Good omen for Albanese during visit to PNG

For the people of Papua New Guinea's East Sepik Province, cloudy weather is a good omen. Local lore says important things happen under overcast skies.

Heavy clouds on Friday signalled the significance of Anthony Albanese's historic visit to Wewak, on PNG's northern coast.

In an area replete with history and culture, thousands of locals lined roads to catch a glimpse of the Australian leader's motorcade, waving Australian flags and dancing in traditional sing-sing ceremonies.

Amid a huge welcome celebration on the tarmac, the prime minister was presented with a traditional head-dress, signifying his status as an important guest and leader.

Mr Albanese beamed at the honour from the tribe of Prime Minister James Marape's wife, Rachael.

The PNG leader convinced his Australian counterpart to visit the remote community, the birthplace of PNG's revered founding father, Sir Michael Somare. The pair held official talks in Port Moresby on Thursday.

After a cleansing ceremony involving the chopping of coconuts, Mr Albanese visited the grand chief's final resting place, accompanied by his daughter, Dulciana Somare, and a slew of proud grandchildren.

PNG's first prime minister, Sir Michael led the country four times over more than 16 years, the leader of its independence movement ahead of PNG's split from Australia in 1975.

Mr Albanese invoked Gough Whitlam's support for the independence push during the visit, quoting the Labor legend's statement that autonomy for Australia's northern neighbour was "an idea whose time had come".

Australia is already preparing for celebrations of the 50th anniversary in 2025.

The two prime ministers spent much of the 48-hour visit together, and progress on a security treaty has been put on a fast track for completion by the middle of 2023.

Pacific Minister Pat Conroy has met Mr Marape and senior ministers multiple times since Labor's election win, and both sides acknowledge the renewed relationship must deliver for the two economies.

Like much of Labor's Pacific engagement strategy, the value of Australian leaders showing up in PNG is already evident.

In Wewak, that sentiment was overflowing.

Mr Albanese walked along the beach with East Sepik Province Governor Allan Bird, who urged his guest to push for more international action on climate change.

Mr Bird pointed out the crumbling beach road the motorcade had travelled on, where rising sea levels are already taking a serious toll.

"These are the things that affect not only us, but all Pacific Island people. I think it drives the point to home," Mr Bird said.

"Perhaps your voice can be lent to the growing voices around the world as to the plight of our island people."

After touring a market and meeting local women selling traditional handcrafted bags and baskets, Mr Albanese was feted in a departure ceremony back under cloudy skies.

"Our futures, just like our pasts, are intertwined," he told his hosts. "We are connected.

"The stronger and more secure, and more prosperous Papua New Guinea is the stronger and more secure and prosperous Australia will be, and the same applies the other way around."