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Project PNG
<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

At Paga Hill settlement, families live mostly in temporary shelters, after their houses – built on contested land – were demolished by police.

PNG: Scenes From The Suburbs

Asylum seekers shunted from Australia to Papua New Guinea will join a society struggling with the fallout of poverty, corruption, failing systems and rapid social change. But within Port Moresby's coastal villages and sprawling settlements, there is also strength, resilience and celebration of family and culture.


<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

More than 15,000 people live in the Papuan village of Hanuabada, Port Moresby. Many villages and settlements in Papua New Guinea lack reliable power, clean water or sewage systems, and services such as garbage collection.

<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

Evening in Hanuabada, Port Moresby.

<p>Vlad Sokhin/OHCHR</p>

Vlad Sokhin/OHCHR

Children play in the water near a long-rusting, half-sunken boat in the waters off Paga Hill settlement, part of PNG’s capital city, Port Moresby.

<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

Water delivery: a plastic barrel of drinking water is hoisted up for use in a village home. Some families have to go by boat to public wells to fetch fresh water for their everyday needs.

<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

Vagi Eno, 21, was born with cerebral palsy. Before age 16, he’d never left his house in Hanuabada village; he’s spent all his days lying on the floor. In 2007 the local hospital provided him a free wheelchair, and the local United Church supports him with 20 kina per month (US$10).

<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

Frank Kenny, 53, shows off dinner. Hanuabada residents village keep wallabies in their houses, growing them for later slaughter.

<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

Watch that dive! The filthy water around Hanuabada village doesn’t stop children from playing water games between the houses.

<p>Vlad Sokhin</p>

Vlad Sokhin

Bath time! Two sisters bathe in a plastic barrel near their house in Hanuabada. The village houses have no running water, nor any access to public wells.

<p>Vlad Sokhin/OHCHR</p>

Vlad Sokhin/OHCHR

Cardboard boxes make toys for the children near a makeshift house at the Paga Hill Settlement. Many of the tents and makeshift houses in Paga Hill were built in May 2012, after police bulldozed most of the settlement to make way for a controversial multi-million dollar marina and hotel development.

<p>Vlad Sokhin/OHCHR</p>

Vlad Sokhin/OHCHR

Preparing for sleep: In Tete, another settlement in Port Moresby, more than 20 people sleep under the same roof of the makeshift houses. Residents here lost their homes in 2008 when police demolished their settlement, knocking down 476 houses and leaving more than 3,000 people homeless, following the death of prominent businessman Sir George Constantinou.

Photographer Vlad Sokhin has been visiting the settlements around the PNG capital of Port Moresby since 2012.

11 comments on this story
by Don

Yes a country raped and pillaged by foreigners since the 18th century. Local learned early about power and corruption.

Having been there it is like India in that you sit in an air conditioned office looking out at this poverty and inequality.

July 23, 2013 @ 7:33pm
by Wantok

Well, I guess this gives outsiders a glimpse of urban life in Port Moresby... sort of. Hanuabada is not at all one of the "settlements" (shanty towns/squatter areas) around Port Moresby; it's an ancient village, where land is held by the traditional owners, that happens to be right next to the Port Moresby CBD.

Be aware that the huge majority of Papua New Guinean people do not live like this. Only about 10% of the population live in urban areas... the rest live in villages in rural areas with a lifestyle which is very different to that of the settlements. And land in villages is (thankfully) almost totally traditionally owned.

July 24, 2013 @ 1:59pm
by Ben McCartney

@Wantok - I hear what you're saying. But can we assume that most of the jobs for the incoming refugees are likely to be in the urban areas?

July 24, 2013 @ 6:19pm
by Mark

I worked in PNG for a period and am familiar with the scenes depicted here. Wantok is correct, Hanubada is not a settlement, in fact it supports a thriving market, or at least did when I was last there in 2009. The real settlements are just heartbreaking pictures of abject poverty. How people thrive in those areas is testament to their resilience. Private rentals are now attracting astronomical rent, I'm talking several thousand dollars a month for basic safe accommodation in Moresby. I.have not the slightest idea how the Australian or PNG governments could hope to settle refugees and establish them in PNG society.

July 25, 2013 @ 8:50pm
by M Martin

Having built a house for a family in Hanuabada and then watch it deteriorate to the level of the houses around it much of what you see is choice or lack of education. How many of the people looked like they were starving? What also needs to be said is that most of the squatters living in settlements have a lovely place in the rural areas to which they could go should they so desire. Also much of the land upon which they live belongs to someone else from another village. Urban drift is a choice and unlike India these people choose to live on the fringe of the city.

July 26, 2013 @ 7:50am
by M Martin

And many of the jobs, hopefully, for the refugees will be in kebab shops all over the country.

July 26, 2013 @ 7:54am
by James Trevelyan

I am disappointed that what started as an informative and alternative source of intelligent reporting has descended to little more than coffee table book photo albums. Nice photos, but without any but the most superficial insight. Photos play into preconceived notions of the viewer and contribute little to creating an informed readership, which is what this online magazine seems to be aiming for, and what attracted me in the first place.

July 27, 2013 @ 7:59am
by Peter ODonnell

The author states that "Many villages and settlements in Papua New Guinea lack reliable power, clean water or sewage systems, and services such as garbage collection." this needs correcting as almost no villages have any of these things. The townships of PNG, developed since the times of Britain, Germany and Australian administration have these services to a greater or lesser extent but certainly not the villages.

July 27, 2013 @ 9:52am
Show previous 8 comments
by Rex

I really am lost for words M Martin. I'm hoping that your comments are merely ill informed. To suggest "squatters have a lovely place...to which they could go" is the basest of ignorance about the economic situation in PNG. Vast areas of the country are largely unaffected by the operation of government and where services are available they at best unreliable. Most certainly there are no social services and, in the vast majority of the country, no industry. The "choice" you speak of is a subsistence existence trying to scratch a living from the land, or move to the city where there is at least some hope of employment and support of others from the same language group.

Yes I do hope your comments are ill informed. But I fear not. The kebab shop attempt at humour suggests you are here because you got lost on your way to some site like babesandboars.com or redneck shooters monthly.

July 27, 2013 @ 10:00am
by Peter James

Port Moresby rates as the second worst posting in the world bar Johannesburg. Let's hope that deters a few boat people.

July 27, 2013 @ 11:00pm
by Torresist

Hanuabada isn't Port Moresby and Port Moresby isnt Papua New Guinea.

To be fair, the poverty in PNG is not an indication of absolute poverty but of poor public service implementation by fractious governments.

The most important difference is the level of education between the middle class in the urban centres and subsistence farmers, who are the major demographic entity in the country.

Who is worse, the ignorant Papua New Guinean that burns a 'witch' or the educated Australian bogan that thinks their criminal ancestors were more entitled to Australian residence than the current refugees from South & East Asia who are also arriving in boats?

August 4, 2013 @ 4:28pm
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