My name is De’Lourdes Semoso, I’m currently the Deputy Manager of Operations for the Buka Urban Council. I was born in 1971 and did my primary schooling at Malasa from 1978 to 1983. I was selected to attend high school at the all-girls school is Asitavi.
When doing my Grade 10 I was the School Student Reps Secretary. These were the happiest times of my high school days. We had Australian and American teachers who were very strict because they were sisters (nuns). Schedules were schedules, study time was study time. From there I continued onto Grade 11 and 12 at Passam National High School in the East Sepik Province, PNG from 1988 to 1989 which was also the start of the Bougainville Crisis. During those two years, people would start harassing us because of our skin colour and the killings that were occurring in Bougainville. Whenever we went to town we would stick in groups.
Two years after that, I attended college in Madang to do my Diploma in Public Health. Before graduating in 1993, I became a mum (too early) and took off three weeks before the final examination. My family didn’t know anything. I was able to conceal my pregnancy and get on a flight to Kibe to stay with my sister. I had the baby and remained there for a year.
In 1994, I was lucky to have my father sponsor me back to graduate from college. I later found a job working for Chevron New Guinea an oil project. I was with the community development section and enjoyed my time there. We went on patrols into the villages and bush conducting health education and promotion campaigns and working with the women. We spent most of our time in the field and would return and report to the campsite on the weekends.
I resigned and came home to Bougainville. I remained at home for two years before applying to Buka Urban Council. I was there for a year before resigning again as I needed to get hold of my daughter.
I returned in 2002 to do an assignment with the Council, and I applied for an AusAid scholarship to do a degree in Environmental Health at Curtin University, Perth in Western Australia. I was privileged to have Brenda (Town Manager) endorse my application and was successful in obtaining the scholarship and completed my degree graduating in 2005.
In 2006, I helped my brother in selling cocoa beans. In 2007, I joined the Council as their Senior Health Officer. From there I was promoted to be the Senior Technical Advisor for Health and the highlight of this position was the technical assessment trip to Bali, Indonesia.
In 2012, I was promoted to Deputy Town Manager. It has been a challenge but I’m grateful and believe that I can do it. Another highlight of my work so far was attending the prosecution courses and participating in moot cases in court. These exercises really helped me with my public speaking which I couldn’t do before. As an environmental health officer you deal with people on a day to day basis, so it helped me gain confidence. At times I still have butterflies in my stomach, but you get used to it.
Working with the Buka Urban Council is a real challenge especially when you are a woman. I can still remember when I was first employed as the Health Inspector; men were a bit reluctant to listen to the recommendations or what is expected of them to do. But eventually as the years went by, they were able to understand what I was trying to say to them in terms of the legislation and the message I was trying to convey, rather than the fact it was coming from a woman.