Stepping up for APEC

As world leaders gear up for the 2018 APEC meeting in PNG, the need for diverse skills among sworn officers in the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) has spiked dramatically, opening up traditionally ‘exclusively male’ roles within the force.

APEC 2018 is the most significant international event that PNG has hosted and will bring in excess of 9,000 delegates, staff and media to Port Moresby.

The AFP-led PNG-Australia Policing Program (PNG-APP) is providing the bulk of the training in Port Moresby, with female RPNGC members landing roles as bomb appraisal and close personal protection officers, traffic and motorcade members, and as canine, water police and event security specialists.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting activities started in October 2017 and will culminate in the Economic Leaders’ Week in November this year.

As the RPNGC gears up for the extensive security operations required, specific areas are focusing on development and increasing capacity, providing opportunities for RPNGC women to take up roles previously held exclusively by their male colleagues. 

The AFP is providing extensive support to the RPNGC, most visibly through specialised training, mentoring, logistical support and infrastructure upgrades. Changes are underway within the AFP to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in its workforce which is having a positive effect on the RPNGC.

Only last week, APEC Specialist Training and Advisory Team member Sergeant Lucas Atkins delivered the RPNGC Women's Empowerment Close Protection Driving Program – the RPNGC’s first ever, women only operational policing program. 

12 officers from Port Moresby National Capital District ranging from constable to Chief Inspector took part, led by female Chief Close Protection Driving Instructor RPNGC Constable Rauma Lo'o and supported by the PNG-APP.

Constable Lo'o recently travelled to Canberra to assist delivering the AFP Close Protection Training Program, and has already assisted in the delivery of eight RPNGC Close Protection APEC Training Programs and seven Close Protection Specialist Driving Programs in PNG.

The driving programs include advanced skills, close protection motorcade driving (two to 40 vehicles), emergency action drills and scenarios on a full range of attacks.

With the support of RPNGC Commissioner of Police Gari Baki, the reappointment of the National Coordinator Women’s Desk, and the strengthening of the RPNGC Womens Advisory Network, the opportunities for women within the RPNGC are increasing and gender equality within the workplace is improving, making it an exciting time for women within the RPNGC.

Actions speak louder

Since 2016, internationally significant indicators of the increasing role for women within the RPNGC have been evident, with police security operations for the 2016 FIFA Under 20 Women’s World Cup in PNG headed by Chief Inspector Sylva Reu.

Chief Inspector Reu utilised an unprecedented number of women in key positions in the operation, including female venue commanders, all-female security details teams, on field and games venues teams, and all female Team Security Liaison Officers for the 16 participating teams.

Over the past 18 months, five female RPNGC officers have trained as bomb appraisal officers (BAOs) after completing a three-week course with the AFP Bomb Response Team in Canberra.

Newly-trained BAO Constable Bernadette Kunjip said while the course was intense, it was worth it for her career progression. “It is a good opportunity to take up, especially attached to the airport – the gateway to APEC,” she said.

The number of female RPNGC officers being trained and qualifying as Close Personal Protection Officers has also increased dramatically, with 11 members graduating from the most recent course.

During APEC the RPNGC Traffic Branch – formerly a 15-member attachment – will have the onerous task of coordinating the movements of APEC delegates – with 21 simultaneous motorcades anticipated during Leaders Week. To cope with the workload they are increasing numbers to 80, with many female officers taking up the challenge to fill vacant spots.

First Constables Delma Daki and Esther Kende were the first to complete the motorcade skills enhancement training program on Yamaha XJ6SAP motorcycles, with others following close behind.

First Constable Kende said the ability and desire to ride and be part of the APEC experience is all a matter of attitude.

“Women can achieve whatever they believe they can achieve…even the more physically challenging roles such as the motorbikes. You just have to believe in yourself,” she said.

As the RPNGC’s first female firearms and explosive detection dog handler - from a class of 13 other male members - Constable Valentina Kowa has a similar outlook. “It’s a man’s world but women can do what men can do, so accept the challenges, face them and beat them, and become who you want to be in this life.

“I am so happy to be given this chance, and for the support of the AFP Advisors.”

Constable Kowa has been permanently assigned a three-year-old Belgium Shepherd – and have both seen action since graduation, participating in a variety of security-related tasks.

The capacity of the RPNGC Water Police has also been greatly improved, with new premises and boats, and the appointment of two female members, who have obtained Commercial Coxswain Certificates to drive the police vessels.

Constables Michaelyn Dukur and Mayble Mission completed their training at the PNG Maritime College in Madang in April and have since been engaged in Water Police general duties work in and around Port Moresby.   

PNG-APP mission Gender Advisor Detective Sergeant Michelle Harris says the pieces of the puzzle are all coming together.

“The RPNGC Women’s Advisory Network is strengthening, and leadership and professional development opportunities for RPNGC women greatly increasing. 

“It is definitely an exciting time for women within the RPNGC".

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