News Item

From student to special guest speaker

News 13 Mar 2018

Wellington on a cold, windy day can seem a world away from the sultry, tropical climates of Papua New Guinea. But for Dr Vergil Narokobi, Counsel to the Ombudsman for his large island nation, it’s like a second home. It’s also why he was keen to accept the invitation to be a guest speaker at the PISAN Fono in Waikanae on the Kapiti Coast from March 9-11.

When Dr Vergil Narokobi addressed an eagerly attentive group of students on the final day of the 2018 PISAN Fono as a special guest speaker, it reminded him of his own experiences as a student at previous gatherings.

“It’s a unique opportunity to connect with fellow students from across the region,” he says.

“They are seen as the Pacific leaders of tomorrow and many go on to fulfil that potential. I myself have cherished the friendships and networks that emerge from such events. Those networks are part of the Pacific way. Of course there are differences, but there aren’t the same hostilities compared to other parts of the globe.”

Originally from the province of Wewak, his family moved to the PNG capital of Port Moresby.

He attended law school at Cambridge University in Britain in 1998-99, acquiring a Masters degree, and later came to Wellington in 2012 to commence a PhD in Law at Victoria University, living in the suburb of Johnsonville.

“I was attracted to Wellington because of the good reputation of New Zealand universities worldwide, with Victoria being one of the best,” he says.

“Wellington’s a friendly, welcoming place with all the places you need well within reach. I found the university took an active interest in us students, with plenty of support to help us succeed. I got to know Luamanuvao Winnie Laban (former Labour Party MP now Assistant Vice Chancellor Pasifika at Victoria University) and always try to catch up with her when I’m in town.”

Vergil’s father Bernard was a politician, jurist, philosopher and author. He contributed several journals and books, the most prominent being The Melanesian Way followed by Leadership in Melanesia.

When Bernard died in 2010 after a brief illness, while serving as PNG High Commissioner in New Zealand at the time, tributes poured in from across the Pacific.

Vergil is proud of his late father’s achievements and is determined to uphold his family’s legacy in his current role as Counsel to the Ombudsman in PNG.

The Ombudsman’s key responsibility is to help the community in its dealings with government agencies. It handles complaints against government agencies and undertakes investigations and inspections. It also encourages good administration by giving feedback and training to agencies.

Vergil has already made a significant mark in his home nation by reviewing and challenging laws that were not in harmony or consistent with the nation’s constitution. The challenge was successful.

“I don’t have the gifts of my father in terms of writing, so I concentrate on being the best I can be in law,” he says.

“That’s the message I always take with me … no matter what you do in life, give it your best.”

About the Pacific Island Scholars Alumni Network (PISAN)

Vergil spoke at the recent PISAN Fono. The Pacific Cooperation Foundation runs the NZAID Scholars alumni programme that aims to facilitate scholars to be regional leaders with shared views for regional growth/prosperity and utilising the opportunities for the benefit of the region. The PISAN Fono is an annual event bringing together this diverse group of Pacific scholars from New Zealand tertiary institutions and the Fono programme sessions aim to reinforce the strong expectations of these young leaders.