Thursday, November 19, 2009

Not all beer and meat pies down there mate!

Sage advice from a previous ADS scholar – Charlie Gilichibi

The majority of students who go down to Australia to study have a great time and complete their studies successfully but be warned - especially you blokes - it’s not all beer and meat pies down there. It’s a whole new experience, very exciting, very rewarding but it can be very tough too on occasions and it will test you. You know the old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? I don’t want to discourage you but it can be like that at times. For example when you get behind in your assignments, start missing your family, hanging out with friends from PNG it’s easy to be tempted to do stupid things that you will later regret.

The cost of living in a big modern city is not cheap so you really need to budget your money very carefully for accommodation food and transport. Your student allowance is intended to cover those things but as I remember there was very little left over each fortnight for any luxuries. Some students are tempted to try the poker machines as a way of supplementing their income. Believe me it doesn’t work and it will not pay. It is a quick descent to addiction and misery.

If you take your family with you the costs can be very high and you need to make sure that you have extra funds that you can call on from PNG if needed. Moving your family to a new environment can be a stressful experience. When you are in Australia you have to manage yourself and be responsible for your family if they accompany you.

Before you leave Papua New Guinea you will get a lot of helpful advice at the pre-departure briefing sessions about living in Australia, budgeting, the study program and adjusting to a new culture.

Some helpful tips when you are in Australia - make sure you:

• remember why you came and stay focused
• avoid major distractions – like gambling and wild partying
• limit your alcohol consumption or learn to stay off the grog completely
• learn to budget your stipend and set priorities
• learn to eat at home and avoid fast food
• learn how to cook for yourself so that you remain healthy
• stay in touch with your employer in PNG.
• remember where you come from and represent your country as a student ambassador
• get involved in positive activities and with positive people
• make friends and mix with students from other cultures

Whatever happens, don’t lose heart. Whatever is happening is only temporary. This time will pass and you will look back on a period where your character developed and transformed.

Apart from their new knowledge and skills gained, the most common benefit that returning students report is that their confidence and self-esteem has increased dramatically. This new confidence and knowledge will last you a life-time…not to mention some of the new friends and contacts you will make.

And by the way when you come back don’t forget to join the Alumni. It’s a great networking organization with others who have been through the fire with you. On your return the Alumni will provide you with a mentor (if you would like one) to help you reintegrate back into your life and career in PNG. Remember you will have changed while you have been away and sometimes the culture shock is greater on your return to PNG than when you first arrived in Australia all bug-eyed, nervous and excited. Australia is a great place to live and learn. The people are very friendly and welcoming and you will also mix with many other students from other countries. If you do get the opportunity of a life time then take it in both hands and make the most of it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Changing Lives - Educated Women in PNG

Ceridwen Spark
Victoria University

Each year, various agencies fund scholarships that enable Papua New Guinea women to complete tertiary degrees overseas. The idea underpinning this spending is that educating women has flow-on effects, including helping to promote gender equity and development in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Unfortunately, the outcomese are not always so positive, as revealed in a new study called Changing Lives: Educated Women in Papua New Guinea. The study shows that educated Papua New Guinean women face many barriers when they return home from their overseas studies. These include discrimination in the workplace, domestic violence on the home front and jealousy from both their male and female peers.

For the study, tertiary-educated Papua New Guinean women were asked about their experiences overseas and since returning home. Most reported enjoying the freedom they experienced while they were away, saying that it was good to be able to walk around freely without feeling afraid. The women also perceived and appreciated the greater gender equality in the countries in which they spent time (most went to Australia and New Zealand).

On the other hand, the women were less positive about returning to Papua New Guinea to live and work. They said cultural expectations about women's roles made it difficult to readjust to life in Papua New Guinea. Some reported finding it difficult to fit in with their families and friends. Being seen as bikhet was also a problem. For example, 'Molly', one of the women who interviewed for the study was told by her friends and family that she had changed since she came back from Australia and that she acts like she is a white woman.

The overseas-educated women also said that they were not treated equally either in terms of getting work or once they were employed. They indicated that their qualifications weren't recognised because of male jealousy and the idea that 'a woman's place is in the home'. This included women being told that they wouldn't be promoted because it was a waste of time as they would 'just go off and have babies'. These ideas, while culturally-entrenched, oppose one of the aims of the Papua New Guinea constitution, namely, to have: '[A] rapid increase in the equal and active participation of women in all forms of economic and social activity'.

The educated women also reported jealousy among their female colleagues who saw them as 'spoilt'. This led to them being discriminated against in terms of access to work-related provisions such as housing and cars. A number also said female colleagues had accused them of having gained their positions through the provision of sexual favours.

Personal relationships with men are another significant problem for the women returning from overseas studies. The married women who took part in the study reported being subject to domestic violence as a result of their husbands' jealousy at their qualifications. The single women could not imagine finding male partners that would support them to work or further their education. As a consequence, they were delaying or avoiding relationships with men so as not to jeopardise their careers.

Given that the provision of tertiary education for women is not enough to force change in ways which seriously enhance the status of wome in PNG, it is necessary to implement additional societal changes if educated women are to benefit. The establishment of an Equal Opportunity Commission or equivalent organisation and at least one not-for-profit child care centre in each of PNG's major towns would be good place to start.

'ALUMNI : Promoting Higher Education for Papua New Guinea' . October 2009

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