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39 posts from July 2008

History of Keravat High in production

Barbara Short (who was Barbara Neasmith when she taught at Keravat) is on the hunt for past students of Keravat High School. Barbara taught there from 1975-81 and is now writing a history of the school that will also include details of former pupils and what they did with their lives after Keravat.

A number of past headmasters are helping Barbara write the history, including some from the 1950s. Another research source has been the Kokomo magazine. Barbara does not want the book to just deal with the running of the school. “We had the motto, tuum est, it is up to you, so I am interested in finding out what people have done with their lives,” she says.

“I realise many earlier students at Keravat, in the 1950s and early 1960s, have become leaders of PNG and we know lots about them. In this book, I hope to tell something about the lives of the hundreds of later students who graduated.”

Barbara is contacting former students and asking them to provide her with details on their lives since they left Keravat and is also asking them about “what has motivated and guided them” during their lives. She’s also seeking comments on “what they believe is needed for good leadership in PNG in the future.”

You can contact Barbara at email [email protected], phone 02 9876 1018 or write to her at 27 Chesterfield Road, Epping NSW 2121, Australia.

The Lord's Prayer in Tok Pisin

This is the 600th post on ASOPA PEOPLE since the blog was inaugurated early in 2006. I believe it has an appropriately reverential tone...

Papa bilong mipela
Yu stap long heven.
Nem bilong yu i mas i stap holi.
Kingdom bilong yu i mas i kam.
Strongim mipela long bihainim laik bilong yu long graun,
olsem ol i bihainim long heven.
Givim mipela kaikai inap long tude.
Pogivim rong bilong mipela,
olsem mipela i pogivim ol arapela i mekim rong long mipela.
Sambai long mipela long taim bilong traim.
Na rausim olgeta samting nogut long mipela.
Kingdom na strong na glori, em i bilong yu tasol oltaim oltaim.

Source: PNG Gossip Newsletter

Duncan Kerr to speak at PNGAA lunch

Kerrport The Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific island Affairs, Duncan Kerr SC MP, has accepted an invitation to be the guest speaker at this year’s PNGAA Christmas luncheon on Sunday 7 December.

“I look forward to this very much,” Mr Kerr said. “Australia and PNG are bound together by a strong sense of shared history, and the PNG Association of Australia makes a really valuable contribution towards maintaining the people-to-people links that are so critical to the continued dynamism of our relations.”

Mr Kerr will talk about the significant changes that have occurred in Australia-PNG relationships recently under the Federal Labor Government, his observations on where the partnership is heading and his views on the role of civil organisations like the PNGAA in assisting to maintain and enhance such relationships.

A booking form for the lunch, which is the highlight of the PNGAA’s social activities each year, will be included in the next issue of the Association’s journal Una Voce, to be disseminated late September.

This is what’s with all the ads then?

“What’s with the ads, Jacko?” An emailed interrogation delivered with Territorian-style bluntness. A fair question, though – and one I need to address. Regular readers of these Notes will have observed the appearance of promotional pointers for Sun Lagoon Resort and Aurora Cruises under the ASOPA People Extra banner.

I’ve provided details of the Sun Lagoon connection in an earlier post [‘Noosa deal for ASOPA PEOPLE readers’] but the cruise line's ad (and I hope others to come) deserve explanation. It all began with my election as President of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia and my desire to see the Association move to a position where it could do more for the people of PNG. In the same context, I also observed the commitment and unstinting effort of a number of volunteers, especially but not limited to Andrea Williams, to produce and distribute the PNGAA’s quarterly journal, Una Voce.

My thinking ran along these lines: if we could use Una Voce and associated communication channels to generate revenue through advertising and sponsorship, we could use the proceeds both to improve the journal and to establish a philanthropic fund for projects in PNG. This would give the Association another string to its bow – and make its operations more meaningful in the context of Australia-PNG relations.

And what are these ‘associated communication channels’. Well, clearly one is the PNGAA website. But I also decided that ASOPA PEOPLE and its affiliated monthly e-newsletter The Mail should be included in the package. The latter two outlets are owned and managed by me but have never been used – and will not be used – to generate revenue for me or my company, the public relations gurus Jackson Wells Pty Ltd. The sites are privately funded by me, and there is no cost recovery.

ASOPA PEOPLE and The Mail were originally established to provide networking opportunities for people associated with ASOPA and have broadened their brief in more recent times to welcome readers who are more generally interested in Australia's relationships with PNG.

However, to use these channels to assist raise funds for worthy PNG projects was another matter. So I decided to bundle them into a PNGAA package to offer potential advertisers a unique means of providing information to people who have a strong association with PNG. For $5,000 a year (plus GST) advertisers can secure:

A full-page ad in each quarterly issue of Una Voce. The journal has a circulation of about 1,700 and a readership estimated at 5,000.

Information on and a link to the advertiser’s website from the PNGAA website. Readership unknown.

Information in and a link to the advertiser’s website from ASOPA PEOPLE. One hundred hits a day from an estimated 200-300 regular readers.

Information in each issue of The Mail , the monthly e-newsletter distributed free of charge to nearly 400 subscribers.

So that’s what’s with the ads … a developing platform to provide people-to-people assistance for selected PNG projects under the auspices of the PNGAA. Only one more thing remains to be said – if you’re aware of a potential company or organisation that might be interested in this package, I’d appreciate you pointing them in my direction.

New look at Trobriands administration

I’ve just heard from Andy Connelly after three years. Back then he was asking about ASOPA and related matters and I steered him to and the PNGAA, whereupon he got in touch with Chips Mackellar and Paul Oates, who he says have been very helpful in completing his MA at California State University. Andy's master's thesis, Counting Coconuts: Patrol Reports from the Trobriand Islands, 1907-34  is online here.

Now Andy has been accepted into the PhD program in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at ANU, where he will start in October, working under Chris Ballard. He’ll be writing a doctoral paper on the Australian administration of the Trobriands, starting with an analysis of colonial history and ending with an exploration of contemporary structures of power and economy in the islands. This will include looking at how the Trobrianders remember the colonial period and how they have represented and refashioned these recollections to suit their lives.

According to Andy, the online communities of PNGAA, ASOPA and will be pivotal in this pursuit. Andy also says one of his goals is to have more involvement with the PNGAA and we certainly look forward to the prospect of that – particularly through the Association’s newly former History & Scholarship sub-committee, chaired by Riley Warren AM.

‘My Media Trainer’ - a global hit!

I’ve remarked previously in these Notes about an interactive training package for media professionals produced last year by three ex PNG broadcasters and a former human resources guru from ASOPA’s successor organisation, the International Training Institute. My Media Trainer it’s called.

Well My Media Trainer has, as they say in marketing and aviation, taken off. Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow from the University of Queensland (who together with Ingrid Jackson, Phil Charley and me produced the CD-ROM) reports: “I was at UNESCO headquarters in Paris last month and they have for more copies of My Media Trainer for distribution through UNESCO offices worldwide. I expect to have a minimum of 2,000 copies reproduced - hopefully as many as 5,000 – in addition to the initial run of 2,000.”

No big bucks in this, I'm afraid. The University gave us a nice honorarium but we undertook the project mainly for love. Great to know that our work seems to have gone down well and is meeting a need for media training in developing countries.

Sun Lagoon offer spurs reader interest

A number of readers have emailed me questions about the Sun Lagoon Resort discount deal featured yesterday in ASOPA PEOPLE. I thought it might be useful to share the questions, and my answers, with you.

Is Sun Lagoon actually in Noosa?

It is. Midway (12 minutes walk each direction or a couple of minutes drive) between Hastings Street (beachside) and Noosaville (riverside).

How do you get to the resort?

If you’re driving, the resort’s just off Noosa Parade. If you’re flying into the Sunshine Coast (Maroochydore) airport. take a Henry’s coach, which will drop you off at the door.

Does the discount deal just apply to ex ASOPA people?

It applies to all readers of ASOPA PEOPLE and their families and their friends, not just ex ASOPA denizens. Just remember to use the code ‘PNG PEOPLE’ when you book.

Is Sun Lagoon really on a lagoon or is that just marketing hype?

It’s on a lagoon all right. I’m looking out of my window at it right now. And there are fish in that lagoon, and a turtle. Sun Lagoon opens up to Noosa Sound from where you can explore the Noosa River or make your way to the sea at nearby Laguna Bay.

How many bedrooms are there in the units?

Two or three bedrooms with queen and twin beds.

Can more than one couple book a unit?

They sure can.

Are the units self-contained?

Yes, they are self contained: fully furnished; all the utensils you need; most are air conditioned; all have big balconies.

Does the offer only apply to the specified dates or year round?

At the moment it applies to the specified dates (to Friday 19 September and from Monday 6 October to Friday 12 December). When manager Joanne eeles assesses the response, she’ll be deciding on how the offer should be extended.

Is there a bar at the resort?

Trust an ex kiap to ask a question like this. The answer is no, but there’s a bar (attached to the well known Ricky’s restaurant) and a BWS bottleshop just a minute’s walk away (two-minute stagger, three-minute crawl). All units are equipped refrigerators and there’s a barbecue and pool at the resort where you can enjoy a few quiet ones.

Email any other questions you may have to me here.


Is Australia really doing it right in PNG?

Until the end of this year, Charlotte Smith is first secretary (and AusAID head) at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. Ms Smith has  told the PNG National newspaper that she will leave Papua New Guinea content with her two-year stay in the country.

But Ms Smith also made an unusual admission for someone of such influence in Australia-PNG relations. She said she still had much to learn about PNG, its people and their cultures. The National reported her saying that, during her two-year stay, “people had taught her a lot but she still knew very little and there was so much to learn.”

So what did Ms Smith learn? Among other things: "As I have gone around listening … I have heard about the strong potential for communities to develop local solutions to local problems and the important role of community-based and community-driven organisations in supporting people to realise their own goals, at their own pace, in their own way".

She had also heard that the disconnection between the Government and the people could be overcome through partnerships where there was mutual respect and working together towards a common goal. "People at local level hope they can deal with important issues like eliminating family violence and promoting peace."

AusAID has been consulting with PNG government agencies and non-government organisations to develop a new program, Strongim Pipol Kirapim Neisen [Supporting People to Build the Nation], which will start early next year. Apparently the program will involve AusAID in “working with all the participating organisations and with the Department of Community Development and their strategies and [developing an] appropriate planning and reporting format and [assisting] organisations … develop and implement longer-term solutions.”

Thirty-three years after Independence, it doesn’t really seem quite enough. And, while accepting that Ms Smith was being self-effacing, shouldn’t our senior diplomats be able to do better than an admission of “knowing very little” about critical factors such as culture that comprise the very underpinnings of effective development assistance?

Source: ‘AusAID secretary leaves PNG’ by Madeleine Arek

Noosa deal for ASOPA PEOPLE readers

Across lagoon lateral Ingrid and I own a pleasant waterfront apartment at the laid back Sun Lagoon Resort at Noosa. It struck me, on this most recent visit, that I might be able to strike a deal with resort manager Joanne Eeles to get a special discount for readers who may wish to take a holiday at the resort. Joanne readily agreed. And she also agreed to my suggestion that the discount for our readers ought to trump those available from any other source.

So it is that, from today, Sun Lagoon will discount listed room rates by 15% for readers who book using the code ‘PNG PEOPLE’. This initial offer extends until Friday 19 September and there will be a second offer from Monday 6 October to Friday 12 December.

Sign Logo Sun Lagoon is located on Noosa Sound, a 12-minute walk or 2-minute bus ride from the famous Hastings Street to the east and the riverfront restaurants and boat hire concessions of Gympie Terrace to the west. The Noosa Sound precinct has restaurants, bars, a general store, a hairdresser, a fish ‘n’ chip shop, bottleshop and, if you get really keen, a real estate agent. All this is just a minute’s walk from Sun Lagoon, which itself is fully equipped with heated pool, barbecue and tennis court as well as boat, canoe, kayak and bike hire. Me – I like to walk.

You can get more information from the Sun Lagoon website here or by phoning Joanne toll free on 1300 888 202 or email her here. And, remember, when you book, enter the code ‘PNG PEOPLE’ in the Comments box on the resort website to get your 15% discount.

Photo: The resort viewed across the lagoon from Culgoa Point

Poor leadership the big problem in PNG

Papua New Guinea has the potential to provide a high standard of living for most of its people but the problem is not resources or finance but poor leadership, according to National Capital District Governor, Powes Parkop.

Mr Parkop, who was elected NCD Governor a year ago, said PNG’s problem was that leaders at the political and administrative level had failed to appreciate that their first responsibility was to protect the assets of the people.

He said poor administration, bad habits and bad attitudes had strangled the nation and retarded its development. Misuse, misappropriation and outright stealing continued to plague the nation at political and administrative levels.

“Public servants continue to see themselves as more important than our people, and that we must pamper them before they can deliver government’s plans, priorities and policies,” Mr Parkop said.

He said many people were victims of the handout mentality that had become institutionalised in the system of government. This culture had become a monster that started at the election campaigns and continued throughout a member’s term of office and destroyed the member and the people.

He said he had entered politics because of his passion and commitment to serve people and make a difference.

Source: ‘Poor leadership a problem’, PNG Post-Courier, 23 July 2008

67-68 ASOPA CEO class reunion

David Weeden

A 40 year reunion of the 1967-68 CEO group will be held at Maroochydore on the Queensland Sunshine Coast on Saturday and Sunday 18-19 October this year.  With partners, to date almost 50 people have committed to attend the reunion, which promises to be a great weekend. The program consists of:

-a lunch-cruise on the Maroochy River on the Saturday

- a dinner at the Waterfront Hotel in Maroochydore that night

- an outdoor brunch nearby on the Sunday morning

Seven of the CEO group are proving very hard to find, including:

- Ron Ruitenschild, Bruce Marshall and Yvonne Hill (whose whereabouts are unknown)

- Peter Fanning (who, in recent years, was apparently working in Darwin)

- Simon Van Der Walk (who was in Canberra years ago but has not been heard of since)

- Janet Robb (who was running a Salvation Army Rehabilitation Centre in Mt Isa a few years ago)

- Janice Robinson (Frappe) who, when last heard of, was living in Sydney

Contact David Weeden with information on how the seven missing people can be contacted. [email protected] or 02 6258 1805

PNGAA begins to get active in Canberra

Kerrb&w On behalf of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, I'll be meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, Duncan Kerr [left], and the PNG High Commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani [below], next month. The meetings will discuss the Australia-PNG relationship and, in particular, how the Association and its 1700 members may best be able to assist this relationship at a civil level.

Speech We will also discuss a number of PNGAA initiatives previously put to government - including the School of the Pacific ('new ASOPA') proposal, an exchange scheme between Australian and PNG public servants and a donation of The Blatchford Collection ('Documents on the Development of the PNG Educational System') to PNG. If there are other subjects that you believe should be discussed, you can let me know by email or by adding a comment below.

Meanwhile, David Epstein, Principal Adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has referred the Association's request for the government to fund the search for the Montevideo Maru to Joel Fitzgibbon, the Minister for Defence.

In other PNGAA news, following the resignation of Rebecca Hopper, Harriet Troy has been appointed to the national committee and has taken up the position of chair of the Fellowship & Caring Sub-Committee which, among other things, organises the Association six-monthly luncheons.

Post-Courier story ‘terrorist attack’: MPs

Post-Courier Three senior PNG Government Ministers have criticised the Post-Courier, branding it a misleading newspaper company with an agenda to destabilise the National Alliance led Government. They likened one report to a “terrorist’’ attack and said it was media terrorism against a legitimate Government.

The trio – Minister for State Enterprises Arthur Somare, Treasury Minister Patrick Pruaitch and Forest Minister Belden Namah – expressed anger and accused the paper of publishing misleading and unsubstantiated stories. They made these remarks when making personal explanations on the floor of Parliament in relation to two reports in the Friday July 11 and Monday July 14 editions of the Post-Courier.

Friday’s report headed “Split in Govt’’ and Monday’s report “Scuffle in Parliament’’ were branded as lies and unsubstantiated reports engineered to destroy the solidarity of their party. The Post-Courier has defended the reports, saying they were based on solid reports from people close to the subjects. The scuffle was reported separately by the Australian Associated Press correspondent in Port Moresby, Ilya Gridneff.

The Post-Courier is also standing by its account of dissension and rivalry in the Government for the leadership position if Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare decides to stand down. Arthur Somare denied the content of the story which alleged he was fiercely lobbying to take over the leadership of the party and that he had broken a friendship with Treasurer Pruaitch. He said he had no intention of taking up the job and that there were processes and procedures in the National Alliance party for such changes.

“Dispela samtin, dispela wok ya em bilong narapela man, namba seven commandment i tok no ken mangalim samting bilong narapela man, mi no mangalim na mi no sigirap. [This job belongs to someone else and like the seventh commandment, don’t envy or steal and I have never done that]. Dispela reckless nature bilong Post-Courier na ino toktok long mipela pastaim i mas stop na Media Council tu must take note long dispela,” Mr Somare said.

Source: ‘3 MPs hit back’, PNG Post-Courier, 17 July 2008

PNG maternal death rate on the rise

The President of the PNG Medical Society President, Dr Mathias Sapuri, has called upon Michael Somare to urgently address the country's high maternal mortality rate. More than 2,600 PNG mothers die every year, one of the highest rates in the Asia Pacific region.

Dr Sapuri said that a few years ago, no-one in PNG was supposed to be more than four hours walk from a health clinic; now some people have to walk four days to receive medical treatment. The decline in rural aid posts has seen PNG's maternal mortality rate rise. To begin, Dr Sapuri wants a fund immediately established for emergency air transfers to help expecting mothers in rural areas.

Source: ‘PNG Medical Society wants maternal mortality rates addressed’ by Steve Marshall, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 15 July 2008

Air Niugini offers cheap Moresby flights

Air Niugini Air Niugini is offering discounted one-way airfares to Port Moresby from Sydney ($523), Brisbane ($336) and Cairns ($273). The special fares, inclusive of taxes and surcharges, are available now and will stay in force until the end of the year. “These airfare specials are extremely good value,” said Air Niugini’s Australian manager, Charles Morley. The airline operates daily flights from Brisbane and Cairns and twice weekly flights from Sydney.

PNG birth rate continues to soar

Temu Puka PNG’s annual population growth rate –stuck around 2.3% for many years - is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Puka Temu [right], has told a Port Moresby meeting that PNG’s population will be over eight million in 20 years time. He said if this issue was not seriously addressed it would pose a threat to national development.

“Population pressure can place high demands on the public and private resources such as government funds and land,” he said, saying that according to a United Nations report, social development in PNG is stagnant.

“My challenge to the private sector of this country is to assist the Government in refocusing on addressing the human face of development associated with high infant mortality, high maternal mortality, low literacy rates, high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and so on,” Dr Temu said.

Source: ‘PNG tops growth rate in Asia-Pacific’ by Nelson K Philip, PNG Post-Courier, 15 July 2008

Scuffle on floor of PNG Parliament

Pruaitch Patrick Two senior ministers, both from the West Sepik province, nearly came to blows in the PNG National Parliament on Friday, reports the Post-Courier. Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch [left] and Forest Minister Belden Namah were involved in a scuffle when Mr Pruaitch, the former Forests Minister, took umbrage at accusations by Mr Namah regarding recent newspaper allegations surrounding a $US40 million logging scam, also reported in ASOPA PEOPLE.

A Member of Parliament who witnessed the scuffle said Mr Namah and Mr Pruaitch were pulled apart before they could exchange punches. Apparently Mr Namah accused Mr Pruaitch about several issues, including $US40 million sitting in a Singapore bank account belonging to an unnamed Minister – allegedly proceeds from logging.

Them's the surfing breaks in New Ireland

Richard Jones

Nusa NI Surfers from around the globe are always searching for the newest untouched spot of ocean to indulge their passion. Newcastle-based brothers Kirk and Brett Owers found their paradise in the unlikely setting of Nusa, in the New Ireland Province, alerted to PNG’s only dedicated surf camp by Ian ‘Smiley’ Osborne.

Osborne had surfed in PNG’s remotest corners in the 1970s. Recently he returned with a dozen surfing mates to Nusa, a small, sand-fringed island off the coast of New Ireland. The Owers, Osborne and the others found seven good reef breaks within easy reach of the retreat, and with more surf options a short drive away.

Kirk Owers says surfers are somewhat obsessive. “We tend to holiday away from a renowned surf coast only under duress. PNG certainly qualifies as a surf trip, but it’s an enigmatic one,” he writes. “PNG tends to attract older surfers because the waves are less challenging and less crowded than in nearby Indonesia. There’s no need to compete for waves, so cordiality, rather than antagonism, develops. It’s a good vibe as they used to say.”

The PNG Surf Association has minimized surf overcrowding with a surf management plan. Each of the nation’s reef zones has been designated a maximum quota of visiting surfers who must pay a daily fee of $A10. The money goes towards community projects and local surf clubs. The president of the PNG Surf Association, Andrew Abel, says he developed the system after seeing how local people in some countries were “bystanders in their own land”, unable to benefit from surf tourism.

After flying from Moresby, the Aussies are met at Kavieng airport by a driver who ferries them across a narrow channel to their island. Local tour operator and head of the Kavieng Surf Club, Luke James, takes The Owers boys in a squeaky SUV to a beach simply called ‘Ribs’ after a guy who broke his there.

“Ribs packs a punch. We surf for an hour then late in the afternoon we have a second surf in front of Kavieng High School. The waves break quickly across a dangerously shallow reef ledge and barrels for just five or six metres before running aground. It’s not a great wave, but it’s exciting. Brett and I push each other into bigger and more dangerous waves --- hooting and hollering. Brett paddles around grinning: “Look at this? How about this! Papua New Guinea!”

Oh, and the accommodation at the Nusa Island Retreat consists of traditional island-style bungalows which are fan-cooled and sleep up to six. There are also over-the-water bungalows with ensuites plus a large, two-storey bungalow.

Kirk Owers’ story appeared in the Melbourne Age’s Traveller supplement, 12 July 2008.

You too can be a friend of Rambutso

We have mentioned Friends of Rambutso (FOR) in these Notes previously. It’s an organisation set up to raise funds to work alongside the villagers of Rambutso Island in Manus Province. It’s a small, energetic organisation that seeks to help improve the quality of people’s lives through the delivery of community based health, education and conservation initiatives.

Rambutsotank FOR will hold a film night at Sydney’s Cremorne Orpheum on Friday 25 July to raise funds for the shipment of six pallets of schoolbooks to Rambutso, the installation of solar lighting for 12 community study halls and the construction of 24 community water tanks. It’s one of those projects that does so much to assist Papua New Guineans and which, in a very practical way, builds close relationships between Australia and PNG.

Rambutso library Now FOR is holding a charity movie night in Sydney on Friday 25 July. It kicks off with drinks at the Cremorne Orpheum at 7.30. The first feature is Rambutso - The Movie, a documentary about FOR’s activities in Manus. Then, for ardent movie buffs and Heath Ledger fans, Batman - The Dark Knight kicks off at 9.15.

Cost is just $20 (drinks not included). Book your tickets online here, or alternatively send an email to Ruud Dautzenberg of FOR here.

Photos: Rusty water tanks and dilapidated libraries are the target of action by Friends of Rambutso


Gough Whitlam at 92 – and unrepentant

GWseated They’ve got me into an argument or two in the past, but my views on the Whitlam Government (1972-75) and on Gough Whitlam himself have remained pretty constant down the years. While his government included the normal number of incompetents, it wasn’t nearly as bad as popular mythology has it, being responsible for some great and lasting reforms that continue to benefit Australians 35 years later.

The Trade Practices Act, a national health care system, the vote for 18 year olds, free university education, sewage to neglected parts of our cities, an end to adversarial divorce laws, public funding for non-government schools – all Whitlam government initiatives. And, of course, in the context of these Notes, it was under Whitlam’s administration that PNG became independent in September 1975.

The debate continues about whether he got the timing right or not. For my part, I have no doubt he did. And on the occasion of the great man’s 92nd birthday yesterday, I once again had the pleasure of speaking with him about PNG, his visits there and his role in its independence. It’s a subject Gough is always willing to expatiate upon with great relish.

Gough is now a very old man, wheelchair-bound and experiencing periodic bouts of ill health, but his mind and recall are as sharp as pins – and his famed wit, that got him into so much trouble when he was prime minister – remains as acute as ever. “It’s a sign of the times that Australia now has a Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister”, he said. "In the US, they're looking forward to having an English-speaking president.”

Of course, Gough believes he got the timing of PNG independence perfectly right, and so does his Territories Minister at the time, Bill Morrison, who’ll be 80 this year, and with whom I had a long conversation yesterday. In fact I’m going to write to both of these key Australian political figures in the nationhood of PNG and ask if they’d like to join the Papua New Guiinea Association. I’ll write to Andrew Peacock, too, to complete the trifecta and balance the ledger.

Photo: Whitlam Institute

Somare asked to step down as PNG PM

Somare2 The PNG Post-Courier reports today that “a very senior” government minister has advised Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to step down because of moves to refer him for prosecution over allegations of breaches of PNG’s leadership code. The Prime Minister’s tenuous position has led to fierce lobbying between government factions, with Somare’s son, Arthur, tipped to contest the leadership if the Prime Minister goes.

Government insiders said the situation was not good and the split between senior ministers ‘might send wrong signals to the nation”. Sources told the Post-Courier that a senior minister had asked the Ombudsman Commission to refer “a very senior minister” to the Public Prosecutor for alleged misconduct in office. Rumours are circulating Port Moresby today about alleged misuse of public funds.

“Our Government leaders, especially the ministers, have to be very careful what they do and they must have at the back of their minds that people of the nation are watching very closely,” the Post-Courier was told.

“They are running a nation that belongs to millions of people. They are not running their own businesses and must be accountable to the people of this nation. The Government, if not careful now, may see many of the members from the government benches making shocking moves. People are already suffering from the day to day increase of basic food and services [prices] that are affecting the nation at large.”

Obituary: Helen Rousseau, 1936-2008

Ken McGregor

Rousseau Helen Helen Rousseau was a linguist and a luncher: the first Australian woman to be awarded a Japanese government scholarship to study in Japan after World War II and the manager of what is perhaps Sydney's longest-running luncheon club.

Rousseau, who has died at 72 after fighting breast cancer for five years, was born in Waverley. She topped the NSW Leaving Certificate in Latin and French and went on to graduate from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts.

After winning her Japanese government scholarship, she studied at Tokyo and Kyoto universities. On her return to Australia, she became public relations officer for the Japanese consulate in Sydney and began teaching Japanese, an occupation she was to later reignite. She co-wrote a book on the geography of Japan.

On a holiday to New Caledonia, she met Gerald Rousseau, a building contractor, accountant and member of the local parliamentary assembly.. They married in Sydney in 1965, before going to live in the French colony. From Noumea, Helen became a lively print media correspondent for The Australian Financial Review, The Bulletin and Pacific Islands Monthly.

Returning to Australia, Helen taught Japanese; promoted the Sydney Opera House, heritage houses and the wine industry; and with Gerald, managed the PIM Lunch. Begun in 1965 by Stuart Inder, then editor of PIM - and today still an occasional patron - this lunch has used a dozen city venues. Most recently the club has met in a separate room adjacent to one of Sydney's restaurant ‘secrets’, the Law Society's hideaway eatery in Phillip Street.

Rousseau nurtured a wide range of luncheon followers, from island traders and plantation eccentrics to bureaucrats and other government officials, politicians, media, and food and wine buffs.

Source: ‘Supporter of networks and Japanese culture - Helen Rousseau … lady who lunched by Ken McGregor, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 2008

High achievers in PNGAA’s new recruits

The Papua New Guinea Association signed 28 new members in May and June as the resurgence of interest in PNG affairs among former residents of PNG continues. The bulk of these people were from NSW (13) and Queensland (8). Former teachers (10) were the predominant vocational group.

The new members include a number of people born in PNG. Noteworthy amongst these is Peter Healey from Blaxland, NSW, who was the first white baby born in Kundiawa way back in 1956. They also include Richard Gault, now 85, who arrived in PNG in 1946 on the first civilian ship after World War II, the Reynella, and had an exotic life trading crocodile skins, trochus shell and scrap before running a plantation in the lower Warangoi (Gazelle Peninsula) for 20 years.

Ed_Brumby The PNGAA also benefits from former expatriates who moved on to significant careers after they left PNG: Murray Bladwell, who became a Ministerial adviser in Queensland; Ed Brumby [right], still in harness as GM International Relationships with the Australia and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance; Don Cairns, Australia’s former Consul-General in Mumbai; Dr Chris Owner, director of clinical sciences at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Virginia, USA; and Barry Kneen, former chief licensing commissioner in NSW.

I welcome all these and the other new members, making special mention of the key organiser of the recent highly successful PNG chalkies reunion in Brisbane, Colin Huggins. If you haven’t joined the Association yet, you can do so for just $20 – it’s the only way you can get your quarterly copy of the must-have journal Una Voceby completing this web-based membership form.

Let’s allow PNG workers into Australia

More than two years ago an editorial in PNG’s The National newspaper urged the then Australian government to reverse its restrictive policy on PNG seasonal workers being employed in Australia.

Now all the arguments are being reprised as the Rudd Government moves to develop a policy that, it appears, will enable people from other Pacific countries to work seasonally in Australia, but not Papua New Guineans. Let’s also reprise, with approval, The National’s editorial of May 2006…. 

Six month ago, John Howard firmly rejected calls for a seasonal workers scheme raised by Pacific Island leaders who were attending the Forum in Port Moresby. At the time, The National expressed doubt over his stated reasons for refusal.

It seemed to us that the Australian prime minister produced a red herring at the Forum, with a spurious reason advanced for his government’s stance on the issue. Mr Howard sought to boost the concept of “building island economies” as the answer to unemployment, and described the guest worker concept as “imaginary relief”. He did not attempt to tackle the sensitive question of existing preferences given to young European and American backpackers. The Australian Government has now decided to significantly extend those work opportunities to cover tourism and regional and rural work opportunities

As Sir Rabbie [Namaliu] says, these are the very areas in which young seasonally employed Papua New Guineans could not only benefit Papua New Guinea, but Australia as well. Where is the logic in Mr Howard relaxing already generous provisions for European and American backpackers, while refusing to recognise the claims of his country’s island neighbours to similar treatment?

Similar arrangements applied to the Pacific island nations could have many potential benefits. Among them are the strengthening of PNG-Australian ties, not between diplomats and ministers, but in a more youthful and personal way. Young people of both countries working together would learn to appreciate each other’s customs and aspirations. Such contacts are far more likely to contribute to the much vaunted “special relationship” that supposedly exists between our two nations. The working and social experience gained by young Pacific islanders could contribute towards the development of their maturity and vision…

Editorial, ‘Canberra’s Intransigence’, The PNG National, 18 May 2006


Labour is test of PNG-Australia relations

When Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd attends the 39th Pacific Islands Forum in Niue in August, he is expected to announce a pilot scheme for short-term Pacific Island labour to work in Australian agricultural industries.

Lepani Speech Through its High Commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani [left], PNG has already indicated it will be shocked if Australia does not include it in the scheme. Indeed, PNG says it should be considered first for any pilot seasonal labour scheme.

And, given the historical relationships and close ties between PNG and Australia – not to mention the need for PNG workers to find a way into the cash economy – who could cavil with such a statement?

Mr Lepani has said that the exclusion of PNG will be a blow to relations between the two countries. Indeed, to give preference to other Pacific nations while turning our back on PNG, would be an act of overt discrimination against our closest neighbour. And not the first snub we’ve delivered to a nation we helped develop and guide to national independence.

While a Cabinet decision has not been announced, there have been reports that Australia is considering approving a seasonal labour scheme for Pacific Island workers from Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Mr Lepani says if PNG is excluded it would be a tragedy.

He says the Rudd government has been doing all it can to normalise the relationship between Australia and PNG. If PNG is left out of the labour program, it will represent a severe test of the relationship.

“It would be a tragedy if that [exclusion] happens,” Mr Lepani has said. “It will set our PNG-Australia relations in a very negative light again … Australia should start with Papua New Guinea. It has the historical and bilateral relations as our former colonial authority and is now a very robust bilateral relations that we have. So there is no reason whatsoever that Australia should forget or exclude Papua New Guinea from any initial pilot programs on seasonal labour.

“We put out about 250,000 young people a year, school leavers from Grade 10 as well as that, rural youth. They are occupied, under employed not unemployed, unlike the urban youth, because they have land to tend to, subsistent gardening and farming and that sort of thing. But it will be a very substantial contribution to our development, in fact to the extent that I would venture to suggest it is not our government policy, but I would venture to suggest that PNG would be willing to trade up with the substantial amount of foreign aid that it receives on an annual basis to pay for or to with seasonal labour and even on a broader scale, employment opportunities for our schemed and semi-skilled workers in Australia.

“You can't have globalisation without labour mobility. You can't have closer financial services, liberalisation of trade and investment and goods and services without labour mobility. That's our argument. So it's very important that Australia gives a serious consideration to the largest Pacific Island and its closest neighbour, tied to its national security interests and much of the aid money is also directed to Australia's national security interest. So all these will be put to the test if I may venture to say on these labour mobility issues or seasonal workers issues.”

Source: Based on reportage by Jemima Garrett, Radio Australia


First PNG world heritage site listed

Kuk Excavations An area containing early agricultural sites in Papua New Guinea’s Wahgi Valley has been added to UNESCO's world heritage list, PNG’s first entry on the list. Excavations have shown the Kuk agricultural sites have been continuously worked for between 7,000 and 10,000 years.

"It is an excellent example of transformation of agricultural practices over time, from cultivation mounds to draining the wetlands through the digging of ditches with wooden tools," said a UNESCO statement.

Source: ‘Asian sites win UNESCO world heritage status’, 8 July 2008, Agence France-Presse

Kerr seeks meeting with PNG Association



The Parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, has reacted positively to concern expressed by the Papua New Guinea Association about his Department’s responses to Association representations.

On 29 June I wrote to Mr Kerr saying: “Since I was elected President of the PNGAA two months ago, the organisation has initiated major changes to strengthen its role in building a better relationship between Australia and PNG. As part of this 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 that its members believe will enhance the PNG-Australia relationship at a civil level.

“The Association’s membership, now numbering nearly 1,700, has expanded rapidly over the last year. It seems Australians who served in PNG are rekindling their interest in that country, its people and its affairs. I think you would agree that this is a very positive development.

“Surely if a body such as this makes positive and practical suggestions about the PNG-Australia relationship, the government should respond in a considered way that seeks to encourage dialogue. Form letters, replies that misinterpret the points made and, in the case of the Prime Minister’s office, which I know is not your responsibility, long silences, are disheartening and disrespectful.

“Our members know of your time in Port Moresby and respect you as person who is both knowledgeable of and sympathetic to Papua New Guinea. For our part, I think the PNGAA can be strong advocate for PNG in Australia and a useful resource. In this context, I believe the Association must be engaged with properly not treated dismissively, which has been the sub-text of communications with us so far.”

The next day Mr Kerr asked his chief of staff, Bruce Mitchell, former editor of the Fremantle Herald, to respond in these terms: “Thank you for your letter of June 29, addressed to the Parliamentary Secretary, in which you detail your concerns regarding the Association's relations with the Government. Mr Kerr is seeking to build relationships with people and organisations that share a common interest in broadening Australia's engagement with the Pacific and he welcomes the inclusion of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia as part of this important network.

DKerrPNGSchool “Following the election of the Rudd Government-and Mr Kerr's appointment to the Pacific Affairs portfolio-relations with Papua New Guinea have improved markedly. Mr Kerr is keen to further build up these encouraging foundations and he looks forward to meeting with the Association at a mutually convenient time in order to further discuss its ideas.”

Readers will be kept informed of the meeting between the PNGAA and the Parliamentary Secretary, which we hope will be held in the near future. Among matters we wish to raise are the School of the Pacific proposal, the Richardson-Oates initiative for an exchange scheme between public servants in Australia and PNG, funding to locate the wreck of the Montevideo Maru, and seasonal work in Australia for PNG labour.

Photo: Duncan Kerr, replete with bilas, visits a school in PNG

PNGAA looks at a Federal structure

The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia is about to embark on the biggest overhaul of its constitution since it was founded nearly 60 years ago. At a national committee meeting in Sydney yesterday, a four-person working group chaired by veteran PNGAA identity Ross Johnson was appointed to review the objectives and shape of the organisation of 1,700 members.

Central to the review is a desire by many people to provide a more effective structure for the PNGAA, to make it truly national in scope and capable of adequately representing and delivering services to members throughout Australia. The working group has been asked to propose recommendations defining the membership of the national body, the establishment of State and Territory branches and how the relationship between national and State and Territory bodies will work.

In terms of control and management, the PNGAA has been a Sydney-centric organisation since its inception and, while this seems to have been effective in the past, it is not necessarily suitable for an Association with an ageing membership and which needs to recruit people who did not necessarily work in Papua New Guinea pre-Independence. Their ranks are thinning rapidly and there is a need to augment them with new, younger members: people who were born and raised in PNG, people who worked there post Independence or simply people who have an interest in Australia’s relationships with our closest neighbour.

The working party will also look at updating the objectives of the Association to include aims not envisaged by the original drafters of the constitution, including publishing, advocacy and philanthropy. It will also look at how the PNGAA can identify new revenue sources to provide it with opportunities to support worthwhile projects in PNG, offer scholarships and fellowships and underwrite exchange schemes involving young Australians and young Papua New Guineans.

The review group will report progress to the next meeting of the national committee, which will need to endorse recommendations for change before they go to a special general meeting for adoption. It is intended that the changes be effected before mid 2009.

TPNG education: the 1959 enlightenment

“As a newcomer to the field of native education, I learnt to share Mr Grove’s views. I felt that a place should be kept in native education for the use of the vernacular, and that the people’s old ways of life should not be completely broken down. To some extent I shared Mr Grove’s vision of the Papua and New Guinea of the future, consisting of happy communities of peasants reasonably enlightened and living in modest comfort; but without the complications and frustrations and material paraphernalia of modern civilization. Experience has shown that this pleasant dream is unlikely to come true….

“I was appointed Director of Education on September 1st 1958, and two weeks later the Minister [Paul Hasluck] discussed educational policy with me. I outlined a plan, already discussed with the Administrator [Donald Cleland], for Universal Primary Education and Universal Literacy in English. This was accepted in principle by the Minister. Later, it was worked out in detail and received his approval in January 1959…

“Our main trouble at the present time is that very few make teachers in Australia are applying for appointment to the Territory service. We can actually recruit young women to the limit of the quota allowed in the Estimates, but what we need most of all are single young men who are qualified teachers and have the spirit of pioneers. A proposal is at present under consideration for the extension of our recruiting campaign to overseas countries….

“Local Government Council areas are prepared to devote a considerable proportion of their revenue from local taxes to the construction of permanent school buildings. In fact they are doing his to such an extent that the Department is embarrassed because we cannot provide them with trained native teachers. The Department plans an emergency programme of teacher-training in 1960 to provide the maximum possible number of “A” certificated teachers to staff such schools.”

Source: ‘The problems of education in Papua-New Guinea’, GT Roscoe, 15 October 1959. Address to the PNG Regional Group of the Royal Institute of Public Administration, Port Moresby. From The Blatchford Collection.

On the trail of Andrew Goldie, collector

Lakatoi Assoc Prof Steve Mullins, a historian at Central Queensland University, is travelling halfway round the world to the Isle of Cumbrae in Scotland to begin unravelling an intriguing piece of PNG’s early colonial history. In the island’s small museum, he will be given access to a 120-page manuscript written by Andrew Goldie in 1881.

Goldie was one of the first Europeans to live in Port Moresby and from about 1875-90 was the most significant collector of PNG natural history specimens and artefacts for Australian museums. Apprenticed as a gardener in Scotland, he migrated to New Zealand in 1862 and spent ten years as a nurseryman. After collecting botanical specimens in the South Seas, he shifted his attention to PNG, collecting until his death in 1891. His possessions, including an unfinished manuscript, were then sent back to Millport on Cumbrae.

Prof Mullins believes the Goldie manuscript may be a unique window on the Papuan past. His aim is to bring Goldie’s manuscript to life by editing a book containing an annotated and illustrated version of the original hand written manuscript. It will also catalogue the 130 or so Goldie items held by the Queensland Museum.

“Until now very little has been written about Goldie [who] is particularly interesting because he was a commercial rather than a scientific collector,” Prof Mullins says. “Because he opened Port Moresby’s first trade store, Goldie knew everyone on the … south coast, and by annotating his manuscript we hope to coherently link up with their histories.”

Source: ‘Rare New Guinea manuscript comes to light’, The National Weekender, 20 June 2008

Fate of the website

This is an important piece of housekeeping on which I need your views. In 2002 I set up the website as the first ASOPA internet presence. Then, in early 2006, this ASOPA PEOPLE blog was established, since which it has taken over all the functions of the website and all of the important content.

ASOPA PEOPLE receives about 100 ‘hits’ a day from readers and is the main vehicle for maintaining an ASOPA internet presence. Further, in terms of a quick reference point to the ASOPA story, an entry I have made in Wikipedia provides a good general introduction to the history of the School.

It is now time for a decision to be made on whether I continue the old website or not. Money has to be paid and paperwork completed. My inclination, unless persuaded otherwise, is to let go of the original site. You can email your views to me here. Or, ideally, let all our readers share them by clicking on the Comments link below. I shall take silence as mute assent that the original site can be safely discontinued.

Friends of Ribung Ilu sought

Paul Oates has received a request from Robert Ilu – who works with Air Niugini in Port Moresby – seeking former friends of his father, Ribung Ilu, who was a Field Officer in the department of Distyrict Administration and is now Deputy President of the Tewae-Siassi Council. Ribung has not been too well recently and would like to hear from some of his friends from the past, namely:

Mike Gough, who lived in Madang. Mike was originally from New Zealand and departed PNG in 1977. His father was a correctional service officer at Vanimo).

Cathy Brown of Sydney and wife of a Dr Brown. Cathy previously lived in Wau, Lae, Tari and Wewak.

Peter Farrey , a retired Australian Army Major and ex kiap. Last contacted in Bahrain).

Allan Ross, Brian Duffy, Fred Heins and Rod Ford  all of who were in Wewak.

Robert has requested that if anyone knows of these people, could they contact him at this email address: [email protected]

1884 promise a fraud: Motu people

City The first Papua New Guinean people to experience major contact with Europeans want compensation from Australia and Britain for what they say was more than a century of colonial neglect. The new president of the Motu Koita people, Miria Ikupu, made the claim on PNG's former colonial masters, and PNG's present government, in his first address as leader. Mr Ikupu said his 45,000 people, who live in and around Port Moresby, have not seen one cent from successive administrations despite continued promises, the first from Queen Victoria.

"The Motu Koita people, who are the original inhabitants and owners of Port Moresby City, have been denied and neglected from their land rights and the benefits," he told AAP. "The former British and Australian colonial administrations forcefully took our land and built the now city of Port Moresby. Landowners' concerns were completely ignored and made into crown land with twist tobacco, axes or goods."

Mr Kupu also blamed successive PNG governments for failings in water supply, public transport, sanitation and garbage collection. "Much of the problems faced today are a direct result of the actions and inactions of the former British and Australian colonial administration," he said.

Missionaries and traders arrived in the Port Moresby area in the 1870s. Papua was proclaimed a British protectorate in 1884, when the Union Jack was raised by Commodore James Erskine on Motu Koita land and PNG had its first colonial administration. "When the Union Jack was raised, Erskine made a declaration to assure the people of Papua that the Queen would protect their land, culture and future generations," said Mr Ikupu. "It was a hollow promise."

Mr Ikupu said he does not want an apology, just help to tackle lost business opportunities, poor education facilities, 70 percent unemployment and a lack of health infrastructure. "That promised system failed miserably to work to the benefit of the Motu Koita people," he said. Community Development Minister Carol Kidu and Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop both support the Motu Koita claims.

Source: ‘PNG people claim colonial compo’ by Ilya Gridneff, News Limited. Photo: Port Moresby today

Peter Kili, leading PNG journalist, dies

Papua New Guinea has lost another fine journalist. Following the recent deaths of media pioneers Sam Piniau and Luke Sela, Peter Kili – of the ubiquitous Kili media family – died at Port Moresby General Hospital on Tuesday. Mr Kili, from Masum village in Buka is survived by his wife and three children. The PNG Media Council yesterday paid tribute to him as one of PNG’s “outstanding journalists”. Council vice-president Michael Asagoni said that the loss of Mr Kili to his family was also a loss to the media industry in PNG.

Mr Kili hailed from PNG’s greatest media family.  Justin, the eldest brother, has 36 years of service in the industry and is executive officer of the PNG Media Council. Younger brother Augustine works for the television station EMTV.

Peter Kili started his career in journalism in the 1980s after graduating with a diploma at the University of Papua New Guinea. He began with Niugini Nius and then proceeded to the Post-Courier and The National newspapers. The highlight of his career, which earned him great credibility, was his exclusive reporting during the years of the Bougainville crisis. He was dispatched by the Post-Courier and accompanied members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, taking exclusive pictures of what the rebels were doing.

Mr Asagoni said Mr Kili had been one of PNG’s outstanding journalists, a role model whose contribution would be missed.

Musings of a District Commissioner

Harry West Andrea Williams, the editor of the excellent journal Una Voce, which you can only obtain by joining the Papua New Guinea Association (just $20 using the membership form here), has sent me the copy of a speech made in Adelaide in 2004 by former PNGAA president Harry West.

The speech sparkles with anecdote, reminiscence and reflection on Harry’s PNG experience, which began in World War II and, it could be argued, continues today. I’ll be incorporating the full document soon in The ASOPA Archives [left], but these extracts will have to suffice for now.

“I was discharged from the army in Lae in March 1946 and was soon back in the highlands where Medical Assistant Gray

Hartley and myself under Assistant District Officer Jack Costelloe looked after the whole of what is now the Chimbu Province. Most of it was classified ‘uncontrolled’ and tribal fighting was rampant.

“Then came two and a half years at ASOPA in Sydney from September 1947 till March 1950, followed by a culture shock posting to Telefomin to take over from Des Clifton-Bassett, who had opened the remote post at the head of the Sepik a year or so earlier. He was evacuated with scrub typhus and Bobby Gibbes flew in the legendary Dr John McInerney just in time to save Clifton-Bassett’s life. Dennis Buchanan, as an 18 year old lad, loaded the Gibbes Sepik Airways plane that took me to Telefomin.  He went on to develop Territory Airlines and later Flight West in Queensland.

“So difficult were flying conditions to Telefomin from Wewak it was costing 24 shillings to fly in one pound weight of rice. The aircraft had no radio and there were numerous aborted flights. Patrols were long and tough without portable radios, airdrops or helicopters. It was more than eight weeks before I found out about the 1951 Mt Lamington disaster.

“I was on the first contact patrol to the Oksapmin people, through the rugged limestone pinnacles at 12,000 feet from Telefomin. My final long Telefomin patrol took many days and reached the headwaters of the May River where, almost by miracle, we rescued an abducted Telefomin girl and persuaded Miamkaling, the headman of the feared Mianmin people, to accompany us back to Telefomin.

“[In the late sixties the Mataungan Association emerged in the Gazelle peninsula.] ‘Mata’ means eye and ‘Ungan’ to look after. The Tolais wanted to handle  their own affairs. With more than 100 years of white domination, it was evident they had gained little and lost a lot. Many of them were landless through the virtual stealing of vast areas of land by the Germans, which had not been rectified, and pressures were rising through the demands of cash cropping as well as subsistence farming and rapid population growth, related to excellent medical services.

“Having lost their land, economically they saw the central government’s move towards multi-racial councils as strangling them politically and socially. There was drama. Police strength was built up in Rabaul to 1,000 – one-third of the Territory’s total force. The Tolais were divided amongst themselves about 50-50 pro and anti multi-racial council, but everywhere was the overwhelming desire to handle their own affairs.

“John Kaputin brought home new ideas from the East-West Center in Hawaii. The Administration tried all sorts of approaches and brought in many local and overseas ‘experts’. When the well-respected Papuan Oala Oala Rarua arrived, his mission was misunderstood and the eminent Tolai leader Nason Tokiala came to me in great secrecy and said: ‘Mr West, watch gud long dispela Oala Oala Rarua. Im I spi bilong Dr Gunther’ [‘Beware of him, he’s (Assistant Administrator) Gunther’s spy’]. Opinions differed at the Rabaul, Moresby and Canberra levels and loyalties were divided.”

Source: Speech by HW West to the PNGAA Adelaide Reunion Lunch, 31 October 2004


The bizarre bone man of PNG


Nishimura Kokichi As the lone survivor of a Japanese infantry unit in PNG during World War II, Kokichi Nishimura swore he would bring his dead comrades bodies back to Japan. Sixty years later he’s still trying. And it has cost him, well,  everything.

In 1979, he shocked his wife Yukiko when he told her, after 35 years of marriage and four children, that he was leaving. At 59 years of age he turned over one of Tokyo's most successful engineering works to his oldest son, and boarded a plane back for PNG.


"I'll be gone for a long time, probably years," he said. The object: to collect bones. Nishimura spent 26 years doing just that - at the cost of his business, his life in Japan and his relationship with his sons and wife, whom he never saw again. "I heard she died a few years back," he says, adding he couldn’t recall her name. And his sons: "They are nothing to do with me." Today, Nishimura lives with his daughter in a densely packed Tokyo suburb in a bland house, but for the propeller of a US B-24 bomber stuck in a garden of well-trimmed shrubs.

The remains of 1.2 million Japanese soldiers are scattered across Asia. At an age when most men consider retiring, the 60-year-old set up base in PNG, living in tents and makeshift huts as he searched for bones. In a quarter-century of digging, armed with a metal detector and hand tools, he found the remains of 350 men, including former members of his 144th Infantry Regiment. It became an obsession, consumed his life not to mention $4 million. Skulls, femurs, gold teeth, rusting knives, swords, buckles, spoons…..

In Papua remain the bodies of 78,000 of 128,000 dead Japanese troops. Nishimura continued to dig until last year, when, at 87, his frail body forced him to return to Tokyo. Before he left, he fought hard against one last indignity: skeletal remains dug up by locals displayed in stalls for tourists and offered for sale. "I asked the people: 'What if it was a member of your family. Would you treat them like this?' It was the worst possible way for Nishimura to leave the country.

Before he dies, the veteran has two missions. He wants to help build a new city at the mouth of the Sepik, which, he believes, will help lift PNG out of poverty. And he wants to visit all the graves of the 365 troops in the 144th Infantry Regiment. So far he thinks he’s visited more than 330. "I'm not sure how many. At my age, things begin to fade."

Source: ‘Finding Papua war dead a vet's life’ by David McNeill, The Japan Times, 2 July 2008

$40M log kickback exposed in PNG

The Papua New Guinea government was in damage control today as the Post-Courier newspaper revealed details of a $US40 million stash of kickbacks from log exports sitting in two Singapore bank accounts of a Somare government minister. The money is said to represent a skimming of 2.1 percent from every log exported since 2002. Records show the MP had accessed the account twice since then - with the huge balance steadily accumulating compound interest.

Government advisers told the Post-Courier that this money, deposited each time logging companies exported logs, had not been used because “it is too large, it will raise concerns if brought into the country in a large amount”. Documents obtained by the newspaper show that the money belongs to a single Minister, but percentages are shared among three others.

In Port Moresby today, government sources were dealing with the revelation by castigating the Post-Courier while Opposition leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, said this was hard evidence of “systemic corruption” in PNG.

Of chillies, curfews & universal education

Call me a poor sad former chalkie if you will, but I’m enjoying my crawl through the latest 100 or so page summary that Loch Blatchford has compiled from his pre-Independence PNG education archives – the documents referred to as The Blatchford Collection.

The full summary for 1959, which was a big year for education in PNG, will soon appear in ASOPA PEOPLE. Geoffrey Roscoe had attained the Director’s job with the backing of Territories’ Minister Paul Hasluck and was attempting to force-march the Education Department to the great aspirational goal of universal primary education.

It was an issue much mentioned in the media and discussed widely at teaching conferences, seminars and in-service courses. But, beyond general agreement on policy and a few administrative changes, little progress was made. The same problems remained as had bedevilled the Education Department for ten years: no money, no materials and no men (or women).

But if that wasn’t enough of a problem, a UN visiting mission recommended that priority be given to secondary education and, adding to the pressure, Roscoe himslef informed Administrator Donald Cleland that it was time to start planning for a university.

Among the thousands of documents that comprise The Blatchford Collection, and which Loch Blatchford [seen here safely ensconced in filing cabinet] is painstakingly summarising for us, are many vignettes that – through the policy smoke and bureaucratic fog – shine through and bring alive those distant times of fifty years ago. Here are a few for today.....



Secretary for Law WW Watkins tabled regulations to abolish the ban on the beating of drums at night in towns and taking part in a singsing in town, at night without the approval of a District Officer.

The South Pacific Post, Director reported that GT Roscoe, back from a trip to Hollandia, wanted 200 tape recorders to help teach native children English. But the idea was in abeyance because it was realised there was no one to fix them when they broke.

There were echoes of Oliver Twist when Roscoe told Rev Fr Morrison that the Department could not provide further rations for boarding pupils in mission schools. “In Netherlands New Guinea the Dutch authorities have taught the people to grow new plant foods such as chillies and Brazilian cherries”, the Director helpfully added, drawing on his new found experience west of the border.

Finally, on 20 April 1959, Administrator Donald Cleland abolished the 11 pm curfew applying to Papuan and New Guinean inhabitants of the main Territory towns. “This action is being taken as one of the measures to withdraw discriminatory legislation,” he said. The abolition had been considered previously but was withdrawn until the Commissioner of Police confirmed “that the Police Force was adequate to maintain law and order and provide full protection for the general public.”

Death of PNG law education pioneer

Prof Bruce Ottley reports the death of Prof AB Weston last Saturday in London at the age of 86.  Prof Weston was Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Papua New Guinea from 1970-74 and was responsible for changing its direction and diversifying its scholastic mix by hiring academics from a number of countries, one of whom was Prof Ottley himself . “When I joined the faculty in 1972,” Prof Ottley says, “we had people from Australia, England, Nigeria, Poland, Canada, the US, Tanzania and Guyana.”

Prior to joining the law faculty at UPNG, Prof Weston had been the first Dean of Law in Tanzania. He was also President of the Australasian Universities Law Schools Association in 1972-73, a matter of personal distinction and a great honour so early in the history of UPNG.

On a personal note, Prof Weston was a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta in the 1960s and, as such, a contemporary of my father-in-law Prof Henry Lowig, who was Professor of Mathematics there.