pngcover

WHY DON’T WE CARE?

Riding the train into Melbourne a couple of mornings ago, I check into Facebook and scroll through one of the Papua New Guinea discussion pages I visit most days.

I’m transported a long way from the Glen Waverley line, deep into the wild, random cyberstream of plugged-in PNG – gossip, news, activism and (frequently) prayers from a country that has become something of a fascination.

Okay, obsession.

Around Kooyong, a dark-skinned young woman materializes in my palm. There’s something wrong with her face – her eyes, wide open, are too far apart, is she disfigured? I look closer.

Her head has been sliced open, ...

Want to continue reading?

  • or
  • THE DAY PASS -

    $0.99 the-day-pass

    Want to try The Hoopla but not sure what to commit to? How about the clever little Day pass which means you can just pay as you go!

    • Full Online Access
    • Read on Phone, Tablet & PC
    • Zero ongoing commitment
    • Expires after 24 hrs

    Subscribe Now
  • THE MONTHLY -

    $9.99 the-monthly

    Only $0.33 per day with the flexibility of automated recurring month-to-month payments.

    • Full Online Access
    • Read on Phone, Tablet & PC
    • Cancel Anytime
    • * $9.99 is automatically recurring if not cancelled

    Subscribe Now
  • THE QUARTERLY -

    $29.99 the-quarterly

    Subscribe to The Hoopla quarterly and you’ll get all the benefits of a Hoopla subscription with the added simplicity of automatically paying every three months.
    • Full Online Access
    • Read on Phone, Tablet & PC
    • Cancel Anytime
    • * $29.99 is automatically recurring if not cancelled

    Subscribe Now
  • THE ANNUAL -

    $89 the-annual

    Get a year's worth of The Hoopla at a discount with our special launch package.

    • Full Online Access
    • Read on Phone, Tablet & PC
    • Easy Yearly Payment
    • Save 25% - was $120 now only $89

    Subscribe Now

Follow us on

37 Comments

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    kokodachic

    Thank you Jo for this insightful article. Im well aware of the plught of these women, having been to PNG a few times. It is horrendous to think that this violence is happening right on our doorstep. What I find very worrying is that if you mention battered women in Africa everyone seems sits up notice and eager to help while if you mention PNG their faces just seem to glaze over. Why is that.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Marina

    KokodaChic – it could be a trend and safety thing. The plight of PNG is so close, so ugly that it scares many people. Thanks to Bob Geldof and a few mates, the plight of Africans became trendy. Emotionally, it’s safer to shut down, and run into a ‘Westfield’ for some retail therapy to avoid the PNG issues.
    I’m glad you’ve added in some links for compassionate readers to support change.
    It is scary that this is happening. Sadly, there is so much in the world and those of us who ARE fortunate to have been born and raised here, take little action to support those bringing positive change.
    I was dumbstruck when my mum recently told me she’s going to PNG for a trip. It’s not all bad, but the issues are so very real I had to swallow my fear for her safety.
    I find it disgusting that mining companies can strip countries and not give anything back. A small investment in education and social support would not only make it safer for their own workers, but also provide them with good local workers into the future.
    Sad circumstances indeed.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Wendy Harmer

    There is a place to donate that Jo says is the first port of call. it’s http://www.msf.org.au/sexualviolence/

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Maureen P.

    A very disturbing article, Jo made more so by Vlad’s stark photos. And yes, kokodachic, on our doorstep.
    My face doesn’t glaze over and I have no answer, but so much “is on our doorstep.” Indigenous problems, people living way below the poverty line in Australia, health care and educational problems, multicultural issues, child abuse…and the list goes on, doesn’t it? That’s not to comment on any personal issues we may be coping with in our families or with friends as well.
    I support Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Fistula Foundation, The Learning for Life Programme run by the Smith Family and the Fred Hollows Foundation. But you know what, sometimes it gets too overwhelming and I have to pull back and look for the good around me and thankfully, I’m able to find it.
    How do others deal with this??

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Wendy Harmer

    Sounds like you are doing you bit, Maureen. Good on you. I reckon it’s about picking your battles and sticking with them.
    Some take up the cause for cancer or kids or literacy or the homeless.
    I’ve long said that mine are about the environment and gender equality… from these two issues I believe everything flows.
    A green and blue world that is gender equal.
    That’s where my personal passion lies.
    Don’t spread yourself too thin, be effective in your chosen cause/s and make sure you remember the “happy” in your personal relationships first and foremost. Wxx

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Tia

    Thanks for writing and publishing this article. I’ve just made a donation – I do hope the organisations you named are inundated with donations and requests to go on their mailing lists so that we can keep informed about the PNG women’s plight. And Maureen, it is overwhelming, but as Wendy said, it sounds like you’re doing more than your bit. There’s no sense in feeling so anguished for all the pain in the world – coz there really is so much. We all do what we can. The important thing is that we don’t ignore what we learn, and that we talk about it. I think, too, that feeling true gratitude for what we have in our own lives is a show of respect for the millions of people who don’t live the charmed lives we lead.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Wendy Harmer

    I love you Tia. The perfect combination of compassion and action, I reckon. And the joy to be found in gratitude. XXX

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Warren Dutton

    Jo,

    Thank you for another insightful article. Your “obsession” is very welcome.

    As in every society, the abused become the abusers, and get away with their abusing because the traditional customary clan protections have not been replaced by adequate nationwide “state” protections.

    The Westminster System state protections took well over 500 years to develop in England and have existed in their present form for less than a century.
    In Australia, even with the running start that England gave it, it took well over a century to reach their present state. (If you don’t count the institutionalised abuses, which are only now the subject of a COI.
    Papua New Guinea was given by Australia only a generation ( a generous estimitate) to make up for the 3,000 plus years headstart that my English, and Irish, ancestors had to develop their existing protections, before Australia abdicated its responsibilities.

    All Papuans, and arguably all New Guineans, about 3 million of them at that time, were Australian Citizens prior to 1975.
    How abused would the combined populations of Western Australia and Tasmania be entitled to feel if the Australian Government decided to revoke their Australian Citizenship without consultation or their informed consent?

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Georgia

    Just donated. I think I spread my donations too thinly but maybe every little bit helps. Most of mine go to the issues of animal testing which is scientifically flawed as well as unethical, animal freedoms from human exploitation and cruelty generally, gender equality and the arts to open our hearts and minds, Greenpeace, Animals Australia, Humane Research Australia, Edgar’s Mission to name a few. I am also joyful and appreciate the bounty that is here in Australia, the freedoms. I believe we get what we focus on so try to put my focus on the solution and not the issue/problem i.e. imagine the state of humanity as evolved, peaceful, expanding, joy seeking, abundance for all, living sustainably and with compassion and meaning. xx

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Alison

    Yes Jo, it was the violence on women slant that got me, finally. But I’ve read your article, all of it. Thank you so much for your frustration and hard work. I’m about to take a lot more notice of our ‘Pacific sister.’

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Wendy Harmer

    Very interesting, Warren.
    The repercussions of European colonialism are still being felt all over the world – witness the recent carnage in Sri Lanka – directly from the policies of Mother England more than a century ago.
    We Australians too have been “neo-colonialists” in the Asia Pacific region in terms of immigration, trade, exploitation of natural resources and the rest .
    We do not want to acknowledge this and are still happy with our self-image as “benign dictators” . We love to think we are adored and admired by our “backward” neighbours.
    We are happy to land our immigration problems on the poorest of our neighbours, like Nauru.
    Cashed up, arrogant, bogan, littering tourists… that’s all we will ever be in our own region unless we truly engage.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Maureen P.

    …and that’s what I mean by pulling back. Reading the comments here verify that other people are feeling the way I am, getting on with life despite what’s out there and trying to make a difference in whatever way they can. Life for me is good, but when I read an article like Jo’s, written with committment and passion, I immediately feel I should be doing MORE! Thanks Tia and Wendy.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Jean Thomas

    Our organisation in PNG takes a very holistic approach towards sustainable community development. We do our best to empower both men and women to create change for themselves. All of our programs contain aspects that promote gender equality and small changes have been seen among the 50 communities we work with. We are Australian and we do care and are committed to helping the people and the natural environment of PNG. please visit our website for more information http://www.tenkile.com

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Carz

    Jo, do you have the names of the Facebook pages, or links? I would be interested in following them.

    During my childhood PNG, particularly Rabaul, were considered to be the most perfect place on earth. My grandfather worked for the Weather Bureau and my mother spent eight years, from the age of eight, living there. My siblings and I grew up on stories of life there during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Stories that now horrify me with their sense of entitlement, privilege, and superiority, such as the one told of my then 4 year old uncle throwing the family’s shoes back at the house boys and telling them to clean them again. For all that I do believe my mother loved Rabaul and I know she was heartbroken by the photos of the town after it was blanketed in ash from a volcanic eruption. I also believe that Australia sees PNG as a country to be used, regardless of the consequences.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    ro.watson

    I have many questions like is there a social security system in PNG to support women and kids leaving violent relationships and those suffering disabilities? Grotesque markings of men’s power on women’s bodies. I would be scared and scarred if this is ordinary life there.

    Yip, and on neo-colonial aspects,what is done to the environment,stripped and ruined by foreign corporates who take profits and leave little for sustainable living.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Jo Chandler

    Warren, never picked you for a Hoopla kind of girl! For readers – Warren Dutton is a distinguished veteran of the old kiap (patrol officer) brigade and a former MP and Justice and Police (from memory) Minister. These days he runs North Fly Rubber Cooperative in Kiunga- one of the best eg’s I’ve come across of a grassroots project which people can reap and share profits of small-scale and community-owned agriculture. He’s also been very active exposing epidemic land-grabbing. We have had some spirited discussions about PNG and I have often (not always, especially on Ok Tedi) had to acknowledge his decades of wisdom/insight, even if it goes against the grain of some of my pre-conceived notions. Who knew I could respect a bloke in long socks and sandals?

    • Reply February 22, 2013

      Wendy Harmer

      Loving Warren’s perspective here. Very welcome and we would like to hear more about your project, Warren. Anytime.

    • Reply March 31, 2013

      Helen Jones

      My father was a bloke in long socks and shoes in PNG in the 60s and early 70s. (He didn’t do sandals, coming from Melbourne…) I’m working on a personal project around the lives of expats from that time – I was aware of the violence as a child. I’m looking for well-informed social-historical information and views of PNG and its relationship with Australia when we were ‘helping out’ in the 60s and 70s. Who should I talk to or where should I look? I have my own contacts, but woudl like to make sure it is relevant while maintaining a personal position. I also want this work to have a reciprocal nature in the end, so I’ll stay in touch with your conversations.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Jo Chandler

    Carz – the busiest and best site is called SharpTalk, but I think it is technically by invitation. But I can try to “get you in” if you wish. In terms of bloggers who commentate more widely on politics, corruption, public policy, the most eminent is Deni ToKunai, a very smart young lawyer who blogs as The Garamut and tweets as @tavurvur (for the mumbling volcano near his home island). PNGActnow.org has been very busy activist community, esp on land, but seems a bit quiet lately.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Jo Chandler

    Other PNG Facebook groups:
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/pngnewspage/

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/nodomesticviolencepng/

    • Reply February 22, 2013

      Carz

      Thanks Jo. I’ll stick with just following/joining the open groups to start with.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    ro.watson

    Meanwhile, glad the ABC ran that telly drama program on Torres Strait family. We do not see enough of this stuff on telly.So near, and yet so far.I have to say I feel somewhat circumspect around ex-colonials posted to PNG who then got good legal jobs back here.

    On young girls/women being promised it happens in Aboriginal Australia too..

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    Lucy Palmer

    Thanks for an insightful and reflective article Jo. Thanks too to all the other commentators for their thoughts. After working as a journalist for many years in PNG, I returned as a university lecturer in 2006 (and again last year to produce a photographic exhibition on HIV currently being shown at the Powerhouse.)

    The first story I wrote when I arrived in PNG in 1993 was about violence against women in polygamous marriages. Since then stories about violence against women have been a constant theme whether it’s machete attacks, sexual violence, beating for control or drunken rages.

    When I was lecturing, violence was the norm for many female undergraduates. It was devastating to see but they carried on fighting for their right to be educated despite enormous obstacles.

    The women in PNG are generally amazing and while there are some incredible men as well who are exemplary husbands, fathers and contributors, it’s the women who are the social backbone of the country. Any program which supports women is a vote for the future of this extraordinary country. Sadly the days of equality between men and women are stlll a long way off.

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    jo Chandler

    Ro – no, there is no social security system – zilch. And there are very few refuges for women. Hence in most parts of the country a woman can’t escape violence. Usually they take a PMV (bus) to a wantok (relative) for a while, assuming they have the fare and the connection. But their only security is their patch of land, their garden, which sustains them. You can’t go to another part of the country and buy land – you inherit your rights to the land, so you are tied to it. It is the security system. That said clans/wantoks are incredibly supportive networks and will look after people when they can, but bride price (in some cultures) can bugger that up and require that the woman be sent back. Carol Kidu was always proud the PNG had no orphanages, because there was always family to absorb and care for the child. But displacement from land and family, diseases like HIV, have put a lot of strain on that, and suddenly there are a lot of children who are on the street. In Port Moresby settlements an amazing old Irish Catholic priest called John Glynn (also a director of PNG Transparency International) runs a fabulous organisation which uses a network of women community carers to locate street kids, feed them once a day, pay their school fees, get them uniforms, and get them to medical care when required. His organisation is called WeCare – you can contact him here: jonmglyn@gmail.com. And read a story I wrote about his work (a while back) here: http://bit.ly/XtG3hi

  • Reply February 22, 2013

    jo Chandler

    And Lucy, agree – Dr Orovu Sepoe (a PNG’n social scientist, formally at ANU ) has said much the same – “‘The role of women in PNG has largely been to “subsidise” a weak state unable to provide for its citizens. This vital role remains invisible to those in control of resources.’
    Re polygamous marriages – this is going to be a very interesting debate. One of PNG’s 3 new (only) female MPs, Governor Julie Soso (EHP) is introducing a Bill to ban polygamy, arguing that it is outdated and its current practice is nothing like it was in custom (when tribal leaders, with the means to support wives, used it as a power strategy – now every bloke’s up for it regardless of whether he has two kina to rub together). I will be very interesting to see how she goes. Dame Carol made a crack in the Parliament before she left about Honorable Members with several wives, I recall – it did not go over so well.
    That said, one of my more amusing evenings in PNG was in a guesthouse in Tari, sitting in the “lounge” before the generator switched off for the night, with three old local blokes. They were transfixed but mystified by The Farmer Wants A Wife. “He can only pick one.” They turned back to the rugby.

  • Reply February 23, 2013

    Katrina

    Thank you for publishing this article. I felt sickened but also impotent as to what we can do to help. The big step needs to be to stop the corruption and make large scale infrastructure investments in the country. Any mining company that is reaping the rewards of that beautiful island but not giving a heck of a lot back should be publicly shamed. For my bit I went straight to the MSF link to donate (thank you for making it so easy) and I will try to keep abreast of news coming out of PNG. This has been eye-opening, keep up the great work.

  • Reply February 23, 2013

    Jo Chandler

    Hi Katrina – your point about resources companies is an important one. Corruption and breakdowns in bureaucracy/public service make it difficult even if a company does meet all technical/financial obligations (and was it a fair deal in the first place? whole other issue) If the agreed payments are made by companies into G’ment coffers, or into hands of Big Men from landowner groups, but is never dispersed, locals use the only lever they have and target the operations, which summons in more security/police and things get very ugly. There’s a really interesting report on the issue focused on the impacts of the PNGLNG ($US16 billion Exxon-led project, with Australian partners Oil Search) which you can access via this Oxfam site if you are interested: http://www.oxfam.org.nz/news/report-on-lng-project-in-png-warns-of-major-challenges

  • Reply February 23, 2013

    Jo Chandler

    Sorry – me again – and for those of you interested in more discussion by experts of ways to tackle violence in PNG, I’ve written a follow up story in The Global Mail today: http://www.theglobalmail.org/feature/what-to-do-about-witchcraft/563/

  • Reply February 23, 2013

    Rhoda

    I have known it was bad for a very long time but no one has has evoked the full picture as your writing does, Jo. I’m guilty of ignoring these women. Have no idea what to do about it. Will investigate. Thanks for the links. I do support Oxfam already but perhaps I will direct my money to PNG now.

    Women and children and the old are always at the bottom of the heap, being the weakest members of any society – bullied and hectored and made compliant. Brutalized.

    A horror story and one I wont’ forget in a hurry. Australia should be doing more.

  • Reply February 24, 2013

    ro.watson

    I heard a leader(sadly dead) in a remote abororiginal community in W.A describing himself as “a big man”~ accepting responsibility for dealing with violence against women. I hope there is hope, here and there.

  • Reply February 24, 2013

    ro.watson

    Thanks Jo for bringing alive in your latest article how women are still vulnerable to violent branding with the consequence of death.

  • [...]  http://thehoopla.com.au/why-dont-care/ [...]

  • Reply April 21, 2013

    WHEN DO YOU LOOK AWAY?

    [...] discussion about Jo Chandler’s searing story we ran in The Hoopla on the horrors of sorcery and “witch burning” in Papua New Guinea. Asking for some help in raising public awareness of the issue of violence [...]

  • Reply July 11, 2013

    Warren Dutton

    Jo, Thank you for your kind words. Your memory is usually very good but like Helen Jones’ father, I would not be seen dead in long socks and sandals. Bare feet or socks and shoes/boots!

    Wendy, If you are interested in North Fly Rubber, please contact me at wdutton@global.net.pg

  • […] Why don’t we care? […]

  • […] Why don’t we care? […]

  • […] Why Don’t We Care? […]

Leave a Reply