Australia and Papua New Guinea have a strong and unique relationship, with ties spanning historical, economic, political and cultural spheres. The depth of our shared history goes far beyond the Kokoda Track and wartime experiences that most Australians associate with PNG. Many Australians don’t realise that PNG is Australia’s nearest neighbour and former colony, marking 42 years of independence this year.
The strong personal relationships that existed at the time of independence are deteriorating and with them an understanding of PNG in Australia, particularly among the next generation of Australian leaders. At the same time, youth engagement in politics on both sides of the Torres Strait is at an historic low. On 10 April the Lowy Institute Aus-PNG Network hosted a panel of exceptional young Australian and Papua New Guinean leaders who are working to engage their peers in the political process.
Panellists included Barbra Thomas, Executive Director of The Voice Inc., a youth leadership development organisation running programs in PNG’s major universities; Arianne Kassman, Interim Executive Director of Transparency International PNG; a representative from Oaktree, Australia’s largest youth-led development agency; and Benson Saulo, Group Indigenous Opportunities Manager at Australian Unity and founding and former Director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy. The discussion was chaired by Anna Kirk, Research Associate in the Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute.