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Monday, 22 February 2016
Page: 1554


Mr EWEN JONES (HerbertGovernment Whip) (11:40): I thank the member for bringing forward this motion in relation to Save the Children. I was lucky enough to participate in a Save the Children visit to Papua New Guinea last year. Although it was not my first visit to that country, it was done with a different perspective to my other visits and it was brilliantly worth the effort.

As parliamentarians, we tend to look for economic and trade connections when we travel to other countries. What else is there to do? We set an agenda of getting there, meeting the key stakeholders, establishing rapport and trying to forge relationships which will benefit each country. My city of Townsville has a 30-year sister city relationship with Port Moresby. It is a strong and vibrant relationship, but it is forged along the lines of governance, commerce, military exchanges, health concerns, university interaction and trade opportunities. I have spent precious little time in Port Moresby, which is, in fact, the closest capital city to Townsville. All of our trips seem to be tightly arranged and time constrained.

So when Save the Children approached me to participate in this trip, I viewed it along those lines. I was completely taken aback and in awe when I saw the work of volunteers abroad—the NGOs and aid workers, the people on the ground trying to make a difference. We travelled to Goroka and then to Port Moresby. We saw how Papua New Guineans were attacking the scourge of domestic violence and how they still had to contend with witchcraft and a lack of educational opportunities.

For me at least, the trip's highlight was a visit to an all-girls boarding school in Port Moresby. Here, the girls are on scholarship and education is at the forefront of their daily routine. To stand there on stage and urge these girls forward in their quest to be that generation which changes the views of women and girls in PNG was as inspiring a moment for me as I have had in my role as a parliamentarian. I am certain that the member for Batman would concur that it was a great day spent there.

There are many challenges in PNG and there are many more levels to their lives which we, as occasional visitors, will never see. But through the work of Save the Children we were able to see the efforts of the PNG police force to tackle domestic violence and crimes against women and girls and children. It was a visit that will stay with me for a long time.

Yes, the stories of the levels of violence, especially towards children, were harrowing. The stories about women being accused of witchcraft made me shake my head—and would make everyone shake their head. There were any number of reasons to think that the task ahead for our nearest neighbour was insurmountable. But through this organisation, Save the Children, we also saw that this was a country not afraid to face up to the biggest challenges, that this was a people who wanted better lives, that this was a country that cared about women and children and was trying its best to make itself a better place. The challenges in PNG are great. From all accounts, it will not achieve a single one of the millennium goals for its people.

In our troupe, there were at least three parliamentarians and one journalist who had never been to our nearest neighbour. Save the Children was able to open the door to MPs and senators from Victoria and New South Wales to allow them to take their stories back to their cities and states. It was a trip worth making. I would urge all who have the opportunity to go on one of these trips to take it up, to bring back the messages of hope from the countries in which Save the Children operates and to make sure that everyone knows what a great job our NGOs and aid agencies do overseas.

I am very proud to lend my name to this organisation in a country like PNG, where we have especially great ties. My city of Townsville has very strong ties through the YWAM Medical Ship, which goes up the rivers in Western Province and does outreach work. It does things like eye surgery and restores sight. It addresses basic health issues of why so many people in Papua New Guinea die in childbirth. Those are the things Save the Children were able to point out to us. They tend to take a very austere look at the way we deal with people and the way we deal with countries. They have the ability to be able to look at the people and not the product, which is hugely beneficial to all of us.

It is confronting when you go overseas to these countries and see just what we take for granted in this country. It is confronting to be put in these places, but it is well worth it. I urge everyone in this place, no matter how marginal your seat, to go in there and have a look at these things, because it is well worth the trip. I thank the House.