Australian volunteers help Milne Bay women benefit from growing cruise sector

29 August 2017

Two Australian volunteers have helped local women from the Milne Bay Islands in Papua New Guinea to design and sell mother-of-pearl jewellery, thus benefiting from the growing number of cruise ships visiting the area.

It is a late May morning and the Sun Princess cruise ship is anchored offshore. A large group of passengers are disembarking onto palm-lined Doini Island of Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. Further inland, school children are putting on cultural shows, while other locals are offering boat rides to nearby islands. Amongst the activity stands a small craft market, with numerous stalls being run by women from the area. These women have completed a mother-of-pearl jewellery training program, which was implemented by two Australian volunteers, Sue McCuaig and Mollie Bain, as part of a broader Australian Government program in partnership with Carnival Australia, to bolster economic development from tourism.

Sue spent several weeks on Samarai Island working with around 30 locals, teaching intensive workshops in creative design and jewelry crafting. A particular focus of Sue’s was to assist the participants to incorporate traditional design elements into more contemporary designs for everyday wear, likely to catch the eye of cruise tourists. Mollie’s training focused on identifying market opportunities, meeting customer expectations, getting product to market, pricing and recordkeeping.

Cruising is one of the fastest growing segments in the global tourism industry 1 and Milne Bay has seen a rapid increase in arrivals over several years. Tourists on cruise ships visiting Alotau, Trobriand Islands, Doini Island and Rabaul invest approximately AUD$5.9 million in the local economy. With ports receiving 89 per cent of the total revenue, the retail souvenir sector is one of the biggest beneficiaries of cruise ships, and has the potential to be a sustainable means of employment going forward. Additionally, there is strong potential for mother-of-pearl jewellery to be an important source of income for the Milne Bay Island community, with significant numbers of tourists purchasing the jewellery on display.

"Usually our only work is selling home-grown vegetables, or sewing and basic crafts,” says Marbona, one of the training participants, while standing at her stall displaying intricately carved necklaces and earrings. “The training was great – it was really enjoyable, and now we have something to sell to the tourists."


The Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program is an Australian Government initiative. Sue and Mollie’s assignments were developed by Australian Business Volunteers who are working in consortium with AVI, a delivery partner of the AVID program. 


Last Updated: 29 August 2017
See caption below
Leonie Justin, a participant in Australian volunteer Sue McQuaig's workshop with jewellery she made. Credit: Sue McQuaig