Paliame’s Proud Journey in Australian Horticulture

By Paliame Palisah MAIH

Paliame Palisah MAIH recently joined us at the Australian Institute of Horticulture as she studies at Macquarie University and expands her knowledge of conservation biology. Growing up in a passionate family of plantspeople and nature-lovers, Paliame has grand visions to take the best of horticultural excellence back to her native Papua New Guinea with inspiration from Australian horticulture. Paliame shares her inspiring story with us in this edition’s Member Spotlight:

I grew up in a home where my mother and sisters loved to grow plants and do gardening around the family home, and because of this I grew up loving dirt, plants, animals, and nature! As I grew older, I decided to pursue a career in Environmental Science and understand more about plants and animals, and the web of life.

In 2012 I began my undergraduate double degree in Environmental Science and Biology at the Pacific Adventist University and graduated in 2015. I was so excited to start my journey in the real world and very interested in biodiversity conservation and environmental protection in my country.

With this passion and determination, I decided to begin my journey by volunteering at Port Moresby Nature Park, which is in the Nation’s Capital City, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Port Moresby Nature Park is PNG’s leading recreational Park with 30 acres of tropical gardens and home to 350 native animals and hundreds of native and exotic plant species. The Nature Park is managed by expatriates from Australia, Michelle McGeorge, and partner Brett Smith.


Photo: Celebrating International Women’s Day at the Park, Ms McGeorge-CEO (front row, first on the left) and Ms Palisah (front row, second on the left next to Ms McGeorge).

Ms McGeorge was impressed with my work ethic and offered me two internships to take for three months each.

I completed the first Wildlife Officer internship and continued with the second internship in Horticulture. For both internships the Park organized for Australian Volunteers who are experts in their fields to train myself and 19 of my colleagues. Shelomi Doyle taught us Horticultural techniques, and Geoff Underwood taught us about handling wild animals in exhibits.

It was a great experience for me personally and professionally. Professionally I learnt techniques for caring for both plants and animals, as well as how to lead a team in my field. I personally came to find my passion and grew more love for plants and landscape gardening.


Photo: Wildlife Officer internship with my colleagues, holding a Papuan Olive Python (Ms Palisah: Fourth from the right).


Photo: During my Horticultural Internship with my colleages and Trainer Shelomi Doyle. (Ms Palisah: centre back – the one with glasses).

I successfully completed both internships and was offered to choose between working with plants or animals, and I chose to work with the Nursery and Grounds Department as a Plant Nursery Supervisor for about four years from July 2016 to November 2019.  Some of my main responsibilities included supervising and coordinating the following:

  • upkeep of the park lawns, the gardens, and playgrounds.
  • internal (e.g., gardens and animal exhibits) and external landscaping projects (corporate clients such as academic institutions, hotels, and others).
  • indoor pot plants sale and hire contracts.
  • plant production and sale to corporate clients.
  • composting facility (was also the Chair for the Sustainability Committee at the Park).
  • writing content and presenting gardening segments on PNG national television show ‘Haus & Home’ with EMTV.
  • maintaining the orchid nursery; and
  • conducting basic horticulture training for staff and disadvantaged youth.


Photo: Brett Smith (curator) presented the Horticultural Internship certificate to Ms Palisah.

As I gained more experience and exposure while working and serving corporate clients during landscaping projects in and around Port Moresby, I realised there is great potential for horticulture in Papua New Guinea, especially in ornamental horticulture.

Port Moresby is a growing city, with many new buildings and developments requiring landscaping. My clients were mostly real estate owners, property managers, engineers, landscape architects or architects. When I received a plant order/schedule, first I scheduled a meeting with them to confirm plant species, quantity, quality, measurements, and alternative plants species if their request is not available.

The interesting part of my job is to go out and source plants around Port Moresby City. I travelled to mostly informal floral markets in different suburbs and engaged with local suppliers (retailers and growers) from different ethnicities and backgrounds and made some friends as well along the way.

What I learnt from this journey is that there is a need for a proper Floral Market, in combination with structure and good governance, for the potential of an ornamental horticulture industry in Papua New Guinea.  In this way both the clients and the supplier (or the consumer and the producer) thrive in not only in doing business but by integrating the principles of socio-ecological sustainability through education and engaging effectively with both local communities and their clients either, as individuals or corporate.


Photo: This is Ms Palisah in one of the major projects she coordinated to supply plants and maintain plant care on site for Star Mountain Project- The Hilton Hotel in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

So, with this vision for impact in mind, I decided to apply for the Australia Award Scholarship in 2019 to further my studies and at the same time explore the horticulture industry in Australia. Australia is a more developed country, and Papua New Guinea looks up to Australia as a ‘big brother’ in respect to our colonial ties. My aim was to come to Australia and be motivated and inspired, build networks, and engaging in conversations in horticulture, plant conservation and sustainable urban planning, and return home to implement what I learned.

I was successful in my application to study here in Australia in January 2020, so here I am studying my Master in Conservation Biology at Macquarie University, and this is my last semester. I am looking forward to gaining as much knowledge, skill, and networking as possible before returning home (PNG) to develop the future of the ornamental horticulture industry.


Photo: This is Cohort 5 of the Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative in Canberra (Ms Palisah: In the yellow dress, second row from left). This Leadership program and the Australia Award Scholarship has moulded me to be a confident female leader in my field and I am grateful for the Australian Government and a few people who have one way or another, pushed me towards my vision.


This is my journey in horticulture, and I am ecstatic to be a member of this institute. I look forward to meeting some of you during our webinars, learning and unlearning from this group and am open to share my experience, knowledge and perspectives!

Paliame Deborah Palisah MAIH is an Australia Award Scholar and master’s student at Macquarie University, and a member of the Australian Institute of Horticulture. Photos: Port Moresby Nature Park, Paliame Deborah Palisah and Australia Awards Women’s Leadership Initiative. LinkedIn:    Visit Port Moresby Nature Park

1 comment

wow, what a wonderful adventure you have been on. I feel so inspired and I hope this story inspires many other.
All the best to you and your journeys.

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