Promoting Inclusion in Remote PNG

Promoting Inclusion in Remote PNG

John Dorton has been mentoring staff in the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea since January 2017. He’s shared a quick update on the diocese’s latest project; building a much-needed medical centre.

I’ve found that so many people approach coming to PNG as though they’re entering some extra-terrestrial territory. But believe it or not, the people of PNG have the same human needs, desires, strengths and weaknesses as any other bunch of people. Interacting with them is really no different to interacting with any new person or group. I think we need to just accept people, wherever we are, as humans rather than as “Caucasians”, “Melanisians” etc.

Through the “Incentive Fund” organisation, the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga (in the Western Province of PNG) is building a new medical centre in the village of Bosset, a community near the Fly River, south of Kiunga. I am its project manager. Bosset is relatively close (walking distance in PNG terms) to the border with Indonesian West Papua, and the border is loosely policed. People from each side “visit” each other’s communities, buy and sell, and visit with friends and relatives. Some tribes have populations residing on both sides of the border.

Disability activists in Kiunga, Papua New Guinea
Disability activists at a rally in Kiunga

The village has had a medical centre for years, but the current one is now inadequate to address local needs. The facility will be “kit built”. It will be a square, metallic building with open space in the middle, raised a meter or more off the ground on “stilts”. This is a common way of building in the Western Province, and is the only practical way of getting such a facility in place any time soon. Construction is due to start in February or March 2018, and will take a bit more than two years to complete.  As is currently the case, the new centre will be staffed by one or more nurses. Doctors are perpetually in short supply in the Western Province.

While the managing contractor will have 10 managers/supervisors on site for the duration, the 26 ongoing jobs on the project will be filled by locals. One of the roles will be filled by a local young man with disability. This will give him more work experience, and will be the start of a resume for him. Additional local people will provide lunch for all people working on the project. The project is subject to PNG’s GESI (Gender Equity and Social Inclusion) requirements, which means it will be staffed by women and men, and people with and without disability.

Social inclusion models like this aren’t popular among the poorer sectors in PNG, and they are only slightly more accepted among the better off. But, as seems to be the case everywhere, women are more outspoken about their rights than used to be the case. Parts of PNG are not overall far behind certain areas of major cities in Australia. Also, while there aren’t a lot of female members of parliament, women have had some prominent roles in PNG government.

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