The people of Goilala work towards turning a new chapter
Two Tauwade dancers put the finishing touches before they perform at the University of PNG to mark the launch
of the Goilala Foundation and website. Picture courtesy of Goilala.com
Nestled between the borders of Morobe and Oro provinces and characterised by steep mountains, deep valleys and fast flowing rivers is the Goilala district in southern Papua New Guinea.
It is one of Central province’s four districts and probably one of its most isolated as villagers in parts of Goilala have to travel for over eight hours to get to Port Moresby.
The district’s close proximity to the city has seen a steady movement of people from Goilala to the PNG capital in search of employment, health and education services and an urban way of life. But like other indigenous communities around the world, the search for a better life in cities of steel and concrete is often a mirage, compelling the desperate to turn to a life of crime.
Consequently for years since the emergence of PNG as a sovereign state in 1975, the name “Goilala” became synonymous with crime in Port Moresby. It struck fear in city residents and brought out the worst in city police, leading to Papua New Guineans from that part of the country being stigmatized even to this day.
However their continued denigration recently compelled a group of Goilalas to unite to form a body that will lead the drive to remove the stigma, and to enable villagers from this scenic part of PNG to contribute positively to the country’s development. The Goilala Foundation is headed by interim president Thomas Eme and his executive.
Speaking recently at the launching of the foundation and its website in Port Moresby, Mr Eme told a packed University of PNG lecture theatre that it was the dream of all Goilalas that they be judged not by their ethnicity but their character.
“Our dream is that even after we are gone, anyone with a Goilala origin will not be judged by the background of their origin, rather by the content of their character. The Goilala Foundation, ladies and gentlemen, will be the vehicle to drive that dream and make it become a reality. People of Goilala, the Goilala Foundation, are you and me. Because of our common dream, we will work together to manifest that dream. Dreams will just be dreams if we don’t take positive action to accomplish those dreams,” he said.
Tapini station in Goilala with the airstrip and the administration building in the foreground. Picture courtesy
The journey to accomplish the goals of the foundation will be long and hard and would not be possible without the support of prominent Goilalas such as Central province governor Alphonse Moroi.
Mr Moroi is perhaps the most well-known Goilala in PNG, having won the race for the Central province governor’s office against all odds in 2002 and successfully defending his seat in the last election. He was on hand to witness the launching with Port Moresby governor and human rights lawyer Powes Parkop.
Mr Eme said the Goilala people are counting on Mr Moroi’s support and looked forward to him playing a pivotal role in the foundation.
“With your support we can drive this initiative to produce many more Goilalas like you and me. If there is something sustainable and lasting that you can look back and be proud of achieving during your tenure as the first governor from Goilala, let it be the Goilala Foundation.”
Goilala, like other districts in PNG, faces enormous development challenges. A 2010 National Research Institute (NRI) socio-economic profile of PNG’s 89 districts highlights the lack of government services with no doctors, four nurses, seven health centres and eight aid posts to serve a population of close to 30,000. The literacy rate stands at 30.3 per cent for males and 18.7 per cent for females and net enrolment rate in basic education 42 per cent.
Australian aid agency AusAID has funded the building of a health centre in Tapini and last year financed health patrols comprising Australian and PNG defence teams bring health services to some of the district’s most isolated communities.
In terms of possible income earning opportunities there is agrarian land in Goilala with the NRI report concluding that the district’s lower valleys have high agricultural potential and market accessibility. Also to the north of Woitape lies the Tolukuma gold mine which the state-owned Petromin PNG Holdings acquired in 2008. However the NRI report said the mine has had minimal impact on the incomes of Goilala’s rural population, though there are plans by the company to upgrade the Tapini highway as well as build a mine access road between Tolukuma and Port Moresby.
Goilalas filled UPNG's main lecture theatre for the launching of the Goilala Foundation and their website. Picture
courtesy of Goilala.com
While the district has immense potential Mr Eme says the PNG government’s service delivery programs have failed in Goilala.
“I can say that after 36 years of political independence, the service delivery system has failed in Goilala. It is common knowledge that the current service delivery system is not working effectively and efficiently. The challenge for all our political leaders and bureaucrats therefore is to come up with practical interventions to transform the service delivery system to be efficient and effective.”
If the attendance numbers at the launching is any indication, it appears ordinary Goilalas have embraced the foundation which is the first step for any kind of dream and vision to be realised.