SEA WOMEN OF MELANESIA TEAM

The Sea Women of Melanesia is an Incorporated not-for-profit Association registered in Papua New Guinea, with all indigenous female Directors.

The award-winning Sea Women of Melanesia training program is facilitated by the Association in Papua New Guinea with support from the Coral Sea Foundation in Australia and its international partners.

The SWoM program empowers indigenous women in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands with the training, skills, equipment, and resources they need to take an active role in helping indigenous communities create and manage marine protected areas on their own coral reefs.

Wherever we work, we acknowledge First Nations people as the original inhabitants and custodians of the land and sea country around the Coral Sea Arc, and we recognise their enduring traditional knowledge and wisdom.

The SWoM program supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Gender Equality, Sustainable Communities, and Life Below Water.

Director & Public Officer - Port Moresby

Gou Ava

Gou Ava hails from the Central province of PNG and she is a certified scuba diver with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Papua New Guinea. She has research experience in shark and turtle conservation and is the Vice Chairperson of the PNG Center for Locally Managed Areas, which has given her valuable insight into best practices for community engagement in rural Melanesia.
Training Operations Manager

Naomi Longa

Naomi is a Papua New Guinean woman from the Island of New Britain and manager of Training operations for the SWoM Program. The youngest of 6 children, she grew up swimming in the Bismarck Sea with the incredible coral reefs of Kimbe Bay at her doorstep. Inspired by the sea, she went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Papua New Guinea, and completed her SSI Scuba Diver Instructor qualification with Pleasure Divers on Magnetic Island and Dive Munda in Solomon Islands. Since 2019, Naomi has been involved in training more than 25 new women in SWoM training programs in Milne Bay, Kimbe and Munda and she has lectured on the role of indigenous women in marine conservation at international events in Port Moresby, Sydney and Perth. In recognition of her work with the SWoM program, Naomi was awarded the 2021 Blue Marine Foundation Ocean Award in the "Local Hero" category, and the CPL Foundation Pride of PNG award in the Environment category in 2022.
Director and Operations Manager - Milne Bay Province

Jacinta Jonathan

Jacinta Gigileia Jonathan comes from Fergusson Island in the Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea. She grew up between dinghy trips to Fergusson Island and her hometown Alotau. She spent hours in her family-owned fish shop in high school selling fish which motivated her to study fisheries. She completed her Bachelors degree in Fisheries and Marine Resources in 2018 from the PNG University of Natural Resources and Environment in Rabaul. She went on to pursue a postgraduate science degree from the University of Papua New Guinea. She was awarded the 2019 PNG LNG ExxonMobil Research Scholarship, and Marine Conservation Action Fund Award in 2021 for her three-year postgraduate research project, that has contributed towards the conservation of marine mammals in PNG. Since 2017, her research work continues to be fueled by her passion for marine conservation and fisheries management. Jacinta is also enthusiastic about the training and empowerment of indigenous women, particularly in the Global South.
Team Leader - Ferguson Island, Milne Bay Province

Lorie Pipiga

Lorie Pipiga was the first Papua New Guinean woman trained through the Sea Women of Melanesia program, and her experience and passion inspired scores of other First Nations women to get involved with marine conservation. Lorie is from the matrilineal society of East Ferguson Island in the Milne Bay Province, and she lives with her family at Gugula Village in Sebutuia Bay, an area known for its stunning natural beauty and outstanding marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Lorie is the leader of the Ferguson Island Sea Women of Melanesia team and helps the local communities manage the marine protected areas in the Nua Marine Reserve Network.

Lorie’s family are subsistence farmers and fishers and she was the first-born daughter her family. She spent her formative years exploring the tropical rainforests, streams, and coral reefs of her traditional country, and was captivated by the wonders of the natural world. In her own words “I’ve always embraced nature, and spent all of my life just wondering, breathing, and at some point, screaming so loud just so I could hear my voice echo through the forest”. Lorie’s love for the sea was inspired by her Grandfather, who was a master mariner and participated in the famous Kula trade around the Milne Bay province.

In 2012 Lorie met Coral Sea Foundation Director Dr Andy Lewis and was inspired to follow her passion for marine science and conservation. She visited the outer Louisiade Archipelago with Dr Andy in 2015 aboard True North and completed her first free dives on the outer wall of the Deboyne Atoll, and she went on to complete diploma courses in Conservation and Marine Biodiversity at Hope Academy in Alotau. In 2016 and 2017 Lorie travelled to North Queensland and completed her Advanced Scuba diver certification and studied reef survey methods with the Coral Sea Foundation team at Yunbenun (Magnetic Island). Upon returning home, Lorie held community meetings and mustered local support for the creation of the Nua Marine Reserve Network in the sensational marine biodiversity area of the Sanaroa Channel.

Lorie is a mother of two children and continues her work as an advocate for marine conservation in her clan area, educating and empowering other Indigenous women to speak up for the natural environment.

Watch Lorie's story - click the button below.

Nurse & Women's Health Manager - Milne Bay Province

Tracey Awalomwai

Tracey has a mixed Milne Bay and West Sepik parentage, and she graduated with a Diploma in General Nursing from St. Bamabas School of Nursing (Milne Bay) in 2020. She currently works as a registered Nurse at Alotau Provincial Hospital in Milne Bay. Tracey has a passion for supporting local communities and improving woman's health, and she is a certified Ambassador for our Days for Girls sustainable period products. She has participated in several field expeditions to the western Louisiade Archipelago and helped provide medical support and first aid assistance to our partner communities.
Community Engagement - Port Moresby

Bianca Beri

Bianca Beri is from East Sepik Province and a biology graduate of the University of Papua New Guinea. Since joining the Sea Women of Melanesia she has completed her scuba diving training and been actively involved with reef surveys and community engagement activities around the Port Moresby region.
Team Member - Milne Bay Province

Maureen Oliver

Maureen Oliver hails from the village of Divinai, 26km east of Alotau town in the Milne Bay Province. She grew up hunting, gardening and fishing as her livelihood, and in her free time was usually found swimming in the river and the sea. Maureen’s interest in marine conservation was sparked by her participation in a mangrove ecology training workshop in 2019, the Mangoro Market Meri project run by the Nature Conservancy, and later that year she participated in the first Sea Women of Melanesia training program in the Milne Bay province. Maureen is an active member of the Milne Bay SWoM team and she works hard to raise awareness about the sustainable management of marine resources in her local community and the northern Milne Bay area.

Select the pins on the map to learn more about the locations.