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21 posts from December 2007

Ours was the year that was: 1965-66

Laura Keating

I grew up in the eastern highlands of PNG and was later choofed off to boarding school ‘down south’. After completing school I had the option of a scholarship at Sydney University or a cadetship at ASOPA. The cadetship would get me home for a career in teaching.

From the cloistered life of a NSW country convent school I found myself thrust into the unstructured adult world of ASOPA where I recognised a number of the kiaps, which meant they could toksave long mi. Even the ASOPA buildings - temporary no-nonsense weatherboard - were reminiscent of the Goroka government buildings.

My memories are not of the rigours of academia. I learned to knit in the Ed Psych. I found Anthropology most interesting. Margaret Mead's Growing up in New Guinea made me sit up and take notice. I particularly remember Mr Donnison, our Education Principles lecturer, and later found myself teaching at Brandi High with his son Phil.

I befriended two very committed students whose worldly intellectualism appealed to my innocent immediate post-school vision of pure studentship. They were Charles Cazabon and Pieter Degeling and both breezed through the course with nonchalant ease.

My two years at ASOPA were punctuated with wildish parties and late nights at Taronga Park. My new-found independence was reinforced by the confidence of sharing accommodation with my sisters and some boyfriends. It came as no surprise to find myself on probation at the end of my first year at ASOPA. When, in the second year, my sisters returned to Goroka, I finally settled into the paperwork and preparation to meet assignment deadlines.

I got to know places like the Buena Vista, folk-singing spots at The Spit and amoral Balmoral. The lure of Sydney's pseudo beatnik holes in the wall made me an unreliable friend to people like Peter McKinnon and John Meyer who disappeared into PNG schools a year after I did.

Still only 19 years old on graduation from ASOPA, my posting was pre-ordained - into the bosom of my family in Goroka. There was still some seriousness about females needing to be 21 to go to PNG to work and so again three sisters were reunited in the same town.

ASOPA did prepare me for the career I chose to pursue. Teaching with limited resources, developing curricula, running boarding facilities and managing classrooms still being built whilst teachers attempted to teach, supervising the building of saksak walls, growing crops for the table, catching fish after parade and sending the students to cut the grass on the ovals with their sarifs. These skills are no longer part of my duty statement but they stand me in good stead to this day.

A bush Christmas

Jane Belfield

'Tis the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Little creatures are stirring -
From cockroach to mouse.

There are moths in the wardrobe
And fleas in the bed;
Angry ants in the breadbin;
Rabid rats in the shed.

There's a snake in the ivy
Outside the front door,
And redback and whitetail
Spiders galore.

There are snails in the lettuce
And bugs in the milk.
The sandflies are biting,
And (more of their ilk)

Ravenous mozzies
Are lying in wait
Under the tankstand
Near the back gate.

Another fat blowie
Just buzzed in for a while...
Ah, well! Merry Christmas,
Australian style!

Xmas wishes from some of our friends

Allan Jones

For me this year has been ‘steady as she goes’. I continue my involvement with volunteer tasks and self-improvement. No overseas spinning but several brief trips within SA to places not visited for some time, e.g. Port Lincoln, Mount Gambier and Morgan. Droughts, bush fires and water shortages have us all much aware of global warming and how best to respond to this challenge. Go PNG’s Kevin Conrad. 'USA, if you won't lead, get out of the way!' My best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

David Keating

Personally and professionally, 2007 has been busy, productive, successful, and filled with fun and joy.  It has been a consolidating year for Hilary and me. We have undertaken a number of consulting activities together. The work in PNG was definitely the highlight! Together, we purchased a unit in Kangaroo Point, where we have located both our offices. This is working really well. It is close to the ferry that crosses the river to the city, and is only a 3-minute walk from where we are living. We hope that 2008 will bring abundance in everything, especially joy, success, and good health.

Barry and Janine Paterson

This year Barry has continued as Theology teacher at Wontulp-Bi-Buya College thanks to the generosity of the supporters of the Bible Society of NSW. He is also Priest-in-Charge of St Peter’s Anglican Church at Kewarra Beach, which is on the north side of Cairns. As if that wasn’t enough he was elected as Secretary of the Mossman Community Centre. His New Year’s resolution is to rightsize his commitment to the College and concentrate more on the parish and the community of Mossman. While Barry is rightsizing Janine is flying higher than ever. She is now the Community Development Officer at our Mossman Community Centre. She presents a weekly radio program on community issues, supervises offenders who have community service orders, administers the emergency relief program, looks after the day-to-day working of the centre, encourages community members to use the facilities of the Centre and reaches out to the community to provide support by the Community Centre, to name just a few of her tasks. She is also involved in the world of lapidary (rocks) where she fashions beautiful pieces of jewellery from our amazing Australian semi-precious stones. She also graduated with a Certificate in Theology and Ministry from Trinity College in Melbourne and has continued to provide administrative support to the Bishop of the Torres Strait Region of the Anglican Church. We are richly blessed and we hope you are too.

Colin Huggins

As an ex-Chapter member of the 2007 reunion it has been for me a wonderful pleasure of getting to know my colleagues, if for only one thing - and this has been an eye-opener - never once were there any disagreements. All members worked as a team of one for the success, I believe, we attained in Brisbane. Cheers and beers plus oysters and prawns and Swiss delicacies! Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2008.

Yu husat? Masta Kis o husat?

Each year the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, through its chairman Rodney Cavalier AO, former NSW Education Minister, hosts a gathering of friends in the Members’ Pavilion overlooking the ‘sacred turf’, as Rodney calls it. Yesterday I was privileged to attend this event.

Over the last 20 years at various times I have been mistaken for various public figures who have wild hair, thick glasses, generous girth and roguish features. After the 1983 election, where I had waged a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Labor interest, I had reason to visit Orange – some hours drive west of Sydney - and was enjoying a pre-prandial beer when I engaged the attention of a group of women on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped bar. They quizzed me on the election campaign and I marvelled at being recognised so far from home. Fame, I mused, spreads like honey. When the conversation was over, the group said in unison “Thanks Mr Combe’. And I realised I had been taken for David Combe, then Labor national secretary and the architect of Bob Hawke’s winning election campaign.

Then, some years ago, attending a function at the National Trust, I saw across the room my former opponent at the polls, Jim Carlton. He signalled me to join the group he was with and proceeded to introduce me as Federal Minister Laurie Ferguson, to whom – on a murky night – I bear a passing resemblance. My immediate dilemma, though, was whether to embarrass Jim before the group or to pretend to be Laurie. I chose the former, although the look on Jim’s face made me immediately regret the decision. I have been mistaken for Laurie many times since.

But yesterday, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, I was mistaken for Rodney Cavalier four times. A maiden Cavalier identity error and a standing record for a single day.

Master_commander I must say that, on three of the four occasions where people robustly addressed me along the lines of “Good to see you, Rodney, how're you keeping?”, they were approaching me from behind – where, for all I know, there may be a passing similarity. But in the fourth case, much to my surprise, the engagement was full frontal.

I quickly decided that the appropriate strategy – given that the poor chap had no proper excuse (like “well, you do share a post-cranial similarity to Cavalier”) – was to pretend to be Rodney, wish the fellow well and tell him to have a drink on me (that is to say, Rodney). Whereupon he departed, appearing well satisfied with the encounter. God knows who he thought Rodney was when the great man got up to speak. An impostor, I presume.

Upon recounting this tale to Rodney later, he mildly observed that I clearly had the ability to walk backwards into any cricket ground in the land and get preferred treatment. I thought that was a useful idea and will now consider my options.

Photo: Rodney Cavalier, David Combe, Laurie Ferguson or Keith Jackson on the ASOPA reunion Brisbane River cruise

Ours was the year that was: 1964-65

Ed Brumby

Ed_brumby We were the last
Of the primary teacher cohorts
A bunch as mixed as any other
Naive out-of-schoolers
Refugees from banks and cloisters and the public service
Missionaries, atheists and agnostics
Absteemers and imbibers
Eccentrics and egotists
Performers and reflectors
Athletes and couch recliners
Drawn together at Middle Head
Motivated by
That idealism
Redolent of the post-Kennedy pre-Peacenik 60s
That adventurism of eternal force
That secular missionary call
Escape from the suffocation of country living
In Wagga, Narrandera, Gunnedah and Townsville
The lure of being paid in full to learn.

And learn we did or didn't
Directly and by example from:
Norm Donnison
That sage ballet-loving father-figure
Dispensing kindly authentic and lasting advice
Athol Berglund
Inspiring with his mini-lessons with an immigrant child
Implanting the wonder and the power of words
Psycho Ross
With his Cronbach bible
Ruffling his hair in constant annoyance
With a recalcitrant class
Les Peterkin
In tight short shorts choreographing
Mock sports days and revue routines
Jean Newcomb
Buxom purveyor of biological badinage
The yin to the Donnison yang
Ruth Fink
Exposing us to the mysteries of other world views
And order and culture clash: an extended metaphor
For our own impending culture shock
Edgar Ford
Illuminating the mystery and the majesty
Of what awaited us with his 35mm slides
Anne Prendergast
Establishing the background and context of history
In prim and learned fashion
And all those other teacher lecturers bent
On preparing us for the Big Adventure

Extract from ‘The last of the primaries’ by Ed Brumby. Included in the historical compilation 'ASOPA Years' (Henry Bodman, ed)

Rudd plans early visit to PNG

With_rudd_5 PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare has spoken enthusiastically about his initial meeting in Bali with the new Australian prime minister. He said the meeting was significant in renewing and building diplomatic and trade relations.

“This was my first meeting with Mr Rudd and I am confident that under his leadership PNG - Australia relations will once again be constructive for both countries,” Sir Michael said. He extended an invitation to Mr Rudd to visit PNG in the near future, which the Australian leader accepted.

I talk, I snap: Brisbane reunion pix

Ian Mclean

Toms_friends Sorry it has taken me so long to sort out my photos from the Brissie bash. Actually, apart from a couple in the hotel room, the bulk on the boat trip (plus a few at the cafe beside the river). I have uploaded them to my page on Picasa (owned by Google) and you just have to click on this link to see them.

This photo: Great Australian male specimens from long ago (c 1962) - from left, John 'Tomzy' Toms, Grahame 'Ben' Uhlmann, Dave 'Dubbo' Kesby, Ian 'Talker' McLean, Howard 'Howie' Ralph

A merry Christmas from 1967

School_paper_nov67 A special Sunday treat from my rather patchy archives. This cover of the PNG School Paper from November 1967 - the last I edited before joining the ABC - features the indomitable Yokomo and his trusty hound Omokoy. On this occasion the illustrator was Alan Lucas - who then lived on his sloop moored at the Papua Yacht Club and I understand is still piloting boats around the Great Barrier Reef. Yokomo was first drawn by Alan Lucas and then by Hal Holman. Yokomo is still a figure of some celebrity in PNG and, earlier this year, a debate raged about whether he and Omokoy, as schoolday icons, should be honoured with PNG's highest award, the Order of Logohu.

When all our roads led to ASOPA

Bill Brown

I saw an advertisement for Cadet Patrol Officers for Papua and New Guinea in the newspaper. I had no idea what New Guinea would be like, or what the job would entail. I thought that if I could get the job I would see the country for six months, and then I would move on.

The Director of District Services, Bert Jones and two Commonwealth Public Servants interviewed me. Two months passed, and I had just about given up, when a letter arrived from the Secretary for External Territories, Canberra. I had been selected. If I accepted, I would have to undertake a five months course. The commencing salary would be Four Hundred and Eight Pounds ($806) a year for adults, but, because I was under twenty-one years of age, I would be paid Three Hundred Pounds ($600).

On the appointed day, 18 July 1949, I made my way to Middle Head to the Australian School of Pacific Administration. That was a journey. From the family home at Coogee, I could catch a bus or tram to the city, and then change to another bus to cross the Harbour Bridge to Mosman. The final part of the journey was by a non-government bus to the Army establishment at the end of Middle Head.

The complete first chapter from Bill Brown’s New Guinea memoir can be read here.

Download bill_brown.pdf

Bill Brown rose steadily through the ranks in PNG's Department of District Administration and was appointed as District Commissioner in Bougainville at a particularly exacting period in the island's affairs. In retirement he lives at Bilgola Beach in Sydney.

The pic that should warm all our hearts

With_rudd Is this a sign a relationship is strengthening? [Left click on the photo for the full image] Michael Somare and Kevin Rudd sharing a joke at the Bali climate conference indicates a thaw in the icy atmosphere that has marked PNG-Australia affairs in recent times. Let's hope it's also a precursor to more personal political re-engagement between the two neighbours.

Australia’s neglect of the Pacific region was alluded to this week in a paper presented to the 9th Pacific Parliamentary Dialogue in Goroka. Prof Benjamin Reilly [below right] of the Centre for Democratic Institutions at the Australian National University told the conference that younger Australian parliamentarians lacked sufficient knowledge of PNG.

Prof Reilly told Pacific Islands parliamentarians that, despite the close proximity of Australia and PNG and the traditional ties they share, younger generation Australian politicians had no appreciation of the many issues facing PNG. Older generation parliamentarians understood PNG better and had closer relationship with the country, its people and culture. Benjamin_reilly

Dr Reilly added that the dialogue should foster closer working relationship between Australia,  PNG and other Pacific Island countries. “We need to acknowledge the reality that democracy in the Pacific region had often not worked well as it could,” he said. But democracy across the Pacific region nevertheless remains resilient.

Source: PNG National - ‘Young Aust politicians ignorant of PNG’ by James Kila

Photos: Sydney Morning Herald; Australian National University

Mining Kokoda Track a problem for PNG

Kokoda PNG’s Minister for Culture and Tourism, Charles Abel, has expressed concern over potential damage to the Kokoda Track if mining activities by Frontier Resources Ltd proceed.

He has urged other government departments including Mining, Forestry, Inter-Government Relations, and Environment and Conservation to take a holistic approach towards developing the 96km track, a PNG tourism icon.

“I cannot stress enough the significance of the Kokoda Track in terms of the historical ties between our country and Australia and its long term economic values as a world class track. It must be preserved for future generations,” Mr Abel said.

The Australian government has offered to inject $15 million to support initiatives to protect the track and improve its management.

One of the most famed CPOs ever

Gordon_steege Air Commodore Gordon Henry Steege DFC DSO turned 90 a couple of months ago. He remains ramrod straight and his conversation is vivid and entertaining, especially when he’s discussing his exploits in North Africa flying Gladiator biplanes against the Axis forces – his hands cutting through the air to illustrate the weft and warp of aerial combat.

On 18 February 1941, Steege attacked four enemy aircraft in succession over Libya. Army sources confirmed he had shot down three of them in this single engagement. He later flew Kittyhawks against the Japanese in New Guinea and became an accredited fighter ‘ace’ having shot down eight enemy aircraft. By the end of the war, having risen steadily through the ranks, Steege was Director of Operations at RAAF HQ in Melbourne.

Then, late in 1946, thirsty for adventure, he resigned his commission and became a cadet Gordon_steege_pngaapatrol officer in PNG, rising to the position of Assistant District Officer four years later, when he resigned to rejoin the RAAF as a Wing Commander during the Korean emergency.

He spent time in the sixties commanding RAAF bases at Amberley, Butterworth and Edinburgh,  retiring in 1972. Since then he’s lived in Palm Beach, NSW, and regularly attends PNG Association functions [right].

Beaches shrink as warming hits Pacific

Richard Jones

Carteret_beach Squealing pigs headed for the bush on the east coast of New Britain as the sturdy Filomena Taroa herded her grandchildren to higher ground last week as the sea moved inland further than anyone had ever seen. A similar situation confronted the people of the Carteret atolls north-east of Bougainville. “I don’t know what’s happening,” Filomena told a reporter. “I’ve never experienced it before.”

Scientists at the current United Nations climate change conference in Bali have regularly warned of the world’s seas rising as a consequence of global warming. More and more reports come in virtually every day of flooding from unprecedented high tides in the Pacific Ocean microstates.

It’s happening not only to low lying atolls but to island shorelines from India to Alaska. Scientists project that seas expanding from warmth and from the run-off created by melting land ice in Antarctica could displace millions of coastal inhabitants worldwide this century.

Ursula Rakova from the Carteret atoll knows her beach has been shrinking for the past two decades. “We don’t have vehicles. We don’t have an airport. We’re victims of what is happening with the industrialised nations constantly emitting greenhouse gases.”

CarteretsThe PNG Government has allocated $911,000 to resettle some Carteret families in Bougainville. “It’s not enough. The islands are getting smaller and basically everybody will eventually have to leave,” said Rakova.

Source: Associated Press

Photos: Carteret Islands [Starr TV and Google Earth]

One-third of PNG's annual budget stolen

PNG’s corruption watchdog says more than a third of the government's funds are stolen each year by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. An anti-corruption conference in Port Moresby has been told by Transparency International that an estimated 2.5 billion of the six billion kina budget is being pilfered.Mike_manning_png_ti

“Think of how we treat people who are corrupt, we elect them to parliament,” said Transparency International chairman Mike Manning [right]. “Until we impose on people a sense of shame for doing wrong, we are never going to stop corruption.”

Mr Manning said PNG's government systems had gradually broken down since independence in 1975 to the point where “grand corruption” was now rife. Despite inquiries into large-scale corruption cases, no big player had been jailed, he said. A recent inquiry into corruption within the finance department was shut down when it started making progress.

Corrupt diversion of funds to private pockets meant medicines did not get to health posts, schools went without desks and books, and roads became impassable. PNG's chief ombudsman Ila Geno said corruption led to an increase in poverty and denied support to those who needed it most.

Photo: Mike Manning [Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

Source: ‘Corruption rife in PNG government system, Australian Associated Press, 6 December 2007

Tony Voutas - Kaindi to chang zhu de

In 1964 Bill Bloomfield was elected to the first PNG House of Assembly. He’d traversed the Kaindi electorate asking voters to put the man they wanted as number one on the ballot paper and Bloomfield as number two. He won at the eighth preference count. To this day there are probably still Kaindi voters who believe both their man and Bloomfield were elected.

Tony_voutas By 1966 Bill Bloomfield was dead, unhappily becoming the first PNG politician to die in office, and his place was taken by a young patrol officer called Tony Voutas who had just picked up a degree in Indonesian studies at ANU. He had visited every one of the 80 polling places in Kaindi telling everyone to put him first and allocate no preferences. He won easily.

In the next few years Tony Voutas became one of the founding fathers of the Pangu Party and an adviser to PNG’s first prime minister, Michael Somare. Tony Voutas was a prominent, indeed an eminent, figure in PNG in the sixties and early 1970s – and then he was gone. So what became of Anthony Constantine ‘Toni’ Voutas?

Well it turns out that Tony Voutas is a chang zhu de, or long time expatriate, in Beijing. He’s been in China for nearly 30 years and is Managing Director of his own company, Asia Pacific Access. APA consults to multinational companies doing business in China, its services including relocation, cross-cultural training, human resource management, business set-up and remote site investigation in China.

“I first came to China in 1974 on a semi-official PNG delegation,” he says. “At the time, which was before PNG's independence, I had completed two terms as a member of the PNG parliament and was serving as the PNG prime minister’s chief adviser.

“I am fascinated by the intricacies, variations and dynamics of the culture. While Chinese culture has had such a long and rich history, nowadays you may find layers of culture ranging from traditional to ultra-modern within the same family, even within the same person. On the weekends I still love to have picnics around the Ming Tombs or amidst the serene stupas of Silver Mountain - after decades I still haven't grown tired to exploring China and learning about its vibrant culture.”

Photo: Tony Voutas' election photograph [Pacific Islands Monthly, October 1966]

Reflections on the ‘75 Guam games

Richard Jones

Dick_keith The 1975 South Pacific Games were held in and around Agana, the capital city of Guam in the American-controlled island chain of Micronesia. A last gasp gold medal from the women’s softball team took PNG’s gold medal tally to 22 but the top two nations were New Caledonia and Tahiti with totals of 102 and 94 medals, respectively.

Top individual performers for PNG were distance runner John Kokinai, who garnered three gold medals and a silver, and swimmer Charlie Martin, who finished with no fewer than eight medals. In boxing, Western Samoa and American Samoa took home the lion’s share of the 11 gold medals on offer, but PNG boxers did well with two gold and two silver.

Edward Seeto (flyweight), Sibona Oka (featherweight) and Geoffrey Hui (lightweight) won gold medals for Papua New Guinea in the weightlifting. The golf also proved to be a bonanza for the PNG team. Dick Smith – not to be confused with the retail electronics wizard - won the individual archery gold for PNG. The PNG men’s doubles combination won gold in the tennis, a competition which was hard hit because of wet weather.

Edited extract of a fuller account of the 1975 Guam Games, which can be found in the December edition of the PNG Association of Australia’s ‘Una Voce’ magazine.

Photo: Dick and I enjoy the sunshine as 'Lady Brisbane' approaches the Story Bridge in the fair capital of the Sunshine State.

Bali: Somare – Rudd to meet for first time

PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare and the new Australian prime minister will meet officially for the first time at the forthcoming global leaders’ meeting on climate change in Bali. It is likely their discussion will extend beyond Kyoto issues and into other matters of pressing concern between the two countries.

Sir Michael has commended Kevin Rudd for having Australia sign the Kyoto protocol on climate change. “Being aware of the relative importance of the fossil fuel use in Australia’s economy, I applaud the courage of the new prime minister’s action,’’ Sir Michael said. “It is encouraging to know that Australia has finally joined the party.”

He said the timing of the Australian government’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol couldn’t have been more appropriate with world leaders are preparing to meet in Bali to discuss post-Kyoto climate policy.

Sir Michael has maintained for many years that big regional players like Australia, PNG and New Zealand have an obligation to the Pacific people, especially when global warming is responsible for drastic weather changes and sinking atolls.

“Australia’s accession to Kyoto places the Pacific region on a higher moral ground to advocate for clean development and clean energy initiatives,’’ Sir Michael said. “PNG has already done a lot of work on climate change and I look forward to engaging with the Australian prime minister and his ministers in Bali.”

The hard men of Papuan rugby league

Barnes Kaputin Gorton (PNGAA)
Champion footballer, tough politician, accomplished diplomat. John Kaputin (centre) seen here at Rabaul airport in 1970 with Australian territories minister  Barnes and prime minister Gorton 


"Joe Morris was a front row forward from Moresby rugby league days. He responded to an article I wrote for Les Everett’s Australian Rules website in the following terms about some of the great rugby league players who played in Port Moresby in the sixties" - Richard Jones

NEWCASTLE - Digger Annand’s given name was James and he now owns a bottle shop in Newcastle.

I was a member of the DCA side that won in 1966. Barry Kenny, also in the side, later played for Queensland.

Continue reading "The hard men of Papuan rugby league" »

One of our principals was missing

I always enjoy meeting up with Bill Brown, with whom I worked on Bougainville in the early seventies when he was in the exacting role of District Commissioner at a time of heightening tension on the island and I was running Radio Bougainville.

We bumped into each other again at a PNG Association function on Sunday and once again exchanged robust views on any subject that crept across our field of vision. On this occasion the subject concerned the ASOPA career of one Wilfred Arthur. Bill Brown, at the School from June 1949 to 23 December 1949, recalled that Arthur was principal or acting principal. “That,” said Bill, “indicates of a break in the time line” [see Chronology under ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA at right].

Wilfred_arthur Before continuing with the discussion, allow me to briefly introduce Wilfred Stanley (Woof) Arthur, DSO DFC (1919 – 2000). Arthur was an Australian fighter ace during World War II and is officially credited with shooting down 10 enemy aircraft. At 24, he also became the youngest Group Captain in the history of the RAAF. I will write more about him in future.

The information Bill provided, though, creates a problem. Which is this. The records show that Alf Conlon was acting principal of ASOPA from August 1948 to September 1949, when he was compelled to leave the position after a staff mutiny. It is possible that Wilfred Arthur took over the position for what was quite a long interregnum (perhaps from September 1949 to November 1950) before Charles Rowley arrived.

So what is the explanation for Bill believing that Arthur was principal from June 1949 or perhaps earlier? Well other evidence, especially that of John Kerr, tells us that Conlon – under great pressure from Canberra at the time over the future of the School - spent long periods locked away in his office and was rarely seen on campus. It could be – and in my view probably was – that Arthur was the man up and about running the School on a day-to-day basis during the period Bill was there.

Bill’s information was important for another reason. Until our conversation the other day, the history I’d located had been silent on who took over during the 14 months after Conlon left and before Rowley arrived. Now it seems that Group Captain Wilfred Arthur DSO, DFC could well have been that man.

And so we embark on another chapter in the rich and meandering history of ASOPA.

The Pacific gets a strong voice in Canberra

The first Rudd ministry sworn in at Government House in Canberra today included an interesting appointment that bodes well for the Federal government giving greater attention to affairs in Australia’s neighbourhood than has been the case for many years.

Duncan_kerr The naming of Duncan Kerr as parliamentary secretary responsible for the Pacific was nominated by prime minister Rudd as a key appointment that will “help rebuild the fabric of personal and political relationships with the governments of the South Pacific”.

Mr Kerr has held the Tasmanian federal seat of Denison for more than 20 years. In 1993 he was Australia's Attorney General under Paul Keating before becoming Justice Minister, holding that portfolio until 1996. In the 1980s he was the dean of law at the University of PNG.

At a press conference last Thursday, Rudd said: “If you notice anything about our relations with the South Pacific in recent years, they’ve gone through one rocky patch after another. It’s not the time for an extensive policy discussion as to why that’s been the case.

“I would suggest having a dedicated parliamentary secretary and someone with such extensive experience as Duncan charged with that responsibility will help rebuild the fabric of personal and political relationships with the governments of the South Pacific.

“Duncan has previous experience in PNG. Duncan also was responsible for early advice way back in the early part of the decade about emerging problems in the Solomon Islands which I’m sure some of you here would recall for its prescience.”

It's a record turn out for annual PNGAA event


SYDNEY -The annual Christmas lunch of the PNG Association has become something of an institution.

It’s the regular reunion that draws together a rich blend of people who once lived in or were closely associated with PNG – kiaps, teachers, traders, planters, missionaries, the lot.

Yesterday’s event at the verdant Killara Golf Club was the first one in 20 years not to be held at the seedy central city Mandarin Club, which is about to be demolished.

The lunch, well designed to minimise speech making and maximise catching up, was attended by a record 240 people, 60 more than last year.

It’s clear that the ‘younger generation’ of people who first went to PNG in the sixties and seventies is now beginning to make its presence felt, as we have seen at the recent huge reunions of kiaps and chalkies.

This is a welcome development, as it will underwrite the continuing energy of the PNGAA, which remains an important institution in terms of maintaining strong relationships at the individual level between Australia and PNG – a relationship that has been very strained at the political level over recent years.

In a shock announcement, long-standing president Harry West and treasurer Ross Johnson said they were just about ready to hand over the reins to younger officers, not that it seems possible to find younger people who could be fitter than either of these two stalwarts.

I first met Harry, who’s now 86, when he was District Commissioner in East New Britain during the Mataungan uprising and he doesn’t seem to have aged a day since then.

I also met up with Neil Desailly, former PNG kiap and magistrate, whose daughter Peta I taught as a nine-year old at Kundiawa Primary A School in 1964.

Peta’s now a grandmother, Neil tells me, and nothing delivers a blow to denial that the years are flying by more than that dose of reality.