PNG-bound student to help honeybees deliver ‘sweet’ income for poor farmers

Published 10 October 2019
Villager with hive frame credit Cooper Schouten Rural beekeeper with hive frame (credit: Cooper Schouten).

Of all the places and people in the world, the rural beekeepers of Papua New Guinea are the ones who changed Anneliese Austin’s life. The Palm Beach resident is travelling to PNG for the first time today as part of her studies with Southern Cross University.

Anneliese Austin, environmental science student
Anneliese Austin at home with honey and bees wax candles.

"I never imagined I would end up making a difference, delving into humanities and social sciences off the back of a science degree,” said Anneliese.

“Beekeeping opens up opportunities for rural women in developing nations to participate in agricultural training without them challenging defined gender roles.

“I’m inspired by the opportunity to engage with women beekeepers in PNG to provide gender equitable agricultural training, which hopefully enhances women’s capacity to generate income and empower them in their communities.”

Undertaking the unit ‘Independent Project’ in third-year gave Anneliese a taste of the University’s rural beekeeping work in south-east Asia. Her project set out to understand the limitations to women’s participation in beekeeping activities in PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province.

Last month Anneliese graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science. She has already started her next degree, a Bachelor of Science with Honours.

Southern Cross University’s ongoing honeybee research project, led by Associate Professor David Lloyd and PhD researcher Cooper Schouten, supports profitable, productive and sustainable beekeeping for indigenous communities throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

Anneliese’s Honours research will be guided by the Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods (B4SL) research group, part of the University’s Forest Research Centre. B4SL group works to help reduce poverty among rural beekeepers and provides opportunities for marginalised groups, including women, to participate in and benefit from beekeeping activities.

B4SL has commenced a four-year project in partnership with key stakeholders from the beekeeping sectors in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. It has support from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DAFT) and the Australian Centre for International Research (ACIAR).

“We’re working closely with beekeepers and trainers to provide specialist technical support to grow the honey industry in PNG, and improve opportunities for beekeepers to diversify and improve incomes from beekeeping enterprises,” said Anneliese who'll be in PNG for two weeks.

Media contact: Sharlene King 0429 661 349 or scumedia@scu.edu.au