2019 Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue Outcomes Report
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2019 Australia-Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue Outcomes Report

The Lowy Institute hosted the seventh Australia–Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue on 5 and 6 November 2019 in Wewak, Papua New Guinea.

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The Lowy Institute hosted the seventh Australia–Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue on 5 and 6 November 2019 in Wewak, Papua New Guinea. The Dialogue is the flagship annual event of the Australia–Papua New Guinea Network, a project of the Lowy Institute to build stronger connections between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The project is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Dialogue reflects the importance of the Australia–PNG relationship. It brings together 20 emerging leaders from both countries to discuss common challenges and issues and to form new professional connections. The 2019 Dialogue was the first time the event was held in a regional centre in Papua New Guinea. Wewak and East Sepik Province illustrate many of the challenges and opportunities facing regional centres in Papua New Guinea. The region is home to a thriving agricultural industry, and has close links to Australia through the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) between the PNG Defence Force and Australian Defence Force at Moem Barracks. Australia and Wewak are also linked via business, government and community connections.

The Dialogue, and associated events, offered opportunities for participants to engage with the local community through visits to local sites including agricultural facilities, villages, and tourist and historical sites. The Australia–PNG Network hosted a public reception in Wewak to enable participants to meet and connect with stakeholders in the local community. East Sepik Governor Allan Bird met with participants and outlined his thoughts on leadership and governance in the regional PNG context. Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Bruce Davis participated in the Dialogue discussions.

The Dialogue agenda was broadly focused on:

  •      sustainable regional and rural development
  •      infrastructure, in particular communications and energy access
  •      democracy, governance and leadership, and
  •      contemporary PNG–Australia relations.

Participants developed a number of recommendations with the goal of improving links between the two countries and reflecting their perspectives on relevant public policy issues. Following the recommendations published in this report is a summary of the discussions held in each session. Notes have been provided on a non-attributable basis.

The Dialogue was chaired by Watna Mori, lawyer and human rights specialist, and Shane McLeod, Project Director of the Australia–PNG Network at the Lowy Institute.

Shane McLeod and Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Pacific Islands Program at the Lowy Institute, contributed to the compilation of this report.

The Lowy Institute acknowledges the continuing support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the Australia–Papua New Guinea Network.



1.1            Review current regulatory bodies in the PNG agriculture sector and encourage a focus on smallholder agriculture development.

1.2            Encourage Australian counterpart agencies in agriculture to assist in knowledge building and sharing to develop capacity in Papua New Guinea.

1.3            Agencies in Papua New Guinea and Australia should work to support smallholders in Papua New Guinea to prepare products ready for export to Australia.

1.4            Develop structures within regulatory bodies to address supply issues for Papua New Guinea. Consider institutional partnerships between agencies in Papua New Guinea and Australia with an aim of addressing non-tariff barriers to trade.

1.5            Identify rural community champions in Australia and Papua New Guinea to share knowledge across all areas, including supporting cultural preservation while empowering economic development. 

1.6            Australia and Papua New Guinea to ensure the Coral Sea Cable System will have widest possible reach in improving internet accessibility and affordability for all PNG communities.

1.7            Create a competitive grants scheme to focus Australian financial assistance. The program should be governed by Papua New Guinea and themed into different categories, e.g. research (health – infectious diseases), universities/institutions, climate change, health, education, cultural heritage/integrity. An online portal should be developed to provide transparency to this process — replicating the Indonesian exploration licence system. 

1.8            Establish an annual arts, crafts and traditions fair for Papua New Guinea and Australia that alternates between Papua New Guinea and Australia — much like the Emerging Leaders Dialogue to promote cultural exchange and economic opportunities.

1.9            Encourage relevant bodies and agencies in Papua New Guinea to promote knowledge and skills on contending with climate change and its effects.

1.10          Encourage the efforts to facilitate labour mobility for PNG citizens to undertake semi-skilled roles in Australia. Continue improving ways of increasing the number of seasonal workers accessing the labour market in Australia. 

1.11          Develop an accessible pathway for skilled and professional labour migration between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Over time, labour market programs should lead to more skilled and professional Papua New Guineans accessing the labour market in Australia.



2.1            Highlight the importance of obtaining reliable data from Papua New Guinea’s 2020 Census to inform decision making. Explore opportunities to use the census data to inform major project developments such as electrification.

2.2           Ensure planning for Australia–PNG infrastructure projects is based on strong community engagement, priority setting and discussion of benefits. Projects should include support for communities to participate in construction and benefit from training and employment, as well as to support community adaptation and adoption.

2.3           Explore opportunities to increase business-to-business linkages between Papua New Guinea and Australia. This can support the business communities in both countries to adapt to and benefit from new technology and infrastructure. 

2.4           There should be a focus on building business-to-business linkages between communities in the Torres Strait Islands and Papua New Guinea.

2.5           New government projects in communities in Papua New Guinea must include electrification capacity or be connectable in the near future.

2.6           Infrastructure investment decisions should be tied to the decentralisation agenda and empower local leadership in the decision-making process.

2.7           Improve cooperation between governments, NGOs and business to reduce duplication of investment and effort and to improve efficiency in joint investments between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

2.8           Australia should strategically use its development budget in Papua New Guinea to target issues that are putting pressure on local infrastructure in the Torres Strait Islands.

2.9           Australia should place the PNG–Australia relationship on the agenda for local and state governments to broaden sub-national linkages.

2.10         Ensure outcomes of the Australia–PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue are shared with all levels of government across both countries to improve sub-national relationships.


Social Media and Journalism

3.1            Australia should consolidate and share guidance with Papua New Guinea on using social media for political and institutional purposes. Papua New Guinea government agencies should be supported to host and maintain active websites with accurate contact information. 

3.2           Encourage the Australian Government to build its social media profile in Papua New Guinea, potentially through posts in Tok Pisin and other multimedia output, eg podcasts.

3.3           Government agencies in Papua New Guinea should be encouraged to establish reliable Facebook pages to encourage information dissemination to the public. Australia could provide capacity for development of government public information capacity through development partnerships or volunteer placements.

3.4           Papua New Guinea should be encouraged to develop a social media code of conduct, to combat the spread of fake news by the general public who may be uninformed on issues. This should include a social media education campaign. Australian experience in this area could be shared with Papua New Guinea as appropriate.

3.5           Encourage and support an appropriate organisation or entity to undertake research into the impact of social media in Papua New Guinea.

3.6           Partner with Facebook and/or other social media platforms to combat the spread of fake news in Papua New Guinea and to support best practice use of social media.

3.7            Support programs that enhance journalistic integrity in Papua New Guinea through the Media Development Initiative and other programs.


3.8           Build greater linkages between sporting institutions and organisations in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Continue to forge NRL and AFL partnerships and with other sports, especially looking for opportunities to build more gender inclusivity — eg netball, volleyball.

3.9           Encourage organisers of Australia’s Rugby League Koori Knockout and Island of Origin competitions to consider inviting PNG teams to participate in future events.

3.10         The PNG and Australian governments should consider supporting a PNG team to compete in the NRL in an effort to diversify perceptions of Papua New Guinea in popular culture in Australia, and to provide a focus for PNG national sport competition.


3.11          Increase sports engagement between Australia and Papua New Guinea at a secondary school level e.g. a variation of the Pacific School Games specific to Australia and Papua New Guinea.

3.12         Express support for the secondary school partnerships already initiated between Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

3.13         Encourage research collaborations at the tertiary level between universities. Also consider institutional partnerships and twinning at the vocational and tertiary level. 


3.14         Encourage and support social media influencers to engage with Papua New Guinea. Suggest a jointly funded exhibition trip to showcase PNG tourism opportunities.

3.15         Australia should encourage local adventure tourism companies to expand their operations to Papua New Guinea.

3.16         Encourage new digital platforms such as AirBnB to provide more support in Papua New Guinea to promote local ownership of tourism.

3.17         Provide support for Australian musicians (especially those with PNG heritage) to film music videos and promotions in Papua New Guinea.

3.18         Identify and support ongoing opportunities to increase visibility of Australian indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea, and PNG culture in Australia.

3.19         Use inductions and briefings to encourage staff of international organisations, governments, and other visitors to Papua New Guinea to reduce perpetuation of negative perceptions of Papua New Guinea.


The bilateral relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia is an enduring and important one for both nations. The relationship is built on shared history and extends through economics, politics and security to culture, sport, history and extensive people-to-people links. The agenda of the Dialogue allows for a wide-ranging discussion that reflects the breadth of the bilateral relationship. For the 2020 event the discussion focused on regional and rural development, infrastructure and digital media. 

This report summarises the discussions and are not attributable to any one participant. The notes are grouped to collect topics in broad themes and do not directly reflect the chronology of the discussion.


There was extensive discussion of the state of the Australia–PNG relationship. There was reflection on political change in both countries, with Australia having had an election which saw the government of Scott Morrison re-elected and in Papua New Guinea the handover of power from Peter O’Neill to James Marape. Both new prime ministers had worked quickly to build a strong relationship, with the visit to Australia by Mr Marape showing a strong personal connection being forged. Australia’s increased focus on engagement with the Pacific region and Papua New Guinea in particular was noted, and there was discussion of the regional strategic context in which that was taking place.

The state of the modern PNG–Australia relationship was considered, with discussion of a shift away from seeing the relationship as a donor-recipient arrangement to one of partnership where the two countries work to identify priorities and develop appropriate responses. The PNG Electrification Partnership, which involves Australia along with New Zealand, the United States and Japan, was highlighted among recent developments. The proposed development of a joint military facility in Manus Island will be one where the partnership will further evolve. There are also efforts to work more closely in areas like security and maritime surveillance, and education including engagement with secondary schools beyond the existing strong engagement in tertiary education.

Papua New Guinea’s economic challenges were discussed and potential ways that Australia could help the Marape government to deal with them. Australia is providing short-term financial support for PNG’s budget but there was discussion of the need for further reform in some areas of policy. Pending decisions on a range of resource development projects will be a factor in the future direction of economic performance. Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister has made agricultural development a major focus of his government, and this priority should prompt Australia to align its support for PNG to this important policy.

The new Coral Sea Cable System between Papua New Guinea and Australia was also discussed, and its potential role in opening up new business opportunities was canvassed. There is also an opportunity for Australia to play a bigger day-to-day role in education in Papua New Guinea, and there is interest from a number of provincial governments in having more Australian teachers work in PNG schools. The two countries are working towards development of a new ‘comprehensive economic partnership’ agreement which will provide further impetus for a recalibration of the bilateral relationship. 

Labour mobility was discussed, with interest from participants in expanded opportunities for professionals to move between the two countries. In some areas the possibilities are open for Australians to work in Papua New Guinea with relative ease (eg the legal profession) while reciprocal movement for Papua New Guineans to work in Australia is more difficult.

There was discussion of how Australia has built stronger relationships with other countries where the historical and geographic ties are not as strong — such as India. The PNG–Australia relationship should develop to emulate the types of exchanges Australia has with other such nations.


Rural and regional development was highlighted as a key issue for both Papua New Guinea and Australia. Eighty percent of PNG’s population lives outside urban centres. Australia’s population is increasingly urbanised, with major cities along the eastern coast growing quickly and struggling to adapt to demand for infrastructure and affordable housing. Participants noted the interest of both countries in fostering growth and opportunity in regional areas.

There were a number of observations about successes in regional and rural development. Reference was made to the way that arts and culture have provided economic opportunities, especially for Australian Indigenous communities. It was noted that it was important that cultural property is identified, managed and protected to avoid negative consequences from such economic development. The important role traditional culture plays in informing modern understanding in areas such as fire management was also discussed.

There was discussion about the difficulty of providing infrastructure in regional areas in both countries, with commentary that infrastructure gaps limit regional development opportunities. 

The growing impact of climate change on both countries was discussed in the context of regional communities. Papua New Guinea has substantial experience dealing with major natural disasters and community resilience. This experience may be relevant in considering the impact of climate change in other countries, including Australia. Regional development opportunities may come from international climate mitigation funds.

There was discussion of how agricultural development has entered a new phase in Papua New Guinea. Recent examples of high-profile targeted investments were discussed, in cash cropping such as potatoes in Southern Highlands, and dairy products in Port Moresby. In both examples, outside investors had made direct investments with an impact on local communities. There remain issues about capacity to supply but there was a general view that Papua New Guinea should have the ambition to replace imported foodstuffs with local production capacity.

The role of mining and extractive industries was considered, and opportunities for transparency and accountability were highlighted in regard to exploration and licence development and approval. Views were expressed on the importance of communities having a say in economic development, with culture central in defining relationships between community members and economic opportunities.


Infrastructure was a major area of discussion, in particular the way that technologies like electricity and telecommunications can enable the development of regional economies.

In Papua New Guinea, policies and plans exist for large scale electrification but implementation has been difficult. The PNG Electrification Partnership — involving Australia, Japan, the United States and New Zealand in supporting greater access to electricity in Papua New Guinea — was a topic of some discussion, with further exploration of the issues and challenges in meeting the goal of supply for 70 per cent of the population by 2030.

There was discussion about the opportunity that Papua New Guinea has to develop its electricity capacity with renewable sources at its core. Papua New Guinea will be able to share its expertise with Australia and other countries as capacity develops. There was also discussion of the role of the private sector and NGOs in potentially supporting the expansion of electricity supply in Papua New Guinea, particularly in the context of major international donors proposing to assist the expansion of the network. The financial difficulties of PNG Power Limited were also canvassed.

Australia’s experience in providing electricity infrastructure to remote and rural communities was discussed, and note was also made of Australia’s challenges in reducing carbon emissions and increasing the role of renewables in its grid. Australia’s federal system of government has led to legal and political challenges as it works to achieve these outcomes. Parts of the industry have been privatised and government does not necessarily have direct control over all aspects of electricity supply in all states. Some jurisdictions have realised the need for an ongoing role for government in provision of essential infrastructure, and this may provide some guidance for Papua New Guinea.

There was discussion of the importance of making supplies financially sustainable — so that potential customers see the value of, and are capable of paying for electricity supply. The example was given of the development of mobile telephone networks in Papua New Guinea — initially these were pitched as  a service for elites, and it was only when these were seen as a service for all people that they became widespread and widely adopted, and provided massive benefits in access to communications. 

There was broad agreement on the importance of lifting energy access in Papua New Guinea, for economic opportunity, quality of life and improved health outcomes in communities. An example was given of the importance of electricity in being able to provide better health outcomes in remote communities, for example in making oxygen available for treatments. There was also discussion of how electricity can help empower communities and contribute to lifting people out of education and opportunity traps. There was discussion of how financial resources will need to be found within communities to sustain connections to these supplies.

The relationship of electricity to agriculture was also discussed, through its role in boosting economic returns by reducing labour requirements and improving quality of produce. There was discussion of the aspiration of agricultural producers to access such infrastructure, with a desire to move from ‘aid’ and ‘handouts’ to being able to develop real economic opportunities. 

There was discussion too of Papua New Guinea needing to evaluate all potential technologies for itself; for example, whether options such as nuclear generation have been fully considered and evaluated as part of the country’s energy thinking. 

There are substantial opportunities through Papua New Guinea and Australia working closely in their experience of these developments. Australia may be able to gain expertise and experience from implementation in Papua New Guinea, and may be able to provide capital for investment in some new technology, for example, utilising blockchain in renewable generation through to retail. Developing and implementing small scale renewables and microgrids may be a greenfield investment opportunity for Papua New Guinea to develop and export its expertise without the legacy of 1950s-style infrastructure.

One area that must be considered is the state of PNG’s state-owned enterprises, such as PNG Power Limited. Questions were raised over whether the current structure and operation of the sector is working — and whether existing corporate entities are viable. Politics continues to be a factor in the rollout of infrastructure. Governance generally is a challenge and must be factored into any infrastructure developments. Communities in both countries have a right to be informed and to have a say on developments that can affect, empower or change them.


The impact of digital technologies on society was a topic of significant discussion throughout the Dialogue. There were a range of experiences and perspectives shared: from the benefits of access to communications, to economic opportunities, through to negative consequences and social impact, as well as questions of national security. There was also discussion of the broader issue of perceptions and portrayals of each country in media and the impact it has on the PNG–Australia relationship.

There was a view that on balance, social media has been a positive force in both nations, and has provided a degree of access to information, government accountability and economic opportunity that  has benefited citizens in both countries. Participants noted the role of social media in holding elected leaders to account through direct interaction. Some government agencies and leaders in both countries have used social platforms effectively to maintain channels of communication to communities and to interact positively. Other government bodies have struggled to understand the power of communication tools now available to citizens and the ability of information to be shared quickly and outside formal channels.

The recent issue of political violence in West Papua highlighted the role of social media as an activator of political awareness and connecting communities of interest, particularly in Papua New Guinea. This showed the uniting power of digital media and increased political engagement and empowerment.

However, there was concern expressed about the negative role of social media in both countries, with misinformation leading to poor outcomes, unrest and even violence.

The smaller scale of PNG’s formal media sector means social media has become prominent in public discourse. This led to concerns from some national leaders who called for platforms like Facebook to be regulated or censored to deal with misinformation. In Australia, national security concerns are driving a push for greater accountability for social platforms.

Concern was expressed about the role of social media algorithms in conjunction with a preponderance of sharing graphic and violent images, with fears this is having a detrimental effect on culture, particularly in Papua New Guinea. This concern extends to a loss of culture around reading and information. Issues like cyber bullying are also a challenge, along with the ‘right to be forgotten’. In Australia, Indigenous communities are dealing with direct digital communications undermining traditional communication protocols, such as on the death of a community member.

Participants discussed the role of education in encouraging social media users to understand the impact of the platforms and to manage the way they interact and share information, and the role of algorithms in shaping what they see. 

Education can also be an important part of leveraging the potential social and economic benefits of digital platforms. Some participants had direct experience of using social and digital media as an economic enabler. Through social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, small and medium scale enterprises had been developed which provided real economic opportunity and outcomes for individuals and communities. 

This led to a discussion about the role of influencers in shaping perceptions of both countries.

Social media is also a potential enabler for knowledge sharing and market opportunities in agriculture. Simple Facebook groups and support pages have connected developing specialists in fields of agriculture despite the challenges of distance and lack of infrastructure. 

Digital resources can also be substantial supports for the development of tourism opportunities. New digital platforms mean things like village-based tourism are now easier to develop and can be realised without major infrastructure requirements and expensive advertising.

There was also discussion about the portrayal of Papua New Guinea in Australia and its media. There is a view that coverage is often negative and undermines the potential for a better bilateral relationship. Australian participants noted that they had been personally trying to highlight positive aspects in their social media relationships. There was agreement that better examples will lead to a stronger and more understanding relationship between the two countries.

The point was made that despite its prominence in modern society, telecommunications access and participation is not ubiquitous, and debates about social media don’t represent reality for most people. In many parts of Papua New Guinea, low bandwidth (2G mobile) connections are the primary mode of access. As little as 10 per cent of PNG’s population uses services beyond text messaging. 


The Dialogue discussions were informed by site visits to locations around Wewak and the participation of guest speakers during the event.

At Suanum village outside Wewak, participants saw first-hand examples of how cash-crop economies can help deliver opportunities in regional areas, and that there is also an important role for government as an enabler of these opportunities. There was discussion of the importance of agricultural research in developing crops that are resistant to insect pests and diseases — for example the development of varieties of cocoa that are resistant to borer infestation. Vanilla’s role as a cash crop for villages was also highlighted, as well as the critical role for government in providing and maintaining roads and infrastructure.

East Sepik Governor Allan Bird provided thoughts on leadership, governance and rural and regional development during a dinner and speech. He provided examples of his focus on government revenue and service delivery, and delivering infrastructure that enables economic development. He highlighted new projects coming online in the province over coming years that will provide more support for community-based agriculture and economic development.

Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea Bruce Davis interacted with participants during the Dialogue and provided perspectives on the modern PNG–Australia relationship. He highlighted the partnership between the two countries. Mr Davis was also the guest speaker at a community reception in Wewak that involved members of local community and government organisations.

Commanding officer of PNG Defence Force Moem, Lieutenant Colonel Nelson Rapola hosted participants for a briefing on the PNG–Australia Defence Co-operation Program, which connects personnel from the Australian Defence Force with the PNG Defence Force base in East Sepik Province. 

A tour of Wewak and surrounds enabled participants to visit the Commonwealth War Memorial site at Cape Wom Memorial Park, Japan War Memorial site at Mission Hill, PNG Cocoa Board’s Hawain Cocoa Nursery, and the Network of Callan Services for Persons with Disabilities. 



Patricia Aimapa, Technology Entrepreneur

Patricia Aimapa is the co-founder and director of the Afore Computer Training Institute in Popondetta. The institute works to foster IT skills in the local community. Patricia is an ambitious and passionate advocate for the role of ICT in regional PNG. She was a participant in the Techlab PNG Accelerator program in 2019. Before launching the institute she worked in a number of roles including in aviation and in technology.

Adolf Kaien, Major, PNG Defence Force

Adolf Kaien is a Major in the PNG Defence Force and Operations Officer for the 2nd Royal Pacific Islands Regiment (2RPIR) based at Moem Barracks in Wewak. He joined the PNG Defence Force in 2003 and was commissioned as an officer in 2006. His extensive defence career has included deployment as a platoon commander to Solomon Islands as part of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) (2009), officer instructor and infantry instructor, before his most recent appointment to 2RPIR in 2016.

Preston Karue, Health Professional

Preston Karue works as the Rural Outreach Coordinator at the East Sepik Provincial Health Authority. In his role he plans and coordinates specialist rural health programs for the different departments of the health authority and also coordinates disease outbreak response. He also works closely with NGOs and other agencies to coordinate activities and to maximise results for the community. He runs a weekly social media campaign against violence and is a strong advocate for rural and community development and behaviour change communication using songs as a medium to educate the population on important issues. He has previously worked as a dental officer with the PNG Defence Force, volunteer dentist for YWAM Medical Ships and as a resident dental officer at Madang’s Modilon General Hospital. He graduated with a degree in dental surgery from the University of Papua New Guinea.

Maholopa Laveil, Economist and Researcher

Maholopa (Maho) Laveil is currently an economics lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). In 2017-2018 he undertook studies for his Master of International and Development Economics at the Australian National University in Canberra and was selected as a PNG and Pacific Greg Taylor Scholar, leading to a one-month internship. Maho’s current research and work include trade policy, financial inclusion, PNG’s general elections, and providing assistance to PNG’s 2019 supplementary budget. In addition, Maho has recently coordinated an Oxford Policy Management Ltd Australia project, surveying 415 youth in Port Moresby, using a complexity-based model for collecting data. The process of signification allowed individual stories to be collected, mapped and explored visually in a quantitative framework, and has been used only twice in Papua New Guinea. This project trained five UPNG staff in the new model and hopes to make data collected available to other UPNG researchers.

Cynthia Nanareng, Foreign Service Officer

Cynthia Nanareng is an officer with the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs, working as a desk officer in the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand branch of the department’s bilateral division. In this role she works on issues relating to countries and organizations within the region. The main duties she performs in her role include facilitating meetings, preparing meeting documents and meeting outcomes, providing policy advice as well as attending meetings in relation to the work she does. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Papua New Guinea. As a young public servant she is interested in seeing how our two countries being close bilateral partners can continue working together to effectively achieve mutual goals. In this dialogue she is interested in discussing how the proposed “Comprehensive Strategic Economic Partnership”, which will be the overarching framework of agreement between the two countries replacing the “Principles Guiding Relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea” and other arrangements, agreements, MOUs, etc. can be utilized to help transform the relationship from a dependent donor-recipient one to a more balanced economic relationship.

Cathy Neap, NRL Country Manager

Cathy Neap is the country manager in Papua New Guinea for the National Rugby League (NRL). She has been working in the NRL's Sport for Development program in Papua New Guinea since 2014 and worked her way up to become the first woman to hold the role as country manager. In 2017 Cathy captained PNG’s first ever women’s national rugby league team, the PNG Orchids, to the 2017 World Cup in Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Accounting from the University of Papua New Guinea, and prior to joining the NRL was working in business. Cathy believes everyone is born a leader, and it is the little things that each person does that contributes to the bigger picture, and makes us each a leader.

Francis Sakato, Electrical Engineer and Analyst

Francis Sakato is Principal Technical Analyst-Electricity with the PNG Independent Consumer and Competition Commission. In this role he provides technical advice on all electricity matters including licencing, contract arrangements and codes. With a strong career background in technology and energy, Francis believes the role of access to electricity will be a key driver in PNG's future economic development. Access to small scale and renewable power sources will be critical to this success, and Francis is keen to discuss the ways government regulation can be configured to progress such initiatives. Francis holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Lae and has previously worked with Telikom PNG and Ramu NiCo Management.

Gertrude Tamade, Senior Legal Counsel

Gertrude Tamade is an experienced lawyer currently working as Senior Legal Counsel with Barrick Niugini, which operates the Porgera Gold Mine. She holds a Masters in Commercial Law from the University of Melbourne and was recognised as the 2018 Alumni of the Year by the PNG–Australia Awards Association for her work producing an online dictionary and children’s book in her local language Taemi from Morobe province. Gertrude is a member of the PNG Law Society Council and in this capacity, she tries to address some of the issues in the legal profession that are affecting lawyers and find ways to meet lawyers’ needs and assist the council be relevant to its members. Gertrude is also experienced in the resources sector, including undertaking negotiations with landowner groups and representing her employer in court cases and in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI). Gertrude believes that the EITI brings value to the extractive industry on good governance and transparency initiatives as well as reviewing PNG’s regulatory space in the extractive sector.

Kate Uvia, Communications Professional

Ms Kate Uvia is a tertiary qualified professional communicator from Bougainville and East New Britain. As a proud PNG woman, she has forged her career at the cutting edge of a range of bilateral and multi-lateral organisations working to promote inclusive economic growth for all Papua New Guineans. These have included the World Bank Group and two major DFAT implementing partners in the governance arena. She was a driving force behind the Tanim Graun or Turn the Earth prime time panelist discussion TV series in Papua New Guinea that examined contemporary development issues through a political/public/private/civil society lens. She is passionate about PNG–Australia relations and using her experience and community linkages to give a ‘voice to the voiceless’ by mainstreaming traditionally marginalising issues in Papua New Guinea such as disability and gender. She continues to volunteer her free time with national disability, HIV/AIDS and church organisations.

Deane Woruba PhD, Agricultural Scientist

Dr Deane Woruba is an agricultural scientist with experience working in both Papua New Guinea and Australia. He has also worked in the policy development and implementation space. These experiences give Deane an extensive perspective on agriculture as a key pillar in PNG’s inclusive and dynamic future. Deane is also a keen amateur builder and volunteers to construct structures that improve remote and impoverished livelihoods.


Andrew Burke, Senior Public Policy Professional

Andrew Burke is a senior public servant and public policy professional with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Government. In his role as Director of Intergovernmental Relations he has responsibility for the implementation of the Queensland–PNG Memorandum of Understanding, which works to identify and implement opportunities for partnerships between Papua New Guinea and Queensland. He holds a Masters of Politics and Public Policy and a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics). Across his career, Andrew has designed and implemented a range of public policy reforms in areas including agriculture, tourism, economic development, vocational education and training and environmental management.

Brett Crabb, Director and Financial Adviser

Brett Crabb is a financial adviser and business founder based in Melbourne.  He founded his business in 2011 and remains a director and part-owner of Finwest Wealth Management, a financial advice business specialising in services to young wealth accumulators.  With Brett’s guidance, Finwest has now expanded to serve a range of active clients across Australia, with offices in both Perth and Melbourne.  Brett has an extensive career in wealth management and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). He has long had a keen interest in strengthening ties with Papua New Guinea and sharing his experience in entrepreneurship and business development. He greatly enjoys his work with Finwest but forming strong connections with Papua New Guinea is where his real passion lies.  Brett holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Western Australia, a Graduate Diploma of Financial Planning from FINSIA and is a Certified Financial Planner with the Financial Planning Association.

Liandra Gaykamangu, Teacher and Entrepreneur

Liandra Gaykamangu is a Yolngu woman from North-East Arnhem Land and is passionate about building meaningful relationships with people from across the Pacific. She is an experienced English high school teacher. She is also an entrepreneur and business founder, establishing her swimwear enterprise Liandra Swim in 2018. Her swimwear label is inspired by her Aboriginal heritage and works to create meaningful opportunities to learn about Aboriginal culture and Indigenous Australian women, through fashion. She is currently a delegate, representing 50 Indigenous business owners from around Australia.

Ishani Kaluthotage, Medical Professional 

Ishani Kaluthotage is a medical doctor currently working at Logan Hospital in Queensland. She graduated from Griffith University with a Masters in Medicine. She is passionate and dedicated to global health and has developed a strong relationship with Papua New Guinea as a volunteer doctor working through Queensland Rural Medical Education (QRME) and patrols with Australian Doctors Initiative (ADI), including at Kiunga Hospital in Western Province and Mougulu District  in 2018. She has also volunteered with numerous non-government organisations in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka and Tanzania to assist with health, education, women’s empowerment, community development and human trafficking. Ishani is also an active member of community organisations, Logan Junior Doctors’ Society, Queensland refugee support groups, and sporting organisations within Australia. She is motivated to help improve the various determinants of health ranging from agriculture, economics, education, gender equality and politics in Papua New Guinea to help minimise the health disparity between two neighbouring countries.

Rachel Mason Nunn, Social Development Specialist

Rachel is a social development specialist, anthropologist, podcaster, public speaker and experienced strategist and thought leader. Rachel launched her podcast, Good Will Hunters in June 2018, out of a desire to explore how the not-for-profit sector can become more sustainable, innovative and collaborative by partnering with the private sector and conversely how the private sector can play a more meaningful role in social impact and international development. Rachel is passionate about supporting organisations with the knowledge and connections they need to sustain, scale and communicate their impact. Rachel has worked alongside government, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector in Australia and throughout the region. Rachel holds a Masters in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development, a Degree in Political, Economic and Social Sciences and has studied in both Australia and India, including at the prestigious Tata Institute for Social Sciences. Rachel has also worked extensively in Papua New Guinea, including work in the education sector alongside the Kokoda Track Foundation, as well as work on the World Bank’s tuberculosis response.

Kylie McKenna, Researcher and Director

Kylie McKenna is acting Director of the Centre for Social Research at Madang’s Divine Word University, while on leave from her position at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at University of Technology Sydney. Her expertise is in helping stakeholders identify, analyse and respond to challenges of social and environmental change, work which she has applied in an international development context especially in Papua New Guinea for the past decade. Kylie has published widely on topics including post-colonialism, law, aid, revenue distribution, security and the environment. She was awarded a PhD in Sociology from Australian National University in 2012, and is the author of the book Corporate Social Responsibility and National Resource Conflict published in 2016.

Majella Newie, Project Officer

Majella Newie is a project officer with the Torres Strait Regional Authority based on Thursday Island, Queensland. She currently works in health promotion and cultural arts and heritage project areas, and has recently been involved in projects including seawall evaluation and upgrades. As a Torres Strait Islander living in the region, she is acutely aware of its role as the gateway between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and is looking forward to discussing issues including traditional culture, cross-border connections and environmental challenges.

Kieran Sciberras, Sport Development Officer

Kieran Sciberras is a sports professional, currently working as Development Co-ordinator for AFL Cape York, and with experience in sports coaching, development and management in both Papua New Guinea and Australia. He is the founder of his own not-for-profit sporting organisation, Titans Sport Performance, which aims to provide sports and talent development, personal development and education opportunities for youth from remote regions in Papua New Guinea. Kieran studied degrees in Sports Science and Business at James Cook University in Townsville and Cairns, in addition to completing his Honours research in Port Moresby. He has dual Papua New Guinea and Australian heritage and is keen to promote the role of sport in enhancing the relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Chris Urwin, Senior Curator and Archaeologist

Chris Urwin is a museum curator and archaeologist with experience working in partnership with Indigenous communities in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. He is currently Senior Curator for the First Peoples Archaeology Collection at Museums Victoria, and conducts research with the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery and communities in the Gulf Province. Chris is passionate about cultural heritage management and interpretation. He feels that museums and heritage sites are important places around which Papua New Guinea and Australia can exchange knowledge (for example by co-developing touring exhibitions, conducting bilateral research projects). These places will also be key locations for social and economic development in regional areas of the two countries.

Contributors and Observers


Allan Bird, Governor, East Sepik Province

Hon. Allan Bird MP is the governor of East Sepik Province, and was elected to the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea at the 2017 election. Prior to being elected to office, Governor Bird was a successful business figure and worked as a business consultant with experience in agriculture and regional development.

Bruce Davis, Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea

HE Bruce Davis has been Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea since 2015. Previously, he was Vice-President of the Asian Development Bank. He has also served overseas as Australian Ambassador to Ireland and as Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum. Mr Davis was Director-General of the then Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) from 1999 until 2009.


Natalie Whiting, Journalist, Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Natalie Whiting is the ABC’s Papua New Guinea correspondent based in Port Moresby. She is an award-winning multiplatform reporter and video journalist. Before moving to PNG, Natalie filed for the ABC from across Australia with a particular focus on stories from outback and regional areas. She was awarded the ABC’s Andrew Olle Scholarship in 2014. 

Watna Mori, Co-Convenor

Watna Mori is a lawyer who has worked largely in the human rights and public law space. She is a solicitor with Levitt Robinson Solicitors in Sydney and also provides strategic advisory services at PNG Presence. Previously she has worked at the Manus Island and Nauru Regional Processing Centres representing asylum seekers and at the PNG Constitutional and Law Reform Commission. She holds an LLM in Public International Law from the University of Amsterdam. She appears regularly in the media as a commentator and analyst on PNG politics and social affairs, including as a contributor to the Lowy Institute’s digital magazine The Interpreter where she has written about politics, social issues and the PNG–Australia relationship. 

Shane McLeod, Co-Convenor

Shane McLeod is a Research Fellow and Project Director of the Lowy Institute’s Australia–PNG Network. Before joining the Institute, he was a senior editor and journalist at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in roles where he managed its Sydney newsroom and national radio current affairs programs. He is a former foreign correspondent with resident postings in Papua New Guinea and Japan as well as reporting assignments throughout the Asia–Pacific region. Shane holds a Masters in Legal Studies from University of Technology Sydney and a Bachelor of Business from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.

Jonathan Pryke, Director, Pacific Islands Program

Jonathan Pryke is Director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program. Prior to joining the Lowy Institute Jonathan was a Research Officer at the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University where, on top of his research obligations, he was editor of the Development Policy Blog and a co-convener of the Australasian Aid Conference. Jonathan is interested in economic development in the Pacific Islands region, Australia’s relationship with Melanesia, the role of aid and the private sector in Pacific Islands development and Pacific labour mobility. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Commerce from The University of Sydney, a Masters of Public Policy (Development Policy), Masters of Diplomacy and Graduate Diploma in International and Development Economics from the Australian National University.

Areas of expertise: Pacific economic development; Australia-Melanesia relations; Australian foreign aid and the Pacific