Reports |
21 January 2019

2018 Australia–Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue Outcomes Report

The Lowy Institute hosted the sixth annual Australia–Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue from 4 to 6 December 2018 in Cairns, Australia.

Introduction

The Lowy Institute hosted the sixth annual Australia–Papua New Guinea Emerging Leaders Dialogue from 4 to 6 December 2018 in Cairns, Australia. The Dialogue is the flagship event of the Australia–Papua New Guinea Network, a project of the Lowy Institute to build stronger connections between Australia and PNG. 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 2018 Dialogue was held in Cairns shortly after PNG hosted the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Port Moresby. This was the first time the Dialogue has been held outside a capital city in either country. Cairns is closely connected to PNG, with direct air links to the country and a large resident Papua New Guinean population. There are also strong links between PNG and Cairns through business, government and community connections.

The 2018 Dialogue looked at PNG’s time on the global stage as the host of APEC 2018, and also considered whether hoped-for opportunities in tourism have been realised. The participants also discussed the current state of the PNG–Australia relationship, including recent initiatives led by Australia alongside increased interest in the Pacific region by non-traditional development partners such as China.

Discussions were broadly focused on:

  • Contemporary PNG–Australia relations
  • People-to-people links
  • Tourism
  • Economic development
  • Politics and civil society

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

The Dialogue was chaired by Alcinda Trawen, Director of Policy and Planning at the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority, and Shane McLeod, Project Director of the Aus-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.

Recommendations

1. APEC

1.1 Congratulate PNG on the successful hosting of the 2018 APEC summit, and note the contribution of Australia in supporting that successful outcome.

1.2 Establish a ‘legacy’ committee to maintain and build on the human capital and capacity developed as a result of PNG’s hosting of APEC. This committee should, among other things:

  • Develop plans for the best use of APEC infrastructure and assets on behalf of the PNG community.
  • Recommend strategies to build on the human capital developed in the course of hosting APEC.
  • Quickly implement a public engagement strategy to recognise the shared community experience of hosting the summit and to communicate positive messages about the event’s success.
  • Report to the community on the funding spent and the achievements of the summit, including agreements, MOUs and other bilateral outcomes.

1.3 Ensure follow-up and implementation of all bilateral commitments made on the sidelines of the 2018 APEC summit.

2. Tourism

2.1 Recognise opportunities for tourism to foster economic empowerment and act as a catalyst for development. In particular, look at agritourism development opportunities.

2.2 Make use of the new Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) to develop a cohort of tourism and hospitality skilled workers in PNG. Make the development of the PNG tourism industry one of the goals of the scheme and encourage Australian Indigenous-owned businesses to affiliate with and recruit through the PLS.

2.3 Foster learning from other Pacific and Australian examples of tourism product development, including craft production and retail (e.g. markets), and the cruising tourism industry.

2.4 Find ways to connect Papua New Guinean community tourism proponents with Australian Indigenous business operators to share knowledge and models to foster the community tourism and hospitality industry in PNG.

2.5 Create linkages to share best practices in ethics, conduct, human resources, and protection of intellectual and cultural property.

3. Business

3.1 Mandate social impact strategies for foreign investment proposals.

3.2 Foster exchange and linkages between people from both countries in areas of weakness including business-to-business links outside of NGO/community/political relationships.

3.3 Facilitate high-level discussions between Australian and Papua New Guinean business groups to discuss elimination of barriers and obstacles to closer business cooperation.

3.4 Enable business to develop mixed Australia–PNG consulting teams.

3.5 Incentivise companies from Australia and PNG to develop mixed teams for technical skills consulting and sustainable business relationships.

3.6 Encourage regional partnerships (e.g. between Queensland and PNG provinces and regional centres) in both the public and private sectors for production and trade in goods and services.

3.7 Provide financial support to the Young Chamber of Commerce in Port Moresby and promote partnerships between chambers in Australia and PNG.

4. Education

4.1 Expand scholarship and exchange programs to provide opportunities in agriculture, trade and technical skills, and teaching.

4.2 Support efforts to develop skills in-country through train-the-trainer and curriculum development programs throughout the education system, including online.

4.3 Foster greater connections that support traineeships and skills development in agriculture (e.g. Didiman ‘young farmers’ program).

5. Migration

5.1 Work to improve migration processes between both countries. Look towards visa-free or visa-on-arrival immigration processes and closer immigration integration between PNG and Australia.

5.2 Expand the proposed Pacific–Australia migration card program to include young and emerging business leaders and entrepreneurs.

5.3 Address the high cost of dual citizenship processes in both countries.

5.4 Streamline dual citizenship processes for citizens of the two countries given the historical links and connection.

6. People-to-people links

6.1 Encourage Australian media outlets to invest in a presence in PNG.

6.2 Foster exchange programs to facilitate better understanding of PNG by prominent Australian journalists.

6.3 Renew sister city relationships and support meaningful exchanges that engage all sectors (beyond local government) within pairings.

6.4 Establish annual dialogue and exchange between elected officials from both countries, at all levels of government.

6.5 Support improved language in referring to the PNG–Australia relationship to make the relationship one of equality and respect, rather than dependence (e.g. ‘neighbourhood’ instead of ‘backyard’).

6.6 Recognise the value of having a PNG rugby league team in the Australian NRL competition, and support efforts to bring this to fruition.

7. Governance

7.1 Identify proceeds of corrupt activity flowing into Australia and prioritise law enforcement response.

7.2 Australia should provide support and expertise to build a new anti-corruption agency in PNG, and review and increase support for existing organisations that support anti-corruption efforts.

7.3 Australia should provide support for PNG during evaluation and design of electoral reforms.

7.4 Existing policing support programs should be refocused to support the development and training of new recruits.

7.5 Opportunities should be provided for Australian public servants to work within PNG departments, and vice versa, with the aim of capacity building and enhancing people-to-people links.

Summary of key discussion areas

Australia and Papua New Guinea share a bilateral relationship that is enduring, complex, and extraordinarily important for both nations. It is a relationship built on the foundation of our shared history but today extends from economics, politics and security to culture and sport. 

APEC

Discussions at the Dialogue opened with a summary of the state of the Australia–Papua New Guinea relationship. There had been a number of significant announcements in the lead-up to the 2018 APEC Leaders’ Summit, which garnered considerable attention worldwide.

The view was expressed that Papua New Guinea had been successful as the host of the major world event. The contribution of Australia as one of PNG’s supporters in hosting the event contributed to this success.

APEC was also a success as a capacity-building and people development opportunity. In particular, it built people-to-people links within the PNG public sector, between public sector agencies and private providers, and between everyday Papua New Guineans who were involved in hosting the event as volunteers, as suppliers and service providers, or as APEC officials. The experience of being part of the event was particularly important for young Papua New Guineans who had not been able to be part of such a major event previously. Participants remarked on a feeling of national pride.

Some participants expressed concern at the diversion of government resources to host the event, and remarked upon challenges in other areas of government service delivery — notably health and education — as a result of limited PNG government financial resources. This was particularly acute in areas outside Port Moresby, which have seen little impact or benefit from the experience of hosting APEC. Participants commented on the need for the majority rural population in PNG to be considered and their voices heard in discussions about major events.

Participants highlighted Australia’s hosting of the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 as an example of a similar experience of initial negativity, followed by pride in the success of hosting the event. Some participants noted the efforts made in Australia after the Sydney games to build on the shared experience of organisers and volunteers and to utilise the capacity for other events. Participants agreed there should be a similar effort in post-APEC PNG.

There was discussion of the opportunity of major events such as APEC to highlight the work of small and medium enterprises, which make up the majority of economic activity among everyday people in PNG.

The outcome of the APEC summit was also considered. Despite the efforts of PNG as host, for the first time in the summit’s history leaders failed to agree on a final communiqué. This inability of world leaders to come to a consensus outcome should not be seen as a negative reflection on the capacity of PNG as event host, and instead should reflect the reality of geopolitics where major powers (notably China and the United States) were unlikely to come to a negotiated agreement at a multilateral event.

Tourism

As part of the Dialogue, participants were able to undertake visits to tourism sites around Far North Queensland, including a tour of the Mossman Gorge and discussions with staff at the Mossman Gorge Centre, and a visit to the Cairns Aquarium for a briefing from the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. A short presentation by the Mandingalbay Ancient Indigenous Tours group during the Dialogue also provided perspectives on community-based and cultural/environmental tourism.

Participants with experience in the Far North Queensland tourism market outlined recent trends in the region’s tourism, with a big focus on inbound tourism from China. Remarks were made about the future direction of tourism in Far North Queensland. Those discussions included consideration of a potential change in promotional focus away from mass-market tourism towards a higher-value offering as a ‘premium’ tourism experience.

Note was made of Cairns as a significant destination within the Australian market, with the city’s airport the fifth busiest in the country. The FNQ experience showed tourism had been able to grow exponentially, building on the large numbers of international tourists visiting from China. Interestingly, despite Cairns having an international airport, many tourists travel domestically to Cairns having arrived in Australia through other ports. Comment was made that the Far North’s tourism strategies are sometimes constrained by national-level tourism strategies.

There was discussion of some of the challenges faced by PNG in considering development of its tourism resources. These challenges can include issues around cultural property and artefacts, in particular questions about who holds the rights to these assets, and the appropriate way to develop tourism products based on these assets. Comment was made about some of the examples of where this has not gone well. One example was recent civil unrest in Bougainville because of exploitation of important cultural symbols on retail products.

A question was raised about whether PNG can and should aim to be a mass-market tourism destination, or target a higher-value niche market. Data about PNG’s tourism industry was discussed, highlighting the strong proportion of tourists originating from Australia. There was also discussion that many of the negative perceptions of PNG are also sourced from Australia.

On the question of the ambition for PNG’s tourism industry, concern was expressed that some forms of tourism may not be positive. For example, while Bali is a major international destination and has a lucrative tourism industry it also suffers from the environmental and social impact of a dramatic upscaling of tourism. Comment was also made that the expectations of tourists who visit PNG may not be compatible with the PNG experience.

Mention was made of the opportunity to develop tourism based on agriculture. Examples were given of rural and regional areas in Australia that have been able to build tourism experiences around the food and wine industry. PNG has coffee and other ‘in-demand’ products that could drive engagement economically. There would also be opportunity to use these industries to showcase cultural and environmental assets as potential tourism products. Remarks were made that there had been some efforts on this front during APEC to showcase local food and produce to delegates.

There was discussion of the issue of safety for tourists amid perceptions of crime in PNG. There was commentary that this was a problem that particularly affects the Australian market, and is based on generally negative perceptions about safety in PNG among Australians. There was mention of some community-based efforts to deal with this concern including through policing initiatives that empower communities to deal with law and order in tourism hotspots.

There was discussion of the endurance of negative perceptions of PNG in Australia, and a need for Australians who spend time in PNG to be encouraged to focus more on positive experiences and away from an unnecessary focus on negatives. Participants commented on the tendency of some Australians to display one-upmanship when commenting on PNG, trying to make themselves appear more brave or experienced.

Participants remarked on experiences in developing tourism in some ‘poor reputation’ areas of Australia, and how success in this area had required sustained hard work to overcome negative sentiment. There were similar experiences highlighted for other countries such as Chile with limited or no reputation in international tourism markets.

There was discussion about legal structures to empower community-based tourism. The tour of Mossman Gorge demonstrated approaches that have worked in Australia where issues of land ownership continue to interact with the development of native title law. Remarks were made about the need to ensure community ownership structures were effective in PNG — incorporated landowner groups may be a legal structure that is most effective for potential projects, and while laws exist to support this approach they have been implemented to only a limited extent. There was consideration of the training and development opportunities that effective tourism operations can bring, in line with the operations of the Mossman Gorge Centre.

Related to this discussion was consideration of the importance of ensuring women are empowered as part of the development of tourism in community projects in PNG. Tourism does not always bring good results and can lead to issues with domestic violence. There was also discussion of the limited understanding that many people in PNG can have about what tourism means and the wealth of experiences available to be developed for tourism, including wartime history in the New Guinea Islands region, hiking, and walking tours.

Finally, there was recognition that successful tourism requires all levels of society to work together: this includes governments, communities and business.

Contemporary PNG–Australia relationships

Participants considered the current focus on the Australia–PNG relationship at the government-to-government level with significant recent announcements from Australia showing a determination to put more focus on the relationship. These announcements have included new partnerships on electricity infrastructure, military development of the Manus naval base, and educational partnerships.

Some participants commented on the focus of discussions on the government and diplomatic relationship at the expense of potential people-to-people and business-related links. There was the suggestion that a greater focus on business links would lead to longer-term connections with fruitful outcomes for both countries.

The experience of APEC and Australia’s support for it shows a pathway to a more mature relationship. There also needs to be a more sophisticated way to build on this experience in both countries in other areas of collaboration, for example in cross-border projects where Australian managers and consultants working with PNG teams look for ways to share their knowledge and experience.

A summary of the current state of the Australia–PNG relationship included assessment of some of the business investment links, but also the overall decline in the relative importance of Australia’s traditional development assistance (aid) relationship with PNG.

There was a view among some participants that the relationship needed to move beyond one seen through the context of aid and development assistance to a more mature relationship. With that in mind, participants suggested looking for ways to build relationships beyond the donor-recipient model, and to look for more mature ways to develop the relationship.

Participants were determined to use the opportunity of participating in the Dialogue to leverage their personal connections to ensure continued relationships. With that in mind, they advocated using existing networks and linkages to continue discussions and connections beyond the experience of the Dialogue to ensure strong relationships in future.

Participants

Papua New Guinea

Judy Andreas

With a background in community development and agriculture, Judy Andreas is Project Manager of CARE International in PNG’s Coffee Industry Support Project, based in Goroka. Her work with the project focuses on supporting women coffee farmers, and strengthening the services provided by coffee cooperatives and exporters to be more inclusive of and appropriate for women. She has extensive experience in gender equality programming, agriculture and community development. Prior to joining CARE in 2013, she worked as a freelance agriculture extension officer in Wewak specialising in cocoa production and coconut down streaming, in particular supporting cocoa farmers to access cocoa extension services and marketing opportunities. She is currently part of a two-year research training program through the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program and PNG Institute of Medical Research looking at the role of gender inclusiveness in coffee market standards and the role of women farmers in value chains. She has a Diploma in Tropical Agriculture from UNRE in Rabaul.

Tess Gizoria

Tess Gizoria is Associate Program Manager working with Abt Associates in delivering projects through Australia’s aid program. Her background in is science — she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, and went on to work with the PNG Science and Technology Secretariat managing grants for research and development. She founded the community organisation UniMums Inc to support young women in parenting and professional development, and continues to serve as the organisation’s Executive Director. Tess is also the Youth Representative on the Central Provincial Government’s Assembly.

Sanja Pepae 

Sanja Pepae is a postgraduate student at the Australian National University in Canberra. Prior to taking on studies for his Masters in International and Development Economics, he was Assistant Secretary at the Department of National Planning and Monitoring in Port Moresby. He will return to work with the Department in 2019. Sanja graduated with first class honours in his Bachelor of Economics from the University of Papua New Guinea. He was heavily involved in developing governance and institutional structures for PNG’s proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund, and has served as ex-officio board member on a number of PNG government agencies and authorities.

John Pong

John Pong works for Newcrest Mining Limited. He is the Lead in Community Grievance Resolution at the company’s Lihir operations. John holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Responsible Resource Development from the University of Queensland and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Development from the PNG University of Technology. John is fascinated by the interface between mining and host communities. Apart from one year working for MRL Capital, a Lihirian equity trust company, John has spent a 14-year career so far working in the mining industry — all on the Lihir gold project.

Thelma Sikalu

Thelma Sikalu is a Child Protection Officer in family violence and protection. In this role she supports children and families through implementing a case management service, which is a new approach to support in PNG. Prior to her current role, she was a social worker in the paediatric ward at a major public hospital. Thelma holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from the University of Papua New Guinea.

Michael Taia

Michael Taia is responsible for Provincial Coordination and Product Development with Papua New Guinea’s Tourism Promotion Authority. He has worked with the TPA since 2014 and has previously worked in a number of marketing and academic roles. He holds a Bachelor of Business and Management from the University of Papua New Guinea.

Martin Timothy

Martin Timothy is the Secretariat Manager with the Global Fund PNG based in Port Moresby. He supports the daily operations of the Fund office. He has previously worked with the US Embassy in Port Moresby and the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Community Development at the University of Papua New Guinea, and a Masters in Development Practice from the University of Queensland.

Urith Toa

Urith Toa is Executive Assistant to the board and CEO of the PNG Rugby Football League, and is responsible for much of the day-to-day operational support for the executive of the prominent sporting organisation. Prior to joining the PNGRFL she worked in a number of communications and executive support roles, including with community support organisation The Voice Inc.

Daphney Toke

Daphney Toke is the Monitoring and Evaluation officer with the directorate of Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination with the Autonomous Bougainville Government. In this role she works with colleagues to coordinate whole-of-government action on Departments’ corporate and strategic development plans, and ABG policies. Daphney graduated from Divine Word University with a Bachelor of Arts and Social Sciences in PNG Studies and International Relations.

Bernard Yegiora

Bernard Yegiora is a lecturer in international relations at Divine Word University in Madang. He teaches courses on theories of international relations, international law in international relations, Foreign Policy analysis, PNG Foreign Policy, and international and regional security including geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific. He has previously worked at the University of Papua New Guinea and the National Research Institute. He brings a strong understanding of PNG’s international relations to the Dialogue and has written extensively for a number of years on China’s growing involvement in the Pacific region. His articles regularly appear on his blog, The Yegiora Files. Bernard holds a Masters of International Politics from Jilin University, China and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Papua New Guinea.

Australia

Sarah Carter

Sarah Carter is the Manager, Australian Aid and Parliament Project with Save the Children based in Melbourne, Australia. She has organised learning tours for Australian parliamentarians to PNG, Solomon Islands, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia. As well as her background in communications and government relations, she is also active in local government as a councillor for Maribyrnong where she has served as Mayor. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a former director of Western Melbourne Tourism and LeadWest, a regional advocacy group for Melbourne’s west. She holds a Bachelor of Communications from Victoria University.

Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the Australasia Security Manager for International SOS and Control Risks, and is responsible for overseeing operations for clients in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific including PNG. He works with clients in business, non-government organisations and the Australian Government regarding security and contingency planning. Sam is enthusiastic about extending his connections with PNG beyond the security space. He holds a Bachelor of International Relations from the Australian National University in Canberra and has also studied in the US and Jordan.

Kiri Dicker

Kiri Dicker is a community development worker and gender specialist who has spent the past ten years living and working in the Pacific region. Kiri first came to PNG by herself in 2008, where she caught a PMV from Lae all the way to Kerowagi and was taken in by a young family who taught her about the realities of life in the rural highlands. Fast forward ten years and she has led a range of research and development projects in areas including labour mobility, violence against women, disaster management, sexual and reproductive health and women’s political participation. She holds a Masters in Community Development from Southern Cross University and a Graduate Certificate in Gender Mainstreaming, Policy and Analysis from Flinders University.

Linh Do

Linh Do is the Country Director, Australia and the Pacific for The Climate Reality Project, an organisation founded by former US Vice President Al Gore to bring everyday citizens together to deal with climate change and to promote sustainable development. Linh is a social change advocate and is responsible for fundraising, facilitating leadership journeys for Climate Reality ambassadors and developing partnerships for the organisation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Political Studies from the University of Melbourne and has undertaken executive education programs in leadership at Harvard University.

Brenton Kanowski   

Brenton Kanowski is the Private Secretary to the PNG Foreign Minister the Hon Rimbink Pato. Brenton holds Bachelors degrees in Law and Arts from the University of Queensland, and undertook exchange studies in Germany. He is a Lieutenant in the Army Reserve and has experience as an intern in political offices in Australia and the EU Parliament. He is also an accomplished debater, public speaker and classical singer. Brenton is the third generation in his family with a connection to PNG: his mother grew up in Lae where her father was the founding principal of Balob Teachers College.

Nicholas Papas

Nicholas Papas is a full-time architect based in Sydney who has extensive experience with research, technical support and volunteering in Papua New Guinea. He is studying a postgraduate degree by research looking at sanitation in Barakau village in conjunction with the community development organisation Sago Network. In addition, Nicholas holds Masters and Bachelors degrees in Architecture from the University of New South Wales.

Cooper Schouten

Cooper Schouten is an Apicultural Development Professional, with experience working in PNG with development organisations to support projects in beekeeping and honey production. Cooper also coordinates research programs in PNG and Fiji with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. He holds a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours from Southern Cross University, where he is a casual academic and second year PhD candidate.

Rhiannon Simcocks

Rhiannon Simcocks is a business and economic development professional with Kleinhardt Business Consultants based in Cairns. She is the Chair of the Cairns Young Chamber of Commerce and a management committee member of the Cairns Historical Society and Museum. She holds a Bachelor of Business (Honours) in Law and Marketing, and has worked in law and in management in hospitality.

Matthew Tickner

Matthew Tickner has over a decade of experience in the professional engineering industry as a Senior Civil Designer and Project Manager. His key field of expertise lies in high-value development, infrastructure design and drainage strategy as well as project management. Matthew has extensive disaster relief experience gained while spending two years on the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team in Christchurch, New Zealand, following the 2011 earthquakes. Matthew is also the Deputy Chair of the Cairns Young Chamber of Commerce.

Kate Winney

Kate Winney is Pacific Program Co-ordinator with the Anglican Board of Mission, the international development arm of the Anglican Church in Australia. In this role she oversees and coordinates ABM’s work in PNG, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands in partnership with local Anglican organisations. She also served as the Australian Program Group Chair for the PNG Church Partnership Program in 2017–18. Kate holds a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies and Culture Change from Macquarie University in Sydney.

Contributors and observers

Alcinda Trawen – Co-convenor

Alcinda Trawen is the Director of Policy and Planning at the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority. She holds a Bachelor of Tourism from the University of Otago, New Zealand, as well as a Master of Tourism from James Cook University and a Master of Planning from the University of Otago. Her main interests lie in community planning and participation, especially in enabling communities’ involvement in tourism planning and product development.

Shane McLeod – Co-convenor

Shane McLeod is a Research Associate and Project Director of the Lowy Institute’s Aus-PNG Network. Before joining the Institute, he was a senior editor at ABC News in roles where he managed its Sydney newsroom and the flagship radio programs AMThe World Today, and PM. He is a former foreign correspondent with postings in Japan and Papua New Guinea, as well as reporting assignments throughout the Asia-Pacific region. He has a Bachelor of Business from Queensland University of Technology and a Masters in Legal Studies from the University of Technology Sydney.

Jonathan Pryke – Contributor

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.

Lyn Leger – Observer and Advisory Council member

Lyn Léger is a Principal Environmental Consultant at BMT. She has over 18 years’ experience and a background in environmental science, management and law. Lyn was previously an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in Papua New Guinea, where she worked with the Milne Bay Community-Based Coastal and Marine Conservation Project. She has extensive professional experience as an environmental consultant in Papua New Guinea, where she has worked with a variety of government and industry groups.

Sean Dorney – Observer and Advisory Council member

Sean Dorney is a Walkley-award winning journalist and Nonresident fellow with the Lowy Institute in Sydney. He is well known for his many years covering Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific as correspondent for ABC News. Sean was both deported by and awarded by the Papua New Guinean Government, receiving an MBE and Companion of the Star of Melanesia (CSM) in 2018.  He is the author of three books, including Papua New Guinea: People, Politics and History since 1975The Sandline Affair, and The Embarrassed Colonialist.

Serena Sasingian – Observer and Advisory Council member

Serena Sasingian is a lawyer by profession and co-founder of The Voice Inc, a leading youth development organisation she co-founded while attending the University of Papua New Guinea. She is currently Executive Advisor for Gender at the Oil Search Foundation. Before joining the Foundation, she worked as a senior Policy Lawyer with the Department of Justice and Attorney General where she was in charge of the implementation of domestic violence legislation and the PNG government’s Action Plan to address sorcery and witchcraft-related violence. Serena has been very active in the non-profit sector where she sits on the Board of several organisations. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) from the University of Papua New Guinea and a Masters of Business specialising in philanthropy and non-profit studies from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Maggie Moi-He – Observer and Advisory Council member

Magdalene (Maggie) Moi-He is the Director General, Bilateral Division with the Papua New Guinea Department of Foreign Affairs. Currently based in Port Moresby, she is a career diplomat with international service most recently as Consul-General in Brisbane, Australia from 2013 to 2017. She has also served as Director of Trade Negotiations. Ms Moi-He has a Masters in International Relations and Development Studies from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Papua New Guinea. 

Chris Elstoft – Advisory Council member

Chris Elstoft is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has been Assistant Secretary, Papua New Guinea Branch since May 2018, when he returned from three years serving as Australia’s Deputy High Commissioner to India. Prior to his term in New Delhi (2015–2018), Mr Elstoft served overseas as Counsellor Jakarta (2008–2010), Deputy Head of Mission in Baghdad (2007), Political Adviser Honiara RAMSI (2003–2004) and First Secretary Port Moresby (2000–2002).  Mr Elstoft has held a range of positions in DFAT including Assistant Secretary, South Asia Regional and Indian Ocean Branch. Mr Elstoft holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Melbourne University and a Masters of Economics (Development) from the Australian National University.