Traditional crafts supporting rural communities
Through her small business venture Anku Crafts, Anne Iauku is supporting rural communities in her home province of Bougainville through the trade of eco-friendly handmade crafts. The travel is also giving her an opportunity to re-connect and she is happy to see traditional harvesting and weaving practices being nurtured.
“A combination of interest in handicraft and culture, and particularly the desire to help my people in villages in Siwai District, South Bougainville market their unique handmade products got me into my small business.
“Rather than sending money to relatives, which encourages a free handout mentally, I believe in changing mindsets, and engaging village communities in more rewarding and continuous income earning habits.
“The attitude to work hard and commit to supporting community welfare was learnt at an early age from my parents. They were hardworking, committed to ensuring there was happiness and welfare for our extended families and communities around us.”
Anne graduated with a Higher School Certificate in 1992 from the Glennie School, Toowoomba. She started buying from just a few family members in 2018, and within a few months expanded her business to include several villages in the Siwai District. She now also visits the Bana District where she had never been before. The crafts include bilums, baskets, bags, hats, trays, bowls, hot pot mats and coasters. They are made out of raw materials including tree bark, wild bananas, vines, canes, bamboos, coconut and pandanus leaves, just to name a few. The raw materials require harvesting, gathering, careful shredding and drying before weaving into finished products.
“It gives me great personal satisfaction to be an active participant in my community. When I am in the village weavers tell me their personal stories of how they use the funds to pay school fees, pay hospital clinic visits and those really touch me. If I can help, parents give their children a brighter future, others regain their health; buy basic needs, it is satisfying for me.
“When I started my career, I did not travel home regularly, as it is quite expensive. Throughout those years, there was a sense of disconnection. I travel home frequently now, with the buying activities. I am interacting, bonding and I feel 100% with the community.
“Another rewarding observation is that weavers are passing weaving skills and knowledge to the young. These skills and knowledge and good culture need to be harnessed and kept alive for future generations.”
The craft business is as challenging as it is rewarding. The crafts travel six hours by unsealed road to Buka, a few minutes by boat across the Buka passage then eighty minutes by plane to Port Moresby. Coordination with limited access to mobile networks keeps Anne very busy on top of her full-time job in Port Moresby, which she is also passionate about.
“I am a Professional Development Trainer and I absolutely love what I do and give it 100 percent. Being an SME owner is my second job and I commit to it after work hours and on weekends.
“My job skills and knowledge and the skills and knowledge I require to run my SME complement each other. It requires many skills including excellent time management, planning and organising, communication, customer care and people skills. As a trainer, I deliver professional development and leadership courses. I have better workplace skills and practices now because of having to balance my job, my SME and personal life.”
Anne takes advantage of the many PNG Australia Alumni Association (PNGAAA) professional development opportunities available to members to keep on top of her game.
“I am grateful to PNGAAA for the opportunities to attend seminars that are always refreshing and motivational. The experts sharing information and practices help me to reflect on my own practices and experiences. Recent seminars on writing proposals, marketing, communicating and storytelling are empowering me to set goals and action plans both professionally and for my SME and community activities. I continue to network within PNGAAA. I am excited about the next five years.”