“Back in 2017, I was at a crossroads in my life where I honestly did not know which career path to choose. The advertisement for the Australia Awards PNG Scholarship for Women in Maritime was a sign which led me towards choosing my career pathway,” says Lylellah Kunai, Australia Awards PNG alumna.

Without a doubt, Lylellah applied for the scholarship and was selected to study at the PNG Maritime College in Madang in 2018. She completed her studies and sea time in 2021, gaining a Mate Class III Certificate of Competence. She was one of ten young women who were pioneer recipients of this scholarship program.

Lylellah says that she was motivated to choose this career so she could travel and explore the world. “But it comes with a price of hard work and perseverance.”

During her training as a cadet out at sea, Lylellah worked under experienced officers and learned from them. “I thoroughly enjoyed that time as I had no set responsibilities and I got to spend time on the bridge, on deck, and at times in the engine room observing the engineers,” she says.

She says thankfully: “The Australia Awards PNG Scholarship means so much to me as it gave me a new direction and I am grateful to the Australian Government and the shipping companies that make this scholarship program available.”

Now a Second Officer on the Landing Craft Kiwai Chief vessel, employed by Consort Express Lines Limited, Lylellah is proud of her achievement and says that she is carrying out tasks she never expected she could. Lylellah says being a woman does not stop her from doing her best at her job and that she is grateful that she was able to adapt to a male-dominated working environment.

Out at sea, her role is very significant as she supports the bridge to navigate the ship to avoid traffic and respond to emergencies that arise. At the port, she ensures the ship is docked correctly and the cargo is discharged or loaded correctly. And, if anything gets beyond her control, she calls this to the attention of the captain.

She says, “The most rewarding part of my experience while working was testing my self-limiting beliefs on tasks which I thought I could not execute as a cadet.”

Lylellah has learned valuable lessons from her time at sea including how to adjust to spending extended periods of time away from her family, perseverance through difficulties, having a growth mindset, working diligently,and being disciplined. She owes this to having the patience and willingness to learn anything that comes her way, and most importantly, how to be a good team player.

Her greatest hope is for seafarers to get the recognition they deserve as key workers in keeping worldwide trade alive and delivering much-needed services to consumers. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the vessels did not stop their service, and seafarers were never sent home. We worked through the pandemic with all its restrictive conditions,” says Lylellah.