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37 posts from September 2008

Win PNG trip in our Christmas raffle

Air_Niugini_Text Air Niugini has donated return Sydney-Port Moresby air fares for two people as the major prize in a raffle the PNG Association is holding to provide funds for an innovative project in PNG’s Oro Province. Tickets go on sale soon.

The winning ticket, valued at about $2,350, will be drawn at the PNGAA’s Christmas lunch in Sydney on Sunday 7 December. The Association selected the Oro Project as the first beneficiary in what it hopes will be a continuing series of fund raising enterprises designed to provide assistance to worthy civil projects in PNG.

Since its inception in 1973, and with an extensive domestic network travelling over that spectacularly rugged terrain we remember so well, Air Niugini has made it possible to experience the best PNG has to offer. Air Niugini operates a Boeing 767 on its Sydney-Port Moresby route.

The Oro Community Development Project was established after the loss of life and destruction caused by Cyclone Guba in November 2007. Following the catastrophe, a group of Australian educators decided to work with people in the Province to provide sustained and targeted assistance in the areas of education, health and agriculture.

The initial undertaking includes support to Hohorita Primary School, Gona Primary School and St Christopher’s Mechanical Training School. When improvements have been achieved here, the project’s focus will shift to other areas. In addition, planning is well advanced for specialist teams to visit Oro later this year to deliver mentoring and other professional services.

The objectives of the Oro Project are to improve access to quality education and community health and to improve agricultural practices. Support bases have been activated in Australia and PNG and a detailed on ground assessment has been made.

The partners in the Project are the PNG Anglican Diocese of Popondetta, Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School, Reddam House, Shore Preparatory School, William Clarke College, St Paul’s College, University of Sydney, Modern Teaching Aids and many individuals in PNG and Australia.

Somare set to depart as PNG leader

The Papua New Guinea media is reporting this morning that Sir Michael Somare is ready to bow out of politics. “I am prepared to throw in the towel because, around me, I have lieutenants and colonels as good as anyone you can compare in the world,” the Prime Minister told a surprise dinner to honour his 40 years in politics, according to the National newspaper.

Sir Michael admitted that, although he was at the forefront of the nation’s leadership, PNG was not an easy country to run, with more than 800 different ethnic groups, customs and traditions. “I have tried my best in the last 40 years,” he said. “Politics of this country is now in good hands.”

Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma described the Prime Minister as a “magnet” who attracted people to him because of his leadership qualities. He said most current young leaders would “crawl on broken glass” to have an opportunity to serve under Sir Michael, a great leader who came around only once in a life-time.

Meanwhile, the Post-Courier reports PNG Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane, expressing concerns at a Transparency International survey ranking PNG as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

“If these indications are factual then it means that corruption is blooming in PNG and we should be very disappointed, particularly our leaders,” Sir Paulias said. “As head of State, I call on every Papua New Guinean to be honest, persevering, hard working and live real Christian lives because we can do a lot better. The onus is on us as individuals in our community, province and our nation.”

Time to change the focus of the PNGAA

The objects of an organisation define what it is, where it reckons it's heading and how it’s likely to act. At present, the constitution of the PNG Association calls upon it to “foster and encourage contact and friendship with Papua New Guineans”, but there’s nothing more directive. Nothing to propose, for example, that the PNGAA might seek to work more actively to strengthen the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

It’s this kind of change that I reckon can give the Association a sense of renewed purpose to both give it a role that’s worthwhile and preserve a legacy of Australian civil partnership (that is, involvement amongst ordinary Australians as differentiated from government, business, church and NGOs) in PNG.

A big part of preserving the legacy of the PNGAA is preserving the organisation. Established 58 years ago as the voice of retired members of the PNG public service, the average age of its membership is now 70. Project that forward ten years and you immediately see the problem.

The imperative is to make that demographic younger, and a lot of us are beginning to get smart about how that can best happen: by providing the PNGAA with a role that appeals to younger people. I believe that part of that is to provide the Association with a more active role in relation to maintaining relationships between Australians and Papua New Guineans. Stop me in the street, and I preach that!

Over the last three months, the PNGAA has signed 37 new members. Their average age is 63 (my age, as it happens), and this is a sign that already a slightly younger group is infusing the organisation. But there’s a long way to go.

Providing the PNGAA with a new set of objectives that embrace its previous goals and add some new ones more focussed on strengthening the Australia-PNG relationship is a basic building block. From there we can develop programs that will make the Association a more attractive proposition to younger members and a greater diversity of members – and that will encourage more people to join.

Here I list the objectives I’m proposing for the PNGAA. The new ones are in bold. A refinement of the existing objectives is in regular type. Your comments will be welcome. I think developing the people-to-people relationship between Australia and PNG is too important an issue on which to remain silent.

The objects for which the Association is primarily established are:

(1) to strengthen the civil relationship between the peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea;

(2) to foster and encourage contact and friendship with Papua New Guineans and promote friendly association among members;

(3) to foster and maintain an interest in contemporary and historical events in Papua New Guinea;

(4) to provide financial, material or intellectual assistance to projects of benefit to Papua New Guinea in the PNGAA’s own right or in conjunction with other agencies;

(5) to publish journals, magazines, newsletters, websites, books and other media to educate and inform people about Papua New Guinea and to provide a means of communication among members of the Association and others;

(6) to encourage the preservation of documents, historical and cultural material related to Papua New Guinea, including the production and recording of oral and written histories;

(7) to continue to safeguard and foster the retirement conditions of superannuated members of the former services in Papua New Guinea.

You can click through to a detailed discussion paper and questionnaire to enable you to participate in the PNGAA’s current review process here.

20 men could colonise NG: Rev Chalmers

The National Library of Australia’s exciting project to digitise the newspapers of Australia proceeds steadily – although still covering only a relatively small selection of Australian newspapers published between 1800 and 1940.

But the NLA’s project has already emerged as a goldmine for accounts of the early exploration and colonisation of Papua New Guinea. From time to time, as I come across gems that are relevant to these Notes, I will reproduce them. Here’s an item from the Northern Territory Times and Gazette of Saturday 25 May, 1878, quoting that media junkie of the times, Rev James Chalmers, later eaten by cannibals of the Fly River.

It would almost seem in spite of warnings, that a rush will set-in to New Guinea, even providing no gold be discovered. It will open up a large tract of new country of which very little is known. Mr Chester writes from Thursday Island, that Mr Goldie deplores the excitement caused by his discovery of gold in New Guinea, and again warns people against going there.

The Rev Mr Chalmers thinks the time has come for the colonisation of New Guinea; he considers a well organised party of twenty men, well supplied with rations would be quite sufficient to prospect the whole of the island; he strongly deprecates any attempt at getting up a rush until something tangible is discovered.

Mr Chalmers considers New Guinea is suitable for the cultivation of sugar and cotton - an exploring party accompanied with a botanist and naturalist might pay their expenses, providing they did not discover any gold. Already two or three vessels are there, so we shall know shortly what the place shines in.

Join the big PNGAA reform debate

The last issue of the Papua New Guinea Association journal, Una Voce, included as a supplement a detailed questionnaire (which you can read on the net here) seeking members’ views on the future of the Association.

This has already stirred considerable debate – including criticism from people who don’t see the need to consult at all and opposition from people who do not wish the organisation to change. The consultation process will conclude early January when the PNGAA committee will frame recommendations for constitutional change, which will be put to a vote of the membership.

I’ve written a piece on what and where we’re up to for the PNGAA website. You can read the whole thing by clicking through here, but first an extract:

My own position, of course, is crystal clear. I do not believe the Association should be allowed to wither and decline as its members age. Yet, under its present objectives, which ordain an organisation with a predominant social networking role, I fear this is exactly what will happen.

If the PNGAA is to survive – and if it is to flourish – it will have to change and it will have to define a new role. I do not see this as ‘lofty idealism’, as some people have described it, I see it as a stark necessity.

The really big change being proposed is to provide, as the first priority of the PNGAA, a role in strengthening the civil relationship between Australia and PNG. The current objectives will all be retained, but this new objective would define the central future purpose of the organisation.

Even after we ‘behains’ are gone (few ‘bifos’ are left), the new objective means there will remain an organisation with a positive and a productive purpose, and with a clear reason to continue to exist. If members agree to adopt a role for the Association in strengthening the relationships between Australians and Papua New Guineans, they will also provide it with a rationale for expanding its activity and extending its membership. This will, in addition, mean that the PNGAA will have a legacy not of an organisation that once flourished and then died, but of an organisation that was able to define a meaningful new role for itself.

The revised objectives are generally more action-oriented than the existing objectives that they will augment. The new objectives will provide a reason for Australians with post-Independence PNG experience to join. They will provide for Australians interested in PNG but with no PNG experience to join – including university students and young public servants working on PNG affairs (and there a lot of them). They will provide a better reason for Papua New Guineans resident in Australia to join.

Keen ACT response to PNG engagement

Dr Chris Ballard, convenor of the ACT steering group looking at whether a PNG Association branch may be feasible in the national capital, says he has found “considerable enthusiasm” in the national capital for reviving Australian engagement in PNG at all sorts of levels.

“I would say that the outlook is very favourable for an ACT chapter,” Dr Ballard reports.

Lepani_Katherine The six-person ACT advisory body has a splendidly diverse composition, including Dr Katherine Lepani [left] (lecturer in the social foundations of medicine at ANU and an expert in PNG primary health care), Menzies Librarian Deveni Temu, former senior PNG and Canberra public servant Tim Terrell AM, Dr Bryant Allen (who specialises in PNG agriculture and rural development), and veteran journalist Don Hook.

“There is certainly no shortage of people with an interest in PNG in the ACT,” says Dr Ballard.

The ACT also has one of the most energetic Papua New Guinean communities in Australia. It is about 300 strong and is very active particularly in cultural matters.


Plan your fantasy Kokoda Trail trek

It’s probably a daydream for most of us, but the Kokoda Trail is high on many Australians’ list as a place where they can encounter a desirable challenge in a place that, because of its World War II fame, has a great deal of cultural meaning.

The Lonely Planet has published an inventory of considerations that ought to be in mind when planning this walk. It even appealed to me, an inveterate armchair trekker.

Train - Do train before you go. You will be climbing up and down steep inclines for nine or 10 days. Practice by climbing the stairs in an office tower at home. For realism, cover yourself in mud, carry a sack of onions on your back and wear slippery shoes.

Navigation - Don’t attempt to navigate the Track yourself. While it’s referred to as the Kokoda Track in the singular, there are many forks and intersections with other trails and no reliable maps.

Logistics - Do travel with a reputable tour company. While it is possible to hire your own native Carrier, the companies have their logistics proven through experience. On your own, you will likely starve or get hurt in a fall from the invariably steep climbs.

Historical significance - Do ensure you’re going to be learning something about the Track's significance in World War II. Ask the company what significant sites they discuss on the trek – if they can’t answer the question, shop around some more.

Insurance - Do take out insurance. If (remote chance) there is a functioning medical clinic on the Track, it will almost certainly be unattended. The only possible evacuation is by air, and the cost will put a crimp in travel plans for years to come.

Accessories - Don’t take your hair dryer, wireless computer, cappuccino maker or any other gadgets with you. There are no power sockets on the Track and you’ll be cursing the weight. If you need these luxuries, perhaps the tropical rainforest isn't for you.

Camera - Do take a small pocket camera. Your digital SLR with optional speedlight flash attachment will spend the trek either (a) wrapped in plastic in your pack, or (b) swinging annoyingly around your neck begging to get wet or broken next time you fall.

Tent - Do take a tent that’s lightweight and easy to put up. The last thing you want to do after nine hours of hard slog is assemble a complicated canvas mansion in the rain after dark. A single canvas awning can be your best bet.

Clothing - Do take sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat and sensible clothes. The tropical sun is vicious. Avoid cotton clothes. They will get wet and stay that way, which can cause major discomfort. A pair of lycra bike shorts can help stave off chafing.

Justification - Do make the effort to go. Besides the historical significance, the scenery is beautiful – if rainforest is classified tertiary, secondary and primary, this one is darn near pre-school. And the effort means you've earned the right to enjoy it.

Source: Lonely Planet Blue List

PNG sitting on a corruption time bomb

Lae community leader and businessman Fred Wak has said the Papua New Guinea Government must take immediate steps to expose and deal with people alleged to be involved in corrupt dealings, if the National Alliance-led coalition wants to maintain the confidence and trust of the people.

Mr Wak urged the Government to act firmly against corruption involving people in high offices including senior ministers and departmental heads. “We are sitting on a time bomb. People who are feeling pain are told repeatedly that millions of kina are lost or kept in secret bank accounts somewhere. They are going to rise up one day,” he told the Post-Courier newspaper.

Mr Wak was responding to a report in the Post-Courier that K100 million in public funds allocated to the PNG Forest Authority had gone missing. “Again we hear that this involves the forest sector, just like we were told of the K145 million from log export levy that was kept in a Singapore bank account,” he said.

“What is wrong with this country? The Government is doing nothing. We are not told if the police or the Ombudsman Commission or anyone in the law and justice sector is doing anything about the corruption cases that are exposed already. We just can’t allow these people to get away with all the money they have taken from the ordinary people, the very people who are seething with frustration and anger out there because they think their MPs and government lets them down,” Mr Wak said.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Central Supply and Tenders Board, Brian Kimmins, has told an official inquiry investigating alleged massive fraud and mismanagement of public money that many government departments had failed to follow tendering processes prescribed under the Act.

Mr Kimmins said the Board was working on ways to further improve transparency in procurement which would have a positive impact on accountability and the confidence of people, contractors and donors.

Source: Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 24 September 2008

Montevideo memorial to be dedicated

My old PNG sparring partner, Phil Ainsworth, is now managing director of King & Co property consultants in Brisbane and, more relevant to this story, President of the Ex-Members Association of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles.

Montevideo Maru Phil and his Association have trod where the Federal Government has been reluctant (or too dilatory) to go. Because on 11 November next – Remembrance Day – they will place at Subic Bay a plaque to the memory of those Australians who died in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru [left] on 1 July 1942. Some 1,053 mainly Australian prisoners of war died in this, the worst maritime disaster in our nation’s history.

A number of organisation’s- including the PNG Association and Channel 9 - and many individual Australians – have been on the Federal Government’s hammer to fund a search for the vessel, to declare the site a Commonwealth war grave and to erect a plaque in the Philippines. The net result of these efforts, so far, seems to have been confusion (the project flicked from Prime Minister’s Office to Defence to the Environment) and an ominous silence.

But now NGVR & PNGVR Ex-Members Association, 2/22 Battalion Lark Force Association, PNG Association of Australia and Greenbank RSL in Queensland have clubbed together to fund a memorial plaque (we’ll let you know the inscription when it’s decided) that will erected on a site overlooking the waters where the Montevideo Maru went down, tragically torpedoed by an allied submarine.

Large Japanese force that invaded Rabaul in January 1942 had overwhelmed the men. The memorial will honour the 818 from 2 /22 Battalion and attached units, 34 from the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and 201 civilians who perished, some as young as 16.

Despite the Australian Government’s attitude to this, the group of associations has asked the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines to dedicate the plaque and fittingly this will happen on Remembrance Day. We’ll keep you informed.

Guest worker scheme on the way

Senator Chris Evans, the Federal Immigration Minister, last night introduced new regulations to allow Pacific Islanders, including Papua New Guineans, to accept seasonal guest work in Australia.

Senator Evans said the existing Special Programs Visa (Subclass 416) has been expanded to cover workers invited to be part of the Government's guest worker scheme. (Comment - this initiative didn't require any great techno-legal breakthrough, it was only a matter of wanting to do it.)

The pilot scheme will allow up to 2,500 workers from four Pacific nations to work in Australia's horticulture industry for up to seven months a year. The first workers will arrive at the end of the year.

Overall, a small but significant step. The less publicised easing of visa restrictions on Papua New Guineans entering Australia will probably have an even greater impact.

Peter Ryan, MM

Ryan Peter Peter Allen Ryan was born on 4 September 1923, and educated at Malvern Grammar School. He joined the Victorian Crown Law Department but left in 1941 at the age of 18 to enlist in the Army. For eighteen months he worked on special intelligence work in PNG behind Japanese lines, winning the Military Medal in 1943 and being mentioned in dispatches.

When he returned to Australia he was posted to Victoria Barracks in Melbourne. In 1944-45 he was an officer in the Army's Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs under Colonel Alf Conlon, serving both in Melbourne and at the Land Headquarters School of Civil Affairs – ASOPA’s progenitor - at Duntroon.

In 1946-48, Peter was at the University of Melbourne, graduating with an honours degree in History. While studying Australian history he was taught by Manning Clark. In time, Peter was to become Clark's publisher of the six volumes of a History of Australia. In 1993 he caused a major controversy by publishing a long essay in Quadrant criticising Clark's character and his writings.

From 1958-62, Peter was Public Relations Manager of Imperial Chemical Industries and in 1962 became Director of Melbourne University Press, where he was to remain until his retirement in 1988. Works published during his directorship of MUP included the first twelve volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (to which Ryan was also a contributor), Insects of Australia and Norman Lindsay's Micomicana and books by such well-known authors as Manning Clark, Macfarlane Burnet, Paul Hasluck and AD Hope. Ryan was also pivotal in establishing MUP's high quality publishing subsidiary, Miegunyah Press.

Later Peter held a number of executive positions, including member of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (1985-88); Executive Officer for the Council of Legal Education (1988-2003); Administrative Officer, the Council of Law Reporting in Victoria; and Secretary of the Victorian Board of Examiners for Barristers and Solicitors. He retired from the latter two appointments in 2003.

In addition to numerous press articles and book reviews, Peter wrote several books including Fear Drive My Feet (1959), Redmond Barry (1972), William Macmahon Ball: A Memoir (1990), Black Bonanza: A Landslide of Gold (1991), Chance Encounters: AD Hope (1992), Lines of Fire: Manning Clark and Other Writings (1997) and Brief Lives (2004).

Under friendly fire: New Guinea 1943

Crucifxion Hal Holman has written a memoir, ‘The Phoenix Rises Eternal’. We’ve published a couple of extracts previously from the many chapters that refer to Hal’s experiences in Papua New Guinea. Here’s another…..

They hedgehopped over the kunai and it wasn’t until they were almost level with us that the pilot of the leading aircraft banked sharply and flattened out, swooping directly at us. Simultaneously I noticed two smoke trails streak from the guns in both wings. We were being strafed!

“Air raid!” I screamed, doubling up and rolling into the creek bed. As the bursts tore through the camp our entire unit scrambled in behind me.

There were several strafing runs and what saved most of us was the shelter afforded by the natural trench. Had the Kittyhawks approached up the creek we would have been wiped out.

“What the bloody hell are the bastards doing?” Peter Danne called. “Don’t they recognise us.”

“I’m stuffed if I know! But don’t stick up your head to find out!”

I began frantically to scoop out river sand from under my belly to worm lower still.

Mulga Don, also lying prone, could only see the soles of my boots and my backside bucking up and down. “Are you hit Gidgee — or are you screwing some poor bastard?”

“I’m digging for victory, lame brain, and stop looking up my Khyber Pass.”

After one more savage burst of gunfire, the aircraft peeled off and disappeared.

Read the entire Chapter 22, ‘Return to the Fray’, of ‘The Phoenix Rises Eternal’ here.   Download Hal-WWII.pdf

Riley Warren to retire after topline career

Warren Riley Riley Warren AM, 1971 ASOPA graduate and former headmaster of Lae International High School, is to step down as headmaster of Macarthur Anglican School this year, having held the position since 1989. Riley, who also served as the principal of schools in Darwin and Alice Springs. was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his outstanding contribution to education.

Riley is also chair of the History and Scholarship Sub-Committee of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia.

Macarthur is a co-educational pre-Kindergarten to Year 12 Christian school located on 120 acres in a rural setting at Cobbitty, near Camden in NSW. It has been described as energetic and innovative and offering a strong academic education. Under Riley’s leadership it has developed an international focus. Overseas tours are a regular feature of school activities, and a Christian outreach team of students and staff travels to Thailand each year. Macarthur has sister schools in Tanzania, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan and Canada.

The school will hold a service of thanksgiving for Riley’s work of on 30 November before he retires at the end of the current school term.

PNG cruise makes nostalgia redundant

Lagoon_CanoeFrom time to time in these Notes, I mention PNG travel experiences, and here's one that seems purpose-designed for ASOPA PEOPLE readers - complete with a generous 15% discount.

Our friends at Aurora Expeditions have provided us with an exclusive offer for two voyages in PNG next April. The Marina Svetaeva is your floating hotel – an intimate 100-passenger expedition ship, and an excellent vessel for in-depth exploration. There are spacious viewing decks if you’re feeling idle, and a fleet of Zodiacs to take you ashore to places you could visit in no other way.

Something I like about Aurora Expeditions is how the cruise line blends experiences that take in people, topography and environment. For those of us who want it, and I’m one of them, there’s also a strong educational element. But above all, as you’ll see in these itineraries, the cruises provide an authentic experience of the real PNG.



Aurora calls this cruise ‘Lost in Paradise’ and it offers a wide-ranging exploration of the eastern PNG coastline and the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago.

From Alotau you will visit – Goodenough Island – Tufi – Lababia – Tami Islands – Karkar Island – Sepik River – Admiralty Islands - Tingwon/Tsoi Islands - Rabaul


‘Islands of Smiles’ is expedition cruising at its best begins with an in-depth look at the southern coast of New Britain and explores the tranquil isles of Milne Bay.

From Rabaul you will visit – Duke of Yorks – Lambon and Lamassa – Wide Bay – Pomio – Trobriands – Marshall Bennett Islands – Woodlark Island – Egum Atoll – D’Entrecasteaux Islands - Alotau


Marina Svetaeva Prices range from $4.495 (discounted from $5,290 for ASOPA PEOPLE readers) per person quad-share, including all meals on board and Zodiac excursions.

There’s more information here, and I encourage you to check it out. Or get a copy of Aurora’s PNG brochure by phoning 1800-637-688 or by emailing Aurora Cruises here.

PNGAA consultation now electronic

The technological wizards who manage the Papua New Guinea Association website have made it dead simple for people to contribute to help define a new direction and structure for the Association. You can now make your submission electronically by completing the web-based form here and clicking the ‘Send’ button.

The PNGAA has embarked on the biggest overhaul of its constitution since it was founded in 1951. Central to this process is the goal of providing a more effective structure for the PNGAA: national in scope and capable of adequately representing and delivering services to members throughout Australia.

Extensive consultation with individual members is taking place through the PNGAA website and journal Una Voce, and steering groups have been established across the continent as part of this major consultative process.

Why don’t you take a few minutes to look at the form, fill it in and send it off to us without leaving your chair. Right here.

PNG leaders commit to national growth

The Papua New Guinea Government sees the public service as an obstacle to development and is moving to revamp it. Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and his deputy Dr Puka Temu “could not hide the scant regard they had for the public service” in their Independence Day messages, The National newspaper said.

“This deterioration happened over a period of time and it will take some time to get it back to where it should be,” Sir Michael said. Dr Temu reinforced that the Government was re-examining its institutions and systems as well as the laws “because these were the vehicles through which planned changes would come about”.

“It is no secret that the public service machinery lacked vision and energy. It must be revamped and re-energised to take charge of the long-term plans and to prepare the Government and country to be responsive to the inevitable changes coming in the wake of major resource developments.”

Dr Temu said “PNG is about to enter a major industrialisation phase, and may not necessarily be prepared. It is no secret that the presence of the public service at the district and ward levels is anaemic at best. Focus must be shifted there to build capacity. Funds for development at these levels are available even now, but the capacity to mobilise project implementation is lacking. This is where 80% of Papua New Guineans live.”

Meanwhile, a government-funded National Television Service (NTS) has been launched as an independence gift to the people of PNG. Large screens were set up in Goroka, Mt Hagen, Rabaul and Port Moresby for people to watch the new service of mostly pre-recorded programs. The first program to be screened was Yumi Yet – a documentary about Independence Day celebrations in 1975.

Sir Michael Somare said by the end of the year, the world should know PNG. He teased that many foreigners do not know much about PNG except for Queenslanders and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Lepani: Good year for bilateral relations

Lepani Speech 2008 has been “a very good and busy year for PNG-Australia relations at official and people to people levels”, Papua New Guinea’s High Commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani told an Independence Day gathering in Canberra yesterday.

Mr Lepani highlighted a sequence of high level events that has marked a new phase in the bilateral relationship: starting with the visit to Australia by PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal in January and followed in rapid succession by the meeting of Prime Ministers Somare and Rudd at the Bali climate change conference in February, the visit of Kevin Rudd to PNG in March, a joint meeting of senior officials in Canberra in April, the Joint Ministerial Meeting in Madang in May and the farewell visit of former Governor-General Michael Jeffrey and Mrs Malena Jeffrey to PNG in August.

“These can only be described as truly significant milestones in further maturing and promoting our historical and friendly ties,” Mr Lepani said. “We can only look forward to further successes and the deepening of our relations as friends.”

Mr Lepani said Mr Rudd’s announcement of the Port Moresby Declaration, setting out development parameters for Pacific countries, Australia and New Zealand, was a highlight of the Australian Government’s policy framework for Pacific nations.

He concluded in the time-honoured PNG way by inviting those present to “enjoy the SP Beer donated by our South Pacific Brewery and flown here courtesy of Air Niugini, the wine from Australia and champagne from New Zealand.

“To the purists, I apologise for not providing kava and betel nut, but I am sure before the end of the day you will find a way to avail yourselves of such pleasures,” he joked.

33 years on we must do better, says PNG

160908frontpage In a candid assessment of Papua New Guinea ’s progress in the 33 years since independence, Dr Iamo Ila’ava, who heads the technical advisory group to the National Planning Committee, says the country must do better.

“When we assess our development performance since 1975 against the Eight Point Plan adopted at independence it is obvious that we have failed miserably,” says Dr Ila’ava. “After three decades of political independence, our rural people still lack basic services. “We must ‘do the right things’ instead of ‘just doing things right’,” he said, and forecast that future generations will demand a very different and better outcome.

According to the PNG Post-Courier, inflation is damaging the well-being of people even though measures of PNG’s overall economic performance show the country is going well. “A large tin of bully beef at independence cost about 70 toea while a packet of rice cost about 30t. Today, the cost for Ox and Palm is K6 and a packet of rice is about K4.

“At independence students were taught by teachers who had a high command of discipline, commitment and qualification. These qualities are lacking among teachers today.

Port Moresby residents at independence were employed and had accommodation. Today migrants have moved in and expanded squatter settlements on prime state land in search of the bright city lights and the need of basic services.

“Most rural people in PNG do not have access to clinics or school and transport facilities. Adding to these social problems there is a general break down in law and order, and families and marriages.”

Image: The front page of yesterday’s PNG Post-Courier

PNG: Achieving a change in direction

Oates Paul Paul Oates is concerned about events and trends in Papua New Guinea and his thoughtful and provocative paper describing how these problems manifest themselves and making some recommendations for their alleviation is now available here.

Paul believes that, if Australia does nothing, PNG will continue on a downhill slope to further poverty and corruption notwithstanding increasing amounts of external aid funds. “If the process of ‘sweeping the dust under the carpet continues,” Paul writes, “then potential to prevent a humanitarian disaster on our doorstep will be lost forever.”

Well worth a read – and a response.

Searching for John Sutherland Anderson

Susan Philpott

I recently met the younger sister of John Sutherland Anderson who taught in or near Madang in the 1960s and returned to PNG (Madang Teachers College) in the 1980s only to be killed - shot by raskols. He was planted there in September 1987.

John’s sister had no other living family. She is still grieving and can find no information. Foreign Affairs told her that there were no records of her brother ever having been to PNG! She knew nothing of his probable attendance at any ASOPA course but believed he was recruited through the Department of Education in Western Australia (who knew he had gone to PNG).

Are there any records of this teacher? Does anyone remember him? Does anyone recall his murder and any police action? I have his sister’s phone number but thought I would find out if there is any information about John before raising her hopes.

If you have any information about John Anderson you can contact Susan Philpott here.

Amplification of events on B'ville, 1973

Bill Brown

Wednesday 10 January 1973 - I sat just behind then Chief Minister throughout that “fiery four-hour meeting outside Kieta sub-district office”. While there can be no doubt that the invasion of Bougainville by outsiders was an issue, it was not one of the main reasons for the heat of that meeting.

No one could doubt the anguish behind what I, and others, believe to be the first reason; the assassination in Goroka of two highly respected public servants from Bougainville - an event that had occurred on Christmas Eve 1972, just 17 days before the meeting. A vehicle driven by Dr Luke Rovin, with passenger Peter Moini, struck a six-year old girl and killed her near Goroka airstrip. The Bougainvilleans attempted to give aid, were set upon and stoned to death.

In his autobiography, Somare related: “I witnessed the emotional reactions to the killings ... at Kieta. I found many people had painted their bodies and faces with clay as a sign of mourning. They carried bow, arrows and bilums... A weeping woman rushed through the crowd and came right up to me. She fell to the ground in front of me and began to dig the ground with a knife. She was Luke Robin’s (sic) mother...”

The second reason for the heat of that meeting was that the venue was changed from the Council Chambers to outside the sub-district office. The night before the meeting, Barry Middlemiss approached the Chief Minister and secured his approval for the change.

Again from the autobiography: “I will never forget Leo Hannett’s angry performance at the meeting … Leo Hannett burst through the crowd and started hammering his fists on the table. He screamed that it was an insult to the dignity of his people for the venue to be suddenly changed. He and many Bougainvilleans had wanted to demonstrate in front of me… He demanded that the murderers be dealt with immediately…”

Thursday 11 January 1973 - Chief Minister Somare was not flown out of Panguna by helicopter. Paul Lapun and John Momis did not express fears for his safety. There was no cancellation of a meeting at Panguna. I was with the Chief Minister throughout the visit to Panguna. It went according to schedule and the party left in several vehicles to travel by road to Buin. Well to the east of Panguna, we stopped and had a roadside meeting with a large group of armed villagers. It was a rowdy meeting and the Chief Minister apparently decided that the presence of the small police escort was the cause of the hostility. He told me to send the police on ahead, to Buin. The six police constables, who were travelling in their own vehicle, left for Buin.

We had several more stops, and each meeting was more fiery than the last. At each, the villagers were armed with traditional weapons, ignoring earlier requests made to them to leave their weapons at home. I had serious doubts about the Chief Minister’s safety, and I had absolutely no way of protecting him against any violence from a group or from a crazed individual. (Six police were not much protection, but they made a larger party and might have been dissuasive.)

I decided that I had to ensure Mr Somare's safety, and called for the helicopter. The Chief Minister left us by helicopter.

From the Somare autobiography: “Another unfortunate incident occurred when I travelled from the big mining town of Panguna down to the south-east coast of the island. Word came up to Panguna that a group of village people in traditional dress and carrying spears and axes were waiting for me on the roadside. Government officials had asked them to leave their weapons in the village but they had refused. My officials, thinking I was in personal danger, overreacted. So instead of driving, I was taken by company helicopter to the south-east coast. I felt uneasy when this modern machinery lifted me over my own people for ‘safety’ reasons.”

Maybe Sir Michael was being kind when he did not identify me as the ‘official’; maybe it was a deliberate omission.

Bill Brown MBE was District Commissioner on Bougainville when the events in question occurred.

Some notes on changes to these Notes

I’m using this PNG Independence Day to make a small but significant change in how this blog identifies itself. While the name ASOPA PEOPLE is retained - both as a tribute to the legacy of this site and so the blog will not be confused as necessarily representing the views of PNG citizens (as a title like PNG PEOPLE might convey) – the descriptor has been broadened.

As you can see, we are now “Notes for anyone with affection for or fascination with Papua New Guinea, her people and times: past, present and future”. A little pompous, I grant, but it seems to say what I want it to say.

In fact, since they were initiated early in 2006, these Notes have been gradually evolving – to no plan but as a response to where readers and the editor have shifted as renewed interest in PNG affairs and history has developed in recent years among Australians who once lived and worked there.

Some may think that each change in this site has taken it further away from its original purpose of recording and commemorating the history of ASOPA, the Australian School of Pacific Administration (1947-72). But, in fact, like the late great Harry Peake’s ever increasing circles, each change has simply embraced and extended the previous purpose and information.

Perhaps, now, ASOPA PEOPLE is getting to where it was meant to be – a vehicle and a forum for ensuring the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship remains alive and kicking on the Internet as a well as a means of informally recording a time in history that so many of us feel so grateful to have participated in.

The day Somare ignored a racist taunt

Flag lowering From time to time in Papua New Guinea I kept a work diary that was so obsessively on theme that my only reference to Independence Day, Tuesday 16 September 1975, was ‘Holiday’. But I vividly remember the ceremony at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium, the somewhat incongruous soccer match that preceded it, Prince Charles and the pomp and ceremony, the swearing in of Michael Somare as Prime Minister, the glowing pride of my boss and friend, National Broadcasting Commission chairman Sam Piniau, and the measured lowering of the Australian flag and raising of the PNG kumul/logohu. The NBC expatriate staff gave the chairman a Kawage copper beating as an Independence gift. But, I’m afraid, for us and for the most of the nation from then on, it was business as usual.

So, with my diary for that great day offering so little, to mark PNG Independence Day, to remind us of how things used to be and to provide Kabot from Tavuruvur [see Recent Comments] with more in the way of history, I turn to my diary for early 1973, when I was manager of Radio Bougainville. This short illustration, I hope, offers something of the effervescent flavour of the times.

Wednesday 10 January - With Chief Minister Michael Somare on the island, 2000 people are at a fiery four-hour meeting outside Kieta sub-district office to demonstrate anger at the ‘invasion’ of Bougainville by outsiders. I attend for the duration and phone reports to Moresby from time to time. Write a 68-line story for our local news bulletin. A Wabag man is found murdered near Nairovi. Seems like a payback by Tolais for a killing in Kieta at Christmas.

Thursday 11 January - Jim Leigh [Controller of Broadcasting] rings about the killing of the Wabag man. I inform him we ran facts of story but would not reveal the race of the killer(s) if and when found. We’ve had so many rumours recently that it pays to run factual stories when they’re available but at same time it’s a good policy to ignore rumours except where they pose a threat to public order.

A dramatic afternoon. Somare is flown out of Panguna by helicopter after Paul Lapun and John Momis expressed fears for his safety. I get the story from Gus Smales [Melbourne Herald] and transmit it to our Central Newsroom in time for the afternoon bulletin. Eighty weapons-carrying villagers were resentful at Somare’s departure. They said they intended him no harm and the weapons were symbolic. The feeling is that his departure, and the consequent cancellation of the Panguna meeting, was a mistake.

Friday 12 January - Gravelle from Central Newsroom rings about my Somare-Panguna story yesterday. There’s concern about inconsistencies with the ABC story. These are more apparent than real and the Post-Courier has confirmed my version. Leigh rings and says a Western Highlands District man has told him that Western Highlanders around Arawa are planning a payback for death of a Laiagam man. Check with District Officer but he has heard nothing.

Saturday 13 January – Get to Davara Motel with equipment about 11.15 am preparatory to the arrival of Michael Somare, who turns up two hours late. I lunch with him and record a 12-minute talk reviewing his visit to Bougainville. He invites me to dinner and drinks tonight…

Luke Umbo [Radio Bougainville journalist] and I walk into the Davara dining room just behind the Chief Minister. As we find our table, a European diner, unknown to us, gestures towards Somare and calls out, “Look at that kanaka in a laplap”. Somare is angered, momentarily baulks, but moves on, effectively neutralising the issue – though it easily could have developed into something worse. The Chief Minister shows great poise. Bougainville is volatile enough right now without a high level political firestorm.

Photo: The Australian flag comes down for the last time in Papua New Guinea

Hal Holman OL, OAM – honoured by Australia, now by Papua New Guinea

Halholman pic Tomorrow may be a big day for Papua New Guinea but it looms as an even bigger day for Hal Holman, because the man who designed the PNG Coat of Arms, who had a significant input in the design of the national flag and whose art and sculptures derive their beauty and energy from PNG is to become an Officer in the Order of Logohu.

The award is given for distinguished service to PNG, and it is beyond argument that Hal Holman has provided this – from his experience as a commando in World War II to his work as an official artist in the years around Independence to his contribution to public art in PNG since.

Hal Holman returned to Port Moresby in 1962 for what was intended as a brief visit. Instead he joined the Department of Information where, among his colleagues, was a young journalist named Michael Somare. Since then many PNG commissions have come Hal's way including a large bronze of Queen Elizabeth II, bronze busts of the six prime ministers of PNG since Independence and an eight-metre high stainless steel Bird of Paradise adjacent to Parliament House in Port Moresby. These are among many other Holman sculptures and works of art in the city.

Crest Hal was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2004 for his services to the arts as a designer and sculptor. The most recent PNG award gives him the unusual honour of being recognised by both countries. To suggest that Hal is delighted would be a grotesque understatement.

You can read Hal’s story of how PNG got its national flag here.

And something of his war exploits in the New Guinea highlands here.

And you can find out how you can acquire one of his works of art here.

PNG Independence Day - 16 September

Flag & Group

It’s Papua New Guinea Independence Day tomorrow – yes, 33 years since that splendid flag was raised (as Nancy Johnston reminds me, first flown in 1971) over cities and outstations in the newly independent nation.

Arguments still rage about whether Independence came too early – a view I never favoured even before Independence. For all her faults – and point me to the perfect nation state, please – PNG has demonstrated a remarkable propensity to stick together. It wasn’t easy to gather 800 tribes under the one flag and hasn’t been easy to maintain that unity. PNG remains probably the world’s most diverse democracy – and that’s a major claim to fame.

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has this year brokered a new and welcome affiliation with the PNG Government while, coincidentally, the PNG Association of Australia is moving to equip itself to strengthen civil relationships between the two countries. [See PNGAA under ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA at left for a discussion paper on this]

Outgoing Governor-General and former Army chief in PNG, Major-General Michael Jeffery, has agreed to continue as a Patron of the PNGAA and says he looks forward to playing a more active role in its affairs in the future.

In a recent discussion I had with him, Maj Gen Jeffery commented that the changes being proposed to give the PNGAA a greater role in strengthening the Australia-PNG relationship are “excellent”. He believes that the PNGAA should be taking a more active role in building the relationship and he says he's willing to work in any way he can to assist this goal.

Happy birthday, Papua New Guinea.

Memories of Port Moresby theatre

In those days when we were all very young and called ourselves Territorians, Klaus Pinker was a leading light in Port Moresby dramatic circles, even establishing his own theatre company. He also acted, designed sets and conducted classes in stagecraft. Last night, aged around 80, he popped up in a new play at the Noosa Arts Theatre.

Klaus, who has lived for years on the Sunshine Coast, is known in the region for his theatrical and choral performances, his music appreciation classes and his promotion of the arts on community radio. Before going to PNG I n the sixties, he had played roles in the TV series Homicide and Hunter.

Last night, for the first time in 40 years, I saw Klaus in Frank Wilkie’s new play Newsroom (written under the mentorship of David Williamson) playing the minor but significant character of Ed McLaren with an unlikely German elocution. Klaus also designed sets for the production.

Virgin Blue to fly PNG from November

Virgin Blue’s international airline Pacific Blue and Airlines PNG have announced the commencement of a new Brisbane - Port Moresby air service starting in November. Pacific Blue will operate four return flights a week to PNG - a total of 720 seats - using Boeing 737-800 aircraft. To mark the announcement Pacific Blue has launched a special Internet one way sale fare of $249, inclusive of taxes fees and charges.

Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey said, “We look forward to adding PNG to our expanding network.” PNG Minister for Culture and Tourism, Charles Abel, applauded the partnership. “The Government welcomes the joint decision by Virgin Blue and Airlines PNG to provide airline services on the international and domestic sectors. My Ministry worked hard to bring competition to our airline sector to address one of the identified weaknesses in tourism infrastructure.”

“This agreement with Virgin Blue will introduce another strong carrier onto the route between Port Moresby and Brisbane and will heighten competition considerably because of the increase in available seat capacity,” said Airlines PNG CEO John Fitzgerald. Flights are available on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Connections from other Australian capitals and New Zealand will be announced soon.

It was love at first sight

Bill Welbourne

It was love at first sight. Forty-seven years ago I was a car salesman and I walked into the NRMA office to perve on all the good looking ‘sheilas’ they employed… one caught my eye instantly. She glanced up and quickly put her head down and pretended to type. I knew I would be back.

I told my mother that I had met this stunning girl that I wanted to marry. ‘Oh! And who is she?’

‘Ah! I don’t know. I haven’t asked her out yet!’

Two weeks later on a very wet Saturday morning I got my chance and called her over to the counter.

‘Would you like a lift home?’

She looked outside at the sky and replied, ‘Have you got a car?’ And so began a long inseparable journey.

Download Bill Welbourne’s full tribute to his wife Pam, who was buried yesterday at Mount Gravatt Cemetery in Brisbane.   Download pams_obituary.pdf

Major changes forecast for PNG ministry

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, is expected to undertake a major reshuffle of his Ministry after independence celebrations next Tuesday. The PNG Post-Courier reports today that it was given a list of names purporting to be the new Ministry.

The newspaper says that one of the more startling changes proposed is the elevation of Namatanai MP Byron Chan - son of key Opposition figure, Sir Julius Chan - as Education Minister. Ministers who stand to lose their portfolios include Housing Minister Andrew Kumbakor, Commerce and Industry Minister Gabriel Kapris and Correctional Service Minister Tony Aimo.

The list suggests that the People’s Party, Rural Development Party and People’s Progress Party will join the Government coalition. But Transport Minister Don Polye savaged the list as the work of people trying to destabilise the Government. “This is a lot of rubbish and hogwash and could be a deliberate attempt to destabilise the Government of the day.”

Pam Welbourne - courage in adversity

On 15 December 1962, at the end of his first year at ASOPA, Bill and Pam Welbourne married. Bill later wrote: “No girlfriend matched my former heartshakers until I met a sweet office girl, Pam Harland, who worked for the NRMA in Newcastle. Just before I got my gong for ASOPA, I plucked up courage to talk to her and we've been together since.”

Throughout their married life, Pam – who suffered disabling asthma – experienced ill health, becoming progressively bedridden. Bill adopted a mature approach to this predicament – sticking by Pam and caring for her as long as he could while at the same time trying to lead as normal a life as possible. When things were difficult, and they often were, Bill never once complained.

Surrounded by her family, 65-year old Pam – blind and in pain - died at 8.30 on Sunday night. It had been a very long road.

Bill and Pam lived in Rabaul from 1963-69. After Bill went on study leave to complete an economics degree at Queensland University, they returned to Port Moresby in 1971. Bill became a projects officer in the Lands Department and was later secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into Land Problems. With Independence around the corner, Bill was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Committee for PNG Independence.

In 1976, with their daughter Julie-anne very ill with a brain tumour (she died in 1978 aged 8), Bill and Pam decided the time was right to “go south” and Bill accepted a teaching appointment at Brisbane Boys’ College where he remained for 22 years until Pam’s health declined to a point where he took early retirement.

Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of Pam’s life at 12 noon this Thursday 11 September in the Chapel within the grounds of Mount Gravatt Cemetery.

Welbourne, Pamela Joy. Late of Mount Cotton. 27-7-1943 - 7-9-2008. Dearly loved wife of Bill, Mother of Tony, Andrew, Julie-Anne (dec'd) and Angelique. Special Grandma of seven wonderful grandchildren.

Securing a change in direction for PNG

Paul Oates is concerned about events and trends in Papua New Guinea and has written a paper describing how these problems manifest themselves and making some recommendations for their alleviation. Paul and I hope that readers – whether or not they agree with Paul’s analysis and prescription – may be stimulated to air their own views on this important, perhaps critical, issue.

We offer a short extract from ‘PNG: How to achieve a change in direction’, and there is a link to enable you to download the full paper. You can provide feedback in our Comments section or to me directly here.

At Independence in 1976 PNG was on the threshold of developing into a stable and prosperous nation. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Australia built up a regional government infrastructure throughout the country that provided essential law and order, education, medical assistance and all manner of essential support services in every area in PNG.

Australia then had a wonderful opportunity to bring PNG into the modern age and stand together with it as a friend and neighbour. Unfortunately, that opportunity was allowed to atrophy for want of interest. There was a mutual disregard.

In 2008, 33 years after Independence , much of the PNG government infrastructure has disappeared completely and yet the wages bill for PNG public servants continues to rise. Why is this so?

Among the recommendations Paul makes for securing a change in direction in PNG are:

1. Fund, strengthen and reform the PNG government infrastructure as a first priority for AusAID.

2. Reissue an updated PNG Government Code of Conduct and Ethics agreed to by government, unions and business. The Code of Conduct must be signed on behalf of all citizens by the PNG Prime Minister and disseminated to all levels. This must be encouraged by Australia as a matter of priority.

3. Issue a deadline for correct, ethical practice to commence. Offer an amnesty for people to come clean and testify.

4. Institute anti corruption tribunals and, after the deadline expires, use them to investigate and send new cases for trial to the PNG courts.

5. At the same time, improve Public Service wages, salaries and conditions of service on the premise that all PNG government employees sign performance based pay agreements specifying compliance with the new Code of Conduct.

Paul believes that, if Australia does nothing, PNG will continue on a downhill slope to further poverty and corruption notwithstanding increasing amounts of external aid funds. “If the process of ‘sweeping the dust under the carpet continues,” Paul writes, “then potential to prevent a humanitarian disaster on our doorstep will be lost forever.”

Download the full text of Paul’s paper here.  Download A_change_in_direction.pdf

Advice wanted on PNG tax deductibility

Siebrand Petrusma

I have been approached by my old PNG school to assist them financially with a library project and am happy to assist in whatever way I can. It would help if any financial support would attract tax-deductibility status by the ATO. Is any reader aware of a tax deductible fund in Australia through which such donations can be channelled? Being an education project, I am sure there must be such a fund somewhere. Can anyone steer me in the right direction?

You can contact Siebrand at 03 6248 1267 or respond directly to ASOPA PEOPLE. By the way, Siebrand authors an excellent blog at

Overcoming Noosa torpor to get in touch

Noosa, Sunday: With the weather on the Sunshine Coast finally breaking out in Sp[ring's great splendour and the Nossa Jazz Festival in full swing, not to put to fine a point on it, the ASOPA PEOPLE blog has loomed a little less importantly in my daily routine. Apologies for that.

The Papua New Guinea Association's steering group in South Australia will hold its first meeting on Friday under the capable chairmanship of Jan Kleinig. In addition to Jan, the eight-person committee includes former PNG Director of Health Dr Roy Scragg, Peter Routley, Jim Moore, Ian Hopley, Graham Taylor, Graham Inns and Allan Jones – a great line up by any measure.

Meanwhile, Nick Booth has been appointed to manage the PNGAA website and plans are already in train to refine the site and make it more interactive. The site will be redesigned and modified include up to date PNG news (edited by former ABC and AAP journalist Bob Lawrence) and a Readers' Forum that will operate to better connect PNGAA members as well as people who are generally interested in PNG affairs.

Another thing. If you haven't yet responded to the PNGAA's discussion and consultation paper on its future, go to the PNGAA link [left, under ASOPA PEOPLE Extra] and give us the benefit of your views

Netball as a slice of life – the Gima Crowdy story

Gimanama (Gima) Crowdy is President of the Sydney PNG Wantoks Club. The club was established by Papua New Guineans who are residing or studying in Sydney and is probably the most socially active of Australia’s PNG associations. And when you read Gima's story, you'll understand why.

In July, Gima – who is also assistant coach of the Gosford Netball Association’s State League Team – was asked to give the address at the annual presentation dinner. Some extracts….

I am the eldest of two girls and three boys.  My dad was a senior sergeant with the police force and my mother was a worker. We grew up in Port Moresby, with regular visits to my parents’ villages, about 120 km out of town on rough dirt roads. Females are the main working forces in the family. Part of my culture, is that we learn this early in our lives. We love our food, there are always big feasts when someone was leaving or coming home. We have respect for our elders, if someone was talking there was dead silence. I got a shock when I coached the first junior teams in New Zealand and here, they were all talking – really different backgrounds.

I come from a sporting background with my father and uncles represented PNG in soccer, cricket and darts and a couple of my aunties were PNG netballers. I played netball at school. Then I played in a lower grade team with my mother and aunties and took out the grand final. I was selected in the PNG Junior Squad then played in the PNG Open Squad after competing at the national championships.

In the village, girls play barefoot, on the beach or on dirt courts, with coconut leaves as boundary lines. When I was back there a couple of months ago, the girls were playing with a flat soccer ball – when the boys weren't stealing it!

When I was 20 I started work and became the breadwinner for my family because both my parents separated and left their jobs. This kind of introduced me to motherhood and focused me more on netball as it was a form of release and I could set positive achievable goals.

In 1991, I earned my first overseas travel to Sydney for the World Netball Championships as a reserve. I then played for PNG at the South Pacific Games. In 1995, I got into the national team for the World Netball Championships in Birmingham, UK. We came 15th out of 28 teams and one of my best memories is playing against Australia. We got hammered pretty badly but developed mental toughness. The experiences gave us strength to go a bit further and push ourselves harder.

We flew straight from these games to Tahiti for the South Pacific Games where we lost to Fiji for the gold medal. It sounds pretty great going to different countries but there were lots of hardships getting there. Players and officials raised all the money. Very few families had cars and, after training if we missed our usual bus, we’d get off part way and run another 5 km home.

I was working at that time so got sponsored. I have a huge extended family and they would give me travel money. I’d use half to do a raffle at work, sell ice blocks, cigarettes and betel nuts which were fast money making. I’d use the other half together with my pay to provide my family with fees and food.

In 2001, I came to Sydney and played in their Eastwood/Ryde state league team for three years and did junior coaching. We moved to Umina in 2005 and I joined a local association, playing for and coaching the Ettalong Eagles. Netball has always been more than a sport for me – it was my only experience of the world outside PNG.

Netball can provide independence, confidence, organization and social skills – it is so much more than a game, and I believe it has a strong role to play in development for women in the Pacific. It is easy to forget in the privileged world we live in here in Australia about how netball is played by our closest neighbor – Papua New Guinea.

An extremely shaky Garden of Eden

I was wandering through Paddington the other morning, with half an hour to kill before seeing my endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Clinic, when I chanced upon Gertrude and Alice’s Café Bookstore. So, naturally, I bought a café and a book. Both were excellent.

SM Lambert was a young American doctor specialising in tropical medicine when, in 1920, he found himself in Papua, later being posted to a Rabaul, newly removed from German control. He subsequently (in 1941) wrote an elegant and intriguing account of his experiences in PNG and the Pacific in a book entitled ‘A Doctor in Paradise’. Here’s an extract…..

LambertHookworm “In contrast to Papua’s bleak capital I found Rabaul a picture of tropical delight: regular streets were bordered with poinciana, royal palms, coco-nut palms; betel nut palms raised graceful, slender stems and flaunted their feathery tops just above clusters of fruit that were like hothouse grapes; Indian laurels loomed graciously over thriving fig-trees. The Germans had drained all this land, relieved it of mosquitoes, planted the groves; they had set Government House on a fine eminence overlooking a stretch of water that might have been a Scottish lake.

“Rabaul was an extremely shaky Garden of Eden, geologically and politically. Jolly earthquakes came and went with seismic whimsicality, and were so frequent that every hotel, house and office had its heavy furniture lashed to the walls. Otherwise, one might have waked up any morning and found a large German wardrobe in one’s lap. Right inside Rabaul’s port, Vulcan island was a particularly bad actor.

“The Reverend George Brown, the fighting missionary, records its beginning back in 1878 when it blew the twenty-mile channel full of pumice; thousands of boiled fish were washed ashore, and great sea turtles with their tortoise-shell cooked to a pulp. The next big show was in 1937, when Vulcan covered the town with ashy vomit; after that there was talk of moving the capital, but the colonial becomes a fatalist. He has to be.”

Image: Lambert administers hookworm treatment, New Britain, c 1921

Reciprocal student visa scheme planned

Hot on the heels of the inclusion of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific seasonal labour scheme, PNG and Australia will soon announce an agreement to facilitate a work and holiday scheme for university students from both countries. This follows discussions between Prime Ministers Somare and Rudd at the recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Niue.

The work visa will enable university students going to Australia on vacation to secure employment for up to six months and undertake study for up to four months. “Both prime ministers noted this facility will enable students of our two countries to familiarise themselves with the PNG and Australian way of life, work ethics, traditions and culture as well as to develop networks that will be useful after they graduate,” Mr Abal said.

Meanwhile the PNG Government has unveiled a K700 million plan to improve school infrastructure and address textbook shortages in schools. The massive expenditure comes after public concern at poor learning results and deteriorating facilities in schools.

Acting Education Minister Sani Rambi said the current ratio was ten students to one textbook and 20 to one in remote areas. “None of our children can learn properly under these conditions,” he said. "We now have the money to change that.”

Source: PNG National, 1 September 2008

PNG features in Battle of Australia Day

Tom Neeson, Sydney PNG Wantok Club

Two young Papua New Guineans will feature prominently in the first Battle for Australia Day to be held on Wednesday. The Federal Government proclaimed the commemoration in June, fulfilling an election promise to declare a day of national observance to mark the successfyl defence of Australia in World War II.

Wartime prime minister John Curtin announced the Battle for Australia when Singapore fell on 15 February 1942. It produced a national mobilisation of the entire population of seven million people. Battle for Australia Day - commemorating all who served and died in the defence of Australia in 1942 and 1943 - will be marked on the first Wednesday of each September.

The Sydney ceremony will be held at 11am at the Cenotaph in Martin Place. Papua New Guineans courageously supported Australia in the war and the courage and efforts of these civilians – the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – will also be remembered and honoured. Young wantoks Morea Vele and Joseph Minei will represent the children of PNG, laying flowers to remember and thank those who gave so much. The public are welcome to attend.