Asia-Pacific

Rosie Batty talks domestic violence in PNG

Rosie Batty has fired up domestic violence survivors in PNG to morph from victims to victors. (AAP)

Rosie Batty jolted Australia to put family violence on the national agenda after her son's murder and now she has set her sights on doing the same in PNG.

Rosie Batty has fired up domestic violence survivors in Papua New Guinea to morph from victims to victors.

The 2015 Australian of the Year this week travelled to Lae, PNG's second-biggest city, to share her story of trauma and healing following the murder of her 11-year-old son Luke at the hands of his father.

"All our journeys are different but some things are the same, and we can get strength from each other, because we understand in ways other people never can," Ms Batty said.

At Femili PNG, Ms Batty was treated to a colourful ceremonial welcome by women decked out in tribal face paint, grass skirts and shell necklaces, singing, dancing and playing drums.

The organisation, which receives funding from the Australian aid program and the private sector, works hand-in-hand with police and helps rescued women access appropriate services, such as safe houses, and assists them to navigate court processes.

Although official data is nonexistent, it's believed PNG has some of the highest rates of domestic violence rates in the world.

Human Rights Watch estimates 70 per cent of PNG women are raped during their lifetime.

Ms Batty cried as a group of mothers tearfully spoke of their harrowing abuse.

Grace, an office worker in her late 30s, told of the three stillborn babies she had as a result of bashings from her former husband.

"I have to change my mind from a victim to a victor," she said.

"If I don't stop it, it will cost my life."

Ruth, a school teacher, said the classroom was her only sanctuary away from a tumultuous home life before she came across Femili PNG.

"I swallowed my problems, I shared them with no one," Ruth said.

She's trying her best to leave her marriage and was building a new home for herself and her gaggle of children.

Sadly she ran out of money and now her husband is tearing down the frame and looting the building site.

"The men see us as objects, not human beings with feelings," Ruth said, adding she was determined to see the court process through and be a role model for others.

Ms Batty acknowledged family violence was much more visible and normalised in PNG, compared with Australia, where it can be relatively hidden but a source of shame.

"It's still a new conversation in Australia," she told the PNG women.

"We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that when a victim of violence comes forward that they are treated respectfully, that they are believed and are able to be kept safe."

While Ms Batty and her son fell through cracks of the relatively progressive and sophisticated system in Australia, she reflected on the long road ahead for PNG women.

She met with a team of two child protection workers in Lae who are grappling with a caseload in the thousands.

"In Australia there are child protection workers burnt out and overwhelmed, and they would only have hundreds of cases on their file," she said.

* Reporter Lisa Martin travelled to Lae as a guest of Femili PNG.

PNG readers seeking help and counselling for family and sexual violence should phone the 1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN national hotline (715-08000)

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

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