By Michael Philips
DAVID Ayres came to PNG when he was 13 to visit a family friend who was working as a teacher in Port Moresby.
He spent a couple of weeks in Port Moresby before returning home to West Sydney, Australia. But that visit sparked an interest in the country that forced him to return to work here years later.
Today, David, 50, works as a country director for Marie Stopes PNG. He joined the organisation in 2019 after working with various Australian aid programmes since 2015.
David has three grown-up children in Australia and lives by himself in Port Moresby.
David graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy in International Development, focusing on Cambodia, from the University of Sydney in Australia.
After graduating, he went to work in Cambodia in 2001.
In 2012, he wanted a change in scenery and thought about revisiting PNG.
“Papua New Guinea was the first country that I travelled to as a child. So when I was a getting a little bored with Cambodia, I decided to do something different.
“The idea of coming to PNG was really appealing as it’s close to home in Sydney. It’s not difficult for me to travel back home and see my family when I need to.”
Today, David loves living and working in PNG.
“ I love working here and that’s why I choose to continue to live here. PNG often gets criticized. You read that Port Moresby is one of the least livable cities in the world. But I’ve enjoyed living and working here. I really enjoy the people I interact with on a daily basis.”
“I’ve been here for seven years and I love being here in PNG.”
In fact he would rather be in PNG than in West Sydney although there have been so many negative publicity about Port Moresby being one of the least livable cities in the world.
“I love working here and that’s why I choose to continue to live here. PNG often gets criticized. You read that Port Moresby is one of the least livable cities in the world. But I’ve enjoyed living and working here. I really enjoy the people I interact with on a daily basis.”
One thing that stands out for David is the community-oriented way of living which is so much different to home.
There is always support from families, relatives and friends.
“When someone is really struggling to do something, there is a community network around us who can solve the problem. That’s one thing I admire about PNG.”
To him, just to sit back as a guest in PNG and observe how people interact is pretty cool.
At work, he plans to improve the delivery of services to the people around the country although a lot depends on government funding.
“We won’t be able to provide services in as many places that we can and to expand the services as much as we can. But at the same time we need to ensure that we are delivering quality services. That’s the thing that really stands out to me with Marie Stopes.
“It will always be nice to do more and to go in other places but you know it always depends on funding as well. And that’s not unlimited funding. If it was, we would probably do much more.”
David has no intention of leaving for home anytime soon and is not sure how many more years he will be staying in PNG.
“I will continue to work here while I’m enjoying it. I love working here so I’ve got absolutely no intention of leaving. I hope to stay with Marie Stopes a little bit longer. What happen afterwards nobody knows.”
- Michael Philips is a freelance writer who contributes to the People page.