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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11829

Ms HALL (7:46 PM) —Firstly, I would like to congratulate the member for Cook for bringing this very important motion to the House. In addition, I would like to say that it is very appropriate that we give recognition to the role the kiaps played in PNG. Furthermore, I would like to put on the record that I know that this has been a long campaign—it has gone over six or so years—and that you are getting towards the end of the road now. I truly believe that there is going to be some form of recognition in the very near future.

I have recently been to PNG with the Standing Committee on Health and Aging and we visited a number of remote villages. We were looking at the delivery of health services, Australia’s relationship with PNG and how we work with PNG to deliver those services. Whilst I was there, I became very aware of the role that kiaps played, not only in law and order and protection which I will touch on in a moment and the other issues that the member for Cook mentioned in his motion, but also in the actual coordination and delivery of health services in those very remote areas. I think that is a role that is not widely recognised and, when it was no longer played after 1974, it left quite a gap in the provision of health services in those areas. It has been a long road since then to get to the stage we are at now, where we are probably coming to terms a little with just how difficult it is to deliver those services in those areas. We visited a number of the Torres Strait island villages and we also went to Daru and spoke with the governor of that area and of the gulf area. They explained to us the sheer logistics that are associated with delivering those services. The kiaps were there; they coordinated it and without them there—I know that some of you are kiaps who worked there—that service would never have been delivered.

PNG is very different to Australia. We have remote areas in Australia, but our remoteness is different. The issues we have around keeping peace and harmony within the community are very different. The role played there by kiaps—and some of you are here tonight—was of vital importance. You kept those communities together. You kept those tribes together. You kept villages and districts functioning. And it was not just the villages that you lived in; it was also an area, a district, a region. You had just such enormous responsibility—as the member for Cowper detailed previously.

I have spoken at some length with the previous parliamentary secretary about the role that you played, and he really brought home to me how big the gap was that was left—particularly in the delivery of health services—when you were no longer there, and I concentrate on that because it is an area that I am particularly interested in.

I know you have met with Senator Faulkner and I know that negotiations are taking place in relation to recognition and how that recognition should be tangible. I know that the government is working to see that formal recognition is given for the vital role that you played from the Australian perspective and from PNG’s perspective. I conclude by thanking you very much and congratulating the member for Cook for bringing this very important information to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr MJ Washer)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.