Having a female sit on the board of any landowner company within the MRDC Group is unheard of.

This, until recently, when the landowners of the PNGLNG Plant Processing Facility Licence 2 (PPFL2) area voted in, in an unprecedented move, a female as one of four landowner directors to the board of their new company Gas Resources PNGLNG Plant limited.

Ms Ulato Avei was elected by the people of Boera village in the PPFL2 area to represent them during a successful week-long elections carried out by the Electoral Commission and facilitated by MRDC in March this year.

The surprises didn’t just stop at her election. During the new company’s first board meeting, Ms Avei was appointed Board Chairperson.

Her appointment as a director and chairperson is a first in MRDC Group’s 42-year history.

An elated Ms Avei said she was confident walking into the boardroom for their first meeting knowing that she would walk out as chairperson.

She even prepared her speech. “I told myself, I know I’m going to win so this is what I am going to say,” she said.

“I am very thankful and proud to be in this position. It will be challenging working in a male-dominated board but I am prepared for it.”

Ms Avei said she has been vocal about landowner issues throughout the PNGLNG Project and so it came as no surprise to her when her people voted her to represent them. She is happy and thankful that they did. “I hope my presence at the board level as a female representative can show other landowner groups in the resource project areas that women can be at this position.

“There is a lot of marginalisation especially through cultural practices in all cultures but, this can change,” said Ms Avei.

She hopes that in time a process is put in place so more landowner women can be involved at the board level and be truly represented.

As a director and chairperson, Ms Avei endeavours to see that benefits go to the PPFL2 landowners. “I want to see their quality of lives improve for the four villages, for them to have good homes.

“Although we are LNG villages and so close to the city, there’s little development indicators that people are any better.

“I want the people in the village to save the little they receive to create wealth for themselves.”

She would like to see the company grow to be a sustainable company like PRK, ensure good investment decisions are made and that the benefits of those investments flow back to the people.

Ulato Avei, the first female landowner Director and Chairperson for Gas Resources PNGLNG Plant Limited