By ELIZABETH MIAE
MARTHA Waim has seen it all. Growing up in a remote village in the highlands she has experienced the difficulties and hardship that come with isolation. The experience has driven her to do well to help herself and others to escape to something better .
As a young university graduate, she has begun a new chapter in her life and has found herself on the path to achieving her dream of being a policy analyst.
Waim has become the first of 11 siblings to graduate with a university degree – a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) .
It was the proudest moment of her young life, a woman of mixed parentage – Simbu and Eastern Highlands. Twenty members of her family from Simbu and Eastern Highlands were at her graduation on July 28. Even the unavailability of flights from Mount Hagen, when election-related violence forced the airport to close, didn’t stop her relatives. Some made their way to Goroka and flew to Port Moresby from there. Others took to 4WD vehicles and went to Lae from where they caught a flight to the capital.
“I’m very excited, my family are happy too – a whole bunch came down for the graduation,” Waim said.
At UPNG, Waim came under the care of Australian National University (ANU) academics who worked at the School of Business and Public Policy through the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct.
The precinct is a partnership between the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia to support the development of future leaders, including those who can be involved in shaping the nation’s public policies.
Waim said the ANU lecturers’ passion and commitment rubbed off on the students.
“The lecturers put a lot of time and effort into the programme,” she said. “They took a personal interest in us, in what our dreams were and what we wanted to do. This included writing reference letters to help with internships and scholarships – simple things that went a long way.”
Waim was one of 57 students who benefited from the UPNG-ANU partnership in their degree programme.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Australian High Commissioner Bruce Davis said the students can achieve great things by using what they have learnt to benefit Papua New Guinea.
“You are now the future leaders of Papua New Guinea,” he said.
“Each and every one of you has an obligation to help shape the country that Papua New Guinea will become during the course of your life.”
Waim is up for the challenge and her path has led her to a graduate position at the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute, where she is helping the nation’s public policymakers.
“I’m currently attached (as a cadet) to the education programme – Universal Basic Education – doing surveys and research,” she said. “I’ve increased my knowledge base a lot and I also hope to further my studies.”
David Ayres, the institute’s senior deputy director, said the cadetship provides a year of on-the-job training and experience.
“In the past couple of years we have given that programme a much sharper focus and professional edge,” he said. “Those that excel are then provided with the opportunity to join the institute for a further two years as research project officers. At present, we have six cadets, and six project officers working at the institute.
“The cadetship is an important contribution by the institute to building the country’s capacity to recognise and deal with its challenging development issues and problems.”
Said Waim: “I’m passionate about seeing development in my country – it’s the reason I took up economics.
“I come from a remote area in the highlands where it is very difficult to access services. I lived there and know firsthand how things are.
“My dream job is to be a policy analyst, perhaps with Treasury or the Asian Development Bank. I want to see policies that can be implemented effectively for the people.” And what better way person ffor the job than someone who has come from a background of seeing so many have so little.
- Elizabeth Miae is Public Diplomacy officer at the Australian High Commission.