family (also haus lain, bisnis).

  • famili bilong mi my family
  • Taru, wanem kain wok yu save mekim long famili yu wok long en?
    Taru, what kind of work do you do for the family you work for?


In Papua New Guinea, the family and extended family play a central role in everyday life, underpinning the basic social support system. This support system is known as the wantok system and can be loosely defined as the system of relationships or obligations between individuals of some or all of the following: common language, common kinship group, common geographical area of origin, or common social associations or religious groups. It is a prominent feature of social organization, particularly in urban areas, and plays an important role in caring for the sick, disabled and older family members.

The family structure is typically patriarchal, although there are some matriarchal societies – mainly in the New Guinea Islands Region and Milne Bay Province. Overall 88.3% of households are headed by men, and 11.7% by women (National Statistical Office, 2013).

Land is the most important family asset and is passed down either patrilineally or matrilineally, dependent upon the culture of the relevant language group. The highest level of respect is conferred upon the oldest members of the family and society, and the male patriarch makes the decisions on behalf of the family members. In some matriarchal clans such as in Bougainville, for example, a trusted brother or an uncle who speaks on a woman’s behalf is used to convey her decision at men-only meetings. Polygamy is practised in Papua New Guinea and is the most prevalent in the Highlands region where 29% of women are in polygynous unions, followed by the Momase region with 12%, Islands region with 11% and Southern region with 10% (National Statistical Office, 2013).

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