Address to opening of Buk Bilong Pikinini (Books For Children) Library

  • Speech, E&OE

Friends of Australia, friends of Papua New Guinea, distinguished guests, Australian High Commissioner Deborah Stokes and PNG High Commissioner to Australia Charles Lepani, and to the whole community at Tatana Island who have so kindly turned out today for this special occasion.

Tom (Lancan, Tatana Island Community Leader), may I say that I can think of no higher honour than to be considered a member of this community and I thank you for such a kind gesture.

In fact, I have been intrigued, enchanted, by Papua New Guinea ever since I was a little girl. My uncle fought here during the Second World War and he had many stories to tell us about the kindness of the people of Papua New Guinea during that tragic time.

When I was 14 years old I had a pen pal from Popondetta, so I had an opportunity - as a very precocious 14 year old in Australia - to learn a little about life here in PNG.

Then my older sister, Patricia, was training to be a doctor at the University of Adelaide and she decided to do her medical internship in Papua New Guinea; I heard all the wonderful stories from my sister about her very exciting time here.

You know our love affair with Papua New Guinea is generational, because my older sister's daughter - my niece Isabel - is now a volunteer teacher at Buk bilong Pikinini in Goroka.

As the Shadow Foreign Minister, I had my first opportunity to come to Papua New Guinea. I fell in love with the country and the people. This is now my fifth visit to PNG since I became a politician and it will be not so long before I come back again.

The Australian Government and the Papuan New Guinean Government are partners because our two countries are the closest of neighbours, the closest of friends, and we work together to ensure that there is peace and prosperity in this beautiful country.

We both have the same objectives, to ensure that the economy here in PNG can grow and be sustainable and that the people here are healthy and happy and that they contribute not only to the peace and security of Papua New Guinea, but to the whole region.

The Australian Government and the PNG Government have the same objectives in that regard and we provide significant funding to achieve those objectives. We try to target it into areas that really make a difference. For example, better health and educational outcomes in PNG are fundamental to a happy and healthy and prosperous community.

Yesterday, for example, I visited Coronation Primary School where we were putting in place the second stage of a program, League Bilong Life. It is a wonderful program where the love of sport and a passion for rugby league can be a conduit for education in this country.

We have hundreds of students who have been taking part in the program about learning rugby league skills, but also life skills–attending school, a healthy lifestyle, self-respect and team work.

Later yesterday afternoon, I went to the Pacific Adventist University where we opened a new midwifery school. We want to see trained citizens of Papua New Guinea working as midwives to improve maternal health outcomes in this country because we want healthy mums and healthy babies.

That brings me to why I am here today.

Of all the aid programs that the Australian Government has supported, I have rarely had more compliments and more feedback than about Buk bilong Pikinini.

So when the opportunity came to open the fifteenth library for Buk bilong Pikinini I couldn't resist the opportunity because this program is about teaching young children to read and teaching them to love to learn to read. If you can read, you can develop a love of learning. A love of learning means that there will be more opportunities, more choices in your life. Learning means more freedom and that is what we want for the young people of this great country.

Anne-Sophie Hermann had a vision. She is one of the most inspirational workers in this field and through this vision, this inspiration, we now see fifteen libraries across PNG providing opportunity, choice and greater freedom to the local people.

I am excited that there is also the program Buk Bilong Papa Mama, which means that the parents can join in this love of learning and this love of reading.

We are proud that the Australian Government has provided about K2.2million ($A835,000) since 2012 for this program, but it would not be the success it is today if it were not for the corporate sponsors. I want to thank each and every one of the sponsors for your continued commitment to ensure that this magnificent program can deliver the better outcomes that we all see.

To the teachers, and to the volunteers, your work must be so rewarding; to see children who cannot read and then through your support, your love, your interest, your passion, they can learn to read. That is a magnificent achievement and you must all be so very proud of the work that you are doing here.

To the children: love every minute of your time at Buk Bilong Pikinini, because this is your opportunity to read and go on to do well at school. Hopefully you will go on to get a trade, or a job, or study at university. Then there is nothing to stop you–the world is before you.

Ladies and gentlemen, friends of Buk bilong Pikinini, I am so proud and pleased to declare open the fifteenth Buk bilong Pikinini library.

- Ends -

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