Josephine Abaijah

Dame Josephine Abaijah (1944- ), health worker, politician, administrator, businesswoman and founder and leader of the Papua Besena movement. Born in Wamira Village, Milne Bay, she was educated in PNG (where she was the first girl to attend Misima government school and the only girl in her class throughout her schooling) and at an Anglican boarding school in Queensland, Australia. Abaijah holds certificates in Health Education, Public Health, Education and Rural Reconstruction, and Teacher Training. She was one of the first Administration trained nurses in PNG. Abaijah has been secretary to the Papuan Medical College, Regional Health Educator at Lae, Senior Health Educator in the Department of Public Health and Principal of the Institute of Health Education. In 1972 Abaijah and her Australian advisor Dr Wright founded the Papua Besena (“hands off Papua”) movement to fight for independence for Papua. In 1972 she became the first woman to be elected to the House of Assembly where she served until her defeat in 1982. She has successfully managed retail businesses and in 1989 became the first woman chairperson of the Interim Commission (governing body) of the National Capital District. In 1991 she became a Dame of the British Empire. Her novel, A Thousand Coloured Dreams, based on her life, was published in Australia in 1991. This is the first published novel by a PNGan woman. Abaijah was an unsuccessful candidate for the House of Assembly in 1992.

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