Despite what smooth talking diplomats say in public gatherings, I have always argued that Australia’s involvement in Papua New Guinea only serves their purpose. Call it a conspiracy theory or whatever you wish but Australian involvement in “strengthening” functions of the PNG government are a key destabilizing factor.
On paper, Papua New Guinea is Australia’s largest aid recipient. We “get” over 300 million Australian dollars a year. But much of that money does not actually help improve the lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans.
An AidWatch document  published in 2005 reports that AusAid staff stated, off record, that up to 90 percent of Australian aid money boomerangs back to Australia. In other words, the Australian government creates the illusion that it is giving money to support its former colony when in fact, much of the aid dollars are channeled to consultants in companies like ACIL, Coffey, JTA and individual consultants.
In July, media reports in Australia and Papua New Guinea revealed how AusAid consultants like Geofry Elvy and others were being paid between AUD350, 000 and AUD900 thousand dollars for advising the Papua New Guinea Government.
While AusAid puts on a public relations spin that it is helping to “build capacity” of poorly skilled Papua New Guineans, many of those who have to work with Australian advisors find very little need for them.
One senior provincial health official expressed that funding supposedly given to support health goes to pay for a consultant as well as a parallel system of medicine delivery separate from the government’s area medical stores. So how does that translate into functional strengthening and capacity building?
In rural health centers, community health workers have come to depend on AusAid medicine kits supplied by a contractor. It makes you wonder what Australia’s real intentions are? It is to create a dependence on aid so that Australian consultants continue to have a job? Or is it something greater?
Senior PNG health officials have also pointed out that health professionals like specialist doctors are being poached by Australian consulting firms who have established donor funded programs that provide advice to the very health system they are starving of medical experts.
The education sector, is another example of the Australian government’s interference in the affairs of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guineans who attended primary school prior to the education reforms in 1993 will testify that the quality of education was arguably better in the preceding years. Following the AusAid supported curriculum reforms, the PNG government introduced the outcome based education (OBE) system upon advice from Australian consultants working for the AusAid’s Curriculum Reform Implementation Program (CRIP). Aaron Hayes, an experienced high school science teacher and a qualified school psychologist who served in the Standards wing of the Department of Education, says  “To my knowledge none of these consultants had ever taught in a PNG school before. Most of them had never even been to PNG before. Many of them were from Queensland where OBE was introduced in the 1990s and they brought this curriculum model with them.”
So what is OBE? It is a system that requires teachers to prepare self learning activities for different students with different ability levels in each class. Teachers in urban schools have long expressed that OBE is an added burden to an already stretched education system. It is suited to a country like Australia where class sizes are smaller and where there are adequate resources and teacher aides. So why did we agree to have it implemented?
Aaron Hayes goes on to say: “Most of our PNG curriculum officers had not even heard of OBE before, so they did not feel confident to question it or challenge it at the planning meetings in the late 1990s.
“They just nodded their heads and went along with it because they did not want to look stupid by opening their mouths, as we say here in PNG, and they assumed that the CRIP consultants were experts who knew what they were doing.”
Teacher training is another example of a dual system pushed by AusAid consultants. The reforms brought about an elementary school system that spurred an increase of pupils. While I agree with universal education, I do not agree with the manner in which its implementation was dictated to us first by the World Bank and then by AusAid.
Although development partners do not engage in direct policy formulation in Papua New Guinea, the policies and forms of assistance they provide have the potential to drive policy formulation. The World Bank…in the mid 1990s, was prepared to support only development projects that targeted universal basic education and would not entertain forms of assistance at the tertiary level of education. 
The current teacher training colleges and the University of Goroka (UOG) takes in students from secondary schools. UOG offers a four year bachelors degree in teaching while teacher’s colleges offer a two year diploma in teaching. Elementary school teachers however, are drawn from the vast pool of grade 6, 8 and 10 leavers. They were put through six weeks of intensive “teacher” training and then sent out to teach six and seven year olds. It makes a lot of thinking parents wonder if their children are getting sound education from former school leavers – many of whom have poor reading, writing and numeracy skills. Was Australian Aid money intended to create this parallel teacher training system that ultimately destroys the capacity future university graduates?
Lecturers in Papua New Guinea’s universities are now reaping the seeds of a donor driven education reform that began more than 10 years ago. Johnson Kalu,  who presented a research discussion paper earlier this year at the University of PNG, highlighted that students enter university from secondary schools with a problem of applying the correct English skills. And they often fail their courses because of poor reading and comprehension skills.
Several education experts and teachers, point out that the problem stems from the reform dictated, language bridging process that happens in second grade. This is when students who were taught in vernacular or Tok Pisin (by poorly trained elementary teachers) start learning the English language.
Personally, I think we have done our children a great disservice by heeding to a donor driven model of development. We have allowed our systems to be weakened by foreign aid donors like the World Bank and AusAid who apply a textbook template to a very complex country with its own special needs.