Today I am delighted to open a library near Port Moresby that, with Australia’s support, will help to improve children’s literacy and boost life opportunities in PNG.

The Buk bilong Pikinini – Books for Children – libraries provide age-appropriate reading material to children and their parents, and offer early childhood development and literacy programs, including for the parents of children attending.

More than any other skill, reading gives people the ability to learn, participate in formal education and teach themselves. It is the key to self-empowerment and economic independence. 

Papua New Guinea’s literacy rate is low and many children lack access to books.

The Buk bilong Pikinini library at Tatana village will give children access to books and a chance to develop a love of reading and learning. 

The private sector and donors in Papua New Guinea and the Australian Government recognise this. With their support, Buk bilong Pikinini has expanded into a network of 15 libraries that up to 100,000 children have visited since 2007, and over 1200 children are currently enrolled in literacy and numeracy awareness programs. I am particularly heartened that those children have been girls and boys in almost equal numbers – because we cannot afford for girls to be left behind.

Earlier this month, Buk bilong Pikinini organised an author’s workshop in Port Moresby to encourage Papua New Guineans to write books for their children.

The Australian Government has supported Buk bilong Pikinini libraries by providing more than K2.2 million, approximately $850,000, in funding since 2012 and through Australian volunteers.  But Buk bilong Pikinini owes its success to the vision of its founders, and strong corporate support in PNG and Australia – to provide books and freight from Australia and within PNG and building materials for the libraries.

Australian support for education in Papua New Guinea concentrates on improving the quality of teaching, which increases young people’s employability, and improving the quality of schools by building classrooms, teacher housing and toilet blocks.

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