27 Nov 2013

Médecins Sans Frontières celebrates inaugural conference

6:22 pm on 27 November 2013

The health NGO Médecins Sans Frontières says an inaugural conference addressing high sexual and family violence rates in Papua New Guinea has exceeded expectations.

The group co-hosted the conference in Port Moresby last week, which brought together a range of national and international groups to improve services for the survivors of violence.

Its head of mission in PNG, Paul Brockmann, told Amelia Langford that representatives from 11 provinces attended.

PAUL BROCKMANN: It exceeded my hopes and certainly my expectations. I think it was just really a gathering of people that were more committed than I had dared hoped they would be to create some real tangible step-by-step change next year and in 2015.

AMELIA LANGFORD: And tell me about the outcome of the conference. What sort of action plans were set upon, or recommendations?

PB: The structure of the conference was we brought in the actual service providers, so the child welfare protection officer from the social welfare department, the family sexual violence co-ordinator from the police's action squad for family sexual violence, the co-ordinator from the hospital whose responsible for the quality of care and patient care and family support. We brought those people together with usually the provincial family sexual violence action committee co-ordinator or chair and maybe one or two people if there were NGOs that were active in the province, sat them down at a table and said 'OK, what are your priorities sector by sector? Choose at least one priority from each sector and say what you're going to do in 2014 and what your action plan is'. That section was engaged in a way that literally brought goosebumps to my skin. I've been working for a year on preparing for this conference and I saw those provincial teams and the ownership they took in that room and they were handling our details and going step by step, it just really gave me a feeling of success.

AL: And is this the first time that all these groups in government organisations came together like this to cope with this issue? Nothing like this has ever happened in Papua New Guinea before. There's never been this collection of people from all sectors and certainly not this collection of people from all sectors in the actual business of service provision on the ground from so many different provinces. We have people from Bougainville out in the East to Western Province right on the border with Indonesia to New Britain island up in the north and all the way down to Port Moresby, where I am right now. So we covered the width and breadth of the country and all regions - Highlands, coastal islands, everything.

Paul Brockmann says provincial action plans include establishing hospital-based family support centres, with support from the Government. Rates of family and sexual violence in PNG are among the world's highest, with a recent UN study finding that one in five women's first experience of sex was rape, and that one-third of men had been sexually abused as children.