A conference hosted by Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Research Institute (ADRI) is set to play a major role in helping Papua New Guinea move towards a secure future.
The conference, to be held in Geelong in April, will look at the host of challenges facing Australia’s closest neighbour, including the current political crisis, women in parliament, health, education, defence, the media and sport.
ADRI, which is already in partnership with PNG’s National Research Institute, is well placed to lead the conference, which will draw on expertise from both countries.
“ADRI researchers include those in disciplines such as cultural heritage, international development, politics, international relations, history and anthropology,” said Professor David Lowe, the director of ADRI.
“Our mission, which is drawn partly from the interests of Alfred Deakin during his time in public life, is to conduct excellent research into problems of high importance and to promote public debate and the development of well-informed public policy.”
Despite its close proximity – just three kilometres at its closest point - and its great economic potential, awareness about PNG among Australians is not high.
That needs to change – for the benefit of both nations.
PNG is the largest Pacific island country - home to more than half the peoples of the Pacific.
Its population is larger than New Zealand’s.
With an economy growing as fast as China’s, PNG’s resource exports account for half its Gross Domestic Product.
It dominates our trade with the region. We share a $5 billion trade relationship with PNG.
Our two countries have $6 billion invested in each other’s economies.
Like Australia, PNG is also enjoying a mining boom, based on its extraordinarily rich natural-resources.
But the scale of its boom, in relative terms, is even greater than Australia’s.
While mining makes up around 50% of Australian exports, accounting for 10% of GDP, it represents 80% of PNG exports and around 50% of GDP.
But despite this phenomenal growth, local communities still have urgent needs, in health, education and transport.
And that provides a range of opportunities for Australia, including the opening up of new markets for our products, including those produced in the Geelong region.
Another major player in the conference with be the Honourable Richard Marles, Member for Corio and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in the Federal Parliament.
“Australia's relationship with PNG has been, and will remain, one of our most important regional relationships - especially in the context of rapid change there and the need to utilise resource riches in ways that are sustainable, culturally sensitive, and promote internal and regional human security,” Mr Marles said.
‘Papua New Guinea: Securing a Prosperous Future’ will be held at Deakin University’s Waterfront Campus in Geelong on April 12th and 13th, 2012.