Changing lives in Papua New Guinea

Rebecca Krai

Her experience with a student who had a hearing impairment, led Papua New Guinea teacher Rebecca Krai (MDisPolPrac ’19) to undertake a Master of Disability Policy and Practice at Flinders University.

“Knowing and understanding the lack of inclusiveness in my country, I challenged my own thoughts about how the student’s future would look if disability inclusion is not mainstreamed in service delivery. There were so many questions on my mind, including career pathways where the current labour laws are not inclusive and there is no legislation to protect her,” says Rebecca.

“Having a degree in Human Resource Management and Diploma in Education, I thought it would be good to study disability to help students with disability to transition from academic institutions to employment and access other services, including health.”

Rebecca came to Flinders on an Australia Awards Scholarship and upon completing her degree, she was chosen to be part of the Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative, a $5.4 million Australian Government program offering Australia Awards emerging leaders from Pacific countries skills development and mentoring to build leadership capability and boost gender equality.

She returned to Papua New Guinea shortly before COVID-19 began to spread across the globe. With a fragile health system, and with almost 80% of the national population living in rural areas, the country is in a vulnerable position, making it so important to protect remote communities from the virus.

With funding secured from the Women’s Leadership Initiative, Rebecca returned to Notre Dame Secondary School, where she had attended from Grade 7 to 12. She taught and partnered with staff and students on COVID-19 awareness in the Mul-Baiyer District in the Western Highlands Province. Forty female students were trained to facilitate COVID-19 awareness in the school while teaching staff were trained and sent out to other remote schools.

“This is the proudest moment in my life because I went back to encourage other young women to live their dreams and believe in themselves. ‘The power is within you’ were my words of encouragement to them,” says Rebecca.

Rebecca has just commenced a new role as Disability Coordinator for Papua New Guinea and Australia’s Transition to Health Program (PATH).

She provides support for disability inclusion activities to mainstream disability inclusion across the PATH program. The program is run by the Australian subsidiary of Abt Associates, a global international development organisation with a strong presence in Papua New Guinea.

“What I love most about what I am doing now is I am given the opportunity to be a voice for people with disability. This is what I have always wanted to do. It enables me to see things from a disability perspective.”

Rebecca draws inspiration from her father, a remote community health worker, and her brother Ray, also a Flinders graduate, who is a health services manager for PNG’s Aerial Health Program in the Highlands District.

“My father’s passion for service has instilled in me to serve, while my brother has inspired me to look beyond boundaries and live for what is true. My brother’s words still dawn on me: ‘Swim in your culture but do not drown in it, always peek your head above the culture to know what’s happening around’.”

“My goal is to support mainstreaming disability inclusion in service delivery in my country and empower more women to believe in themselves to live their dreams.”

Learn more about postgraduate Disability studies at Flinders


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