The League Bilong Laif program is expanding into a fourth region of Papua New Guinea, commencing its school-based rugby league activities in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville this month.
League Bilong Laif uses rugby league as a tool to support education outcomes. It is funded by the Australian Government and delivered by the National Rugby League (Australia) in partnership with the PNG National Department of Education and Bougainville's Department of Education.
This month the program kicked off in Buka, where NRL development officers are working with around 950 students across two schools – Lonahan Primary School and Masalang Primary School
Each participating class receives five sessions of rugby league-related on-field and in-classroom activities that are non-contact and non-competitive and designed for girls and boys of all abilities.
Australian High Commissioner Ms Deborah Stokes said, "This program supports Australia's strong youth focus in Bougainville. Empowering young boys and girls through sport is a powerful way to strengthen skills and community cohesion."
The program uses a range of rugby league-themed educational and reading materials that the NRL has developed with Macmillan Education Australia that encourage healthy lifestyles and boost students' physical, social, literacy and maths skills.
"Bougainville has been a nursery for many great rugby league players, including Kumuls representatives Bernard Wakatsi, Joe Katsi, Lauta Atoi (now the Honourable Member for North Bougainville), and Chris Siriosi (former Chief Secretary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government)," said NRL PNG In-Country General Manager, Mark Mom.
"Education is also a key priority for the people and government of Bougainville. The League Bilong Laif program will highlight the importance of education to the children of Bougainville so that they can strive to reach professions that will build a better future for Bougainville."
Newly appointed Buka-based NRL PNG Development Officer, Stephanie Garea, said she is honoured to join the League Bilong Laif program, which employs female development officers in all its regions.
"I'm so happy to represent Buka as a woman in helping to establish this program and see female students running around with us during the sessions. I will make sure I do as much as I can as a female development officer to help my community and my region."
The League Bilong Laif program will roll out into additional schools in Bougainville in term two.