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White Australia – Black Melanesia – The Great Divide

I first went to Papua New Guinea in 1979 on a mission with the Australian Army. Since 1991 I have been leading groups across the Kokoda Trail and have established a Foundation to have the track proclaimed as a National Memorial Park. racial wealth gap

We are working with the World Wide Fund for Nature in Papua New Guinea, the University of Technology Sydney, the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and the Kokoda Track Authority to develop a model of sustainable tourism for Papua New Guinea.

As a Member of the New South Wales Parliament I have elected to use my Commonwealth Parliamentary Association research entitlement on our relationship with Papua New Guinea. I have travelled to Port Moresby, Goroka, Lae and Madang as part of my research and have held numerous meetings with Ministers, Members, Departmental Secretaries, Provincial and Local Level Government representatives and numerous clan leaders and landowners.

There is no doubt that we have made serious mistakes in our relationship with Papua New Guinea since independence was granted in 1975. There is also no doubt they are a very difficult people to ‘help’ given the complexities of their ‘wan tok’ system and their adherence to ‘the Melanesian way’.

I doubt that we will ever understand these complexities and we certainly will not solve them in our lifetime. What we can do however is to begin to workshop ideas that allow us to better understand each other; to develop pilot programs based on educational-economic partnerships; to develop political partnerships to administer our aid budgets and to develop long term leadership programs for leaders yet to be born.

‘Given the youth bulge in most island nations, the issue of employment generation will become increasingly urgent in the Pacific in coming decades, and there is growing discussion about the potential to address it through greater international labour mobility.

‘The pressing need to find jobs for Pacific Island workers coincides with the emergence of gaps in the labour force of developed nations. In countries like Australia, lower birth rates, the aging demographic profile, increased personal wealth, the provision of social welfare, sustained economic growth, low unemployment and higher levels of education have combined to reduce the supply of workers who are available (or willing) to undertake physically demanding labour for relatively low pay. This has opened up the debate about the potential for temporary employment schemes for Pacific Islanders to work in overseas labour markets, particularly in seasonal pursuits in agriculture.’

The Australian Senate inquiry into seasonal labour from the Pacific Region is a welcome initiative however the terms of reference seem to be limited because they do not address the impact of labour mobility on our relationship with our Melanesian neighbours in the Pacific Region. These nations comprising the island chain from Timor in the northwest through West Papua, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Vanuatu, Kiribati, the Solomons and Fiji have been referred to as our arc of instability.

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