1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain launches 24-hour service and new Facebook page

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25 November 2020: The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain, Papua New Guinea’s only national telephone counselling and support service, is now available on a 24-hour basis to anyone experiencing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

Launched in partnership by ChildFund and CIMC (Family & Sexual Violence Action Committee) in 2015, the helpline has also launched a Facebook page, supporting efforts to provide information to potential callers, and promote referral services in local communities.

The helpline receives ongoing support from the New Zealand Aid Programme. The expansion of services in 2020 has been made possible due to St John Ambulance, UNICEF and UN Women.

The service hours have been expanded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a steep rise in callers seeking support on GBV incidents.

Trained counsellors – who offer callers help on issues ranging from crisis counselling, safety planning, and suicide intervention – can now be contacted at any time of day from any of the country’s 22 provinces via a toll-free Digicel number 7150 8000.

Since its inception, the 1 Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain has received over 40,000 calls and partnered with over 350 service providers nationwide. In 2019 alone, tele-counsellors responded to 23,000 calls and this number is expected to increase significantly in 2020.

A senior counsellor on the service [named withheld for privacy reasons] said: “When we launched the helpline five years ago, we did not anticipate the large numbers of people who would use the service.

“It has also been interesting to learn that the helpline is seen as a valuable resource not only by survivors of SGBV, but perpetrators seeking advice on behaviour change. We hope that by establishing a social media presence we can make more people aware of the service we provide, while having the ability to sharing regular resources and advice to a wider audience.”

Bridgette Thorold, Country Director of ChildFund PNG, said: “ChildFund and FSVAC are committed to implementing programs and services which address the causes of violence; build the capacity of our legal system, and strengthen the services available to survivors.

“Communities in PNG already experience high rates of family violence, and unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these tensions. With expanded hours and an online presence, the 1 Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain can help more people impacted by SGBV.”

In marking International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, Marcia Kalinoe, National Coordinator of CIMC-Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee, said: “There is an urgent need for vital services like the helpline to be made available to more women, men and children through the country.

“However, everyone has a part to play in building peaceful communities. We can all take action to end violence in our homes, families, communities, villages, and workspaces.”

The 1-Tok Kaunselin Helpim Lain is a partnership between ChildFund and CIMC (FSVAC) and is supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme. The expansion of services in 2020 has been made possible due to St John Ambulance, UNICEF and UN Women.

ChildFund Australia, Plan International Australia and the Young & Resilient Research Centre of Western Sydney University have released a ground-breaking new report today that shows how the rollout of cable internet systems across the Pacific opens up unprecedented learning opportunities for children but also exposes them to new risks of harm.

The organisations have joined forces to launch the Online Safety in the Pacific report, in order to fill the research gap and map the challenges and opportunities the onset of new cable internet technology presents for children in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea.

Among the children surveyed for the report, 77% said the risk of accessing inappropriate content such as horror movies and pornography, was their greatest fear, followed by cyber-bullying (38%), while parents and carers identified a lack of control over what children were accessing as their greatest fear.

Participants in the study generally believe girls are more at risk than boys to online abuse and less capable of managing risk, leading to girls’ access to online spaces being limited by their parents.

“The Pacific is home to some of the highest rates of sexual and physical violence against women and girls anywhere in the world and this is now being reflected in the online space. These fears are also limiting girls’ access to online opportunities, said Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia.

“As Australia invests in the Coral Sea Cable to promote greater internet connectivity it must also invest in combatting the growing risk of online child sexual exploitation, grooming and cyber-bullying in the Pacific. Now is the time to act, to invest in the protective frameworks and programs that will prevent children and young people from being harmed online.

“The levels of violence and abuse against children, and in particular women and girls, is already disproportionately high in the Pacific Islands. Without proper investment and planning, it could be exacerbated by increased uptake of digital technologies,” she said.

This research will inform ChildFund Australia and Plan International Australia’s child protection work across the region into the future. It will build on existing programs that increase the self-protective behaviours of children, equip parents to be partners in online safety and provides governments with tools required to prevent and respond to online abuse and exploitation.

“The opportunities that connectivity provides is paramount for children and young people across the pacific. However, we must be vigilant in taking adequate measures to keep them safe. A single response will not combat the far-reaching risks and impacts of the online world. A whole of community approach, which empowers children and their families to safety navigate the online world is crucial” said Margaret Sheehan, CEO of ChildFund International.

ChildFund Australia and Plan International Australia consider this work as urgent given the convergence of the onset of the COVID19 and the arrival of cable internet across the Pacific.

Download a copy of the full report.