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18 posts from June 2008

PNG’s very own Mt Everest

Newman Cuthbert


“I have come to climb your mountain; will you grant me permission to do so?” Papua New Guinea’s Head of State, Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane, stated the request to the people of Gembogl in Chimbu. And the women’s shrill sounds rose in a crescendo piercing the cold air.

He had asked. And the custodians of Mt Wilhelm, PNG’s highest mountain, had given their approval for the Governor-General to make an attempt to climb to its summit. Sir Paulias had arrived in Chimbu making no secret of the fact that he was determined to climb Mt Wilhelm. “I am leading this expedition to raise funds for children whose parents have died from HIV/AIDS and in doing so to promote Mt Wilhelm as a major tourist attraction,” he said.

But Mt Wilhelm is no walk in the park. When one arrives in Kundiawa the first thing that strikes you is the terrain. There is the one way landing strip, the only flat area in all Kundiawa town. It is with precise calculations that pilots negotiate the surrounding ridges and mountains.

Kundiawa is known for the tomb of the late Iambakey Okuk smack in the middle of town. It boasts two hotels, the Kundiawa Hotel and Mount Wilhelm Tourist Hotel. David Herman Tambagle, the manager, goes out of his way to make sure you get a good feed, a shower and a warm bed. His bar opens to the view: the distant peaks of Sina Sina to the east and Gembogl northwards cut into Wara Simbu’s deep ravines.

Every now and again, the young at heart perform the Karim Lek ceremony. “It is an all night event in a traditional Chimbu custom but we put a time limit to it so as not to disturb our visitors from their sleep,” Tambagle says.

The road to Gembogl is rough and accessible only by four wheel drive. The road winds up the sides of steep mountains, down gorges and levels out for a short distances only to repeat the scenario. At Gembogl station Sir Paulias Matane addresses the crowd from a stage decorated by fruit and vegetables. Large onions the size of tennis balls and huge strawberries. Massive round cabbages, broccoli and passionfruit. “This is where the biggest of the best is grown,” Joe Mek Teine MP, proud member for Kundiawa-Gembogl points out.

The Governor-General has seen it all. He has been to all seven continents of the earth. He tells two young men from Israel at the foot of Mount Wilhelm “Yes I have been to your country and climbed Mt Sinai.” But the weather has closed in and a thick cloak of cloud conceals the mountain. The climb is slippery and dangerous for the head of state. So, with his voice breaking, Sir Paulius charges members of his expedition with the responsibility to continue the quest to reach the top of the mountain and raise the PNG flag on his behalf and for all the people of this country.

This is achieved on Monday 16 June at 6.30 in the morning and today a specially made PNG flag mounted on a teal frame flies above the cold and misty loneliness of the summit of PNG’s very own Mt Everest.

Source: PNG Weekend, Post-Courier, 28-29 June 2008

Time for your shoulder to the wheel

The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia (PNGAA) added nearly 70 new members in the three months to June this year to take overall membership to a record 1,700. As I remarked in a letter to Duncan Kerr - the Federal Government’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs – this rapid expansion indicates that Australians who served in PNG in the past are rekindling their interest in that country, its people and its affairs, which is a very positive development in PNG-Australia relations.

Over recent months, the PNGAA has initiated a number of major changes to strengthen its role in building better relationships between Australia and PNG. As part of a new approach, the Association has, for the first time, established a PNG Relations function on its national committee and begun to make representations on matters it believes will enhance the PNG-Australia partnership at a civil level.

There can be no better way for you to assist this process than to join the PNGAA or, if you’re already a member, to recruit other people as members. At just $20 a year for membership, which includes a subscription to the excellent quarterly journal Una Voce, it is a steal. So scour your email address list for family, friends and colleagues who might have an interest in Papua New Guinea and ask them to join. Today. The membership application form is available on-line here.

Strengthening the PNG Association through expanding its membership is a certain way to give all Australians with an interest in PNG a voice in how the relationship should be conducted in future.


Time government got serious about PNG

Roy Scragg Roy Frederick Rhodes Scragg was a distinguished Director of Health in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and 1970s. He’s now 84 and lives in the pleasant Adelaide suburb of Glenelg, from where he recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Adelaide Advertiser that deserves wider attention.

Noting that Federal Cabinet is about to consider the admission to Australia of workers from Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati and Tuvalu, Dr Scragg writes: “PNG, Solomons and Timor have a historic and geographic link with Australia and should be the countries of first choice for workers…. PNG has a massive unemployment problem with educated young men and women from their comprehensive education and training programs unable to obtain employment.

“In 2007 Sir Michael Somare sought a worker arrangement with Australia and was knocked back. Every Papua New Guinean will be aggrieved at these well-served Pacific islanders being given priority to fill Australian worker gaps.”

If I may be oxymoronic for a moment, I think Roy Scragg’s remarks are moderate in the extreme. Despite Kevin Rudd’s high-minded ‘Port Moresby Declaration’ earlier this year, no major initiative of practical value has been forthcoming. Words like ‘Pacific partnership’ pour forth but action is idle.

As I’ve discovered myself through a number of attempts to communicate with the Prime Minister’s Office and with Pacific Minister Duncan Kerr - seeking to elicit specific detail of how the Rudd Government might enhance the PNG-Australia relationship - that responses received after long silences turn out to be hazy, hedged, jargon-burdened form letters: offensive in their sameness and frustrating in their failure to attend to the matters raised. Direct propositions meet vague generalisations. Cogent observations encounter feeble ambiguities. And serious questions inevitably fail to find answers.

What the Australian Government really does not get about the PNG-Australia relationship is the word ‘relationship’. The Papua New Guinea Association, and ASOPA PEOPLE, will stay on the case.

Photo: Roy Scragg in 1978 [CSIRO]


Senate motion recognises ‘Angels’

Dick Whittington Papua New Guinean veterans who Australians dubbed ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’ during World War II are to be issued with medals and provided with financial support in recognition of their services to Australian forces during battles against invading Japanese forces. The Koiari people earned the nickname in 1942 when they carried Australian supplies and equipment and helped evacuate wounded soldiers.

“The fuzzy wuzzy angels saved the lives of many Australian troops during the Kokoda campaign,” said Liberal Senator Guy Barnett. “They carried stretchers, stores and sometimes wounded diggers directly on their shoulders over some of the toughest terrain in the world. It has been over 65 years since the Kokoda battles commenced, without official recognition and a medal.”

The Senate agreed to Senator Barnett’s motion that called for prompt recognition and support for the surviving angels. The Senate directed the Defence Awards and Honours Tribunal to ‘promptly determine the most appropriate form of medal or recognition for the remaining fuzzy wuzzy angels or their surviving families’.

It also asks the government to consider a small ex-gratia payment to each fuzzy wuzzy angel and to fund initiatives to upgrade the health and education status of people in the isolated villages along the Kokoda Track.

In fact, after the war a medal was struck for the ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’ [right], but I don’t think anyone would begrudge further recognition of these remarkably loyal and committed people, who were also recognised in Bert Beros’ famous poem.


Many a mother in AustraliaAngels Medal
When the busy day is done
Sends a Prayer to the Almighty
For the keeping of her Son.

Asking that an Angel guide him
And bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are
Answered on the Owen Stanley track.

Tho' they haven't any halos
Only holes slashed through the ear
Their faces marked with tattoo's
And scratch pins in their hair.

Bringing back the badly woundedAngels Medal Obverse
Just as steady as a hearse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
And as gentle as a Nurse.

Slow and careful in bad places
On that awful mountain track
And the look upon their faces
Made us think that Christ was black.

Not a move to hurt the carried
As they treat him like a Saint
It's a picture worth recording
That an Artist's yet to paint.

Many a lad will see his mother
and the husbands, weans and wives
Just because the Fuzzy Wuzzies
Carried them to save their lives.

From Mortar or Machine gun fire
Or a chance surprise attack
To safety and the care of Doctors
At the bottom of the track.

May the Mothers of Australia
When they offer up a prayer
Mention these impromptu Angels
With the ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy’ hair.

‘The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ by Sapper H ‘Bert’ Beros [NX6925], 7th Division 2nd AIF, was written on the Kokoda Track in 1942.

Photo: George Silk’s iconic portrait of ‘Dick' Whittington and an unnamed ‘fuzzy wuzzy angel’ taken on Christmas Day 1942. Two months later Whittington died after contracting scrub typhus. [Australian War Memorial]

PNG moves to assert women’s role

The dearth of women in the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly has convinced the Somare government that it should move to appoint female representatives to the National Parliament. The Minister for Home Affairs and Youth, Dame Carol Kidu, is the only elected woman in the Parliament.

Western Highlands Provincial Executive Council member, Helen Kopunye, said this was welcome news for all PNG women in the country. Mrs Kopunye also proposed that the 19 provincial seats be abolished and given to women in the 19 provinces. She said both East Timor and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville had women representation in parliament allowed by their constitution and PNG should apply the same principle.

TPNG’s legal system: the book

Bruce Ottley lived in Port Moresby from 1972-77, where he taught law at the University of Papua New Guinea. He returned to his native United States in 1978 and is now a Professor of Law at DePaul University law school in Chicago.”Thanks for providing a place for former PNG people to communicate,” he tells ASOPA PEOPLE.

For some years now, between other research and writing, Bruce has been working on a book on PNG's colonial legal system: its creation and operation and how it changed over the years. He now wants to drive this project forward. “I would love to hear from former kiaps who have stories about their experiences as magistrates of the Courts of Native Affairs,” he says. “I’m also interested in anything anyone can tell me about how the legal system actually operated in PNG in the 1950s and 1960s.”

I know that many ASOPA PEOPLE readers – especially our kiap colleagues - were active in legal, magisterial and related matters during this period and are particularly knowledgeable about the subject of Bruce’s research. You can contact him at [email protected]

Marking the Battle of the Coral Sea

Since being elected president of the Papua New Guinea Association a couple of months ago, I’ve discovered, more than I ever previously knew, that a lot is done by individual Australians to provide meaningful and targeted assistance to the people of PNG. Let’s look at an example of this as seen in the contribution of Colleen Neville. Colleen gave birth to her three eldest sons when she lived in Milne Bay, and now she returns to the province regularly “to do what I can to help the local community”.

“My visits to PNG become more exciting each time I return,” Colleen says. ”A lady in Cairns made six beautiful teddy bears which I was able to use as part of the prize list to hold a fund raising dinner to buy medicines for the hospital in Alotau. The airlines and local businesses were very generous with their donations and Masuarina Lodge provided the venue. Two young local men, Jeremiah and Ben, kept us entertained all night with their very professional guitar playing. It was all a great success and raised two and a half thousand kina.”

Now Colleen is about to leave Cairns once more to help her sons put the finishing touches on a plantation resort they’re building on Doini Island near Samarai. “The waterfront dongas are beautiful,” Colleen says. “On the edge of palm fringed white sandy beaches surrounded by turquoise waters.”

It seems a committee has been formed in Alotau to build a war museum to honour the troops who fought and died during the battle of the Coral Sea and to acknowledge this turning point in World War II, which many believe saved Australia from occupation by the Japanese. (Although military historians now accept that the Japanese had no intention of invading Australia because of the logistical problems that would have ensued.)

Colleen asks that if anyone has family or friends who would be interested in donating war memorabilia to the museum, these contributions would be greatly appreciated. You can email Colleen at c[email protected] or call her on 0418 700 642.

Notes from an ASOPA diary

Max Hayes came upon this site by accident yesterday when checking a reference for the MV ‘Desikoko’, which conveyed some soldiers and civilians from Rabaul shortly before the Japanese captured the town on 23 January 1942. The capture of Rabaul, the aftermath of the Tol massacre and the sinking of the ‘Montevideo Maru’ are areas of ongoing research for Max. But the notes he provides us with here are about ASOPA. And pay special attention to his wonderfiul run-in with Dr Peter Lawrence. Max writes....

I was an ex RAAF photographer who was selected for the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) in 1959 to set up a photographic section for the force. As a prelude, I had a compulsory short sojourn at ASOPA. I arrived there on Monday 8 June 1959 and, in my diary, made the few notes that follow. Others whom I can recall on the course were Grace Cuthbertson (who became a Rabaul welfare officer) and Pat Ayers (a nursing sister).

8 June, introduction and various lectures, some free time to spend in the library, meals and accommodation good, staff lecturers and fellow students all co-operative, one of the chaps has fourth baby so we adjourned to nearly hotel to celebrate.

9 June, interesting medical and law lectures.

10 June, decided to live at home ( parents lived at Kingsgrove).

11 June, leave home at 7.25am and arrive at Mosman 8.40am. Lectures very interesting and I have a feeling that I will like NG very much.

15 June, Queen's birthday so slept in at home.

17 June, guess who incurred Dr Lawrence's wrath by dozing briefly during his anthropology lecture [the lecture was on ‘live egos and dead egos’, which he illustrated by moving small triangles around on a blackboard, and I was bored out of my brain. I have a recollection of him jumping up and down and screaming "Get out, get out" and shaking me violently. That was a short day for me].

18 June, only seven days to go as I set out for NG.

22 June, possibly the most interesting series of lectures in any one day. Lecturers claim that respect from natives is usually not sincere but merely a pretence.

24 June, away from Mosman about 12.30pm.

25 June, final clearances, pack up and leave from Mascot at 8.15pm.

26 June, (Friday) arrive at PM 6.45am and met by an officer and constables. Located at P Moresby hotel, received equipment (including pistol). I am sure I will like PNG.

End of ASOPA recollections. I went back to the old ASOPA campus in 1998 to locate records of any fellow police officers who had attended there, but told all records dumped as no department, organisation, archive or library wanted them. Such a shame.

You may have seen my various articles over the years in Una Voce and elsewhere. My mission to set up the police photographic section didn't last: they were short of officers in Rabaul and I was sent there six weeks after setting foot in PNG. Commissioner Normoyle said, "Just watch what the other fellows do and you will be alright".

My interests are the overseas police officers of British New Guinea, Papua, German New Guinea, the Territory of New Guinea and the RPNGC from 1888 to 1988. I’m also working to get recognition for Australia's first battle against the Germans at Bitapaka on 11 September 1914 and the loss of our first submarine AE1, never seen again. I’m also a student of World War II particularly as it relates to Rabaul, Toll and the ‘Montevideo Maru’.

Max served in the Royal Australian Air Force from 1950-57 and the Royal Papua New GuineaConstabulary from 1959-74 and was a member of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles from 1961-63. He has been a member of the International Police Association since 1964. Max lives in Box Hill, a suburb of Melbourne.

A backward step in a life of progress

Lister Hospital   

London, Thursday: It’s my body and I’ll be miserable if I want to. They discharged me from Chelsea’s Lister Hospital today. ‘Regatta’ had docked at Dover early Wednesday (through a Pethedine haze after a week of spinal agony I glimpsed the White Cliffs from our cabin window – they’re grey). At the time I was bedbound, cabinbound and – as things transpired – also bound for the haus sik.

For me it was a day of dubious firsts. First time in wheelchair. First time in stretcher. First time in ambulance [in the lead role, that is: I accompanied Phil ‘Time for Mouth to Mouth’ Charley once to Royal Prince Alfred]. The solicitous Kent Ambulance Service paramedic told me that, in his previous role in the British Army, he’d ministered to Rudolf Hess in Spandau. Which diverted my attention from a spasming back for a short while.

What else? Oh, yes. First time thrown out of hospital (thank you National Health Service). At Ashford Accident & Emergency, extreme agony and an inability to get off the floor do not qualify as quite sick enough. The Nazis got better treatment in Spandau. Ah, nearly forgot, first time to stump up £3,600 in advance for admission to an institution anywhere. But at least I got an MRI.

It was the scan of my lower back that I’d been doggedly pursuing across south-east England. And it was finally made available (for a price, as you’ve observed and will no doubt remind me of) at the Lister Hospital [pictured above] splendidly overlooking the Thames – although it was hard to appreciate the view crawling round the floor seeking a body position to minimise my propensity to chew skirting boards into sawdust. [Historical observation: the hospital was named after Joseph Lister, who promoted the sterile surgery I thought I was about to put to the test.]

Anyway. Now you can relax. The denouement was a let down. No slipped disc; albeit a highly tormented one that managed to compress nerves, turn muscles into knuckles, buckle the body and temporarily send a long planned holiday into freefall. It could have been more awful, though. I could have also had piles.

Highlight of the day? (Please go to the Channel 9 website right now if you’re easily offended.) A Bulgarian nurse in Ashford A & E slipping a delicately rubber gloved finger between my buttocks, asking me to squeeze and pronouncing that the squeeze was powerful enough to take an MRI scan totally off the agenda.

Yes, dear reader, there is still some residual power in this poor, frail body; backward bending though it may be. Better news tomorrow, I hope. May I just put in a plea that, after all this agony and indignity, IAG won't quibble about the insurance.


Pumpkin scone sale on Kokoda Track

Richard E Jones

The revered Kokoda Track is in danger of being loved to death, a sustainable tourism expert has said. The historic wartime trail through the rugged Owen Stanley Range in south-eastern PNG has become a pilgrimage for thousands of Australians each year. In 2007 more than 5000 registered trekkers walked the gruelling 96 km - a massive increase on 2001 figures when only 76 tourists negotiated the narrow path.

Famous Australian Rules football identities in Ron Barassi and David Parkin, along with the entire Hawthorn senior list, have negotiated the tough terrain in the past 12 months. But this growing popularity of the track is taking its toll on the environment, with visitors taking home memories yet leaving rubbish – and, dare I say it, excrement - behind.

Dr Stephen Wearing, associate professor in the School of Leisure, Sport and Tourism at Sydney’s University of Technology, has directed sustainable tourism projects in the Solomon Islands, Costa Rica and Guyana. And he has seen first hand the impact tourism is having on Kokoda’s fragile ecosystem. “It’s significant in a lot of ways, both positive and negative,” he said. “Obviously now [tourism is] generating income which is assisting those Papuan communities along the track. But in environmental terms there are real issues.”

Wearing is developing an eco-trekking program for the Kokoda Track which he hopes will ensure its survival as a tourism destination, while protecting the rights of locals who live along the trail. He says locals wanted the usual things - electricity, education and improved infrastructure - and in return could offer small museums of left-over military hardware. Not to mention the pumpkin scones.

“We held workshops for women discussing what they could make to sell to tourists and six months later at least three communities were selling pumpkin scones. When you’re walking along the Kokoda Track it’s a very funny thing to find pumpkin scones for sale,” added Prof Wearing.

Australian Associated Press reporter Bonny Symons-Brown’s article appeared among the science and environment pages in weekend editions of major Australian newspapers.

And now for the Montevideo Maru

The letter that follows, written by Paul Jones, was published in the Canberra Times on Monday 9 June under the heading, ‘Search for Maru’. In response, Paul had a phone call from Les Drew, the local contact for a group pressing the Federal Government to find the ill-fated ship. Les encourages anybody with an interest to contact Cynthia Schmidt at

[email protected]. Paul wrote:

“With HMAS Sydney located and the last resting place of so many Australians known at last, we can now properly turn our much needed focus to locating the Montevideo Maru and the 1053 men lost with her. As Australia 's greatest maritime disaster, the Montevideo Maru, transporting these 1053 soldiers and civilian prisoners of war from the occupied New Guinea islands of New Britain and New Ireland, was torpedoed by an American submarine off the Philippines on 1 July 1942.

“There was some interest when the Montevideo Maru Memorial was commissioned at Ballarat on 7/2/04, as part of the POW wall commemoration. Also, from time to time over recent years media has shown interest, including Compass on 20/4/08 on the fate of the Brunswick Salvation Army Band which served as medical attendants for 2/22 Battalion, which was lost with the exception of a single survivor now living in Victoria.

“As the 66th anniversary of the sinking looms, it is heartening to learn that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is considering an appeal to provide funds to search for the location of the Montevideo Maru, with the prospect of the site being declared a war grave.”

You can contact Paul at [email protected]



Mi bin mekim wok olsem…..

Jim Moore, who was a kiap from 1965-1974, has created a set of commemorative tee-shirts for all of us who served in Papua New Guinea so that we can actively pursue bragging rights about our well spent youth in those distant times.

Jim asks, I presume rhetorically, ‘Are you proud of your Papua New Guinea service and want to tell the world? Do you want a memento that will be truly unique? Do you want to raise some money for a worthy PNG cause?’ Now I’m assuming the correct answers to each of these questions is yes, yes and yes.

There is another answer that does all this, says Jim: a quality PNG tee-shirt that is emblazoned this text: ‘BIFO, MI BIN MEKIM WOK OLSEM LONG PAPUA NEW GUINEA - KIAP, TISA, POLIS MASTA, LIKLIK DOKTA, DIDIMAN, PABLIK WOKS MASTA, MASTA MAK, MISINARI, PABLIK HELT SISTA [then there’s a space for your avocation of choice, like Nambawan Gavman] - YU OLSEM WANEM?’ Pretty neat, huh?

But wait, there’s more, as the Demtel man would say. Underneath the text are the PNG and Australian flags in full colour. The idea is that the owner uses a permanent marker to tick what their occupation was, or write it in the available space if it’s not there. And there’s still more. On the back are all twenty provincial (district) flags in full colour, again with a tick box that the owner can tick for each district they served in or visited. You can see full colour versions of the flags here.

Jim says he will donate five dollars from each sale to a worthy PNG cause associated with education. “I am open to suggestions as to what cause,” says Jim. “The only criterion is that it must be non-denominational and not linked to political groupings. I heard some time ago of a group organising “a library in a box” for primary schools, which is the sort of thing I have in mind.  Does anyone know of this group?”

So, if you want to order one of Jim’s customised tee-shirts (they’re quality Gildan brand) with black text and full colour flags, you can email him here with all your details (name, address, phone, email) or otherwise contact him at 8 Ewell Avenue, Warradale, SA 5046 or phone him on 08 7225 0521. The shirts cost $45 each and come in a wide range of sizes: Male (S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL0 and Female (XS, S, M, L,XL, 2XL).

You can send Jim a cheque or pay by bank transfer to BSB 805-023, Account 0237-7204, JN & JM Moore. Quote your surname and the last three numbers of your phone number as reference.

HIV-AIDS accelerating in PNG

Paul Marshall left for Papua New Guinea last Sunday to nail down the final details of a project to build a hospice for victims of HIV-AIDS. The HIV epidemic Nearly 50,000 people in PNG have the disease and it is projected that the epidemic will accelerate, especially in rural areas which account for 85% of the population. HIV statistics show that, from a base of 1,300 in 1993, nearly 80,000 people will be infected this year and well over 200,000 by 2012. New HIV infections in 2007 were three times the number for 2003.

The goal of Paul Marshall’s AIDS hospice project is to minimise the impact of HIV-AIDS in the New Guinea Islands by providing good medical care and support for people suffering from the disease. The project aims to encourage community support for sufferers’ families and to provide education about the disease. The project will also provide refuge for people at risk of violence or ostracism because of the disease and it will train village-based aid posts staff in the New Guinea Islands.

“Plans for the hospice have accelerated over the past few months,” Paul Marshall says. “We are well advanced in our interactions with the National Aids Council, the Health Department and certain medical specialists who are advising the PNG government. The scary part is that, in some areas like East New Britain, [people] actually don't know what is lurking under the surface. It is now officially recognised that the epidemic is shifting towards the rural areas. Potentially, we could be looking at a volcano ready to explode in East New Britain, but we don't really know.

“What I am hearing is that millions of dollars are being poured into PNG for HIV-AIDS work, but it is both not getting to areas of real need and not achieving grassroots education [and] understanding about the disease. Much work remains to be done.”

You can contact Paul at [email protected]

President’s dies; New Dawn in action

Aloysius Laukai

When Bougainville President Joseph Kabui unexpectedly died last Saturday, the recently established Buka radio station, New Dawn FM, went to air with live coverage at six o’clock in the morning airing appeals for calm from the Acting President John Tabinaman and former Bougainville Governor John Momis, now PNG ambassador to China.

People were surprised that we could go to air live during times of emergencies such as this. The local government station was not able to carry out a broadcast.

The late President's body will be flown to Port Moresby on a charter and will return to Bougainville for burial later this week. I will cover the activities and will travel with the group to Port Moresby and back. Another live broadcast will be made from Port Moresby from where we will broadcast a requiem mass where dignitaries will pay their last tributes.

ASOPA PEOPLE habitués Martin Hadlow, Phil Charley and Keith Jackson assisted New Dawn FM secure international funding to get on the air.

Greetings from the old Soviet Union

 St Petersburg, Monday: It’s said that Melbourne can get all the seasons of the year in a single day. Well St Petersburg gets them in a single hour. A local joke is that the population here spends nine months anticipating Summer and three months being disappointed. No wonder they never smile.

I’m not smiling much either. The Oceania Line, with which Ingrid and I are luxuriating, didn’t make it clear that the ship’s visa is not good for independent touring in Russia’s golden city. Being confined to barracks except when on a guided tour is not my idea of a fulfilling travel.

It’s good to see Colin ‘Huggiebear’ Huggins stirring the chalkie pot to encourage former members of the PNG teaching profession to join the PNG Association. As I’ve mentioned in these notes previously, the subscription to the Association’s quarterly journal, Una Voce, is alone worth the $20 PNGAA membership fee. You can join the PNGAA by clicking the link at right.

Sending emails and making posts to ASOPA PEOPLE from our ship, the Regatta, is slow, cumbersome and expensive, so I’m trying to find Internet cafes when ashore. Keep the emails flowing – and if you can help William James Kewo and David Craig with their requests (below) either email me or post a comment to this site.


Helsinki tomorrow, from where I hope to resume what will be a more regular report.

Kundiawa, Goroka and Frank Hiob

David Craig

Early in 1959, I attended what I believe was the first ASOPA short course for teachers selected for secondment to Papua New Guinea. I had been teaching in NSW for four years before applying for secondment. A distinguishing feature of our course was a very infectious influenza which swept through the school and caused the cancellation of our bulk travel booking from Sydney to Port Moresby. We were given a week’s vacation before boarding a special charter flight brought down from Townsville. We left Sydney at 2.30 am and were nearly turned back from Moresby as dusk was approaching and there was no night landing available. Fortunately we made it as the sun was setting.

I was appointed to the Henganofi Primary T School as head teacher. As I arrived, I received the news that much of the school had burnt down and one of my first tasks was to organise its rebuilding. Luckily I had an excellent Tolai couple on staff who understood building and after a few weeks we had comfortable classrooms and a dorm.

In 1960 I was appointed as head teacher of Kundiawa Primary T School, which was situated at Gon on the western edge of the station. Kondom, the paramount luluai and prominent Chimbu leader, had demanded a ‘master’ who could speak English for the school. At that stage I was the only Government expatriate teacher in the Eastern Highlands outside Goroka, except one at Kainantu. The following year some of the E course graduates from Rabaul arrived in the highlands.

My main reason for writing is to contact Frank Hiob, a Bathurst Teachers College and ASOPA graduate who taught at the Goroka Technical School in North Goroka in 1960. Des Peisker, who was mentioned in one of the ‘Missing Person’ requests was head teacher at the time. I got to know Frank on my infrequent weekends in Goroka and we spent a Christmas holiday backpacking together in Asia . This was before ‘back packing’ was in our vocab. We flew to Hollandia and went by Dutch cargo boat to Singapore and overland to Penang. We went 3rd class rail to Bangkok and flew to Hong Kong before returning to PNG.

I read with interest your tale of how you received a nickname after an episode at the Chimbu Club. The club must have changed from when I was at Kundiawa as it was very family oriented with film nights and weekend BBQs. I was secretary for quite a while.

My memories of my two years at Kundiawa are very positive as I met my wife of 46 years there. She was teaching at Ega Lutheran Mission in Kundiawa. We are now retired in Adelaide but spend 3 or 4 months a year in Asia doing voluntary teaching of English.

Congratulations on your election as president of the PNGAA. I have been a member for many years and find it extremely interesting.  Ross Johnson, the treasurer, was the kiap at Henganofi when I was posted there.

Seeking Peter Kerr, ex Mumeng kiap

William James Kewo

I am a Fisheries student at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Tasmania. I am writing to you to locate an uncle (that was what I used to called him many years ago) who was part of the ASOPA clan (if I may say that) back in PNG. He was a patrol officer (kiap) and later became a businessman. His name is Peter Kerr, his wife is Geraldine and their children are Susan, Diane, Peter Jr, Jason and there's another one, but I cannot recall her name.

Peter Kerr was a kiap at Mumeng in the Morobe Province and later started a small business. He was with his family in Mumeng until about 1979 when they left for Australia. The last known address was Weetangerra (I think that’s the spelling) in Canberra, but I am not too sure if they are still residing there or have moved on.

My dad used to work with Peter and they were best colleagues as kiaps back in PNG. When Peter started his small company, called Mumeng Trading and Coffee Pty Ltd, my dad joined up with him and stayed until the day he left. It was quite difficult for us to get in touch with uncle Peter. However, now I am here studying, I thought I might look around for some useful information of the family's whereabouts.  

If you know anything about Peter Kerr’s whereabouts, could you respond to the ASOPA PEOPLE email address.

There were many contributors to PNG

Stockholm, Tuesday: Sweden bathes joyfully in its long, warm summer days and I take a break between Carlsbergs….. There’s been just the merest frisson of concern about the PNGAA’s decision to support Chris Viner Smith’s initiative in asking the Federal Government to provide some form of recognition for the sterling work that kiaps performed in Papua New Guinea.


The view’s been expressed, and it’s a fair view, that maybe recognition ought to extend to the didiman, doktas and liklik doktas, tisas, rotmastas, koperativ offisas (pardon that rendition) and the many other professionals who served PNG so well in the years leading up to – and after, for that matter – Independence in 1975.


I thought I should clarify in these notes that nothing in the PNGAA’s support for recognition of kiaps precludes later efforts to recognise other field officers, but clearly - given that Chris Viner Smith’s initiative is in its early days - we should give it a chance to get off the end of the runway and see if it is able to fly.


It would be regrettable if there are people in the PNGAA who wanted to make the singling out of kiaps a cause for division. That would be a narrow and selective view of what Chris Viner Smith is trying to achieve.


The PNGAA believes the work of kiaps deserves recognition. It supports the Viner Smith initiative which seeks such recognition. But the PNGAA also wants it to be known that this does not derogate from its acknowledgement of the contribution of other field officers.


Finally, I might add, the PNGAA believes that its support of the kiap initiative does not preclude a future effort by the organisation to secure official recognition for the services of other field officers. But readers will appreciate such matters need to be approached one step at a time.