THE human face of the Tuberculosis health crisis occurring on Far North Queensland’s doorstep was brought home to federal politicians in Canberra this week.
Around 30 Coalition MPs, including senior members of the Shadow Ministry, attended a briefing at Parliament House on Tuesday hosted by Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.
Sheriden Morris of the RRRC with Warren and Bronwyn Bishop MP.
They received a first-hand account of the humanitarian issues in the region from North Queensland’s Reef and Rainforest Research Centre’s Chairman Richard Ireland and Managing Director Sheriden Morris.
The RRRC, along with the PNG Treaty Villages, were recently awarded more than $7.5million in funding from the PNG Government to help improve food security and other challenges in PNG’s Western Province. Ms Morris outlined plans for the implementation of the sustainable, environmental and community development projects in the region.
The Western Province of Papua New Guinea sits just 5km from the islands of Saibai and Boigu, both of which are Australian territory. But while this region of PNG rates highly in the world in terms of its wealth generation, it comes second lowest for the welfare of its citizens.
“The RRRC is committed to supporting local people in the Treaty Villages to preserve and sustainably utilise their natural resources,” Ms Morris said.
Whilst AusAID spends almost half a billion dollars a year on aid to PNG, Ms Morris told MPs that the 13 Treaty Villages along the South Fly coast were seeking opportunities and funds to help them solve their own problems, rather than receiving hand-outs.
“These projects will ensure food, services and natural resource security for the residents of these vulnerable communities,” she said.
Mr Entsch said it was very sobering for the MPs to see the “disgusting” images of the conditions at Daru Hospital, in contrast that with the AusAID staff reports that ‘everything is fine’.
“With Multi-Drug Resistant TB cases already evident in the Torres Strait and turning up in Cairns last month, this is a threat that is present, it is real, and it cannot be ignored” Mr Entsch said.
Ms Morris said the visit had been productive and a range of politicians had expressed their support for RRRC’s work.“I would like to thank those I met with for taking the time to learn about the environmental, social and economic struggles endured by our nearest neighbour,” Ms Morris said.