Seven questions for Dulciana Somare-Brash, Public Policy and Political Advisor in Papua New Guinea

Welcome,

Dulciana Somare-Brash is a Political Advisor to the PNG Ministry of National Planning and Monitoring and the United Labor Party. If her maiden name sounds familiar, that is because she is the daughter of Papua New Guinea’s founding father, Sir Michael Somare, and Lady Veronica Somare.

Dulciana Somare-Brash. Credit: Godfreeman Kaptigau

Why have you chosen the Grand Papua Hotel for breakfast?

Dulciana Somare-Brash (DSB): Well, firstly because it’s close to my house; and secondly because the coffee’s great. I tend to have a lot of work meetings here. I like the fact that it’s very PNG inspired too. As you go all the way up to the top floor to the Executive Club Lounge, it’s a great reminder of how our traditional ways have provided the inspiration of this modern building.

Do you usually eat breakfast?

DSB: I usually only drink cups of strong coffee in the morning. I will eat breakfast on the weekends, but I won’t make time for it on weekdays.

Well that pretty much answers the ‘coffee or tea’ question.

DSB: Definitely coffee – and PNG coffee. Brewed coffee. We have a serious rule in our team [PNG Ministry of National Planning and Monitoring] that black, brewed coffee with honey is the go.

What have you ordered today?

DSB: I’ve gone for the omelette which is one of my favourites, usually without onions but I’ve asked for everything today.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

DSB: I want to get out of bed just because of the intensity of the issues we’re dealing with at the Ministry. They are complex landowner, development and social issues that aren’t as predictable and straightforward as you may think.

‘I am able to bring ideas and offer notions of what the rest of the world is doing in terms of development, in terms of economic prosperity, in terms of benefit sharing and to bring incomes into the homes of Papua New Guineans.’

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Your maiden name (Somare) needs no introduction, but you have built your own career as a political advisor. You are an inspiration to a lot of young women. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are now.

DSB: I have a background in law and political science. My first job was with Air Niugini, selling tickets. I started in the business travel centre in the early 1990s.

I met my husband and we had our first child who is now 23.

I continued to work after that; at the Australian High Commission as a Senior Research Officer, then at the British High Commission as a Political and Public Affairs Manager. And then I went to work at the ABC as the local journalist, and I was a reporter for Tok Pisin Radio Australia.

And that was all before I went to university. I just talked my way into situations and jobs.

At 33, when we had our second child, 10 years after the first one, I decided to go to uni. I studied a joint degree, a Bachelor in Political Science and Anthropology and a Bachelor of Law, with a focus on constitutional law.

I graduated in 2013 and went to work at a regional think-tank in Port Vila in Vanuatu. I really loved it. I had a really good opportunity to understand public policy; the importance of it in planning but also the importance of it in jurisdictions in Melanesia.

I took my daughters with me while my husband stayed in PNG to run his business (Tanorama Limited, a consultancy firm), which he continues to today.

It was a good opportunity to give my daughters a fresh look at who we are as Papua New Guineans, but also as Melanesians.

Being a member of your high-profile family, are you ever judged for ‘your position of privilege’ or being accused of not being able to empathise with the people or their issues?

DSB: I’ve always been mindful of that and I’ve regularly felt that I don’t represent many different groups of people. Where there is comfort, there are very few distractions and I have not had to worry about collecting firewood, who is going to pay the bills or sharing a house with 20 people. I had a comfortable upbringing and that provided me a great deal of focus.

I have the luxury of being able to read, to access information, to have really strong networks that have been in my life since birth, and to be focused about my choices.

I always felt guilty or embarrassed that I didn’t really have the experiences that a lot of people had.

But I feel like I can make a contribution back. Being able to get up every morning and contribute to society and helping those less fortunate, kind of reduces that internal feeling of guilt, for want of a better term.

I am able to bring ideas and offer notions of what the rest of the world is doing in terms of development, in terms of economic prosperity, in terms of benefit sharing and to bring incomes into the homes of Papua New Guineans who may never have a chance to be able to see the opportunities that we can have as a resource-rich country.

The Grand Brasserie at the Grand Papua Hotel in Mary Street, Port Moresby, is open for breakfast from 6am to 10am. For bookings, tel. +675 304 0170.

This is an edited version of the article ‘Breakfast with … Dulciana Somare-Brash, Public Policy and Political Advisor,’ which first published in the September 2020 issue of PNG Now.

Comments

  1. MARY Parker says

    Good morning interesting & helps to understand

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