[pictured: Paliame Palisah (R) and Leigh Staas (L)]
Papua New Guinean (PNG) Master of Conservation Biology student, Paliame Palisah, is being mentored by Leigh Staas, Associate Director of the Centre for Smart Green Cities, through the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).
Paliame was immediately inspired by Leigh after hearing her guest lecture on urban greening for climate change adaption. When Paliame was accepted into WLI’s 2021 Leadership & Mentoring program, she immediately requested that Leigh become her mentor.
Now, the pair are now working together to help Paliame positively impact PNG’s ornamental horticulture industry from scientific and economic perspectives, ultimately protecting the country’s native flora.
According to Paliame, working as a woman in PNG’s ornamental horticulture industry is “challenging and rewarding at the same time”, despite employment opportunities in the field being somewhat limited.
The former Port Moresby Nature Park supervisor says that while the industry – which includes floriculture and landscape horticulture – has great growth potential, attention and development is instead focused on the broader horticulture industry and its economic benefits. Specifically, this is fresh fruits and vegetables.
But Paliame argues that the ornamental horticulture industry has economic, environment, conservation and health benefits to society, and should therefore be supported.
The industry also employs many women, including local plant suppliers who, Paliame says, lack support and opportunities from local agriculture foundations and government departments, compared with fruit and vegetable growers.
In order to strengthen and grow floriculture in PNG, Paliame hopes to work with women as well as men through established associations, including the PNG Floriculture Association.
"We should start manufacturing, creating, inventing and explore and experiment with our diverse resources, biodiversity, and culture,” says Paliame.
“In that way, we will create more job opportunities and set a new benchmark for the next generation to rise above what we set as a legacy.”
Through the WLI Leadership & Mentoring program, Paliame has been undergoing 18 months of leadership skills building and mentorship. This includes working with her mentor, Leigh – an Australian research and collaboration expert and TEDX presenter, passionate about creating greener, more livable cities.
Paliame was first introduced to Leigh during a second semester lecture within Paliame’s Climate Change Biology unit.
Leigh was invited to Macquarie University (NSW) to talk to students about her work managing Which Plant Where? This is a research program investigating how landscaping species experience extreme and changing weather conditions, and opportunities for new varieties in the urban context.
Leigh covered the data collection and technical aspects involved in the five-year research program.
“When Leigh introduced herself and gave a talk about her work and how she collaborates with academia, governments, and industry to solve problems and deliver outcomes, I was amazed,” Paliame explains.
“I was just thinking to myself, ‘I love this woman’s work and I want to connect with her’.”
Because Leigh’s work relates to Paliame’s “vision for impact in the horticulture industry,” Paliame felt drawn to Leigh and wanted to learn more about her experiences building cross-sectoral relationships and partnerships based on collaboration.
“I hope to learn the essential knowledge, skills, and gain connections …. to build reliable partnerships based on collaboration across industry, government, non-government and academia to develop the ornamental horticulture industry and create opportunities for the communities involved in the industry in Papua New Guinea,” says Paliame.
Paliame and Leigh are participants of the Women’s Leadership Initiative 2021 Leadership & Mentoring Program. For more information on the program and to learn more about other thriving partnerships, visit: Women's Developmental Leadership Program (wliprogram.org).