The Papua New Guinea Australia Alumni Association (PNGAAA) hosted its biennial conference on 28 September, providing 22 alumni a platform to share their strategic views on how best Papua New Guinea (PNG) can rebuild, strengthen, and persevere as a country.

Under the overall theme ‘Leadership and Innovation in Papua New Guinea’s New Normal’, 22 alumni presented on their capacity to address the challenges of COVID-19 across key sectors in PNG and introduced important domestic solutions for the country’s social and economic recovery.

The conference, which also involved representatives from Government, private sector, civil society and development partners, saw two types of presentations: lightning presentations – a quick overview of an alumni’s innovative idea or actual initiative in addressing the challenges in PNG’s new normal, and full presentations – a proposal or actual initiative addressing challenges in PNG’s new normal.

High-level attendees included Australian Deputy High Commissioner Mr Paul Lehmann, Secretary for Department of National Planning and Monitoring Mr Koney Samuel and other senior representatives from the private sector.

Mr Lehmann in his keynote address reinforced the commitment by Australia to support PNG tackle this urgent challenge. He said “COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our lives. However, in many ways, it has strengthened the partnership between PNG and Australia as we continue to work closely together to emerge from this crisis.”

Alumna Brenda Andrias – who achieved her master’s in public policy on an Australia Awards scholarship – presented on her work with UN Women on social protection and women’s economic empowerment during COVID-19.

“I hope that my presentation will garner support from relevant PNG Government agencies at a policy level to look at developing local economies and invest in promoting the growth and transition of those in the informal to the formal economy,” said Brenda.

Guest speaker from Australia’s Northern Territory, Cultural and Community Engagement Manager of Cultural College, Ms Djapirri Mununggirritj, spoke about health and educational challenges faced by indigenous Australians during COVID-19 and how they have overcome those challenges.

The alumni conference held biennially showcases the impact of alumni’s efforts in contributing to the growth and development of PNG in their various sectors whilst maintaining the people-to-people links with Australia.