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      16 February 2023

      Airports and seaports across the Pacific are gateways for the movement of international goods and passengers.

      While these ports have traditionally been male-dominated workplaces, progressive Customs agencies across the Pacific are advancing opportunities for women in leadership.

      Thanks to a recent initiative between the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO), Australian Border Force (ABF) and RMIT University, the next generation of women Customs officers is being empowered to lead positive protection measures at our international borders.

      Today, 43 women from 15 countries graduated from the Pacific Women’s Professional Development Program alumni initiative (PWPDP) which aims to advance women’s leadership pathways.

      Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the OCO Head of Secretariat Nancy Oraka announced: “Gender diversity is critical at all levels of Customs Administrations to ensure more effective outcomes for global trade facilitation and national security.”

      Emphasising Australia’s commitment to the Pacific region, ABF Deputy Commissioner Kaylene Zakharoff commended the achievements of the graduating officers.

      “Protecting our international borders requires leaders with passion, dedication and integrity, leaders who can face the future with confidence and who are prepared to innovate and do things differently,” Deputy Commissioner Zakharoff said.

      “You have shown that you are these leaders, and Australia looks forward to working in partnership to keep our borders secure.”

      Associate Director of RMIT University’s Transnational Security Centre, Phillip Dowler, presented certificates to all participants, congratulating officers on their robust academic studies.

       “When women lead, we all win,” Associate Director Dowler said.

      PWPDP Graduate Matamaki Elizabeth Tetauru from the Cook Islands Customs Service, said they relied on ports for essential goods but they were also high-risk arenas for transnational crimes.

      “Detecting drug trafficking, preventing the importation of dangerous and prohibited goods, preventing tax evasion is all part of what we do to keep our borders safe. We need the best workforce of both women and men. I am proud to represent my agency, and I recommend Customs as a career choice for other women who have a passion to serve and protect their families, communities, country and the wider Pacific region,” Officer Tetauru said.

      Today, women across the Pacific are actively engaged in inspections, operations, intelligence, compliance and auditing roles at all of our major ports.

      From Port Moresby to Suva to Guam, women are proudly working alongside their male colleagues to facilitate legitimate trade and travel and prevent the movement of illicit goods across our borders.

      Women are also progressing to senior leadership roles, with five Customs Administrations in the Pacific now led by women.

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