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Damning Reports tarnishes female scholars from PNG under AusAid in Australia

REPORTS have surfaced suggesting that Papua New Guinea female scholars sponsored under Australian Aid have been involved in extramarital affairs which has gone unreported until recently when it was brought to the attention of AusAID in PNG. It has been revealed that female scholars have been perpetrators of domestic violence among PNG families while studying in Australia under Australian Government funded scholarships.

This has drawn an array of reaction on social media Facebook through a group called Papua New Guineans Against Domestic Violence (PNGADV). Members of the group, numbering over 5,500, some of whom were former beneficiaries said this attitude has been on-going over the years where PNG women who attend institutions in Australia are involved in such behaviour. Several members of this group who are currently studying in Australian institutions also said it was an embarrassment to those who are under the scholarship.

"As a student also under the Australian government Scholarship, I’m totally ashamed.

This is totally embarrassing for me as well knowing that the perpetrator hold the same scholarship as I do," said Elsie Loth, a current scholar studying at James Cook University, who is a member of the group.

Scholarships PNG Facility Director, Ms Vivien Carroll said AusAID takes a zero tolerance approach to any type of violence, particularly family and sexual violence.

"AusAID also has a zero tolerance approach for any form of abuse committed by a person on an AusAID scholarship (this includes abuse of a family member), and has the highest expectations for the behaviour of AusAID scholars," said Ms Carroll. She said when scholars accept an AusAID scholarship, they agree to:

*obey the laws of the Commonwealth of Australia and the various States and Territories;

*act in a manner in their home country, Australia or elsewhere that will not bring disrepute to themselves, their family, their country or AusAID.

Ms Carroll added that scholars agree that their scholarship may be terminated, and their visa cancelled, at any time for failure to comply with the laws of Australia or for misconduct. Further investigations revealed that although many incidents of contradicting behaviour has been on-going none were reported to AusAID until last year and early this year.

One reported incident last year involved a female scholar being confronted and almost attacked by a PNG wife and involved police in Australia although no charges were laid. The scholar's employer, a well-respected church organisation in PNG, had suggested a termination of her scholarship. "It is also a concern because this is not what we want to hear from our health workers going abroad to study.

This is very bad and unethical to do such a thing and does not portray a good image of (organisation named)," said a representative of the employer concerned. In a separate incident another female scholar had used threats and verbal abuses against another PNG wife while studying in Australia. This was also brought to police in Australia although again no charges were laid and both incidents were reported to Scholarship PNG.

"There is so much talk about inequality in PNG and the Australian Government is sending our women overseas to try to help PNG women become leaders. This maybe only one incident or whatever but it is not encouraging at all when PNG women ourselves are contributing to family violence, especially educated women," said another member of PNGADV.

"Whether the female scholars are educated or not, it is morally and ethically wrong," said Hannah Joku also a member of PNGADV. Another member said it was not fair that PNG mothers and children living in Australia have silently become victims of domestic disturbance or violence at the expense of their own womenfolk and that innocent families have their rights also violated as a result and nothing was done about it.
 "Women are the stronger party in these situations. I’m from a polygamous family, and cannot bear the thought of putting another woman through the same misery my mother and I as a child went through. It will be hypocrisy at its best. The buck stops with me.

It’s not about what you want, it’s about doing the right thing. When we do right, the consequences are always right. We as women need to respect the ones family alter. We educated women should stop wrecking homes and defiling someone else's home and happiness," said PNG lawyer, Ms Valentina Kaman. Ms Carroll did not comment on these reports although Scholarship PNG office was notified of this conduct by its scholars. There was also no comment on what action would be taken to prevent such behavior happening again.

By Special Correspondent