There are many things that are important to me that have been neglected in the last few years. One of those things is learning about the way that other people live and understanding the challenges that we all face day to day.
This evening, my mother received a worrying call from our family in Papua New Guinea about a sick family member. I'm not here to talk about that person as it is a personal story owned by them but it did start a revealing conversation with my family here in Darwin.
It started as we sat around the dining table and I probed and questioned what my home land is now like and why everything seems so broken there. My family visit there often and are always in touch with what is going on. As for me, I have not visited the country I was born in since 1997. A lot of it was to do with the fact that I was discouraged by my partner at the time to reject that side of me but I honestly can't blame anyone for the neglect and lack of knowledge. This is something I want to rectify from now on.
Papua New Guinea is an amazing country with a rich history, beautiful varying terrain and 4+ million inhabitants with thousands of languages and different different cultures. The latter is what makes the turmoil currently occurring there, a little easier to understand. At least after an explanation from people who have been watching it happen since before PNG independence.
The health system is a mess. Medication imported for use in hospitals is stolen and turns up in chemists or on the black market. Doctors send people home to die knowing that they can not do anything to help since basic equipment and medication aren't available. There is a ward in a Port Moresby hospital and if you are admitted there then they have decided you are going to die. It isn't that the doctors and medical staff don't want to help but more that they simply can't at that point. People fear hospitals because if a condition is bad enough to send you to hospital then it means you will go in and never come out.
A friend of our family has cancer and is slowly and painfully waiting to die because there is no cancer treatment in PNG. His family once spent a whole night driving around just to find some Panadol for him to take since there was nothing else they can do.
Of course, this is all based on stories I hear from different people. I'm unable to confirm it without visiting myself and seeing it first hand but this sure has made me want to. Take it all with a grain of salt. This is something I want to see for myself and understand. I want to know why there is so much corruption in a country that takes one quarter of the aid budget of Australia each year. Where is the money going? Why are resources being squandered?
Everyone is aware of the problems being experienced by African nations but we seem to be ignorant of the problems in our own backyard. Is the South Pacific falling apart right under our noses? I've been ignorant and I want to find out more.