Opportunities lost for Bougainville’s ‘Lost Generation’

1 11 2011

Updated November 1, 2011 09:30:22

The Lost Generation is a term used to describe Bougainville’s young people who lost one or both parents during the crisis in the 1990s.

Growing up without social support, the mostly male adolescents… recognisable by their black T-shirts and red bandandas… are turning to drug and alcohol abuse to cope with their situation.

Presenter:Geraldine Coutts
Speaker:Sister Lorraine Garasu, Chabai Nazareth Rehabilitation Centre, Bougainville; Augustine Kinna, Bougainville journalist

KINNA: The Bougainville’s Lost Generation remembering I was there, the generation itself like you’ve said they like wearing black t-shirts and the red band on their heads. And most of the children grew up during the crisis and I think they were traumatised having seen their mothers tortured, violence was within the family and having seen their fathers, brothers shot dead, it was really a traumatic time. So most of the children who grew up during that period of the crisis, when the crisis was over they have this feeling that they had to do something, they had to separate themselves from the rest of the community by wearing such t-shirts and also the red bands on their heads. And it was a common practice for many of the lost generation. Most of them were from the period of the crisis who grew up inbetween, inbetween the crisis and towards the end of the crisis.

COUTTS: Alrigh Augustine I’ll just get you to hold on there and stay with us because I just want to introduce someone else now because some say that the situation seems hopeless for many Bougainvilleans, lost generation, and some young men have become social outcasts struggling to cope with their situation and turning to anti-social behaviour; drug and alcohol as we’ve just heard. But there’s one woman who’s trying to make a difference, Sister Lorraine Garasu runs Chabai Nazareth, the only rehabilitation centre in Bougainville, and it’s a self-funded program helping these young men put their lives back on track. Sister Lorraine joins us now from Bougainville. Sister Lorraine good morning to you.

GARASU: Good morning Geraldine.

COUTTS: And as you may or may not have heard, we’ve already got Augustine Kinna here whom you must be familiar with, but can you just tell me to what extent these young outcasts, the lost generation, how many in number are they going around with these black t-shirts and red bandanas?

GARASU: Geraldine in my work I don’t talk about lost generation, I know that’s the term used for young people in Bougainville who are struggling to get out of their experience from the crisis. What I talk about is young people, and I believe that if you keep labelling people then psychologically it does not help. So I talk about young people and the young people that I work with they come from all over Bougainville, and I believe that these young people they have potential it’s just that they have never been given the opportunity. And for me there’s really no lost generation. I think what we need to understand here is that the young people are there, what they have lost is time, time and opportunity.

COUTTS: Are you able to get any of these young people back into school and get them off their alcohol and drug addictions?

GARASU: Ever since the ceasefire in 1998, there are several gorups and people and the education department who have tried to help these young people get back into school. And the thing is that we need to understand the education system that is there today. Many young people go to school but they drop out at grade eight, and then they drop out of grade ten, and then they drop out at grade 12 because there’s not much opportunity in Bougainville for these young people to make a go of their lives. Even though we have vocational schools, many of these young people are not able to access vocational schools because of the system of education that is there. And also many people in Bougainville still struggle to survive after the crisis because they’ve lost a lot, they’ve lost properties, they’ve lost money, and to bring that kind of land back that they had before the crisis when they had things to support themselves, money to support themselves, to send their children to school, that has not happened, even 10 years, even 12 years after the crisis, we are still struggling with getting people to bring back their lives to a certain level where they can sustain their lives.

COUTTS: Alright we’ve got Augustine Kinna Sister in the studio with us at the moment, he’s a PNG journalist working with the ABC at the moment. Augustine you fit comfortably yourself, your age group into that, so you’ve gone on to be a journalist, so what’s the difference, why were you able to go on, become a journalist, stay in school as distinct from the adolescents that Sister is describing?

KINNA: The reason why I had the opportunity because during the crisis I wasn’t in Bougainville. My father worked at the Ok Tedi mine so he took us out. So I wasn’t really in Bougainville that time, so I had the opportunity to do my education outside of Bougainville, and it didn’t affect my future. But like Sister Lorraine said it’s very true, the young children who grew up in the crisis didn’t have the chance, didn’t have the opportunity to basic services such as education, that was very important, very vital. And when I went back to Bougainville, that was like 1995, the services weren’t really good, there were still a bit of blockade and all this. But I went to school in 1995 I could remember I was doing my grade four year, and I went to school with a lot of big kids who grew during the crisis who didn’t have the opportunity, and when the services started coming back they were ten years older than me and I was much younger than them. But in a way I saw that it’s an opportunity for them. Some were already mothers when they came to school, they had one or two children, some were already fathers. But in a way we respected one another, they respected us, the smaller ones, and we the smaller ones respected them. And we collaborated together and they lent some, they got educated.

COUTTS: Sister Lorraine, back to you now because we’ve already heard from Professor Yala saying that it was one in three children don’t go to schools and haven’t got the opportunity. He said there is a slight rebound happening in some areas of the economy. What are you saying to the Bougainville administration now as to what you think should happen for these children who have lost the opportunity, as Augustine says it may have passed them by?

GARASU: I think what the Bougainville government needs to do is to … and they are already doing it, I’m not saying that they are not, they are trying their very best. But when you lack resources to do something like even the government does not have the money to do many of these things that they can do, like what they need to do is to currently play for the situation. In their social planning they need to actually plan to address issues of rehabilitation, and rehabilitation is not just about rehabilitating you, but the entire infrastructure. And they’ve been able to do that, they’ve been able to do that with donor funding like some AusAid, and even from European Union they’ve been able to rehabilitate some infrastructure like schools and health centre. But the planning needs to be done at the level where you’re actually looking at addressing what are the priority needs. At the moment psychologically the trauma experienced by many Bougainvilleans have not been healed. Trauma healing has not been done at an extensive level. I mean what we are doing is just not enough compared to the trauma that is ingrained in the minds and the hearts of the people.

COUTTS: Sister Lorraine Garasu we’re just about out of time but I’d like to ask you if the youths that are running around in their black shirts and red bandanas are prepared to forego that, and take off the black shirts and red bandanas, is this going to be a destabilising influence in the future if these young youths don’t have positions within the communities?

GARASU: Yeah definitely, I see it, I mean you can think this is ten years later after the ceasefire and it’s happening now, we are seeing it clearly, it’s happening. But it depends, thre are pockets in Bougainville where it happens at the very small level, some at the medium level, and most places at the higher level. Currently I’m in south Bougainville and I came here on a weekend on a Saturday, and you could see relatively in some areas it was very quiet, you didn’t see any drunkards on the road. But in some pockets we passed drunken people on the road, young people and that. So it depends very much, it also depends on how leaders in the community are maintaining the leadership and the organising and the stabilising of the community. So all these things impact on how young people behave, or how people are behaving in general.

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