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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3430


Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (19:52): Sometimes in the different roles we take on as parliamentarians we have the rare privilege to visit other countries to see the work of our government in delivering foreign aid, where it is being directed, to see the work of the international non-government organisations and to meet with extraordinary people who are volunteering and making a difference to the lives of so many others.

I often sing the praises of our volunteers in Gilmore. Recently, I was able to draw some parallels and also be inspired for projects in our own region. Initially, ideas began to develop while being part of the parliamentary delegation to Papua New Guinea, and then as the Vice President of the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development—AFPPD for short.

The Australian relationship with Papua New Guinea is one of building capacity and support. It is one of prioritising health and education initiatives which is a cross-country issue, much like here at home, but in PNG there are many complexities that make this a difficult, but not impossible, task.

Governance in any developing nation is an issue, and one where Australia is assisting PNG. There is already an Institute of Public Administration, but now with Australia's help there is a plan for a Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct. We met with future leaders for public service positions. The rationale for this precinct is to develop it as a governance hub of excellence for other Pacific Islanders to attend. This will give a better and more open distribution of foreign aid as well as develop a public service capable of delivering the much-needed health, education and security needs for their nations.

It was inspiring to meet the graduates who had studied in our universities, and to hear their stories and their successes. The Shoalhaven Education Fund gives similar opportunities to passionate and dedicated students in our region. They too share a love of their country and have great pride in their achievements.

The group known as CARE is delivering women's economic empowerment programs, particularly in the coffee industry, where traditionally women were just involved in the harvesting and post-harvesting activities, and rarely with the marketing. One of the women, Selene, is an amazing coffee person, and she has connections in Canberra. Oxfam is funding programs to address gender inequality and making all sorts of matters related to domestic violence a priority.

World Vision and Save the Children Fund are making significant impacts in Papua New Guinea. However, some of the strongest insights came from the 11th women parliamentarians conference, sponsored by AFPPD. I introduced one session with these words:

There is nothing greater in this world than enabling another person to become the best that they can be. Madame Curie believed that 'we must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.' So each of us here gathered in this room—

And also here in this House—

is gifted for something. I would suggest that we are here to act as catalysts of change for our nations and our people, but most importantly for our women and our girls.

Part of our journey to women's empowerment in developing nations is to reduce child marriages and domestic violence, as this all too often reduces the future economic contribution that the woman can make.

Domestic violence around the world is objectionable, whether directed to a man, a woman or a child. It is wrong, and we need to help all those who suffer at the hands of someone they once cared for and once were a part of the care system. We collectively are greater than the sum of our individual selves. I selected a quote from Malala Yousafzai:

I raise up my voice - not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.

And:

We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

We as parliamentarians have that responsibility.

There were five inspirational sessions after that, with take-home messages for everyone attending, whether from a developed or a developing nation. Some can easily be adapted here and in Gilmore. I will be exploring these in a new model of opinion-swapping and discussion. They included: women's collectives, a need for financial literacy, increasing entrepreneurship enterprises and better access to training, possibly for cultural purposes or in emerging industry.

We need to encourage our youth to think up brilliant ideas; challenge them to focus on it and be encouraged to grow it as a business or a concept; look at these as achievement targets to change our outlook; to change our region and to change our nation. It was truly an inspirational trip and one that can be shared easily with others to make us feel better about ourselves and our relationship with other nations.

House adjourned at 20:00