Reply from the Department of Foreign Affairs

Reply from Foreign Affairs

A reply from the Department of Foreign Affairs:–

Here is the reply to my letter about books to PNG schools addressed to the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julia Bishop.

Reading this response it appears that Australian aid money will no longer be available to PNG for the direct supply of books to schools. Instead the money will be available to the PNG Government to strengthen its systems to deliver items such as books to schools. I hope very much that schools receive more books soon but I doubt very much that this policy will result in more books to schools.

Your opinion on this matter would be very welcome on these pages.

Letter to the Foreign Minister

I wrote this letter to Julie Bishop the Australian Minister for Foreign affairs last week. Sure it would be good for me if my books were sold to PNG but I do believe it would also be good for PNG school students. I will also post the reply to this letter if and when I receive it.

A letter to:–

The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP

Dear Foreign Minister,

I listened with great interest to what you said about aid to Papua New Guinea on the ABC 24 hour program about the 15th of this month. I worked for the PNG Department of Education for eight years and was Australian Team Leader of a science and agriculture education project for AusAID in the Solomon Islands for four years. Since retiring I have authored or co-authored 24 textbooks for Pearson Education Australia for South Pacific, including PNG, schools. It was very disappointing to hear that aid goals are no longer being met.

You are probably well aware that virtually all the books written for South Pacific schools are published by three Australian companies, Pearson Education Australia; Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand; and Macmillan Publishers Australia. These books are written mostly by Australians with experience teaching in PNG schools. Occasionally the books are co-authored with PNG nationals—particularly my books!

I suggest that you simply supply all schools with the books they need. All such books, for PNG in particular, are available now. The supply of actual books (as opposed to money for books) would go a long way to ensuring that the aid goals were met. I am also very aware that distribution is a problem within PNG, but assuring all teacher’s through radio, that books are available, should go a long way to ensuring that they receive them even in the most remote areas.

I think I am correct in saying that very few schoolbooks have been delivered in recent years through Australian Aid and schools must be crying out for suitable books.

You can most easily see all the books I am talking about (from all three publishers) at the Laikim Buk Educational book store here My small contribution can most easily be seen here also at

I am aware that I benefit financially if Australian Aid is used to buy books that I have authored. But writing textbooks is honest work and it is an honest desire that I and all other authors have to see Papua New Guineans benefit from a supply of decent books for their schools.

I would be delighted to answer any questions you or your staff may have for me on this topic.


Brian Robertson

Cuts to Australia's Foreign Aid

You will see a lot more comment from me on the front page of this site over the coming months. Let me start by explaining about the cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget announced last week on the 17th January 2014. Although the Foreign Aid budget has been cut by 5 million the good news is that it is unlikely to affect aid to PNG. Julie Bishop our new Australian Foreign Minister said that Australian aid would now be more concentrated on the Asia Pacific region and would include a focus on better educational outcomes. I hope this means that schools, teachers and students in PNG and the Solomon Islands see more books in schools in the near future. I taught in PNG and was involved in education for more than 8 years and I know how important a good supply of appropriate text books are to teachers and students. I dare to hope that this might mean that the supply of textbooks could even increase!

Rita's Story


This article is one from 15 different Papua New Guinean scientists taken from the manuscript of the new Grade 9 Science Outcomes textbook prior to the design and editing processes currently being undertaken at Pearson Education Australia. This is Rita’s story. I hope all the parents, teachers and students read and enjoy it. More scientists’ stories will appear here during the next few months.

This photograph is of Nuerse Rita Asimba weighing a young child in hospital.

Brian Robertson

Dear grade nine students I am Rita Asimba. I come from Oro province in Papua New Guinea. I grew up with my seven siblings on my father’s property, which is about five kilometres from Popondetta town. Like most parents, mine wanted us to get an education so they enrolled us in a town school about an hours walk from our house.

Life was tough as I grew up because both of my parents were unemployed. My father was a bank officer but lost all his educational certificates when our house burnt down therefore he could not get a good job. However he still did his best in doing odd jobs to support us through school. My mother (who has only fifth grade education) learned from a friend how to bake buns and became the main income earner for my family. My parents would wake up as early as 4am and bake buns till daybreak then walk about ten kilometres to the market to sell. The money they earned was little. They sacrificed so much to put us through school.

This gave me the motivation and determination to do well in school so that I could get a job and care for them in return. After year 12 I went to the Pacific Adventist University where I did my nursing training. After completing my nursing training I studied health education at the university of Goroka (EHP). I am now a nurse and a health educator.

I chose to be a nurse primarily because I wanted to care for my parents when they are sick. This is the best thing I could do for them in return for all their hard work and sacrifice in getting me through school and to where I am today. However my job is not limited to caring for my parents only but also the wider community. My job as a nurse involves screening and diagnosing patients and administering their treatment, whether it is oral or intramuscular treatment, intra-venous infusion or inhalation. It also involves attending to emergencies of any sort, delivering babies, assisting doctors with operations and advocating for the patients with the doctors and other health personals regarding their care and treatment. This is to ensure that the patients receive the best care possible and are able to regain their health. These are just the few of the tasks I do.

As a health educator, I educate patients and their families to live a healthy lifestyle. I also give health talks in schools and churches all with the purpose of helping people to live happy healthy lives and avoid diseases. My job is fun and interesting because I get to meet new people everyday, either the patients and their families or newborn babies. I have lots of fun getting out of hospital and going into the community conducting health education programs. And most of all, I get much job satisfaction when I see my patients regain their health and are happy with the care given to them.

Nursing is an important job because it is not only practised in the hospital but anywhere at anytime. With my nursing skills and knowledge I am able to conduct first aid, or deliver babies, or cool sponge a child with a fever and so on. Whether it is in the village, or in the marketplace or school or deep in the jungle at anytime of the day.

Health education is also important because the patients as well as the rest of the community need to be educated on how to prevent diseases and to live a healthy lifestyle so that we can have strong, healthy families, communities and the country as a whole.

In the meantime we need to achieve this by choosing to become nurses, doctors and health educators. But ultimately, my dream is to see a world free from all diseases where we will have no need of hospitals and medical facilities. Everyone will be free from all disease!

Rodney's Story

Dr Rodney

This article is one from 15 different Papua New Guinean scientists taken from the manuscript of the new Grade 9 Science Outcomes textbook prior to the design and editing processes currently being undertaken at Pearson Education Australia. This is Rodney’s story. I hope all the parents, teachers and students read and enjoy it. More scientists’ stories will appear here during the next few months.

This photograph is of Dr Rodney Itaki during a surgical proceedure. He is third from the left.

Brian Robertson

Hello everyone, my name is Dr. Rodney Itaki and I am from Wapenamanda in the Enga Province. I am a medical doctor and currently working with the Gutnius Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. I am based at the Immanuel Lutheran Rural Hospital in Wapenamanda.

My interest in science came about because of a great science teacher I had who taught me at Tokarara High School from grade 8 to grade 10. His name is Mr. Sam Lora and he is currently the principal of Gordon Secondary School in Port Moresby. I especially enjoyed his practical classes because we did little experiments and later answered questions from the experiments that made science real. I learnt about how plants use the energy from the sun to make their food (the process of photosynthesis) through the experiments.

When I did my grades 11 and 12 at Kerevat National High School I had several great science teachers who kept my interest in science going. Unlike other subjects, science is very practical. In the practical and experiments I found an application for the theory of science. That captured my interest and imagination. I also discovered during my grades 11 and 12 that mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics were not separated from each other but interrelated. I discovered that I could use chemistry formulas to solve physics problems or vice versa. I could even apply mathematic formulas to solve physics problems or vice versa. The same applied with chemistry and biology. It was exciting. It was all because I could see science come alive when conducting the experiments.

For example, in one of our chemistry classes we placed a strip of Magnesium into a dish of water and the strip ignited and burned with a very bright white flame. Then we had to answer the question: “why does Magnesium ignite and burn when it comes in contact with water?” In another practical we had to design a water treatment plant for a village using our knowledge of how water moves through the soil and different types of rocks. So I could see that science has the answer to most of the practical problems of daily leaving.

I was always trying to find out why things happen the way they do and how does it happen and science provided the way to answer these questions. So at the end my grade 12 I decided to apply to the University of Papua New Guinea to do the science foundation year. In science foundation you study all the branches of science before deciding what you what to specialize in.

During the science foundation year my interest in science grew as I did more complicated experiments. I remember especially my chemistry tutor, Dr Clement Waine from Chimbu, who is now working as a research scientist with the company DuPont in USA. Dupont is one of the largest companies in the world.

At the end of my foundation year I was one of the top students so I was accepted to study medicine at the faculty of medicine. In medicine, you apply all your knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and anatomy. This suited me because I found an application for all my science knowledge.

When I was in the third year of studying medicine, I decided to take a year off and do a research degree. Because of my interest in experiments I wanted to design and conduct an experiment on people. So I studied the effect of betel nut chewing on the cardiovascular system in Melanesians. I discovered that chewing betel nut causes the heart rate to increase and the blood pressure to fluctuate.

I presented my findings to the annual medical symposium organized by the PNG Medical Society in 1998 and was awarded the “Young Scientist of the Year” award. The findings also made the front-page story in The National newspaper. I also helped in another study on betel nut chewing which showed that betel nut chewing in Papua New Guineans could cause a heart attack. This knowledge is now taught in the medical school at the University of Papua New Guinea. The findings of these studies was presented to the Asia Pacific Cardiac Society meeting in Auckland in 1999 and was highly acclaimed. Betel nut chewing therefore is recognized as a cardiovascular risk factor in Papua New Guineans. I was supervised by Professor Sir Isi Kevau, Papua New Guinea’s first cardiologist who was the director of the Sir Buri Kidu Heart Institute. At end of my studies I graduated with a Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree in addition to the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor Surgery degree.

Because of my interest in research I was awarded a scholarship to do research training in Japan for 3 years. In Japan I conducted experiments on the anopheles mosquito that transmits malaria. I conducted experiments to study how mosquito larvae behave in water so we can find out the best way to kill them to control malaria. I also studied their DNA to find out the different species we have in PNG and the Solomon Islands.  The results of these experiments have been published in both national and international journals.

After returning from Japan I decided to work with the Lutheran Mission. One of the main factors attracting me to rural PNG was that we still do not know a lot about diseases in rural PNG and by working there I could do studies to find out more about health problems in PNG.

Currently I am conducting a study to find out how we can determine the nutritional status of pregnant mothers without doing blood tests and correlate that with the baby’s birth weight. The reason is because if the mother is under-nourished then the baby will not grow properly in the womb. In rural PNG we do not have enough resources to do blood tests to find out the mother’s nutritional status so we have to find other ways of determining that. Being a medical scientist and a medical doctor as well helps me to conduct studies while at the same time helping keep people free from disease.

Being a scientist means you are always asking questions. So I encourage you all to start asking questions and do not accept things just because the textbooks say so. Remember the knowledge in the textbooks came about because of scientist asking questions and conducting experiments to find out why things are way they are.

Apart from doing studies to find out more about diseases I also work as a medical doctor. My daily duties include conducting ward rounds to examine patients in the wards, attending to emergencies, conducting consultation clinics and performing life saving surgeries.

Before prescribing drugs I have to do blood tests and x-rays to make a proper diagnosis before giving medicine to patients. Studying science helps me as a doctor to know how germs live and cause disease, how the body functions, what happens when the body is sick or injured, how drugs work in the body and how drugs kill germs.

Being a doctor can be tough at times so you have to enjoy life and not just work. I try and plan for my free time and spend the time going on nature walks with my small digital camera and take photographs of nature.

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