Our Volunteers: Peter & Elaine Smyth volunteering in Papua New Guinea

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Divine Word University (DWU), Papua New Guineaa

Village Court students outside the DWU Friendship Library
The Divine Word University (DWU) is an approved national provider for workplace training and development in PNG. DWU was established by an act of parliament in 1999. DWU works with the Office of Higher Education and Commission of Higher Education to deliver quality programs to the people of PNG.

The university made a request to Palms Australia to provide a highly experienced legal practitioner to be a Legal Advisor to the university. The Legal Advisor will help implement a new comprehensive set of policy that will manage the university’s academic, financial and administrative areas. A team of staff will also be trained within the legal framework as to understand the duties, responsibilities and implications of the new set of policies.

DWU also placed a request for a Personnel Manager to be responsible for the training of national staff in the implementation of the university’s personnel policies, practices and procedures. Both of these positions will contribute immensely to the strengthening of the university’s capabilities in building effective global partnership, improving a greater standard of education, best practice governance and gender equality.

Peter and Elaine Smyth

Peter and Elaine SmythPalms Australia recruited Peter and Elaine Smyth from Canberra to fill the above positions, providing guidance and training to local staff at DWU.

Peter is an experienced Solicitor, Legal Practice Manager and Lecturer. He has experience in most fields and levels of law and has twice previously worked in Papua New Guinea, in Law and Education. Elaine has a diverse range of experience in administration and management. She has worked in both private and public sectors, including eight years in the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Peter and Elaine are active members of their community with involvement in their local church, school and sporting clubs. Peter’s sister Rosaleen is currently volunteering with Palms in Tanzania and their parents, Jim and Kath, were Palms’ volunteers in PNG in the 1970s.

Papua New Guinea Field Trip

May 22, 2012

Mark and John at Emmaus Farm with their income generating Eaglewood saplings.

A recent trip to Madang and Kiunga provided many insights into the importance of our volunteers and our approach to volunteering.

Peter and Elaine Smyth at DWU, Madang
In Madang, at Divine Word University, Peter and Elaine Smyth are volunteering their skills to improve the quality of tertiary education in PNG. Neither is lecturing, but each is contributing their own expertise to strengthen the systems of the university. Fr Jan Czuba, the principal of DWU, expressed his gratitude for Peter’s legal advice and Elaine’s human resources skills, highlighting that each was essential in overcoming the peculiar challenges which often face organisations in this country.

At the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga, Paul Tan, Esther Sim and John Gartner are sharing their skills in human resources, finance and project
management, respectively, to build the programs and the capacity of local staff. The nearby Ok Tedi mine and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) projects assist a small handful of people, while inflating local prices beyond the reach of others, but the programs of the Diocese reach into the community and address the education, health, economic, social and spiritual needs of the people.

Johannes Wungun and Esther Sim at Kiunga mission
In both Madang and Kiunga, some key principles of Palms Australia’s approach were re-inforced:

  • Ongoing partnerships between Palms Australia and our partners allow volunteers to build on the work of each other.
  • Clustering volunteers, particularly where their skills complement each other, can increase their effectiveness, not just their  security.
  • Volunteers must bring useful professional skills, requested by the host community, but also a willingness to be flexible, open to their own learning and cooperative.
  • Volunteers who engage in the community fully are more able to build relationships which both make them more effective in their work and increase their safety in their new environment.
  • Our partner organisations, who bring years of experience on the ground, are very capable of caring for volunteers and driving their own development.
  • By the end of the first year, the volunteer is ready to be truly useful to their host community.

As we have long said, relationships are central to our approach to volunteering – not just for their own sake, though they are intrinsically valuable, but also because they enable all other aspects of our mission.

Paul, Johannes and Charles contemplate a new water pump

Retired volunteers: the giving of wisdom

March 11, 2012

Ben, Frank and John in Madang

You would be mistaken if you think volunteering is just a “young person’s game”. Older volunteers bring a number of qualities which can make them the most effective at contributing to their host communities.

Click here to read the full article

Remembering 1960s Madang

March 4, 2011

Colleen with a student from Manam Island in 1969

We have been blessed recently to receive a number of emails and letters from returned volunteers dating back to PALMS’ earliest years. Featured here are the recollections of Colleen Keating of her time in Madang over 40 years ago.

Click here to read the full article

More articles

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Peter and Elaine's placement has completed, but you can still help us provide volunteers to many other communities by using the form below.

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As Peter and Elaine's volunteer placement has ended, your donation will be placed towards the costs of sending and supporting other Palms volunteers to exchange skills with our partner communities. For more information contact Palms Australia.

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Papua New Guinea

PNG Flag

Population: 7,656,959

Area: 462,840 sq. km.

Median Age: 21.5

Literacy: 57.3 %

Languages: Tok Pisin (New Guinea Pidgin), English, Motu, c.820 indigenous languages

The terrain of Papua New Guinea varies from its rugged mountainous spine to its beautiful beaches to its volcanic islands to one of the world’s largest swamps and the large river systems of the Sepik and Fly rivers. These geographical differences have created a unique country with many diverse cultures. The ties within a family […]

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