Ensuring health messaging reaches beyond urban areas to rural and remote PNG is crucial to an inclusive COVID-19 response, as Emma Minimbi knows well.
The Australia Awards alumna is going above and beyond her legal aid work in Jiwaka province to make sure rural communities are well informed about COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
“The first thing I did when I returned to my village in Jiwaka province was tell community people at the local market that I had just received my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Emma explains.
“I further told them that it’s free and I feel no different than I did before getting vaccinated.”
Having completed a Master’s in law at The University of Melbourne, Emma says she is more aware than ever of the need to share experiences across PNG in the shared fight against COVID-19.
“Papua New Guineans who are educated and know the importance of being vaccinated should lead by example and educate their rural communities,” she says.
“If we want to encourage mass vaccinations, we need to take the first step in getting vaccinated ourselves.”
Emma has also distributed face masks to villagers in Jiwaka and is actively encouraging good hand hygiene.
“I’ve also advised people with flu like symptoms to isolate themselves in their homes and refrain from coming into contact with other people until the symptoms subside,” she says.
Emma acknowledges there is some way to go as the vaccination rollout continues but says the early results of her advocacy are encouraging.
“Ten people in my community have decided to go get vaccinated so I will be taking them to Western Highlands Provincial Health Authority’s office in Mt Hagen to get vaccinated,” she says.
“I’m excited that rural people are now responding to the global pandemic that COVID is and making the conscious decision to get vaccinated.”
It is heartwarming to see our alumni giving back to their communities and ensuring people in remote PNG have access to the right information about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19).
Noelynn and Peter Minimulu, both alumni voluntarily conducted awareness sessions for two communities in New Ireland recently. Peter was awarded the John Dillon Fellowship in 2008, supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. He received a certificate of attainment from the Mt. Eliza Business School in Melbourne while Noelynn has a Master’s in Science – Communication from the University of Western Australia, graduating in 2013.
The dynamic duo – who are husband and wife – conducted their first awareness session on March 31 on the island of Nago where they live. Over 30 people attended the session including children. The second session was held on April 5 at Matla village, upon the villagers’ request, after hearing about the success of the first awareness session.
About 90 people from Matla including People with Disability eagerly attended. Messages disseminated encompassed what COVID19 is, the symptoms, how it is transmitted, basic hygiene practices and biblical messages of hope. Noelynn and Peter used flyers and brochures developed by the World Health Organisation, supplied to them by PNGAAA. At a time of social distancing, it was a challenge to keep the crowd at a minimum but at the same time making sure messages reached remote communities.
Based on the success of the first two sessions, Noelynn and Peter received a third request from another nearby community. Peter works at the National Fisheries College in Kavieng and presented in early April to 100 people including college students, staff and their families.
Peter said this was his community service and he found satisfaction knowing he helped calm some of the anxieties related to COVID-19.
Noelynn added: “Many people in the rural areas do not have access to timely and accurate information and as an elite, I feel it is my duty to bridge the information gap. Knowing what they should do to prevent catching the virus and slowing transmission was the focus of our community outreach.”
The partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia was in focus during the launch of the Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association’s new Western Highlands Chapter over the weekend.
Provincial Administrator for Western Highlands, Mr Joseph Neng and Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association (PNGAAA) President Dr Janet Rangou joined Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, His Excellency Mr Bruce Davis, at the launch in Mt. Hagen on 15 February.
The Western Highlands Chapter is the 11th PNGAAA chapter to be established and includes members from the province as well as Jiwaka and Southern Highlands. The new Chapter joins existing provincial chapters in Manus, Madang, Eastern Highlands, East New Britain, Enga, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Morobe, Milne Bay, National Capital District and East Sepik.
Attendees commended PNGAAA members’ achievements and their contribution to the bilateral relationship.
‘The establishment of the Western Highlands chapter is a great example of alumni’s diverse contributions and a celebration of the partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia,’ Dr Rangou said.
High Commissioner Mr Davis encouraged alumni to maintain links in Western Highlands, Jiwaka and Southern Highlands and beyond.
‘The Australian Government has been providing scholarships to PNG for over 50 years and it is great to see that it continues to provide professional support to Papua New Guineans who have studied in Australia and in PNG, ensuring the sense of belonging continues beyond graduation, wherever alumni are located,’ High Commissioner Davis said.
PNGAAA was established in 2006 to provide ongoing support to Papua New Guineans who have studied in Australia, and as a mechanism for alumni to connect with each other and consolidate efforts to address economic and social development issues in PNG.
Over 11,000 Papua New Guineans have studied in Australia and PNGAAA recently opened their associate membership to also include graduates of Australian government scholarships in PNG, in areas including nursing and midwifery.
‘The growing Association includes talented professionals from all walks of life,’ Dr Rangou explained.
‘The new Western Highlands provincial chapter provides members with the same benefits as the others including access to professional development opportunities, networking events, and grants earmarked to support alumni share their talent and skills with their professional and wider community.’
As part of the launch, Interim President for Western Highlands Chapter, Nida Itaki, presented the new Chapter’s inaugural annual plan to the Australian High Commission, highlighting various community and professional activities.
Photo shoot for the Australia Awards website where the Alumni banner photos will be used on newly procured Australia Awards banners.
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