I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to be here today at your very beautiful university—the campus is stunning—to meet so many wonderful people who have been behind the success of this university, and of course those who are the future of this university.
Australia and Papua New Guinea are natural partners. Our Government has reaffirmed our commitment to the Papua New Guinea Government that our relationship is a priority for Australia.
Not only does our geography and our history bind us together, but we are partners in so many other ways. We are doing more in the economic sphere; we are doing more in security and in defence and we are supporting PNG as it embraces international events, like the Pacific Games and the APEC meeting in 2018, when the international focus will well and truly be on Papua New Guinea.
But the relationship is more than geography, more than history, more than economics, security, defence—it’s about the people-to-people links. Through the government connections, through business connections, through our universities, through our students, through exchanges, there have been very close bonds. We are truly friends, not just neighbours, we are friends and partners.
The Australian Government has provided support over a number of years to Papua New Guinea, to ensure that this can be a strong and prosperous economy and a safe and secure nation. We want to see Papua New Guinea take its rightful place as a leader in the Pacific and, in so many ways, that comes down to ensuring that the people of Papua New Guinea have the skills, the capacity and the opportunities to fulfil their potential.
Our aid budget to Papua New Guinea is substantial by any measure, but it’s what we do with it that counts, not the dollars but the outcomes that we’re able to achieve. Under our Government, we are focusing on issues such as law and order, to ensure that PNG—its towns, its cities and regions—are safe for its citizens and visitors. We’re focusing on health and education and infrastructure—productivity enhancing infrastructure like roads and universities and health centres.
Today I’m absolutely delighted that all these issues come together in a proposal to invest in the future. And that is a facility for the School of Health Science - for midwifery and nursing. And the funding that we provide will ensure that there are places for 59 Papua New Guineans in the specialisation of midwifery. This is all about supporting PNG families and the women of Papua New Guinea.
I have been coming here on a regular basis ever since I became the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and now the Minister for Foreign Affairs. On my visits, I’ve met so many extraordinary women from PNG. I’m delighted that women are becoming members of Parliament; that they are leaders in business, in communities, at schools, in universities and in their families. Strong, courageous, accomplished, brilliant women. But we have to make sure their health is cared for as well. There are far too many challenges in the public health sphere for me to go through today, suffice to say that we want to improve the maternal health for women across PNG. One area we can do that in is by training midwives, training nurses to help in the delivery of children—health, happy, children—the future of Papua New Guinea.
Today, before we came here, I was at Coronation Primary School and we launched a program to embed rugby league into education. This program is League Bilong Laif and the idea is to have all the skills and learnings associated with sport integrated into the curriculum in PNG schools.
As much as it’s great fun to play sport and watch sport, it is important to learn the skills associated with the sports—a healthy lifestyle, self-respect, turning up for school every day and ensuring that you can be part of the team.
Just as we invest in young students in PNG, so must we invest in the women. That’s why I’m so proud that this midwifery school is established here at Pacific Adventist University, a fine university with whom Australia has been doing great work for a number of years.
It’s also important that we recognise the education ties between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Government of Australia is establishing a new program called the New Colombo Plan. You will see Australian students supported by the Commonwealth Government undertaking studies at universities in our region, so in the past the students have always come to Australia to study at our universities. We think it’s time Australian students go overseas and live and study and have an internship, a mentorship, with a business or an entity somewhere in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region.
This year, the New Colombo Plan program is being piloted in Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Japan. From next year, we will be inviting countries to join up to the New Colombo Plan and encourage young Australians to study at universities in the region. I’m hoping Papua New Guinea will become one of our partners, so not only the students from PNG come and study in Australia, but Australian students can come and study in PNG and come back to Australia with new perspective and new ideas, a deeper appreciation of other countries and the culture and the lifestyle and that way not only improve productivity and prosperity in Australia, but set up relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime.
The other aspect of this Australian-PNG partnership in midwifery is the fact that it’s with a private university. The Australian Government is keen to work not only with the PNG government but also with the private sector, whether it be business or NGOs or private universities to stimulate activities that benefits everyone. The private sector do things in many ways far better than governments can; we need to work in partnership to harness the strength of both the government sector and non-government sector, public sector and private sector, to ensure the best outcome for all.
With this new facility we have an opportunity to improve skills for PNG right here at this university; have an opportunity for a fulfilling career, but importantly improve the lives of the women and therefore the families of Papua New Guinea.
I am delighted on behalf of the Australian Government to declare open the school of midwifery at the Pacific Adventist University.
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