professor at Avondale College, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Australia, and his students are partnering with the Adventist Church and its humanitarian agency to address family violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Brad Watson first learned about the country’s high rates of violence—the most recent national studies estimate two-thirds of women in PNG experience family violence—while working there between 1995 and 1997. He returned this past year as part of a working group he helped establish with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Australia and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific. His role: to review the Adventist Church’s response to family violence in PNG.
“We have at least 300,000 Adventists who don’t have access to any real counseling or refuge services,” said Watson, a Senior Lecturer in International Poverty and Development Studies. “Fortunately, the Adventist Church in Papua New Guinea is responding by forming a gender task force and partnering with ADRA to strengthen families and communities.”
After learning about the prevalence of family violence in PNG as part of one of the units Watson presents, a team of students led by Linda Ciric adopted the issue for an advocacy campaign. The students called the campaign “They Are Not Alone.”
“[The campaign motto] represents the positive message we want to communicate to survivors of family violence,” said Ciric, who is now an ADRA ambassador.
The campaign had two primary goals: to raise $100,000 through a partnership with ADRA Australia for family violence projects in PNG; and to raise awareness of family violence in general.
ADRA Australia chief executive officer Mark Webster is a strong supporter of “They Are Not Alone,” and believes it is crucial for the Adventist Church to focus on addressing family violence. “Nothing could be further from the teachings and actions of Jesus, so as Christians we need to do more to care for those who are affected and to work to find ways to reduce its prevalence,” he said.
Started a year ago, the campaign has almost reached its fundraising goal thanks to $50,000 in appropriated funds from the Adventist Church in the South Pacific. “While we’re aware of the country’s culture and history, the abuse of women and children in Papua New Guinea simply can’t continue,” said Trafford Fischer, the Adventist Family Ministries liaison on the Adventist Church’s Discipleship Ministries Team. “We look forward to seeing how this money will help further encourage people of influence to lobby and legislate for change.”
This apparent success of the campaign has surprised Watson and his students. “We thought, ‘Can a little group of students really do something like that?’ The answer is yes,” he said.
Students worked in meeting their awareness goal by creating a “They Are Not Alone” Facebook page, collaborating on an article with Adventist Church news magazine Adventist Record, coordinating an awareness day on Avondale’s Lake Macquarie campus, and partnering with the directors of women’s ministries in four of the conferences church regions and local churches in Australia.
Watson is now finalizing, together with ADRA Australia and ADRA PNG, a “They Are Not Alone” project proposal relating to advocacy, low-cost refuge provision and counseling skill provision in PNG. He is also seeking ethics approval for more formal research on family violence.