“This has the potential to be life-saving for women and children who are experiencing violence in their homes and communities right now,” says Natasha Stott Despoja, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls [photo credit: Vlad Sokhin/ChildFund Australia/City Mission Haus Ruth]

August 19, 2015

Family violence hotline launches in Papua New Guinea

ChildFund develops ‘first of its kind’ national crisis hotline in partnership with PNG’s Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and FHI 360

Sydney, Australia, 19 August 2015 – Australians and New Zealanders are helping to tackle epidemic levels of violence against women and children in Papua New Guinea, through the launch of the country’s first nationally available, toll-free hotline offering crisis support to survivors of family and sexual violence.

The hotline, called “1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN”, was launched today in Port Moresby by ChildFund in partnership with Papua New Guinea’s Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and FHI 360.

ChildFund has pooled charitable donations from the Australian public with $2.3m (NZD $2.6m) from the New Zealand Government’s aid program to set up and maintain the vital support service over the next five years.

“Family violence is a devastating problem throughout our region. In Papua New Guinea, the avenues available for survivors to seek help are severely lacking, while entrenched attitudes around violence and gender inequality only complicate the issue,” said ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence, speaking at the launch in Port Moresby today.

Children’s healthy development depends on having a family and community where they feel safe, loved and protected. This hotline is about providing those who are experiencing violence with a safe channel to seek help.

It is estimated that two-thirds of women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime in Papua New Guinea, which only outlawed domestic violence as recently as 2013. Many researchers and community leaders believe this is just the tip of the iceberg – a view supported by ChildFund’s research conducted in 2013, which found most women interviewed in Rigo District had experienced violence and said their children were often present when their partners were violent towards them.

With access to telecommunications widespread and growing rapidly across the country, ChildFund Papua New Guinea’s program manager Aydelfe Salvadora said a combination of common mobile phone access and a growing awareness of family and sexual violence within PNG had made it “the right time” to launch the hotline.

“The country is more connected than ever before through the now common use of mobile phones in PNG, which works very well for our service.

“At the same time, all important stakeholders in the community are recognising family and sexual violence as an issue and are implementing steps to educate and offer support – from Government to NGOs to corporate enterprises.”

Natasha Stott Despoja, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, said tackling family violence is no easy task but this hotline was an important step to reach survivors across the country.

“This has the potential to be life-saving for women and children who are experiencing violence in their homes and communities right now,” Ambassador Stott Despoja said.

“I’ve met women in Papua New Guinea who shared their stories of the most horrific violence levelled at them and their children. To know that these women will now have help available at the end of a phone line is fantastic.

“I congratulate ChildFund, the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee and FHI 360 for securing the resources and support to get this vital service off the ground.”

The hotline will initially operate for eight hours a day, increasing to 12 hours a day from October. Professional counsellors fluent in Papua New Guinea’s three national languages will be available from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week. Calls to the hotline are free of charge within the Digicel network, with talks underway to extend the toll-free benefits to callers who use PNG’s Bemobile and Telikom networks.

Callers will have access to confidential crisis counselling and referrals to local service providers – for example, safe houses, family support centres, police and legal services. ChildFund is also working with the University of Papua New Guinea on a counselling qualification to ensure that there will be trained counsellors to continue and expand the work of the service into the future.

“Callers can speak privately to our counsellors and receive immediate help at the time of their call,” said Ms Salvadora. “Our counsellors can help them develop safety plans, provide crisis counselling and refer them to a service provider closest to their location.”

Ms Salvadora added that the service is also there to help perpetrators of violence change their behaviour, explaining that it is important to offer counselling not just to those abused, but the abuser.

“There are many good people who, for whatever reason, commit bad acts,” she said.

“Our counsellors are there to help these people too. We are not here to judge or condemn. We understand that speaking to someone on either side of the issue may help improve the situation.”

The”1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN” is a partnership between ChildFund Papua New Guinea, CIMC (FSVAC) and FHI 360, supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme, USAID, ChildFund New Zealand and ChildFund Australia.

715-08000 is the number to call (within PNG only) to receive counselling for family and sexual violence.

Join the conversation online using #stopviolencePNG

 

NOTES TO EDITORS:

About the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee
Papua New Guinea’s Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC) was set up as one of the sectoral committees of the Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council (CIMC) in 2000. The recommendation to establish such a committee came from a workshop conducted in 2000 to address concerns about the alarming rate of family and sexual violence against women and children in PNG. The result was the setting up of a national body (FSVAC), specifically mandated to look into the problems associated with family and sexual violence and to come up with concrete ways of addressing these problems.

 

About FHI 360
FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organisation dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. Serving more than 70 countries, its activities in Papua New Guinea span nearly a decade. Working to improve HIV/AIDS services for populations most at risk for contracting the virus, FHI 360 programs in PNG have more recently expanded to address the problem of violence against women and girls.