A silent revolution

Normal, Weekender

A recovery workshop brings victims and perpetrators together to address

LAST week, in a dusty settlement in Port Moresby, a silent revolution took place. Over 80 residents of Kaugere, considered a notorious breeding ground for raskols, met daily to find ways to heal themselves after generations of trauma and abuse.
A group from Southern Cross University in New South Wales, led by Professor Judy Atkinson, conducted a five-day Family Violence Community Recovery workshop with the men, women and children of the community.
It was a painful yet uplifting journey as victims and perpetrators alike shared their stories of the past and dreams for the future. The community asked to be taught about Human Rights, the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, relative to their lives. They placed Human Rights in the context of their own behaviour towards their children, violence against women and community violence.
Prof Atkinson said the workshop was highly successful and the community indicated that they would like access to further education to develop deeper skills in the area of Family Violence.
ìIíve never seen a group of men and women so committed to come together to talk about violence in their community. The community was not only committed to change their own circumstances, but circumstances like theirs across PNG,’ she said.
The venue for this ‘revolution’ was the Children’s University of Music and Art (CUMA), a fee free community school founded by Peter and Lydia Kailap at the beginning of this year. Perched near the top of the hill, commanding million dollar views, the school is for the most part a ramshackle structure of bush timber and tarps, reflecting the style of housing that surrounds it. The gem that stands out is the brand new, professionally built classroom of finished hewn timber and hardwood decking.
Peter, an accomplished musician and artist from the Gulf province, and Lydia, a former chef and accountant from Australia, have lived at Kaugere for the past five years. During that time they have seen the same traumas repeatedly occurring around them: neglected and abused children and women, maltreated at the hands of men, often victims themselves; disengagement from society; hopelessness. They saw a need and a way to help the children and improve their prospects, restore hope.
So the school was established. Financially supported by selling Peter’s artwork on greeting cards, plus whatever handouts that could be had, the Kailaps managed to feed and house a number of children and class numbers grew daily. Lydia and Peter have a vision however, that involves a great deal more than establishing a school in one settlement. They want to create a chain of cafes – Ricochet Cafes – which will provide training, employment and opportunities for Kaugere’s youth as well as sustain the future needs of the school.
In March this year, it was suggested to organisers of the upcoming biennial Australian High Commission Ball that they might want to direct their profits to CUMA and its aims. The committee met with Peter and Lydia and were immediately struck not only by the huge need that existed but also by the passion and dedication of this extraordinary couple. With motivation like that, it was not difficult to remain motivated in the quest for sponsorship. Skip ahead seven months and we see the gem of a classroom and sufficient funds raised for the first Ricochet Cafe to become a reality.
“This was a community on the edge of change. They grabbed hold of the opportunity to learn and grow with surprising outcomes,” Prof Atkinson said.
The journey of self-discovery that the people of Kaugere have taken will surely lead to positive changes in their self image and eventually how others see the people of Kaugere. This, coupled with the self-driven community development plan they have implemented, sets an example for all of Port Moresby … and indeed PNG.


* Sue Nosworthy is the community liaison officer with the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby.