Experiences of a lifetime – a kiap’s story
Former teacher elected PNGAA president

Some thoughts on a new PNGAA agenda

There’s a truism about new organisations, and about new leadership in old organisations. And it is this. The way you begin tends to be the way people believe you are. It’s all about perceptions. The first meeting of the new committee of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia is to be held this coming Sunday – and I hope the association will be, and will be perceived as being, a 'can do' outfit.

My desiderata for Sunday's meeting fit into two categories:

          Adapting the PNGAA’s structure for the job ahead.

          Take some early policy decisions in areas where the PNGAA’s weight may make a difference.

Structurally, as I’ve mentioned here before, I want to establish working groups in each of five key areas: fellowship & caring; PNG relations; publications & communications; history & scholarship; and finance & membership. We’re in the process of appointing competent convenors to lead each of these groups. On Sunday, it’s expected that each group will develop a work plan to guide its activities in 2008.

I also want to start a process of constitutional review, especially to determine how State and Territory branches may be better linked with the parent PNGAA organisation but also to refine the structure of the Association to equip it for an expanded future role.

In policy terms, there are four decisions I’ll be asking the committee to make on behalf of the Association:

          To write to the Prime Minister urging the Federal Government to financially support the search for the Montevideo Maru, declare the site of the sinking a Commonwealth War Grave and erect a monument on Subic Bay to mark this maritime tragedy. This project has great meaning for many Australians and expecially for people associated with Rabaul, from where the ship departed on its last tragic voyage.

          To support Chris Viner-Smith’s initiative that former PNG District Services personnel [‘Kiaps’] be formally recognised by the Commonwealth Government for their exemplary service to the people of PNG over a period of 75 years culminating with National Independence. Some ex-kiaps are a bit embarrassed by all this fuss, but as an ex-chalkie I reckon they deserve some recognition by our Government.

          To support a proposal that the Federal Government establish an exchange scheme to enable young officers from the Commonwealth Public Service and the PNG Public Service to exchange jobs on short-term assignments as a means of building understanding and transferring expertise between our two countries. This idea came from Paul Oates and Norm Richardson and I reckon it’s one of those good practical suggestions that can make a difference.

          To ask the PNGAA to lend its support for the ‘School of the Pacific’ proposal – to reinvigorate the old ASOPA site with a new and relevant purpose to strengthen Australia’s relationships with PNG and the Asia-Pacific region. I’ve been banging on about this for a while [see ASOPA Site under 'Categories' at right].

I invite you to offer a comment on these or any other matters so PNGAA committee members and ASOPA PEOPLE readers can share your thoughts.

You can join the PNGAA and make it a stronger organisation by clicking through to the application form here. Membership is only $20 a year.

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