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  • Writer's pictureNicola Smart

The role of Partner Housing in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea

Partner Housing Australasia is the only Australian engineering/building NGO working to strengthen built infrastructure and civil society in both the strategic Solomon Islands Western Province and the New Guinea Western Highlands.

Since 2007, Partner Housing Australasia volunteers (building industry professionals at the height of their professional careers) have helped our South Pacific neighbours, giving freely of their time, money and skills. This wholly volunteer organisation (with no paid staff) has contributed to the funding, design and construction of multiple village community health buildings, several school buildings, village housing, government housing, over a dozen village water reticulation schemes and over two hundred village latrines all on a shoestring budget and without ongoing government funding. This service is additional to previous funding/building programs in Fiji, Cook Islands and Philippines, and technical assistance in multiple other countries across the Asia-Pacific region.

Our relationships with the people in these two regions are paramount. When we work with them we share their hardships – sleeping rough on the floors of their huts, we shower at their communal standpipes, and we share their pit latrines. We travel in their dug-out canoes and over rough almost non-existent bush tracks. They invite us to their weddings and to their funeral ceremonies. Children are named in honour of our volunteers. Our strength is in our shared relationship, our understanding, empathy and respect for tribal customs and village needs.

The real strength of our relationship derives from our regular communications, mutual understanding, empathy and respect for tribal customs and village needs. These people are our friends, our “brothers” and our “sisters”.

Our strong relationships we have built up over time mean we are best placed to work with these communities to continue developing important infrastructure that benefits all. Doing so will also strengthen Australia's relationship with our Asia-Pacific neighbours, essential to long term goodwill and diplomatic ties.

Ian Volke, Partner Housing volunteer works with the Vision for Homes team in PNG

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