PNG learning journey follows the river

Department of Defence

Surrounded by jungle and drizzling rain, the latest recruits of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) conducted gender, peace and security (GPS) training at Goldie Barracks in PNG.

ADF personnel from the GPS Directorate supported the PNGDF instructors to run the course themselves, for the first time. The Luksave Long Gender is a course developed specifically for PNG audiences.

Executive Officer of the GPS Directorate Squadron Leader Karyn Ey said she had worked with the PNGDF Gender Committee for the past year to develop gender-awareness training that did not need electricity, PowerPoint or a conventional classroom.

“The training is quite unique. We used a learning map – we wanted something tactile that people could touch and interact with,” Squadron Leader Ey said.

“It’s been designed along a river bed. In PNG the river is really important to them and they put themselves in a canoe and it goes on a journey down the river to each learning point.”

ADF personnel from 35 Squadron, deployed to PNG on the latest rotation of the Defence Pacific Air Program, also joined the GPS training.

The 100 PNGDF recruits spent two days learning a similar course to the ADF’s gender focal-point training, focusing on how men, women, boys and girls have different needs during operations and exercises.

The PNGDF regularly deploys on humanitarian and disaster-relief operations due to the frequent earthquakes, mudslides, king tides and volcanic activity the country faces.

A strong focus of the GPS training was on helping women and vulnerable people during these natural disasters.

Sub-Lieutenant Bethany Aknonero, of the PNGDF Maritime Element, was one of the first-time instructors and explained how she used the learning map to teach the class.

“The hand [feature] is where you get the participants to think about themselves, their family and support system; to think from their heart who they have supporting them,” Sub-Lieutenant Aknonero said.

“It’s a new thing for me and I’m teaching as well as learning. When I see them nodding, smiling, participating, I know they understand and they’re interested.”

The ADF GPS Directorate trained 15 PNGDF instructors from the Gender Committee to run the program independently, with the intent that they will continue the training on future recruit courses.

“We’ve made sure, from the very beginning, that we work alongside the PNGDF to develop their own training. We’re not here to tell them,” Squadron Leader Ey said.

Sub-Lieutenant Aknonero shared her enthusiasm for the continuation of this course, hoping that GPS training becomes more prevalent through the PNGDF.

“Standing in front and talking, I know that I did something. I tried touching someone’s heart in the PNGDF,” Sub-Lieutenant Aknonero said.

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