Earlier this month I had the pleasure of visiting Papua New Guinea to witness first hand how family violence impacts Australia's closest neighbour.
Human Rights Watch estimates 70 per cent of PNG women are raped during their lifetime, labelling the country as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.
Out of sight and out of mind – PNG, a former Australian colony, is in many respects, our forgotten neighbour.
While in PNG, I was able to work closely with Femili PNG, an amazing domestic violence crisis centre in Lae, which helps survivors access counselling, safe houses, legal assistance and other services.
Rosie received a warm traditional welcome from Femili PNG staff and local women and was presented with a woollen lei and a traditional billum bag – 25 April 2017
On arrival at Femili PNG, we received a colourful ceremonial welcome with singers, dancers and drummers dressed in grass skirts, face paint and shell jewellery and I was presented with a woollen lei and a traditional billum bag.
During my time at Femili PNG, I was privileged to meet some of the incredibly courageous women who recounted their devastating stories of abuse.
Grace* told of the three stillborn babies she had after her husband’s bashings and her determination to change her mindset from "victim to victor".
Some of the women also explained how "bride price" (money and/or livestock paid to the bride's family from the groom) contributes to the country's high rates of domestic violence.
"The men think: 'I paid bride price so she is my possession, I can do anything to her,' " Maria* said.
One of PNG’s other persistent problems relating to domestic violence is the vicious murder of women and men accused of sorcery (witchcraft).
Sharing my own story about Luke, I assured these women they were not alone in their struggles.
L-R: Femili PNG Case Work Manager, Evan Bieso, Femili PNG Operations Manager, Denga Ilave and Rosie discuss the challenges faced in tackling violence against women with family and sexual violence service providers in Lae, Morobe Province – April 26, 2017 and Family violence survivors and workers welcomed the opportunity to share their stories with Rosie in Lae – April 25, 2017
Regardless of the cultural differences and the Coral Sea that may divide us, these women share the same strength and resilience I come across every day.
Inspired by these wonderful women, I left PNG with a restored fire in my belly and a renewed sense of hope for the future in PNG and also back home in Australia.
I have the utmost confidence in these women to turn ripples into tides of change and can’t wait to return in the near future to see the progress that has been achieved.
To learn more about the amazing work of Femili PNG visit: http://www.femilipng.org/
To find out more about the situation in PNG, you can read the ‘Return to Abusers’ report published by Doctors Without Borders.
*names have been changed to protect the women