The UN Declaration of Human Rights makes clear the rights of all people to be treated equally regardless of gender. Yet women and children continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world. Both Australia and Papua New Guinea have made substantial progress in addressing disparity between the sexes. But in both countries there is more work to do to achieve the goal of equality.


Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins

There are more women than men in Australia, yet women are under-represented in many areas of society. In employment, women are under-represented in both total workforce share and in the participation rate. According to the Gender Equality Agency , women comprise 46.2% of all employees in Australia and the workforce participation rate is 59.3% compared to men at 70.4%.  Women also earn lower incomes, on average 16% less than men. Women also are affected by reduced career advancement and mobility, and the long term impact of these factors resulting in women accumulating lower retirement and superannuation savings.  Other forms of discrimination faced by women includes issues such as low paid part time jobs, workplace sexual harassment, child parenting duties and few experience physical violence.

While Australia is ranked 46th on the global gender gap report it has made progress in some areas.  Australia has worked to combat gender equality issues with federal legislation on sex discrimination with its application overseen by a Human Rights Commissioner.

Papua New Guinea

Hospitality graduates at the Australia-Pacific Technical College graduation at Port Moresby PNG. Photo: Jacqueline Smart/DFAT

In Papua New Guinea, gender inequality is a major social, economic and political issue and remains prevalent in both urban and rural societies. While the national Constitution advocates equality, it also prioritises cultural traditions.  Many cultural and gender norms influence social practices that hinder the development of women.

Women make up 48% of Papua New Guinea’s population but are under-represented in the formal economy, community leadership and national politics.  Only a small proportion of women (12%) live in cities and towns. Traditional village settings mean women are often expected to take part in domestic duties including gardening, food cultivation and child rearing.  In some areas, traditions such as ‘bride price’ lead to women being treated as property to be traded.

These factors, along with poor access to health and education, and limited economic and political power means women are vulnerable to domestic violence, which is thought to affect up to two-thirds of the country’s women.

The PNG government has introduced policy reforms to promote gender equality. Efforts to increase female participation in politics have been mixed. Limited Preferential Voting was instituted from the 2007 election but despite some early successes has not ensured female representation in the National Parliament.

Links & Resources

Australia supports gender equality in PNG and other Pacific nations through funding support and established aid programs. It targets specific initiatives to gender quality through its flagship program Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development.

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Emerging Leader Participants

Kiri Dicker - Gender and Development Specialist - Lowy Institute

Kiri Dicker

Gender and Development Specialist

ELD Year:


Current Location:

Kiri Dicker is a community development worker and gender specialist who has spent the past 10 years living and working in the Pacific region. Kiri first came to PNG by herself in 2008, where she caught a PMV from Lae all the way to Kerowagi and was taken in a young family, who taught her about the realities of life in the rural highlands. Fast forward 10 years and she led a range of research and development projects in areas including labour mobility, violence against women, disaster management, sexual and reproductive health and women’s political participation. She holds a Masters in Community Development (Southern Cross University) and a Graduate Certificate in Gender Mainstreaming, Policy and Analysis (Flinders University).

Related Organisations

Development Policy Centre - Lowy Institute

Development Policy Centre

The Development Policy Centre (Devpolicy) is a think tank for aid and development serving Australia, the region, and the global development community. It undertakes independent research and promotes practical initiatives to improve the effectiveness of Australian aid, to support the development of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific island region, and to contribute to better global development policy. The centre is based at Crawford School of Public Policy in the College of Asia and the Pacific at The Australian National University. In conjunction with the University of Papua New Guinea, the centre runs the annual PNG Update conference in Port Moresby, and has a wide range of active research projects and partnerships in Papua New Guinea. It also publishes frequent analysis on PNG on the Devpolicy Blog.

Development Policy Centre

Femili PNG - Lowy Institute

Femili PNG

Femili PNG is a local PNG NGO based in Lae that runs a Case Management Centre (CMC) to assist survivors of family and sexual violence to access the services they need. Its target population is women, men or children who are survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual violence and/or child abuse. The organisation is managed by a committee of PNG and Australian stakeholders, in partnership with Oxfam and The Australian National University, and with funding from the Australian aid program. The NGO was formed in 2013 and the CMC began operations in Lae in July 2014.

Femili PNG

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