Women leading and influencing



Leigh Mentors Paliame to Develop Ornamental Horticulture in PNG

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

Papua New Guinean (PNG) Master of Conservation Biology student Paliame Palisah is being mentored by Leigh Staas, Associate Director at the Centre for Smart Green Cities, through the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).

Paliame was inspired by Leigh after hearing her guest lecture on urban greening for climate change adaptation at Macquarie University. When Paliame was accepted into WLI’s 2021 Leadership & Mentoring program, she was quick to identify Leigh as her ideal Australian mentor.

Now, the pair are working together to help Paliame positively impact PNG’s ornamental horticulture industry from scientific and economic perspectives, ultimately protecting the countries native flora and natural landscapes.

leigh staas, paliame palisah

Opportunities for Women in Ornamental Horticulture 

According to Paliame, working as a woman in PNG’s ornamental horticulture industry is “challenging and rewarding at the same time”, despite employment opportunities in the field being somewhat limited.  

The former Port Moresby Nature Park supervisor says that while the industry – which includes floriculture and landscape horticulture – has great growth potential, attention and development is instead focused on the broader horticulture industry (specifically, fresh fruit and vegetable growing) and its economic benefits. 

But Paliame argues that the ornamental horticulture industry has economic, environment, conservation, and health benefits to society, and should therefore be supported.  

The industry also employs many women, including local plant suppliers, who Paliame says lack support and opportunities from local agriculture foundations and government departments, compared with fruit and vegetable growers.  

In order to strengthen and grow floriculture in PNG, Paliame hopes to work with women, as well as men, through established associations (including the PNG Floriculture Association) to establish genuine partnerships and build structures to regulate and manage the growing industry. 

"We should start manufacturing, creating, inventing and explore and experiment with our diverse resources, biodiversity, and culture,” Paliame says, “In that way, we will create more job opportunities and set a new benchmark for the next generation to be inspired by, and raise the standard even higher for PNG. 

leigh staas, paliame palisah

Macquarie University Guest Lecture Brings Paliame and Leigh Together 

Through the WLI Leadership & Mentoring program, Paliame is undergoing 18 months of leadership skill building and mentorship, including with Leigh Staas – an Australian research and collaboration expert and TED X presenter passionate about creating greener, more livable cities.  
During a second semester lecture within Paliame’s Climate Change Biology unit, Leigh was invited to Macquarie University in New South Wales to talk to students about her work managing Which Plant Where? – a research program investigating how landscaping species experience extreme and changing weather conditions, and opportunities for new varieties in the urban context. 
Leigh covered the research and stakeholder engagement aspects of the five-year program.  

“When Leigh introduced herself and gave a talk about her work and how she collaborates with academia, governments, and industry to solve problems and deliver outcomes, I was amazed...” Paliame explains, “I thought to myself, ‘I love this woman’s work and I want to connect with her’.” 

Because Leigh’s work relates to Paliame’s “vision for impact in the horticulture industry”, she felt drawn to Leigh and wanted to learn more about her experiences building cross-sectoral relationships and partnerships based on collaboration.  

“I hope to learn the essential knowledge, skills, and gain connections …. to build reliable partnerships based on collaboration across industry, government, non-government, and academia to develop the ornamental horticulture industry and create opportunities for the communities involved in the industry in Papua New Guinea,” Paliame says.  

On their work together so far, Leigh expresses how proud she is of Paliame and all that she has achieved over the past year.  

I have no doubt that when [Paliame] goes home she will be leading the ornamental horticulture industry into a new era that will have social and economic impact for PNG,” Leigh says.  

Paliame and Leigh are participants on the Women’s Leadership Initiative 2021 Leadership & Mentoring Program. For more information on the program and to learn more about other thriving partnerships, visit: womensleadershipinitiative.org.au/leadership-and-mentoring