In a new series, The Aus-PNG Network is profiling past participants of the annual Emerging Leaders Dialouge. Chris Amini is a former captain of the PNG Barramundis cricket team, a representative of the PNG Olympic Committee and a UN Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals. He lives in Port Moresby.
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Tell us about yourself and your career.
Chris is an emerging leader in PNG’s sporting circles and has shown his leadership capacity through several programs the PNG Olympic Committee has run in 2016 including Love your Coast and the Olympic Values Education Program. Chris has been at the forefront of these programs to help advocate the need to have cleaner coastlines and to help youths understand and demonstrate the values of excellence, friendship and respect. Chris is also an active member of the PNG Athletes Commission, having been elected by his athlete peers during the 2015 Pacific Games and will serve as a member up until 2019. Chris was the Captain of the PNG Barramundis (the national men’s cricket team) from 2012 through to 2015 when he had to retire due to injury. Chris has been at the elite level of sport for over 10 years and his experience and leadership has helped to transform individuals to become better citizens in their communities.
I’ve just recently become a UN Ambassador for the Sustainable Development Goals where I want to use my experience in sport to help advocate for the 17 SDG’s in PNG. I’ve learned that each SDG connects to sport as well and I see sport as a great vehicle to drive changes and achieve some of the SDG’s. I have a keen interest on SDG # 4 on Quality Education as I experienced this SDG as something lacking in the PNG National Cricket Team (Barramundi’s). I believe sport is a tool that can help athletes to improve on their education. I look forward to working with UN in PNG and the communities to help PNG achieve the 17 SDG’s by 2030.
What brought you to connect with Australia through the Emerging Leaders Dialogue?
I have a keen interest in Australia. I was fortunate to have lived and play cricket in Australia so have a lot of people-to-people relations.
You never stop learning, I saw this opportunity to not only build on my leadership skills and knowledge but to also share my leadership experiences with other leaders and learn from others as well.
In your view, why are people-to-people connections important for the Australia – Papua New Guinea relationship?
You understand more and you get more information out of someone speaking face-to-face then over the phone, through emails, reading stories on the internet or on social media. You feel the emotion, frustration and satisfaction with people to people connections. You also learn the truth and you hear it first-hand rather than through another source. In turn that also changes perceptions and you get to understand the real issues at hand.
It is important that views generated are not through what you’ve heard but mostly what you’ve seen and actually experienced. Too many times decision makers make decisions, create policies but they don’t understand the issues at community level.
In your experience, how does sport help to foster leadership and community development?
I think sport is one of the greatest tools for development. One that hasn’t truly being utilised effectively in PNG. My work with PNG Olympic Committee (PNGOC) and the programs we have been engaged with in schools and communities has seen many athletes including myself grow as individuals. This has created a new set of leadership qualities that many athletes didn’t know they possessed. I only wish I had these opportunities early on in my career. One that I have been encouraging young athletes to get involved in.
As an elite athlete you become a role model. Whether athletes like it or not, once you become an elite athlete and represent your country you are looked upon as someone a young kid wants to emulate in future. All actions, behaviour and conduct is watched closely. This is something that some athletes that have been involved with PNGOC programs are now realising. Kids really do listen to the experiences of representing your country and the hardships along the way. Sharing of some great values has been well received in all schools and communities we’ve been engaged with. Sport has the ability to empower males and females in becoming a great leader and also creating development amongst their own communities.
What are your thoughts the future of the Australian-Papua New Guinean relationship in the field of sport?
I really think this field should be ventured to a lot more. I know Rugby League is big in PNG but at ground level with other codes, yes they do love Rugby League but that comes after their own code.
So I think having a variety of people from different sports and different levels such as athletes, officials, and administrators is also key. It’s all about people-to-people relationships and sport can do that. Sport can reach many levels that other fields cannot reach. Different codes have different levels of support around the country. You have Cricket which is predominantly played around Port Moresby, Central, Milne Bay and Oro Provinces. Then you have AFL and softball which is big among the provinces up north in the New Guinea Islands. Soccer is big in Sepik, Manus, Madang and Milne Bay. As you see different codes connect to different parts of the country.
Australia is always seen as a global leader in sport and they set very high standards. PNG sporting bodies always look to Australia first for expert advice, competition and so forth.
I was fortunate enough have played club cricket in Australia and that had the people-to-people relationship where the clubs I was involved with have more information on what PNG is really like.
What do you enjoy most about working and living in Papua New Guinea?
Family is the biggest thing for me. Culture around family is big in PNG. Most families have added responsibilities of looking after their siblings and extended families. Although it may be an extra burden on families, it is how we’ve been brought up, to look after your family.
Secondly I love PNG food and home cooked meals. I’ve had my share of travelling, living out of suitcases and eating from restaurants, but nothing beats home cooked PNG meals.
As I also mentioned family, going home to my village too is refreshing. I rarely get a chance to head home due to work and sport responsibilities but every chance I get I try to go back home. Life is simple back in the village and you really appreciate how life is compared to city life.