Using Rugby to change people's lives for the better in PNG

Tue, Nov 9, 2021, 10:45 PM
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby

You feel exhausted simply reading through Vaianna Gabba's list of achievements since joining the Papua New Guinea Rugby Union only six months ago.

Joining PNG Rugby Union in early 2021 Gabba is the National Coordinator for PNGRU's Inclusion Impact Program. The program is supported by the Australian Government (DFAT) through its sport development program Team Up, which uses sport to bring people together, champion inclusion and create opportunity and delivered in partnership with the PNG Deaf Association, Oceania Rugby and Rugby Australia.

In her short time in the role Vaianna has wasted little time making an imprint on a sport which has had some unique domestic struggles and lain relatively dormant in recent years in Papua New Guinea.

Commencing in 2021, The PNG Rugby Union Inclusion Impact Program is a Sport for Development initiative focused on rapid and high-quality growth and inclusion of women and girls, and those who are hard of hearing or deaf, in all aspects of rugby union.

Gabba’s main charter is introducing the game to girls and women with hearing difficulties – or who are deaf – while promoting diversity, gender equality and empowering females.

It's a challenging and, at times, frustrating journey but one Vaianna has tackled front-on with her trademark enthusiasm.

A bullet point rundown of her completed tasks and achievements in such a short period of time speaks volumes.

It reads:

  • Completed 3 months of NCD women and deaf inclusion and training programme
  • Conducted Training and Education sessions in 3 out of 4 centres
  • Established network to roll out Inclusion Impact Program in 3 out of 4 centres and counting
  • Women in rugby Festivals resuming after COVID-19 restrictions are eased
  • Women and deaf participation in Community increasing
  • Deaf rugby in competition phase in NCD supported by NCD Rugby Union.
  • Established relationship with PNGRU and all stakeholders and the Deaf Community
  • Learnt the alphabet in sign language
  • Travelled to establish networks in other key centres
  • Participated in Oceania Rugby Principles of Leadership and Management Course
  • Invited to participate in the Women in Rugby Leadership Webinar

"It is OK to be challenged at certain points in life and in my new role I am sure to be faced with challenges on a day-to-day basis, but I am excited about being involved" Vaianna said.

"Deaf Rugby is a huge boost for the deaf community. The program is part of the inclusion impact program aimed at normalising diversity and empowering the community to participate despite living with a disability."

Deaf Rugby Development Officer Sebastian Egen works side by side with Vaianna and sees first-hand the progress being made.

"The PNG Rugby Union is one of the first sporting organisations in PNG to recognise and include the deaf community in sport," he said.

"This has provided a very good base for creating awareness and pathways in breaking down the barriers and gaining rights real for deaf people, with equal participation in sport and other areas never before felt and seen in the community and in PNG.

"The Deaf Rugby program has created awareness and advocacy in promotion of sign language status as one of the official languages in PNG and helped deaf people gain respect from the community.

"It's also provided girls with gender equality and equal participation, promotion of the Sign Language Interpreters service to the Deaf community and improved information and knowledge on the situation for deaf people in PNG.

"It is changing people's lives for the better."

In the first six months of the programme despite covid-19 interruptions over 50 people have been reach through the PNG Rugby Union Inclusion Impact program.

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