Friday, 23 September 2016

From Canberra to Port Moresby – my journey in ACIAR

I started at ACIAR at the reception desk on a part-time, two-week contract to backfill leave. That was twelve years, and what feels like a lifetime ago. I worked from the Canberra office for almost five years, in a range of roles across the research, executive and communication teams. I had a great time, largely because of the wonderful team and great working atmosphere at ACIAR.

Liz Ogutu (former ACIAR Regional Manager Africa) mentioned her favourite Australian saying is ‘have a go’. I agree, and it’s how I approach life. Say yes and work out the details later. So far it’s been a good life motto!

So, late one Friday afternoon in 2009 when I was asked if I’d go to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to keep the office running for three months while they recruited a new Country Manager, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. And it’s a ‘yes’ I haven’t regretted once over the last seven years.

I arrived in Port Moresby to an empty office, with very little idea about PNG agriculture, fisheries or forestry but a desire to explore and learn. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this spectacular country. It is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before and has surpassed every expectation. PNG has some of the most kind and generous people, and most breathtaking countryside I’ve ever seen.

I spent the first few years asking questions and I’m sure I must have driven my colleagues mad. I am forever grateful for the patience, kindness, time and wisdom shared with me by the ACIAR Research Program Managers, project teams and partner organisation staff. It must have been confusing and amusing to have the new ACIAR Country Manager asking ‘what’s that?’ to obvious things like sweetpotato and banana, but I didn’t notice too much laughter.

Emily (second from left) with her Country Office colleagues in Panang earlier this year. Photo: ACIAR
It has been a privilege working with and getting to know some of the brilliant Papua New Guinean men and women in the sector. Seeing the impact the ACIAR research partnerships have on these individuals, their Australian and PNG colleagues, and on farmers and communities, has helped me appreciate and understand ACIAR and the work we do.

My life has changed over my time at ACIAR, and particularly my time in PNG. I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. To everyone I’ve met along my journey, thanks and best wishes.

By Emily Flowers, Country Manager Papua New Guinea, ACIAR

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