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Lydia's story: Surviving the pain of abuse

Gah is a Nakani woman from West New Britain
Lydia Gah is a Nakani woman from West New Britain

| ABC Far North

Following her divorce, Lydia pursued her education and went on to become a counsellor and social worker

TOWNSVILLE – Born prematurely in a remote village in New Britain, Lydia Gah learnt to survive from her very first breath.

But it’s her story as the survivor of a 12-year abusive marriage that she’s determined to share with the world.

Lydia has just self-published a book, Survive and Thrive, which documents her life and the violence she suffered at the hands of her former husband while living in Papua New Guinea.

The violence she endured was during the 1980s, but Lydia said it was still a difficult process to write about even four decades on.

“It was like reliving those painful years and, consequently, it took me over two years to complete it,” she said.

“I would write maybe a paragraph or the idea that I wanted to bring forward for women to really take courage from or be inspired by, and then I would stop and shed tears.

“But the motivating factor for me to complete the book was, I’m not doing this for me. I’m on the other side,” she said.

“Now, I’m doing this for women who are stuck where they are right now.”

Following her divorce, Lydia pursued her education and went on to become a counsellor and social worker.

After she emigrated to Australia in 2004, she also established a charity that supports domestic violence victims in PNG.

She turned to writing in the hope her words will both inspire other women to take action and inform a larger, much-needed conversation.

“If the book transforms how people view domestic violence and [helps] lessen the incidence of domestic violence and changes the life of someone, I would have done justice,” she said.

“I want to be the voice of the voiceless — the women who, for far too long, have kept quiet about their own ordeal.

“This is my greatest hope that Papua New Guinean women, Melanesian women, Australian women start the conversation about domestic violence.

“It’s not something we should keep quiet about, because the more we keep quiet about it, the more it will happen.”

Lydia said while attitudes were changing in PNG, her story of domestic violence is still too common in her homeland.

Lydia is funding her publishing costs by selling her craft coconut oil and music (Brendan Mounter)

“I know that it’s prevalent in Papua New Guinea, my birth country, [because] communities tend to look the other way when incidences of domestic violence happen,” she said.

“There is an element of not only fear, but shame and embarrassment.

“I want to call this monster out and say: ‘Don’t be embarrassed about it, talk about it’.

“I’m talking about it in the book to address what we have kept a secret for so long.”


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