Pikinini Defenders tackle family violence in PNG

Pikinini Defenders tackle family violence in PNG

A disabled child forced to sit on the floor in his dirty nappies all day, with no wheelchair to move around.

A girl in Grade 10 pulled out of high school by her stepfather, who repeatedly sexually abused her.

Toddlers whipped by their parents, and adopted children abused and given hefty workloads that are too much to bear. 

This is the grim reality for too many children in Papua New Guinea, where physical and sexual abuse, humiliation and ridicule have reached crisis point.

That’s why World Vision has joined with an alliance of child-focused NGOs in a campaign to protect the littlest Papua New Guineans – called Pikinini Defenders.

The movement is designed to mobilise support, advocate and raise awareness to stop violence against children in Australia’s backyard.  

World Vision is calling on the PNG Government to commit to fund the recruitment, training and deployment of 300 such Child Protection Officers and Volunteers across PNG.

There are only 89 paid Child Protection Officers for the whole country – or one for every 41,000 children.  

World Vision senior advocacy campaign lead Adam Valvasori said more officers were desperately needed to serve as "first responders" to children who survive violence, and help them access shelter, medical help and report offences to police.

“Both the Australian and PNG governments need to prioritise the protection of these kids – it’s heartbreaking that this is happening on our doorstep,” he said.

“Thousands of Australians do the Kokoda track every year, and PNG has an important space in our heart because of our shared history. World Vision has the know-how on the best ways to reduce violence in the home, and our programs work around the world. It’s time the Australian Government steps up its aid budget to help keep these kids safe.” 

Joint agency report finds shocking levels of violence and neglect

A joint report released in 2019 by World Vision, Save the Children, Plan International and ChildFund exploring the welfare of children in the Pacific and in Timor Leste, found shocking levels of physical, emotional and sexual violence, and neglect. In PNG specifically, it found:

  • 75 percent of children experience physical abuse
  • 307 child rapes were reported over 12 months in Port Moresby
  • 85 percent of men said they beat their children
  • 50 percent of parents admitted to verbally abusing their child
  • 29 percent of young people said they were beaten at least once a week by a male family member and 18 percent by a female family member

Violence of this nature and frequency can affect not only a child’s physical, cognitive and social development, but lead to poor health outcomes and financial vulnerability. It can also fuel anti-social and aggressive behaviour and perpetuate the dangerous and vicious cycle of violence and abuse. 

The Pikinini Defenders have launched a petition to lobby the PNG Government to commit to the 300 Child Protection Officers.  
While progress has been slow, in late November, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Davis Steven and the Governor for Oro Province, Gary Juffa, met with the Pikinini Defenders to receive a petition that has garnered 2,922 signatures. 
Australians can also support the cause by adding their name to an open letter to PNG's High Commissioner in Australia, John Kali.