“An explosion of COVID on our doorstep” - ABC’s PNG Correspondent, Natalie Whiting, wins ACFID Media Award for her coverage of the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in PNG

23 Nov, 2021

Natalie Whiting, the ABC’s Papua New Guinea Correspondent, has won this year’s Australian Council for International Development’s (ACFID) media award for her coverage of the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea in March and April this year. 
Throughout her multi-platform coverage of the situation in Papua New Guinea, Natalie was able to provide the Australian audience with in-depth perspective on the outbreak. The judges commended her level of sensitivity to the plight of PNG communities and portrayal of the human impact of the outbreak.
Presenting the award, President of ACFID, Susan Pascoe, said:
“Natalie’s reporting was an excellent example of ethical development and humanitarian reporting. It highlighted the repercussions of the crisis whilst upholding the dignity of her subjects and gave voice to their experience. It was achieved with great sensitivity and respect.   
“Natalie’s series not only expanded the knowledge of the Australian public, but also influenced the direction of the Australian Government’s decisions to deploy AusMat teams and supply vaccines.
“She worked effectively alongside her colleagues in the press gallery in Canberra to connect what was happening on the ground and the Australian Government’s response. Natalie’s coverage was also essential reading for ACFID and its NGO members to gain a clearer picture of the situation. We continue to follow her work closely as PNG faces the latest Delta surge in cases.”
Responding to her win, Natalie said:
“I feel very honoured to receive this award from ACFID. As the only foreign correspondent working in PNG during the pandemic, I felt a great weight of responsibility to tell the story sensitively, accurately and thoroughly to the Australian audience. It is always heartening to see coverage of PNG being recognised and valued in Australia.
“As Australia and many other developed countries move forward with reopening and managing COVID-19, it’s important we don’t lose sight of other countries that aren’t coping as well. Currently PNG has only vaccinated around 4% of its eligible population. It has a long way to go with strengthening its health systems, battling misinformation and guarding against future outbreaks and new strains of the virus. I hope Australians continue to take an interest in their nearest neighbour; the beautiful nation of PNG is just four kilometres from Australia at its closest point.
“I owe a huge vote of thanks to the ABC team, both in PNG and in Australia, and also to the other PNG journalists I work alongside. I have been proud to be a member of PNG’s press pack during the pandemic. There have been so many good journalists who have been covering the story relentlessly, in very difficult conditions. The even more difficult job, however, belongs to the health workers who have been on the frontline for almost two years. I am very grateful for the doctors and nurses who have taken time to speak to me amidst everything else. Finally, I am in awe of the families impacted by the pandemic who have had the strength to speak out, in a bid to try to improve the situation for others.” 
Media Contact
Bronwen Reed, 0406 586 625.
About the Award  
The annual ACFID Media Award aims to promote and recognise journalists delivering informed and studied media items about international development and/or humanitarian issues. 
The Award is presented to a journalist or journalistic team that has produced a single piece or series that: 
Profiles with sensitivity and respect the issues and lives of people experiencing poverty and injustice; 
Shows an understanding of the complexity of humanitarian and/or development issues; and 
Is judged to have the potential to help expand the knowledge of the Australian public in relation to humanitarian and/or international development issues. 
Previous winners of this award include Matt Wade and Louise Kennerley (2019) Sydney Morning Herald, and Amanda Hodge (2018) The Australian.