Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary officer Sergeant Alice Arigo is dedicated to reducing family and sexual violence in Hela.
In 2011, when Sergeant Arigo first began working in community policing, Hela Province didn’t have a specialist FSV Desk and those who experienced gender-based violence had few places to seek help.
Sergeant Arigo says it was less than ideal. Rather than just accepting the way things were, she set about to make change.
Empowered by training she undertook on gender-based violence and human rights with support from the PNG-Australia Partnership, Sergeant Arigo decided to make helping survivors of FSV the focus of her policing work.
Over time, she gained the recognition of her superiors and in 2014 was appointed the founding officer of Hela’s own RPNGC Family and Sexual Violence Desk.
The desk has since become a vital resource for women in Hela, not only helping those experiencing FSV but providing assistance across a wide range of matters involving children and families.
Sergeant Arigo admits that at times the task seems overwhelming, but remains committed to her mission.
“I am just happy to do this to serve my women folks in Hela,” she said.
“Because I am doing it genuinely with my heart, I did not quit or deviate from my course, I am doing all I can in whatever way I can to help,” she said.
Many attacks involve children. At Koroba District Hospital alone, two-thirds of the sexual violence cases brought to its Family Support Centre last year involved survivors 16 years or younger, and it is suspected that many other assaults go unreported.
“There is always a need for an FSV Unit in Hela,” Sergeant Arigo says.
“They feel free to come and register their cases and air out their views. They saw that I have provided an avenue for them to freely come and get help as they needed.
FSV is not the only issue the desk handles.
“People are coming to seek help in a lot of different areas. I help in cases such as family welfare, child abuse, and rape.”
She is glad there is a growing awareness in Hela that FSV is a crime and that survivors can seek legally enforceable protection against perpetrators.
Those accountable for these crimes can be prosecuted. In 2019, the three Family Support Centres operated by the Hela Provincial Health Authority forwarded 53 medical reports on family and sexual violence survivors to the police, resulting in 23 perpetrators being arrested and jailed.
The PNG-Australia Partnership has supported the establishment of a nationwide network of Family and Sexual Violence Units and plans to commence construction of the Tari FSVU early next year.