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Festival's partnership with PNG province set to benefit tourism, education, business and culture

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The organisation behind one of Australia’s largest folk festivals has formed an affiliation with a remote highland province of Papua New Guinea.

Woodfordia Inc, the group that runs the Woodford Folk Festival, has partnered with the Enga province with a memorandum of understanding. It’s expected the relationship will enhance tourism and development.

Their link was announced during the most recent edition of the festival, from December 27 to January 1.

The MoU is a shared commitment to develop tourism initiatives to attract Australian visitors to the province, with a focus on cultural and environmental attractions.

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Woodford Folk Festival director Amanda Jackes said the MoU was the result of a strong bond between the two groups, built over many years.

“We’re delighted to formalise this partnership aimed at cultural exchange, mutual development and shared prosperity,” she said.

“Relationships built on mutual trust mean we’ll be better friends and better neighbours.

The Woodford Folk Festival and Enga partnership will include cultural exchanges.

“Both the Enga province and Woodfordia have festivals at the heart of what we do, and expanding our cultural expressions and celebrating our volunteer spirit are just two of our shared ideals.

“A festival is the best part of who we are and what better way to share our intentions than through dance, through written word, through song, through craft, and through art.”

As part of the agreement, theEnga will send representatives to participate in the Woodford Folk Festival, showcasing the province’s rich culture in dance, craft and arts.

The Right Honorable Grand Chief and Governor of Enga, Sir Peter Ipatas, said the signing of the MoU marked the start of what he hoped would be a lasting relationship that benefits both communities culturally, educationally and economically.

“This MoU is more than just an exchange of culture, it will benefit us in the province by further instilling a feeling of community and enable us to make bigger things happen,” he said.

“Enga was the last province to be contacted by the outside world in Papua New Guinea and while the culture is really strong and intact, it’s eroding very quickly.”

“We recognise a need to create spaces where cultural practices can still be performed and through that we created the Enga Cultural Show.

“It started as a platform to preserve culture and has become a drawcard for tourists, stimulating the local economy and putting money directly into the hands of local land holders.

“We’re developing products that are very community based and the Woodford Folk Festival is also a community-based event – we see Woodfordians as the type of people we would love to come and visit our province.”

An Enga cultural show in Wabag, the capital of the Enga province, in 2015. Picture: Shutterstock.

Education is a high priority for the governor, who was the first to introduce free education to the province but the rugged landscape faces infrastructure challenges.

Woodfordia Inc will contribute to the construction of a school in Enga province to continue fostering educational growth and development, and both organisations will work together to establish a coffee company, championing the renowned Arabica coffee beans grown in Enga’s unique climate.

Other initiatives highlighted under the MoU include the development of bamboo agroforestry enterprises to bolster the rural economic development of Enga in line with the sustainability vision at the heart of both groups’ endeavours.

The MoU also encompasses volunteer exchange programs, which will see Enga community members participating in the Woodford Folk Festival setup, and festival volunteers engaging in cultural talks and development projects in Enga.

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