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The Alfred Deakin Research Institute's third annual Papua New Guinea Symposium, held on April 4th and 5th at the Waterfront Campus, was the best so far, according to Director, Professor David Lowe.
Titled "Leadership for the Next Generation", Professor Lowe said the symposium was notable for several things.
"One was the high level and relaxed format of research presentation and subsequent conversation reflected the maturity of the concept behind the symposia - to bring together leading players from politics (including Ministers from both PNG and Australian Governments), public services, academia, industry, community and religious organisations, to consider the changes in PNG and work collaboratively to address the challenges and opportunities ahead.<" he said.
Professor Lowe also highlighted the high level of participation from people based in PNG, pointing to the almost 50 participants who travelled from there to Geelong for the symposium.
He also welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Deakin and the Pacific Adventist University, by Deakin Vice Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander and PAU Vice Chancellor Professor Ben Thomas, as a next important step in mutually beneficial relationships between Deakin and PNG teachers and researchers.
"Another highlight was the chance to match discussion about forms of leadership with insightful stories from those who are living the experience," he said.
"We had two fantastic sessions featuring reflections from women in leadership roles, and in various ways, walking in the footsteps of Dame Carol Kidu, a pioneering woman in the PNG Parliament who recently retired (and who also attended the symposium); and another session in which five younger PNG leaders from different walks of life reflected on how they came to their current roles and how their work related to the bigger questions and challenges for PNG."
ADRI Senior Research Fellow and chief organiser of the Symposium, Dr Jon Ritchie, paid tribute to the exertions and contributions made by the many speakers who actively participated in the symposium.
"The talent, experience, and expertise of those who came this year was obvious to all," he said. "This showed the deepening of research on PNG, including by Papua New Guineans, that we have seen developing since commencing this symposium series in 2011."
One challenge has been to work out ways of spreading the knowledge and research that was discussed at the symposia to as wide an audience as possible.
This year’s event saw two major breakthroughs, involving an ‘old’ medium – radio – and one of the newest, social networking including Facebook and Twitter.
ABC’s Radio Australia, which broadcasts across the Asia-Pacific region including into PNG, broadcast live its 11 am to 1 pm program from the Geelong Waterfront campus, with several of the participants interviewed on-air, including in Tok Pisin.
As well, the panel discussion on women "In the footsteps of Dame Carol" was recorded for subsequent broadcasting, as were interviews with significant Papua New Guinean and Australian leaders.
Showing the close connection with Deakin’s new partner institution in PNG, PAU’s own radio station also relayed some of Radio Australia’s programming from the symposium.
ADRI’s own communications expert, Jess Shulman, also provided blanket coverage on Facebook and Twitter of the symposium as it developed, ensuring that people in PNG who weren’t able to attend but who had the necessary technology were able to keep up.
The PNG symposium is now regarded as a standing and "must attend" event on the calendar for people associated with research about Australia’s nearest neighbour.
Its success has been assisted by the substantial commitment that has been shown by funding partners in AusAID and from the PNG resources sector, including from Esso Highlands Ltd, a prominent member of the PNG LNG consortium.
"We are proud to fully embrace it for its power to help shape the research agenda on PNG as well as its contribution to building the friendship between our two countries," said Professor Lowe.