Australian assistance to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Australia’s partnership with Papua New Guinea in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville supports peace, stability and economic growth. As a witness to the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, Australia has supported Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement by strengthening governance and service delivery, increasing economic growth and promoting social cohesion through peace building activities.

In 2019-20, Australia’s development assistance to Bougainville (approximately AUD36.3 million 2019-20) is delivered through:

Support to the Bougainville referendum

A referendum on the future political status of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea will be held from 23 November 2019. The referendum vote offers people a choice between ‘greater autonomy’ and ‘independence’. The referendum is non-binding, with the Papua New Guinea Constitution requiring the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville governments to consult on the outcome. The Papua New Guinea National Parliament ultimately decides Bougainville’s future political status.

The referendum is being conducted by the Bougainville Referendum Commission, chaired by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. Just over 200,000 resident and non-resident Bougainvilleans, and eligible Papua New Guinea citizens who reside in Bougainville are currently enrolled to vote. Voting will take place at over 800 polling locations across Bougainville, and at select polling stations across Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Australia.

The conduct of the referendum is one of three key pillars of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (the others being ‘autonomy’ and ‘weapons disposal’). Along with New Zealand, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji and the United Nations, Australia is one of six international signatories to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Since 2001, Australia has been supporting the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. With the agreement on the date of the referendum and the establishment of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, Australia has increased its specific support to the conduct of the referendum. Most notably, Australia has provided AUD4 million to the United Nations Bougainville Referendum Support Project, a multi-donor fund that facilitates the work of the Bougainville Referendum Commission to conduct the referendum.

Australia has also been supporting the work of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which is providing international and local election expertise to the Bougainville Referendum Commission on enrolments, operational logistics, legal advice, training and planning.

We have provided three Australian and international specialists through the Australia Assists program to also provide support to the Bougainville Referendum Commission, together with advisors who are assisting the Bougainville Referendum Commission with public communications and corporate operations and services.

A key feature of the referendum is to ensure that people are well informed of the implications of the referendum vote. Australia has supported Papua New Guinea’s independent National Research Institute Project to develop, publish, and foster discussion and debate relating to the referendum and post-referendum issues. Seven studies have been commissioned, and numerous briefings, forums and road shows have been held to strengthen public awareness.

This referendum specific assistance complements the broader support Australia has been providing which has included: supporting over 3,500 community reconciliations; ensuring the ongoing operation of 13 District Peace and Security Committees across Bougainville; and training and empowering over 800 local Bougainvillean peace-builders, including women, through the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation.

Improving effective governance

Australia is providing comprehensive advisory support to effectively implement autonomy arrangements. This assistance strengthens core functions of government including public sector management, human resources and recruitment, electoral systems, legislative drafting and land management and administration. Australia also provides project-based support to communications and media, government infrastructure, leadership training for senior Bougainville public servants and ministers, and to facilitate the draw down of powers under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Contributing to economic growth

Australia’s assistance is improving primary industry production, the investment climate, business environment and trade links. Australia is providing approximately AUD4.2 million (K10.4 million) million in grants through the Commodity Support Facility to assist farmers and industry to boost sustainable cocoa production. This includes through annual support to the Autonomous Bougainville Government Chocolate Festival which has boosted market linkages with chocolate makers in Australia and New Zealand.

Supporting peace, stability and community cohesion

The Bougainville Peace Building Program is helping the Autonomous Bougainville Government facilitate the reconciliation of crisis-era dispute and conflicts and mentoring District-level Peace and Security Committees in community reconciliation efforts. Australia also works with NGO Conciliation Resources to build the capacity of local peace builders to analyse and resolve conflicts in their communities. Other programs to build community cohesion and stability in Bougainville include small grants for community-based infrastructure and economic projects, and training to encourage the participation of Bougainvillean youth in social and economic development.

Health

In 2019-20, Australia is providing a total of AUD850,000 through working with the Autonomous Bougainville Government Department of Health to progress programs and reforms in public health, health systems, workforce planning and rural health. This includes training health workers in maternal and child health, and prevention and control of communicable diseases, as well as training Government officials in health services planning and administration.

Health infrastructure is being constructed through a partnership between Australia, the Asian Development Bank, the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Since December 2018, health posts have been completed at Kakusida in Central Bougainville and Ioro, Kodora and Karato in South Bougainville and construction of a health centre at Kunua in North Bougainville is due to commence in coming months.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government Department of Health is a recipient of funding from the governments of Australia and New Zealand, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, through the Papua New Guinea Partnership Fund (PPF) program ‘Accelerating Immunisation and Health System Strengthening’. This three-year (2019-2022) program aims at increasing routine immunisation coverage in Bougainville to 80 per cent, ensuring that children under one year of age are immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and influenza type B.

Education

In 2019-20, Australia is providing a total AUD3.8 million through the Papua New Guinea National Department of Education and the Autonomous Bougainville Government Department of Education to support teacher training and to provide materials for foundational literacy and numeracy skills in the early years of elementary school. The PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools investment, builds capabilities in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), English and student agency, and strengthens the links between the next generation of Papua New Guineans and Australians. Through the Australia Awards program, we continue to provide targeted scholarships to Bougainvilleans in key sectors aligned with both Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government priorities. There are also currently five Bougainvilleans scholars on award for the In-Australia Scholarships and 12 Bougainvilleans scholars on award for the In-Papua New Guinea Scholarships.

Transport infrastructure

An efficient transport network is a key enabler of economic growth and social services. Australian assistance to the transport sector in Bougainville is an extension of the Papua New Guinea national program, tailored to Bougainville’s specific needs in consultation with the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Governments. In 2019-20, Australia is investing a further AUD8 million in Bougainville’s roads, with a focus on road maintenance, local employment and sealing of roads along important economic corridors.

Australia’s Transport Sector Support Program will continue to maintain 332 kilometres of Bougainville’s 600-kilometre main road network. This includes most of the national priority road between Kokopau and Arawa in North Bougainville, and other trunk roads in Central and South Bougainville. Approximately 80 per cent of the population, school and health facilities are within around seven kilometres of the main trunk roads network.

Aviation and maritime safety

Australia also supports improved aviation and maritime safety and security outcomes in Bougainville. Buka Airport will benefit from introduction of Global Navigational Satellite System approaches, which will improve navigation. This builds on previous support to improve aeronautical charts.

Bougainville will also benefit from the National Maritime Safety Authority Small Craft Project, which involves establishing provincial small craft registries to improve safety. An upgrade of the Maritime Radio Communications System has provided complete radio network coverage across Papua New Guinea’s Search and Rescue areas through the 15 Maritime Provinces, including Bougainville.

Law and justice

In 2019-20, Australia’s law and justice sector is supporting law and justice services to a total of AUD2 million. This includes at the institutional and community levels with the re-establishment of all national law and justice agencies a significant recent achievement. Small scale infrastructure projects such as police cells and housing for survivors of family and sexual violence, support access and effectiveness of the services available to Bougainvilleans. Australia continues to support the Bougainville Police Service to strengthen its investigations, prosecutions and custody capabilities through training and capacity building.

Gender

In 2019-20, Australia continues to work with local partners to improve gender equality in Bougainville to a total of $1.1 million. This includes support to the Nazareth Centre for Rehabilitation (in partnership with the International Women’s Development Agency) to reduce family and sexual violence by providing crisis services supporting women human rights defenders, and working with male advocates. A number of other projects focus on: increasing family and community support for women’s access to reproductive and maternal health; developing communication strategies to address sorcery accusation-related violence; providing training and ongoing support for women intending to contest local elections; and working to increase women’s political participation and leadership, including during the referendum process. Training, experience and networking facilitated by Australia is assisting to increase the leadership skills of young women in Bougainville. Australian-funded projects are also improving women’s economic empowerment through increasing financial literacy and business skills. For further information, see Pacific Women Bougainville Performance Report 2018–2019.

Labour mobility programs

Bougainville has been identified as one of the priority provinces in efforts to increase the participation of Papua New Guinea workers in the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Workers Programme. Staff from the Australian High Commission, Port Moresby and the Pacific Labour Facility visited Bougainville in October 2019 and met with key stakeholders. It was agreed that there was potential for Bougainvilleans to benefit from the labour programs, especially in the agriculture sector. An employer visit is planned for the first quarter of 2020.

Last Updated: 14 November 2019