The National – Wednesday, June 22, 2011
A MAN from Papua New Guinea will be spared a traumatic eight-hour boat journey to take the body of his daughter home from Australia after a call for help raised almost A$20,000 in donations from the Australian public.
In a desperate search for treatment, Aniba Petru rushed his extremely sick 14-year-old daughter Marthi to the Torres Strait Island of Saibai in February.
She died of tuberculosis (TB) a week later in Cairns Base Hospital.
Petru spent three months in quarantine after being diagnosed with the disease but had been trying to take his daughter home for weeks.
Queensland Health initially told Petru they would fly him back to Saibai but that he would then need to transfer his daughter’s coffin to a dinghy to make the eight-hour sea journey home to his village on Kadawaa in PNG’s Western province.
However, a call for donations from Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch late last week raised more than A$20,000, more than enough to fly Petru and his daughter to PNG.
Entsch said Queensland Health would pay to fly Petru and his daughter to Horn Island in the Torres Strait on Monday and Cape York Air Transport has agreed to fly them today to Daru, the nearest airport to Kadawa.
He said donations would also provide enough to cover the funeral costs for Marthi and for him to take his remaining three children to Saibai to be tested for TB.
The remainder will be used to establish a fund at Cairns Penny Savings and Loan for PNG nationals forced to travel to Cairns for treatment, he said.
“We got so many donations, much more than we needed. I think that shows we are a caring society,” Entsch said.
Meanwhile, Petru has thanked Australians for helping him to take her daughter’s home for burial.
He said 200 people had helped raise the A$20,000 after criticism of the way Queensland Health had handled the matter.
It was only willing to fly Petru and the girl’s body back to the Torres Strait, and buy fuel for a dinghy ride to PNG.
Petru says he was extremely grateful for the Australian public help, adding that he would use some of the money to head home today. – AAP and Radio Australia