Papua New Guinea (UCPNG)

Review and conclusion of partnership in 2015

At the annual Presbytery and Synod meeting 2015, it was affirmed that:

The longstanding connection of trust and service between Uniting Church South Australia and the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) through the many people who have served as missionaries in PNG, both before and after Union, giving thanks to God for their committed service and their continuing passion for the people of PNG. In doing so, UCSA:

  • Recognises the role of the National and World Mission Support Group, Uniting Church Adult Fellowships and UCAF regional rallies over many years in fostering support for the UCPNG.
  • Acknowledges that this passion for PNG can continue to be fostered without UCPNG being recognised as a church in “partnership” with UCSA
  • Welcomes the commitment of Uniting World to maintain links with supporters of UCPNG in South Australia via an emailing list and the provision of newsletters, project information and promotional resources and
  • Promises to keep faith with the PNG support base, recommends the PNG Task Group reviews the operation of the new strategies for PNG engagement by members of UCSA during 2017
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History of the partnership

The links between Uniting Church South Australia and the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) have been strong in the past, with many South Australians having served in PNG as missionaries through the Methodist Church and the Congregational Church, and since 1977, through UCSA. More South Australians would have gone as missionaries to PNG than to any other partner church in Asia, Africa or the Pacific. This numerically large body of returned PNG missionaries, and those who supported them, formed the foundation of UCSA-UCPNG links which continue to this day.

There has been a perception over many years that there is an official partnership between UCSA and UCPNG. This perception may arise from visits to the SA Presbytery and Synod made by key leaders from the UCPNG, such as the Rev Sam Lowa, when he was that church's Moderator. It is clear that the Presbytery and Synod of SA was seen by the UCPNG to be a very supportive contributor to the needs of the UCPNG. However, there is no evidence that there has ever been a formal partnership between UCSA and the UCPNG, as its primary relationship and its formal partnership is with the UCA Assembly, through the work of Uniting World.

Successive International Mission Officers from South Australia visited the UCPNG, brought back project suggestions for congregations and organisations within UCSA and generally fostered a response of commitment and support towards the UCPNG from UCSA. Currently we have an ageing and diminishing group of returned PNG missionaries. However, such is the passion of these people for the country and the church in which they served that there is still active support for UCPNG.

Various recently funded projects illustrate this point. In more recent years, Dernancourt Uniting Church and Broadview Uniting Church have provided significant financial support for Gaulim Teachers' College. Burnside City Uniting Church has funded the provision of rainwater tanks for Malmaluan Lay Training Centre. The Uniting Church Adult Fellowship has included UCPNG in its annual projects. In 2006-2007, funding was provided for a new ambulance for Kimadan on the island of New Ireland.

Over many years, the National World Mission Support Group (NWMS) has administered the Elsie Wilson Scholarship Fund, providing scholarships for students from the Highlands Region to train at Gaulim Teachers College. Contributions are still being made from within South Australia to the Elsie Wilson Scholarship Fund. In addition, NWMS provides one other scholarship annually that is not limited to the Highlands Region. The two scholarships amount to about $6,000 a year. Normally, these scholarships are paid directly to Gaulim Teachers' College, for distribution to the students who have been awarded the scholarships. There have been some difficulties maintaining communication to enable the continuation of these scholarships, despite many attempts by the IMO over the past 12 months. Recent contact has been re-established.

There have been work parties from South Australia to PNG. One of the more recent being from Rosefield Uniting Church and other congregations, to Rarongo Theological College in 2007, to assist in rebuilding staff housing at the College. This work party was organised through Uniting World and followed on the work of other work parties from other states.
About 8 years ago, Ruth Sellick of Western Link Uniting Church (Findon) began a women's microfinance project within the UCPNG. She ran training courses for PNG women in small business principles and practices, so that women could achieve financial independence through self-help and development. This program was run in close partnership with Uniting World and its Church Partnerships Program, PNG. Ruth is no longer involved in this program, but it has become firmly established as part of what Uniting World offers to the UCPNG. This program did draw substantial funding support from a South Australian trust, the Hackett Foundation.

The fundamental principle underlying the PNG Review Group recommendations is predicated on Uniting World, the Assembly international mission agency, being at the centre of UCSA support for UCPNG. The argument for doing so is based on:

  • By working through Uniting World, any support offered from UCSA will be entirely consistent with current partnership priorities
  • Uniting World is the recipient of substantial AusAid funding earmarked for PNG. Supporting AusAid recognised projects with UCPNG provides subsidies of up to $6 for each dollar donated, enabling much more to be achieved than would be possible through direct UCSA funding of UCPNG projects
  • The requirements of AusAid have led Uniting World into a process of financial accountability with UCPNG that offers much greater certainty of funds being used for the purpose for which they have been given. While some projects which Uniting World is able to offer to the PNG donor base will not attract AusAid funding, such as theological education and church-based leadership and training programs, there is great advantage in such projects coming via Uniting World, to ensure that accountability and priority- setting processes are clearly met and
  • Uniting World, through its own staff, and the staff of UCPNG working closely with Uniting World, has the capacity to offer substantial feedback on current projects to donors, in the form of newsletters, photos, stories and DVDs that has not occurred via UCSA for many years.
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UC PNG logosThe United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG) exists to teach, preach and live the Good News of Jesus Christ in her faith, life and witness; in loving and caring ministries through the united participation of the people of God until he returns.

The UCPNG has a membership of 600,000 organised into 2,700 congregations, 260 Circuits and 11 Regions. There are 700 ordained ministers, 11 Bishops, and 1, 600 pastors and lay pastors.

The church has one Theological College, one Lay Leaders Training College, one Teachers College, and five Regional Pastors and Bible Colleges.

There area six provincial high schools, 400 primary and community schools, three vocational schools and many more elementary schools.

In health services there are 29 Health Centres, 31 Aid posts, one Community Health Worker training school and one Nursing School in partnership with Government, Catholic and Anglican agencies in Milne Bay Province.

The pastoral and administrative work of the UCPNG is divided into eleven regions: Western Region, Papuan Gulf Region, West Central Papua Region, East Central Papua Region, Urban Region, Papuan Islands Region, Niu Britain Region, Niu Ailan, Bougainville Region, Highlands Region and Hela Region.

The current ministries of the church include; Women's Fellowship, Youth Fellowship (includes Boys and Girls Brigade), Sunday School and Christian Religious Education, Education, Health, Training Institutions (Rarongo Theological College, Gaulim Teachers College and Malmaluan TIMAL Center). Other recent ministries are in the issues of HIV/AIDS, domestic violence awareness, poverty alleviation, water supply and sanitation, entrepreneurial training and other programmes to address other social issues such as anti drugs awareness, teenage pregnancy and so forth.

The Uniting Church has had a long history in Papua New Guinea through missionary service, placements, work parties, congregations partnering with the work of the UCPNG, supporting programs of the UCPNG through the Lentern Appeal and Lent Event and the establishment of a Microfinance Project.

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Project Sheets

Project Sheets


UnitingWorld is also actively engaged in supporting the work of the UCPNG by establishing various projects. For more information click here

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Memorial Reflection

Montevideo Maru memorialOn Sunday July the first (2012) at the National War Memorial War Memorial, some thousand relatives saw a sculpture involved to commemorate more than a thousand soldiers and civilians who'd died in Australia's greatest maritime disaster. Most Australians have never heard of the Montevideo Maru. They don't know that, in an irony of war, an unmarked Japanese transport, with some 1050 prisoners of war, was sunk by an American Submarine, the Sturgeon, off Luzon on July 1 1942. No POW's survived.

The details were not known till war's end. The Australian Government, in the dark days after Pearl Harbour, had been forced to abandon its young, under-equipped 2/22nd Battalion defending Rabaul in the Territory of New Guinea and had not seemed anxious to remember that disaster.

A campaign by relatives for formal recognition of those who died on the prison ship also covered several hundred soldiers and civilians who died or were executed in and around Rabaul. Hence this memorial. We were glad to see it at last. However, like other South Australians, Bill Linggood and Margaret Henderson whose fathers also died there seventy years back, I believe that , our own P.O.W. fathers died by execution near Rabaul and Kavieng. Margaret Reeson's book on the impact on survivors of those years of uncertainty is appropriately called " Whereabouts Unknown".

Ten Australian Methodist mission staff, (including Kym Beazley's uncle,) and two former staff, have been seen as 'missionary martyrs'. Victims were not only Australian. Some 93 Papua New Guinean staff and trainees died too during the years of the war. Probably 333 mission staff of all faiths died under the occupation. There are also unchronicled sufferings of Chinese Christians in the occupied towns. All deserve to be remembered. The church in PNG paid a very heavy price for the hurts of 70 years ago. As we look back on the UCA's 35 years it's worth looking a further 35 years back.

Rabaul ChristiansThis old photo gives some feel of the strength of the Rabaul Christians of 1941 as they greeted Australian guests at Malaguna, where I then lived. Margaret Reeson recalls pre and post war leader Mikael To Bilak saying in July, forty years ago: "... they did not die idly: they died for us, the people of New Guinea, to help us become good people in our living."

Laurie McArthur & familySome children of those who died went back to PNG to work, as mission staff, plantation managers, teachers, patrol officers. Many are saddened by the collapse of structures and systems in Australia's former colony. Maybe, as with aboriginal missions, in our concern to avoid paternalism we've left a people whom we should have continued to partner more actively. We may have few memories of that "Time Before". (I have only this one family picture of our own 'timeB4.') A seventieth celebration helps us both to recall and to rethink.

Malcolm McArthur


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