Over the past year, Griffith University academics and support staff have been helping shape the next generation of counselling professionals in Papua New Guinea through the Australia Awards PNG Short Course Awards, funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The scholarship allows participants to partake in short-term study and professional development opportunities in Australia in support of shared key development priorities of PNG and Australia.

The Counselling program has focussed on delivering a balanced mix of theory, simulated learning and practical life skills that each individual can tailor to their workplaces in PNG. During their experience in Australia, the group has attended multiple field visits, the most recent being to Spinal Life Australia.

Participants had the unique opportunity to listen to a first-hand account of what it is like to live with a spinal disability in PNG from fellow Australia Awards awardee, Ruth Javati.

Ruth first arrived in Australia in 2013, as an Australia Awards Scholarship awardee for an 18-month scholarship to study a Diploma of Community Services at TAFE Queensland. Just before commencing studies again this year for a dual degree in Human Services and Public Health at Queensland University of Technology, Ruth was the Office Manager at the PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons. Ruth provided the participants with a deeper understanding of the disability sector in PNG and how counselling services can assist those living with a disability in the county.

Representatives from Spinal Life highlight the importance of peer support for people living with a disability – provided by Spinal Life Australia.

With only a few weeks left of the program, the group was excited to learn more about how to integrate new knowledge into their work back home in PNG and were able to learn critical insights from those living with a disability, such as Brisbane local, Lisa Moore.

Short course awards participant Michael Kawak is a psychologist by profession working at the Laloki Public Psychiatric Hospital in PNG and said that learning about the power of peer support programs was an eye-opening moment for him.

“I enjoyed seeing the advocacy of peer support groups in Spinal Life Australia that provide support and weekly check-ups to other peers. It’s also amazing to see the level of inspiration and motivation of people living with a disability to be able to continue their education and hold high job aspirations,” he said.

“This is an inspirational story to share with our loved ones back in PNG.”

Following the completion of their time in Australia, participants will return to their workplaces to help assist the community with their newly acquired skills and knowledge before once again joining together in PNG to graduate from the program in October 2019.

The Australia Awards Short Course Awards are short courses tailored to develop knowledge and skills, address priority human resource development areas and build partnerships and linkages between Australian organisations and partner organisations in developing countries.

To find out more about Australia Awards PNG visit Australia Awards in Papua New Guinea.