Breaking Barriers in Papua New Guinea’s Automotive Industry

March 3, 2020

Doris Meliwane, Automotive Trainer/Tutor, Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) Papua New Guinea 

Growing up in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Doris Meliwane was fascinated with vehicles. It was a fascination that stayed with her. Doris now teaches and fixes motor vehicles and was one of the female pioneers in the automotive industry in PNG’s capital, Port Moresby.

My journey to where I am now was never an easy one. I was brought up in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and a workshop was regarded as not a place for a woman. But I beat the odds because I had my families’ support especially my husband. He became a house husband to look after the kids and let me do my studies and work. I was attracted to the automotive Industry because I wanted to learn more and was curious about how and what made a vehicle move. 

What are some of the challenges you faced being a female pioneer in your industry in PNG?   

During my apprentice years, being the first female in the automotive industry in PNG with an Australian qualification was very difficult especially with male colleagues who did not want to share ideas with me.  They would be mean to me. 

They would say things like “let her do the work, she has an Australian qualification” without realising that I was just like them working on the same rate and struggling. 

I was not paid according to my qualification. I am a working mother with family responsibilities and balancing that with my career was and is tough. My husband made a tough decision to leave work to take care of our children for nine years while I completed my apprenticeship and aimed to prosper in my career – that is what every man in this country should do - empower women. Our home is not that perfect, but we try our best to build it and make it worth living for.  

What are some challenges you face as a female trainer in a male dominated industry? Do your family members bring their cars to you to fix?

I am not a female trainer, but I am a trainer in a “male dominated” field.  I feel fortunate that APTC has employed me through merit and not because of my gender. I have gained respect from my employer and colleagues. Challenges have turned into learning steps in my career.

Yes, I do have family members, friends and in-laws who bring their vehicles home to service and repair for a good amount, so I make extra money for myself and my girls.  

How do you think we can improve gender equality in workplaces?

I believe in creating workplace awareness. Women who work in in trades jobs are the silent ones that need to be heard. Let them tell their stories and let others hear their stories and that is how we will send the message.