Thank you so much for that magnificent welcome and to all the students who dressed up in their traditional dress, let’s give them a round of applause.

The first time I came to Papua New Guinea I landed on the day after a State of Origin match. At the airport everyone was wearing a maroon football guernsey. I thought I was in the middle of a football team visit but you were all there celebrating the State of Origin!

However different Australia and Papua New Guinea might be and however many differences there are between Papua New Guineans from region to region, we all speak the common language of rugby league.

So what we want to do is connect the excitement and the passion of rugby league with education. The Australian Government is happy to partner with the national NRL in Australia and with the Department of Education here in Papua New Guinea with a special program that mixes rugby league with school— a rugby league in schools program, League Bilong Laif.

What we’re doing today is signing a Memorandum of Understanding within this partnership so that this program is not only just a pilot program but it becomes embedded in the national curriculum and the national teaching programs here in Papua New Guinea.

We know that playing sport is fun and watching sport is fun but there are real lessons to be learned from being involved in team sports like rugby league.

It means that you are committed to healthy lifestyles—you want be fit and healthy. It’s about self-discipline, about respect.

I know Minister that these are priorities for the PNG Education Department and the O’Neill Government. So, through our program—League Bilong Laif—it will be a conduit to learning. It will be about self-respect, about teamwork, school attendance and a healthy lifestyle.

This is a $4 million program over the years 2013 to 2016, but we hope that through this program children across PNG, students in all schools will be able to be part of the program, so not only here at Coronation Primary but across Papua New Guinea.

Who knows? Among the students who are taking part in this program, we might find rugby league players of the calibre of Mal Meninga, Adrian Lam and Jonathan Thurston!   [thunderous applause]

So thank you very much for allowing me to visit your magnificent school. Thank you to the principal and the teachers, and the students for hosting us here today and I officially launch a Memorandum of Understanding for League Bilong Laif.

Long live rugby league!

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
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