew she had to take on the role.
“The refuge was in its beginnings with no politics and nothing in place. We set to work and when the refuge officially opened in 2003 there were 26 rooms. Many situations were not only life-threatening for the survivors and their children but for my staff and myself too,” she said.
It didn’t take long before Onnie recognised a gap in the service – the legal support available to those in the shelter. Not being one to sit by, Onnie decided to self-learn the legal system so that she could coach women to represent themselves in court.
“I trained myself to do court documentation, especially for the protection process. I would register the case in the district court and then coach the client to take on their own case because of the lack of legal support in the area. I would equip them with the knowledge and advice they needed to handle their case.
“The reason that I got into this line of work was just seeing women suffering, I couldn’t say no. I was willing to put my life on the line to help these women in any way that I could. I never expected a reward for what I did because it came from the heart. I am passionate about helping people, whatever the case may be. If somebody needs assistance, if I am able to provide it, I will.”
At 32, Wilson has already contributed significantly to the community development sector in PNG. Having studied a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Politics and Social Work at the University of PNG from 2006-2009, Wilson now works as a Community Development Officer in Aitape within the Sandaun Provincial Administration.
Coming from a remote district, Wilson’s interests lie in community education and he is hoping to be able to overcome cultural barriers to implement key pieces of his learning into his community.
“When people have the opportunity to be educated, they will create things that will change their way of living which comes as a result of their cognitive way of thinking. I plan to implement my learning from this program into my work back in PNG through my background paper which forms my major assessment. I am hoping that my research and suggestions will be incorporated into the District Five Year Development Plan and later into the Provincial Corporate Plan,” he said.
“During my time in Australia, I learnt that information technology is a vital tool that can educate and transform people in change and development. I also believe that social media has a large role to play in changing the way people think and will allow people to contribute ideas through networking.”
Australia Awards PNG program opportunities build valuable people-to-people links both within Australia and within the Indo-Pacific region, enabling mid-career professionals and emerging leaders to tap into Australian expertise, gaining valuable skills and knowledge.
To find out more about Australia Awards PNG visit Australia Awards in Papua New Guinea.