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29 posts from December 2008

On meeting an ex-student after 40 years

Colin Huggins

Colin Today I lunched with Sue Hurrell, a former student of mine at Wau Primary A School in 1968. I was full of trepidation before the meeting - like a first day at school.

To ensure that after 40 years I would be recognisable, I was attired in my flamboyant yellow garb. I needn't have been worried. Sue and her husband had no trouble spotting a retired gentleman clothed in yellow. Then the stories flowed. It was a wonderful experience.

Sue is a teacher and her husband has been appointed headmaster of Byron Bay Public School – an hour’s drive from their residence on 150 acres with 50 Hereford cows and a Brahman bull.

Both Hurrell boys (if I can use that word - Lloyd now 92 and Frank not far behind) and their wives live in retirement villages. Lloyd has written a book on his time in PNG [Hurrell's way: an autobiography] - pre-war, war and after.

Sue and her husband have been regular visitors to PNG. They have climbed Mt Wilhelm and walked- the Kokoda Track. There are schools on the track with no pupils because there are no teachers (due to the government not paying salaries). Some schools have been sponsored by Rotary and books and materials remain in their crates in empty classrooms. Of course the local population is anxious for the kids to have an education. It’s considered to be of paramount importance just as it was 40 odd years ago.

Sue said they never felt any danger when in Port Moresby - they even went out at night. But Lae was another case entirely, verging on anarchy. They visited the Tami Islands off Dregerhafen on a dive boat and had a wonderful time diving, swimming and in total harmony with the locals. I recall the long canoes arriving at Dregerhafen with the Tami carvings - they moored right in front of my Bulolo style house.

Sue has also worked in Boggabilla – in NSW just over the Queensland border from Goondiwindi. I spent my primary school years not far from there – in Boomi and Moree - and I can tell you Boggabilla is the pits of the earth.

And so to this day. Today 40 years ago I was on my way to Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. I never got there. My diary tells me I celebrated New Year in Tokyo at the Imperial Hotel Ballroom. There is no entry for what I did on 1 January 1969, so I can only assume far too much saki - which I no longer drink - was consumed.

Happy new year!

And a happy new year….

Magpie & Olive Tree Artists Garden

My own resolution for 2009 is to stop making new year’s resolutions and so spare myself the ignominy of falling at the first hurdle each year.

If you’re statistically minded, PNG ATTITUDE published 399 stories in 2008, an average of more than one a day. There were also 214 comments from readers. They make for a lot of interesting reading. The ATTITUDE gets well over 100 visitors a day and, as far as I’m concerned, it's a labour of love and it’s here to stay.

In 2008 we featured an array of stories about Papua New Guinea and about people associated with PNG. We covered the lives and deaths of many people who made a great contribution to that country, and many more who continue to contribute still. We brought to you detailed coverage of a PNG Association election, the first in its 58-year history, eliciting a hysterical attack on me, which in turn drew an angry response from our usually benign readership. We’ve dealt with the more interesting news out of PNG and the big issues affecting Australia’s relationship with that country. We’ve featured a host of new books related to PNG and the art of people associated with PNG. And much, much more.

Let’s hope 2009 is just as enthralling.

Painting: A new work by John Pasquarelli, Magpie & Olive Tree - Artist's Garden. Visit John’s website at

A good book? You just found it here

Good_Book Reginald Thomson has written a book about books or, to be more precise, about his love of books.

Coincidentally Looking for a Good Book (Copyright, Brisbane, 2008) comes from the same publisher who brought us Gail Burke’s Meeting the Challenge.

While, unlike Challenge, this is not a book solely about PNG, it contains much that offers fresh insights into life in PNG between World War II and Independence. Which is not easy given the body of expatriate literature, published and unpublished, about the then Australian territory.

Reginald lived in PNG from 1949-73, beginning his career as a teacher and ending it as a distinguished public servant in the exacting post of Director of Child Welfare.

The central characteristic of Looking for a Good Book is the quality of the prose and of the extensive literary and life experience of the author. This, in short, is a book to read in phases – first for the savouring and then retained on the shelf for the occasional foray.

Reginald Thomson was born near Bendigo in Victoria in 1919. He left school at 13 to work for the YMCA and enlisted in the Australian Army in 1941. The book describes his Army training and his initial war service in New Guinea and at Balikpapan on Borneo.

After World War II, Reginald took a Diploma in Social Science, soon moving on to ASOPA. In the introduction to the book, his son Dr Mark Thomson writes: “The firsthand account of studying at ASOPA is a highlight of the memoir.” I agree. This is historic stuff and the cost of the book (just $20 including postage) is worth these reminiscences alone.

If you’re looking for a good book, Looking for a Good Book is for you. It is a well written and acutely recalled memoir. And underpinning everything is the author’s obsession with books. Made all the more poignant, as many of us who found ourselves in far flung parts of PNG would understand, by the largely unacknowledged part that books, precious books, played in our lives.

‘Looking for a Good Book’ by Reginald Thomson. Order your copy [hardcover, 152 pp, $20 including postage] by contacting Mark Thomson here. Mark will tell you about payment details.

John Fitzherbert dies in Melbourne

Ian H Morton

I am writing to let you know that former RAAF member, accountant and long term PNG Treasury official and PNGAA member, John Fitzherbert, died in Fashingham Nursing Home, Canterbury, Victoria on the morning of the 17 October. His son Wayne informed me that his Dad joined the PNG public service in 1948 and departed in 1974. I do not recollect meeting John in PNG although I may have done so when going to Treasury Konebobu in relation to patrol funds when I was based in Port Moresby with the Department of Public Health.

Late one afternoon in the early to mid 1990’s I walking alone a street not too far from my home when an older gentleman who was out walking his dog approached from the other direction. As he drew closer he evidently recognised me and addressed me by name. This was John and we stopped for a chat. John was a widower at this stage of his life and his son and his wife lived a suburb or two away. From time to time my brother or I or indeed at times the both of us would see John in local streets or shops and on occasions he would join us so the others at our home for any evening meal and we formed a good friendship.

As John got older his health deteriorated and eventually he had to be admitted to a nursing home. While it was not always possible, I tried to visit him on a weekly basis when it was possible and there were occasions when my brother would join me. On the 16th of October I finished work early in the afternoon and I called in to see John on my way home. At the time of my visit he was asleep. I saw a duty nurse and asked her if she would let him know of my visit. I was departing for a 1967-68 ASOPA CEO reunion (after 40 years) in Queensland the next morning so I also asked her to let John know that I would see him when I got back. She informed me that it was unlikely that John would still be alive when I got back. When I got home I phoned and left a message for Wayne to let him know that I had been to see him Dad and that I would be away.

He kindly wrote to my brother and me to let us know of his Dad’s death. I must apologise for being so slow in writing to let you know. I started a few drafts earlier but kept putting them aside. A number of members will be better informed of John’s PNG Public Service than me. I do however remember his mentioning Rabaul and Madang as well as Port Moresby and I take it that these were his postings or perhaps some of them.

New Dawn FM begins its educative task


Aloysius Laukai, manager of New Dawn FM, has sent PNG ATTITUDE this photograph of Dr Barnabas Matanu, Director of Medical Services at Buka General Hospital, being interviewed at the New Dawn studios on Buka Island.

Dr Matanu is talking with New Dawn presentation team leader and my former Radio Bougainville colleague from the early 1070s, Paul Max Haliken, during a talk back show on health issues on Bougainville.

Aloysius Laukai says New Dawn has featured many guest broadcasters from both PNG and abroad since it went on air earlier this year. Most recently the station has broadcast live coverage of the Autonomous Bougainville Government Presidential By Election.

Reprising the future of the PNGAA

First of all, my apologies, dear Reader, for the deep silence that has prevailed on this site for a week now. It has not been a Scroogelike sullenness with the Season, I assure you. I love this time of the year. No, the total scarcity of information has been due to the strangeness of a Christmas spent - for the first time in many years - away from home. In the depths of the Barossa, as it happens, where the reds are as big as ever.

One thing I have been doing on the Internet, though, is corresponding with a PNGAA member who is concerned about changes in the Association. Without disclosing his name or his private correspondence, I want to share with you my response to his most recent communication. It follows:

Thank you for you most recent letter. While I don’t want to unnecessarily protract our correspondence, I hope this response may help clarify some of the issues you raise.

I tried to forward you a copy of [Parliamentary Secretary Duncan] Kerr’s address, but from my current location in the backblocks of South Australia, Mr Trujillo’s Bigpond seems just as unwilling to bear the burden of Mr Kerr’s words as some of our members were at the Christmas lunch, so their transmission will have to await my return to Sydney.

When you eventually do receive the transcript, you will find it is all about the current Government’s policy towards PNG and the Pacific and the Government’s activities to implement that policy. There is nothing of a more general political nature about the “achievements of the Rudd Government during its first twelve months in Office”. I think it is, by and large, a straightforward account of a program of Australia's current approach to PNG policy – a subject in which both Mr Kerr and I thought our members might be interested.

There was no sense in which a guest speaker was “(introduced) without consultation”. The matter was discussed in committee, with no objection, and it was advertised to members without any objection. A record number or people turned up on the day knowing that Kerr would speak. Some objected to his speech, others were complimentary. At previous PNGAA functions, I have from time to time found speakers tedious and hard going, but I have always accepted this as part of the life of a listener. I would not dream of behaving as a small number of our members did on Sunday 7 December.

Now to what is a most important part of your letter – change in the PNGAA.

You argue that change is being introduced in “haste” and that the changes “are unpopular with an identifiable section of our members” who “will certainly leave the Association unless you are more moderate in your approach”.

First of all, I must say that so far there has been little change in our Association under my presidency. What there has been is discussion of change in order to establish whether a consensual view can emerge of the direction in which the PNGAA ought to head so it can survive as an active and sustainable organisation.

In this respect there seems, in the case of a small group of members, to have been more subversive indignation to the canvassing of ideas than there has been a substantive and open response that would be more helpful in fashioning the future of our Association. You have been a notable exception to this.

The two major, real changes (most of the other stuff is housekeeping) I am keen to see members accept when they vote on the constitution next April are:

[1] To vary the PNGAA’s objectives to accommodate a few existing activities not presently included in the constitution and to add “strengthening the Australia-PNG relationship” to the Association’s goals. Some members have objected to this latter proposition and I can’t see why. It seems to be self-evident.

As young men and women, we spent many years engaged in building and strengthening that relationship, perhaps without adequate recognition as you suggest, and there seems no good reason why that wonderful tradition shouldn’t continue in another form.

I don’t see why the heritage that we and our predecessors worked to create in PNG should die with us. PNG was an important part of our lives – and, for many of us, it continues to loom large in how we think of ourselves and our careers, no matter what we may have done since. I want our Association to articulate this.

[2} The other big proposed change is to establish branches in States and Territories where local PNGAA members wish to do so, thus potentially making the Association stronger and more active by rendering its governance and its activities less Sydney-centric and giving it a greater ability to recruit new members from regions where these branches may be formed.

For the life of me, I cannot see anything ‘immoderate’ in these proposals. They seem to me to be pretty straightforward. And, remember, they remain as proposals and no more than that until the membership endorses or rejects them through a democratic vote.

Let me now canvass a few of the other initiatives the Association has taken since I’ve been President and you tell me whether any of them are other than ‘moderate’ or reasonable:

-- A stronger sub-committee system has been established to broaden the Association’s activities, bring more focus on achieving its stated objectives and involve more members in its operations. It is intended that these sub-committees will increasingly drive the PNGAA’s efforts to better cater for the needs and interests of members.

-- The Association has consulted widely with members throughout Australia about constitutional change. A number of ideas - some better than others - have been canvassed and the best ones will be put to members to decide whether or not to adopt them.

-- We undertook a major fundraiser, the ‘Oro raffle’, to support a well-managed and worthy PNG rural development project and raised a net $9,000 in a very short time frame. We want to make this a forerunner for other similar ventures.

-- The PNGAA website went through a process of substantial improvement in structure, content and interactivity. It will increasingly become an important part of the Association’s offerings to members and others.

-- The PNGAA has thrown its weight behind moves to ask the Australian Government to officially recognise the contribution of kiaps to the development of PNG and will do the same for other professional groups and individuals as the opportunity arises.

-- We have initiated a small task force to ensure that the sinking of Montevideo Maru in 1942 – Australia's worst maritime disaster – is properly recognised and commemorated.

-- We have begun a more energetic process of recruiting more members to the Association, resulting in an increase in membership of 5% in the past year compared with 1% and 0.5% in the two previous years.

-- The History and Scholarship Sub-Committee is planning to embark on a major project to identify and register documents and other material of historical interest in members’ private collections that should not be lost to posterity.

-- Moves have been initiated to better align the activities of the PNGAA with other PNG-related organisations such as the Wantoks Club and the Australia-PNG Business Council.

-- The PNG Relations Sub-Committee is engaging with small, non-business, non-government providers of assistance to PNG to facilitate and support these activities. We have already put a number of individuals and organisations in touch with other providers to strengthen the delivery of services in PNG.

There have been other initiatives, but these will do for starters. In addition, I would like to see many more Papua New Guineans resident in Australia join our Association and I would like to see the PNGAA able to persuade the Australian Government, no matter who’s running it, to give greater recognition to those people who left Australia to work in and help develop PNG and who did such a magnificent job, such that today – despite everything else that has transpired – it remains a united and democratic country. I would like the Australian Government, on behalf of the Australian people, to recognise what fine work their countrymen and women did in PNG.

But mainly I want to see the PNGAA continue as an organisation that respects the past and is able to operate productively in the future.

I do not see that there are ‘two types of members’. There is one type of member: the type who will share the new objectives of our Association and who will work to see them achieved.

That’s what I’m working for, and that’s what I will continue to work for.

My personal best wishes to you.


New Dawn powers ahead on B/ville

From Aloysius Laukai in Buka

We have finalised everything and the new station is on air on at full power. We are getting 500 plus texts a day from listeners and are very popular on Buka Island.

Our equipment arrived in Buka and was installed in April. We started test broadcasts on 3 April and covered the death of the first Bougainville President, Joseph Kabui, in June. We continued testing whilst awaiting technicians to upgrade our transmission power from 200 to 300 watts.

Big winds destroyed our telescopic mast at the end of June and we stopped test broadcasts. We sent our transmitter to Port Moresby for repair and started broadcasting again on 200 Watts until last weekend.

Technician arrived on 13 December and worked on the mast and the studio putting us off air on Sunday and Monday. We have been broadcasting on full power since Tuesday 16 December. A request has been sent to Pangtel to inspect our setup and hopefully we will do the much awaited launch in the New Year.

For funding we have secured a lot of sponsors from our local companies and including the Autonomous Bougainville Government which has allocated 50,000 kina in next year’s Budget.

We will continue to update you on our progress and would like to thank our supporters including, Keith Jackson, Martin Hadlow, Phil and Marie Charlie, Abel Caine and Nifo at Unesco Apia Office and the German Embassy for assisting us in starting this station on Bougainville.

We have proved to the public of Bougainville that having a Community FM can help in the restoration of services on Bougainville. We did live broadcasts lately to cover World Aids Day and starting Monday we will cover the counting in the Bougainville Presidential by election.

We have three trainee reporters from the Divine Word University and two graduates at the station. We have also covered many events including the Bougainville Law and Order Forum last week. Our local news comes on at 6.30pm Monday to Friday. Radio Australia has promised to give us a satellite dish to get its news.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Aloysius Laukai is station manager of New Dawn FM

The greatest tragedy in the South Pacific

Bougainville Blue  I’ve just been listening to Brian Darcey talking with ABC Far North Queensland interviewer Fiona Sewell about his book Bougainville Blue, reviewed a month or so ago in these Notes [you can read the review here].

I wrote back then: “Wherever you go in this book - apart from the plot which is a fictional collage, although close enough to reality to be plausible - there is an authenticity of observation and an acute awareness of much of the tangible and latent stresses that characterised PNG at a time when many of us felt we knew the country very, very well.” In fact, Brian knew it much better than the rest of us – and he’s worth listening to on the subject [you can listen to the ABC interview here].

Brian explains how the Bougainville copper mine – at the time the biggest gold and copper mine in the world - effectively destroyed the island. “Bougainville was destroyed,” he says. “Still is. The greatest tragedy in the South Pacific since World War II. And it’s still not over.”

The novel Bougainville Blue started out as reminiscences for a family reunion, and just grew. “I was a late blooming writer,” Brian explains. “I won't see 80 again.” And he remains cagey about a sequel to what may be a late but is a splendidly readable book.

You can visit the Bougainville Blue website here, find out more about Brian and the book, and, yes, order yourself a copy.

Ok Tedi accused of causing more damage

Tonight’s ABC’s 7.30 Report accuses the Ok Tedi gold and copper mine in PNG’s Western Province of causing more environmental damage to the jungle and river system.

“It’s going to be cultural genocide because the people’s land and river is like a supermarket,” said provincial governor Bob Danaya. “They get their fish from the river. The river provides water to keep the environment going. You damage the river, everything dies also,” he said.

But Ok Tedi board member and Australian environment guru, Dr Ross Garnaut, offered a different view. “It’s the most thorough and careful management of the environment that’s ever been undertaken by a mining company,” he told ABC reporter Steve Marshall.

In the latter 1990s, Ok Tedi’s former owner BHP agreed to pay local landowners more than $US100 million for similar environmental damage. Now locals are once again considering launching another massive compensation claim against the mine.

Kiaps’ role - ‘sheer force of character’

I want to thank my esteemed friend, former Bougainville District Commissioner Bill Brown, for drawing my attention to the following extract from Sir Paul Hasluck’s memoir, A Time for Building.

Hasluck is not much mentioned these days but he was a great Australian statesman, in his time considered by many as a rival for Menzies’ job as Prime Minister, especially after Menzies nearly lost the 1961 election. But Hasluck was too much of a gentleman to engage in the cut and thrust of political intrigue until very late in his career, when, with the Liberal Party in trouble, he was beaten for the job by John Gorton. An intellectual and a man of accomplishment, Hasluck knew what of he wrote.

Sir William (Uncle Bill) Slim came from a lower middle class English family, fought at Gallipoli and, as a Field Marshall, led the British Army in Burma in World War 2. He was wounded in action three times and became one of Australia’s most distinguished Governors General (1952-60). It has been written that “Slim was a popular choice since he was an authentic war hero who had fought alongside Australians at Gallipoli and in the Middle East”. He knew what of he spoke.

Now try this quote from Hasluck for size…

I experienced a proud and moving moment in Perth in 1960 when I had a conversation with Sir William (later Viscount) Slim at the conclusion of his term as Governor-General of Australia. Slim had taken a great interest in all the Australian territories and had visited them and gone into some outback places on several tours. As the senior Federal Cabinet Minister from Western Australia I had to farewell him at Fremantle on his final departure from Australia...

We discussed one or two official matters and then a little gruffly, as was his habit he came to the edge of sentiment, he asked me to accept a copy of one of his books. He had written on the flyleaf, “To Paul Hasluck, with admiration for what he has done in the Territories, Bill Slim.” I thanked him. He looked out of the window and looked at his watch and his mouth creased into the grim line that served him as a smile. “In an hour or two, I’ll be out to sea and I won’t be Governor-General any longer’, he said, ‘so I’m going to say something that I suppose I should not say.

“I don’t admire everyone in your Government and I don’t admire everything your Government has done. In fact I think they’ve done some damn silly things and some of your colleagues have said even more silly things than they have done. But there is at least one thing that your Government has done well and perhaps it is their best job.

“I do admire you and I do admire what you have done in New Guinea. I know something about this. It is the sort of thing that I was trying to do during most of my life. Your young chaps in New Guinea have gone out where I would never have gone without a battalion and they have done on their own by sheer force of character what I could only do with troops. I don’t think there’s been anything like it in the modern world...”

What moved me was his particular reference to our patrol officers. When every other word of criticism has been spoken and other defects in our administration have been discussed, I stand in amazement close to reverence at what was done, to my personal knowledge, in the ten years between approximately 1952 and 1962 by young Australian patrol officers and district officers in areas of first contact. There were a few mistakes and a few weak brothers, but the achievement, with the resources available, revealed a quality of character and manhood that should make our nation mightily proud that these fellows were Australians.

Paul Hasluck, ‘A Time For Building’, Melbourne University Press, 1976, ISBN 0522840914

A timely reminder as the Federal Government ponders the question of whether to pay tribute to this unique group of Australians - never numbering more than a few hundred - through some form of official recognition of the momentous nation-building task they performed in Papua New Guinea.

‘The only PNGn in a crowd of 200’

I’ve just come across Denis Crowdy’s Motekulo blog, which he updates from time to time with information about music recording but most recently used for some observations about the annual PNG Association lunch. Here are some extracts:

“On Sunday I accompanied my wife Gima to a lunch of the PNGAA, an association consisting largely of people who used to work in PNG (most from before Independence as far as I could gather). Gima was representing the Wantok Club - a community group for Papua New Guineans in Sydney. The PNG flag was prominent, but we were both a bit stunned by the fact that Gima was the only Papua New Guinean there in a crowd of over 200!

“As a musician, having taught music in PNG throughout the 1990s, I was even more stunned after the PNG national anthem was played, and I overheard a long time member say that was the first time they'd heard the song. PNG has been independent for 33 years now so I was perplexed by this. [It was actually the first time it was played live, previously the PNGAA had used a recording – Keith]

“A quick look into the history of the organisation perhaps shows why, with Keith Jackson, the current President, pointing out on his blog that the mean age is about 70 … Only recently has the association refined its objectives and priorities with this as nambawan: ‘…to strengthen the civil relationship between the peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea’

“We had lunch with a friendly group having an amazing collective wealth of experience and knowledge. When we drove home we went straight to a friend's place to pick up our daughter, and spoke about the event. I slipped into the mistake of characterising the group as a wonderful collection of people who had perhaps lost touch a bit with modern PNG, and who were gathering to share nostalgic tales of the good old days. It later occurred to me that the Wantok Club could certainly be involved to help here given the groups have some shared aims…

“I hope we can play a role in cementing some longer term contact between the groups, because as long as the PNGAA gatherings are almost exclusively white Australian, and Wantok gatherings largely indigenous Papua New Guinean, the similar aims of promoting civil relations between Australia and PNG will be impossible to meet. Anyway, we're going to join up if PNGAA will have us!”

As President of the PNGAA, increasing the number of Papua New Guinean members is one of my priorities for the organisation. I was startled and dismayed when talking to a Papuan member in Canberra a couple of months to hear him say: “After I joined, I thought it might just be an organisation for white people”. We clearly need to do something to embrace all people who are passionate about PNG.

I joined the Wantok Club earlier this year and agree with Denis, and have expressed this view to Gima, his wife and Wantok President, that we must move to bring our organisations closer together.

Pacific labour scheme to start by Xmas

Despite forecasts that Australia is headed towards recession and higher unemployment, workers from the South Pacific will be brought in to pick fruit in the Riverina because horticulturalists say they cannot get enough local labour. The unskilled workers will come from Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu and, later, Papua New Guinea and will be allowed to stay for seven months under a Federal Government trial seasonal worker scheme.

Farmers will pay half the cost of airfares and the workers will be paid award wages. After an initial trial with 100 workers, which will begin before Christmas, 2,400 seasonal worker visas will be available for Pacific Islanders from July 2009.

The National Farmers' Federation says there is a nationwide shortage of 22,000 seasonal workers in horticulture alone and bringing in the Pacific Islanders is important to enable farmers to continue producing food. Federation president David Crombie said the Pacific Islands had a ready, willing and able workforce, happy to make the trek into regional Australia to fill the positions. "Australian farmers are ready to welcome them with open arms," he said. "They are loath to see another season of fruit rotting on trees."

Australian Workers Union assistant national secretary Ben Swan said there was a recognised shortage of labour in the horticultural industry. "We are 100 percent behind the Islander scheme," Mr Swan said. He said the workers would get the same pay, terms and conditions as Australians with rates beginning at $14.30 an hour for full-timers.

Mr Crombie said he encouraged Australians to take up any of the 22,000 vacancies. "This scheme is not a replacement for local jobs; it supplements local labour shortfalls."

Farms at Griffith and Leeton are urgently in need of pickers for valencia oranges and other produce such as melons, pumpkins and onions.

Source: ‘Rich pickings as Pacific Islander trial bears fruit’, Denis Gregory, Sun-Herald, 14 December 2008

Minister talks of kiaps’ extraordinary role

Faulkner_John The Australian Government has said the work of former Patrol Officers in preparing Papua New Guinea for nationhood deserves a “higher level of consciousness” in Australia. The Special Minister of State, Senator Faulkner [left], was responding to a submission proposing that official recognition be given to former Patrol Officers.

“The story of Patrol Officers is certainly an extraordinary one,” Senator Faulkner wrote,” and one that deserves a higher level of consciousness than that which exists in contemporary Australian society.”

The President of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, Keith Jackson AM, said today: “The Minister has acknowledged that Patrol Officers, or ‘Kiaps’, should be recognised without indicating what form it might take. He has gone only halfway down the track.”

“Many of these former District Services officers are getting on in years. They should be given official recognition of the exacting work they did that made possible the pacification and unity of Papua New Guinea and its peaceful transition to Independence,” he said.

“It was a tough job which they did willingly and without thought for reward and their own well-being. Their deeds were epic and should be recognised by all Australians.

Mr Jackson said there seemed to be some uncertainty on the part of the Federal Government about the role of patrol officers. “Senator Faulkner says they were engaged in ‘capacity building and not peace keeping’ when in fact they were involved in both, and much more besides,” Mr Jackson said.

“Patrol Officers were commissioned Police Officers and were given the responsibility to bring under Australian law vast tracts of Papua New Guinea inhabited by warring tribes. To their lasting credit, they did this with minimal loss of life.

“After World War 2, Australia ruled PNG as an external Territory. By the time Independence was granted in 1975, the entire country had been brought under a system of governance and laws developed by Australia and largely implemented and administered by District Services officers. This was an important and magnificent part of Australia’s history.

“We hope the Federal Government will see fit to formally acknowledge the debt Australia owes to these men, never more than a few hundred, who achieved so much with so little and in sometimes very dangerous conditions," Mr Jackson said.

Mr Jackson said that he and Kiaps’ representatives Chris Viner-Smith and Paul Oates will be seeking a meeting with the Minister when Federal Parliament resumes next year.

Montevideo campaign takes new turn

“Grandfather went down with the Montevideo,” Peter Garrett sang in those days before he occupied the Rudd Government’s comfortably padded front bench. And the lyrics told the truth. Peter Garrett’s grandfather, Tom, a planter, was one of the 1,053 Australian men, including some who were barely teenagers, who went down with the Japanese cargo ship on 1 July 1942 after it was torpedoed by a US submarine. All the men, soldiers and civilians, had been taken captive in Rabaul.

One of the Japanese who survived, no prisoners did, Yohiaki Yamachi, said later: “I have not been able to forget the death cries”. But he also said the Australians went down locked in the ship’s hold singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’, a memory etched in his mind that represented for him an outstanding example of bravery and comradeship.

Now, a small group has been formed, the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee, to seek official Australian Government recognition of this, our nation’s greatest ever maritime tragedy. Two members of the committee, Liz Thurston and Andrea Williams, lost relatives on the ship and last night appeared on a nicely put together news feature on SBS, which you can view here.

Two other prominent Australian politicians also lost relatives in the sinking, and like Garrett’s grandfather they were also civilians. Kim Beazley lost his uncle, Rev Sydney Beazley, and one time Prime Minister Earle Page lost his brother, a public servant, Harold Page, a much decorated Army officer in World War I.

Next year on 1 July a group of private citizens will erect a plaque on the shores of Subic Bay in the Philippines to commemorate the sinking. But the need for official Australian Government recognition continues, as this quote from Jenny Evans’ Lost Lives website shows:

“For sixty years both contrived and unwitting silence has descended over parts of the Rabaul experience. Those who escaped told their stories. Some of those who were captured survived. Relatives were told various versions of the truth. Historians became more and more careless and neglectful of the sequence of New Guinea events.

"Politicians who had been part of the betrayal built post war careers. Post war migrants came from Europe, uninterested in New Guinea stories. Schools did not embrace the idea of teaching Australian military history adequately. Japan became our strong trading partner. July 1 passes every year with no mention of the Montevideo Maru and the events of 1942. And so the silence continues.”

Now it's up to the current generation of politicians to make amends.

There are two excellent websites about the Montevideo Mary disaster. You can find Jenny Evans’ and her daughter Joanne’s website here.

And visit Rod Miller’s information packed The Montevideo Maru website here.

Obituary: Alf Uechtritz, an epic PNG life


Alf Uechtritz traced his lineage to both Queen Emma and the European aristocracy. Emma Forsythre Coe came to the Duke of York islands in 1878 and, realising the potential of New Britain, asked some of her family in Samoa to join her, particularly her sister Phebe who had married Richard Parkinson, a Danish/German botanist and scientist.

With their help, Emma established a trading empire and a large chain of plantations on the Gazelle Peninsula. Richard did the botanical work and Phebe recruited labour and translated. At the time Richard was also engaged in anthropological studies and his work, Thirty Years in the South Seas, was honoured by worldwide scientific bodies.

When Richard died in 1907, Phebe remained in New Britain among the Tolai people, living in a little house of local materials in Ralum village and, despite her advanced age, continuing to earn an income by recruiting labour for plantations.

During the Japanese invasion in 1942, Phebe was imprisoned in a small village on New Ireland, where she died from neglect and starvation in 1944.

One of Phebe’s daughters, Dolly, had married Peter Uechtritz who had come to the Duke of Yorks to work for Hernsheim, and Co. Alf was born to Dolly and Peter at Petalobo near Kokopo in 1926, delivered by a doctor who was to become Lady Phillis Cilento. He was a mere three-pounds but grew into a tall lean man, constantly tanned from an outdoor life.

In his early days at Sum-Sum Plantation, about 100 km from Rabaul, Alf spoke German, Kinigunan and Pidgin. When he was sent aged six to the Sacred Heart College in Bowral NSW he was considered “a little heathen”. Alf also retained his father’s German nationality and this proved to be a burden when World War II broke out.

In 1940, when his father was forced to leave Sum-Sum and could no longer afford to pay school fees, Alf – aged 15 - went jackarooing. For a short time he worked as a groom in Bathurst until reported by an English gardener as “a subversive foreigner”. He was arrested as he boarded a train and spent the following three weeks in gaol.

He was eventually freed by Alan Meagher, an influential friend of his father, and went to work on one of Meagher’s properties at West Wyalong. During the next five years he developed a love of the rural lifestyle. In 1948, his father died in Sydney. Fortunately Sum-Sum had not been confiscated during the war so, aged 22, Alf returned to New Britain to rehabilitate the plantation.

In Rabaul he met and married Mary Lou, a teacher whose father had come to PNG as a patrol officer and later settled at Biwa Plantation on Djaul Island, New Ireland. Maintaining the family tradition of large families, Alf and Mary Lou had 10 children.

In 1959, after 11 years at Sum-Sum, worried about problems in Indonesia, Alf took the family on leave, hired a caravan and found 5,000 acres at Capella in Central Queensland. The property flourished, growing cattle, sheep, wheat, sorgum and sunflowers.

But the call of PNG was strong. In 1968, Alf and Mary Lou returned and Alf became a supervisor with the Department of Primary Industry, head of the training school at Erap near Lae and finally OIC of all the Department’s training schools in PNG.

Source: ‘Meet Alf Uechtritz, our man on the land’, By Robin Horley, Your Guide to PNG, 1981

PNG pioneer Alf Uechtritz dies at 82

Alf Uechtritz, who died yesterday at the age of 82, was a member of one of PNG’s great pioneering families. He was the grandson of Phebe Parkinson, daughter of a Samoan princess and sister of ‘Queen Emma of the South Seas’. When Emma was establishing her trading empire in New Britain and New Ireland, she asked Phebe and her husband Richard to join her, thus establishing a famous PNG dynasty. In 2003, Alf wrote this memoir of his grandmother.

My parents parted in 1930 when I was four. So it was that our Grandmother Phebe Parkinson spent a lot of time with us at Sum Sum Plantation (New Britain). Granny Parkinson ran the household and was still there when I left for boarding school in Australia at the age of seven in 1934.

Everyone, black, white, and brindle loved Gran. She was a happy person, gentle and soft spoken but a great organiser with a twinkle in her eye. All the piccaninnies and the labour line would always run to her. They would do anything for her. I loved to listen to stories told by Gran about the early years in Samoa as well as the early years of settlement at Kuradui and Ralum, Malapau and also about Gunantambu, my Aunt Emma's place.

She described her trips with Grandpa into the bush and down the coast to gather artifacts and get material for the book my Grandfather later published Thirty Years in the South Seas. Grandfather spoke German, Danish and English but Gran could also speak the local Tolai language and was able to pick up enough of other dialects to translate for Grandpa.

I last saw Gran in Christmas 1937. By that time Granny had left Sum Sum and was living with her eldest grandchild Rudi Diercke on a plantation near Kokopo, which Rudi was managing for Carpenters. She still had a small block of land near Raluana Village with a small house and stayed there at times. When we returned for Christmas 1938 Gran had moved, with Rudi, to a plantation in New Ireland.

In December 1942 we had a knock on our door around midnight. It was a Seventh Day Adventist from Kambubu who told us that all women and children had to be in Rabaul the next day to be evacuated on the Macdhui to Australia. We hurriedly packed and left in their workboat for Kambubu to collect the women and children there and then proceed to Rabaul. We arrived in Rabaul at daybreak and headed for the Macdhui which was berthed nearby. The Australian administration was supposed to have notified all families about the evacuation. However they had not notified us - probably because my stepmother was married to a German. Phebe and Rudi also had not been informed and so it was that Phebe missed out on being safely evacuated.

Parkinson_Phebe After the Japanese occupation Phebe and Rudi were allowed to stay on Komalu plantation as they were classified as German. However, in late 1944 an American bomber was shot down by a Zero. The pilot, Lt Byron Heichel, belly landed the aircraft on the reef off Komalu homestead. Three men on the plane were dead and three others were seriously injured. Rudi and his boys brought the injured men to the Komalu homestead and Granny tried her best to save them. Rudi said that Gran's bedroom was a mess of blood and torn sheets to use as bandages. Unfortunately these three airmen also died and Rudi had a large grave dug on Komalu and the six dead airmen were buried there.

The next day Japanese soldiers landed and took the rest of the crew prisoner. The Japanese accused Rudi and Granny of harbouring allied airmen and took them to a POW camp at Bo just out of Namatanai. Rudi, with the help of some bois, built a small bush house for Granny and himself to live in. Food was very short. The Japs gave them nothing. There were many Chinese and mixed race people in that camp. All had to make their own gardens. With not enough food and no medicines Granny Parkinson died. She was 81.

In July 2002 I attended the Memorial Service, in Kavieng, for all those who had been killed or died under the Japanese in New Ireland. We did not know where her grave was. Unbeknown to me, my son Gordon had made some enquiries. Gordon set out for Namatanai and approached an old native named Das Das and when asked 'wanpela missis I die pinis na planimnabout' said he knew and led Gordon about 500 yards from his house to the grave site of Phebe Parkinson.

Gordon noticed a Tanget bush planted at the head of the grave and asked Das Das whether he planted it there. Das Das said that he had planted it there because, when the missis was buried they could hear her voice, very unhappy, crying out that she wanted to be planted in her own ground. That evening at the Memorial dinner in Kavieng, Gordon returned and told me he had found Gran's grave!

Source: Extracts from a memoir by Alf Uechtritz

Talent scouts hunt for Kumuls players

From Richard Jones in London

The outstanding efforts of the Papua New Guinea team in rugby league's 2008 World Cup 'group of death' have not gone unnoticed by the code's talent scouts.

Writing in yesterday's The Independent, sports writer Dave Hadfield noted that Sheffield Eagles had signed a second member of the Kumuls' “much admired squad”.

The National League One club has recruited Menzie Yere, a 20-year-old who scored a try from centre against Australia during the group stage of the tournament, Hadfield writes.

“Yere who plays for the Kokopo Island Gurias in the PNG domestic competition and is the country's current Sportsman of the Year has also played at full-back and five-eighth,” he added.

“Menzie is a significant catch for us and has been one of the better players in the PNG competition for a number of years,” said Eagles coach Mark Aston.

Yere will join another Kumul at the Don Valley Stadium, with Sheffield having already signed forward Trevor Exton from Ipswich in the Queensland Cup competition.

The Kumuls played outstanding rugby league in their World Cup opener against England and were beaten, but not disgraced, in their two other matches against eventual finalists New Zealand and host nation Australia.

Art, tragedy, adventure, politics, art ...

Taradale Station The notion of rip-snorting, tearaway, kiap, croc shooter and political hard man John Pasquarelli turning his attention to brush and palette intrigued me. 'Out of character' seemed hardly an adequate description.

Anyway, I decided there’d be no harm asking.

Brisbane 1947. John is ten. His Aunt Dorothy (Dolores) encourages him to attend the Stanley Hobday Art School in Queen Street.

“The drill was my Mum took me to the school from Yeronga and my Aunt trammed in from Cooparoo and took me back home,” says John. “I forget how long I had classes – perhaps every Saturday morning for a couple of months.”

Then the unthinkable happened.

“One Saturday morning a lunatic stalker shot my Aunt at the Cooparoo tram stop. Then killed himself on the spot. My Aunt died that evening despite my [surgeon] father's efforts to save her at the Mater. And that was the end of the art until 2002 - 55 years later - when I picked up the brushes again.”

My other questions seem redundant against the canvass of this monumental tragedy. But anyway…

Sepik Shield & Lavender John will be 72 in February and has had four exhibitions since 2003, selling 56 paintings for prices ranging from $2,700 to $6,000. To service the other side of his brain, he writes pungent editorials for the Melbourne Observer.

On the subject of Pauline Hanson, who he served as political advisor during her window rattling political days, John conveys the clear impression that the less said the better. “Hanson has discredited herself completely. Conned me nicely.” Say no more.

On Papua New Guinea. “PNG and the rest of the South Pacific is simply a disgrace, like Africa and the rest of the Third World. Wonderfully rich and beautiful places ruined and ransacked by their bongo bongo leaders!”

And Australia. “On the way out - the evil virus of multiculturalism has divided and demoralised us.”

So there you have it. You thought painting had taken the fire out of his belly, did you?

Pasquarelli art: [top] Taradale Station, [bottom] Sepik Shield & Lavender.

Niu Ailan bilas piles mi lukim iu gen

Peter Comerford

Niu Ailan bilas ples ol i mangalim wantaim
Em i ples bilong bu bu, pa pa, ma ma

The chorus of what I suppose is the New Ireland provincial anthem always brings a tear to my eye. It was sung at every speech day, at Saturday film evenings and in the back of school trucks.

Marian and I lived in New Ireland from 1971-75. We left Bougainville and PNG in 1990. The decision to return was fast tracked after a promise made to a dear friend, Kaylene Saduniano (ASOPA ’73), just before she died in December ‘07. She’d asked us to plant a tree for her in New Ireland.

Returning in July, we landed at Kavieng at dusk. The plane taxied down the runway, car headlights illuminating a path towards the terminal. At Malangan Lodge Resort we met manager John McLeod, who we knew on Bougainville. Malangan is on the harbour with views towards the islands of Nusa and Nusa Lik. A quiet walk, at PNG pace, to trade stores.

Kavieng hasn’t changed much. The buildings older and a little more shabby. A few new shops in Chinatown. The Kavieng Hotel is now blue and the Kavieng Club has a besa brick fence. The harbour foreshore with rain trees and turquoise water is still Somerset Maugham. Ecotourism is alive and well: diving, surfing, sailing, fishing. The market is good and there are kukas aplenty.

The New Irelanders are friendly. They always were. We walk around day and night and travelled the highway by PMV without problem, recognised and greeted by people wherever we go. The Buluminsky Highway is sealed so we travel comfortably in a twin cab rather than on a Honda 90 to Lakuramau, Lemokot, Fissoa, Mongop, Madina and Luapul, arriving without being covered in white karanas dust.

Wherever we go we are armed with copies of old photos. They were well received but, too often, the news is, “O sori….em i dai pinis.” And then through the village to a sandy matmat with a simple inscription scratched into a cement slab.

Our visit to my old schools of Madina and Utu, and to Kavieng Hospital where Marian was matron, had the memories in flood. But the AIDS clinic brought a new reality – Kavieng’s isolation wasn’t enough.

Our simple plans for a tree planting ceremony for Kaylene at Manggai gained momentum. We arrived at the village to be greeted by village elders who led us to an area decorated with flowers and palm leaves where we sat in the shade. After moving speeches and an explanation of the reasons for planting a tree in memory of a teacher, a symbolic tangat was planted near the grave of an ex student, Bospidik.

A magnificent feast had been prepared. The pig was marked, divided and distributed according to custom. The benches were laden with bowls of fruit, fish and mumu karamaps. We returned to Kavieng on dusk, humbled yet again by the genuine warmth. We were content we had fulfilled Kaylene’s request.

Old PNG friendships still relevant today

Ken McKinnon

Ken McKinnon 4


I was around New Guinea for 20 years. I know it’s only half the time of many of you but I was there long enough to get to know a few Papua New Guineans.

I would like to thank Duncan Kerr [Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs] for the renewed interest that the Government shows in PNG. If you did even one thing, avoid getting Michael Somare to take his shoes off as he comes into the country, you’d do a lot for relationships between PNG and Australia.

More than that, if you go through with this program you’ve outlined, I think relationships PNG will be a lot closer than sometimes that they’ve been in the past.

There is still in PNG the last of the group most of you would know. Two of my colleagues are still there. The Governor-General, Paulias Matane, was a young teacher on our staff and Michael Somare himself, as he reminded me recently, thought I wasn’t a very good boss when he was a teacher.

He was very friendly and regarded the expatriates in Papua New Guinea at that time as friends as well as mentors or Kiaps or kuskus or whatever. We’ve got to remember that, and I urge the Government to remember that. Because I’m sure, frankly, that a lot of the aid that goes to PNG is more helpful to the contractors than it is to PNG.

The important thing for the Government is to make more use of the stored expatriate knowledge that exists in Australia. Last year in November, at Keith [Jackson’s] urging, I went to Brisbane to talk to a lot of old teachers from New Guinea, Cadets and E-Course people, and it’s absolutely clear that the peak experience of their lives was working in PNG and they have friends all over the country.

All of you, I haven’t any doubt, have the same. Some of you are a bit lapun to go back again and some of you are not but the Government should make use of this resource that we have in Australia because, at the end of the day, Government relationships will be one thing but the friendships with people will be another entirely.

Source: Extract from Ken McKinnon’s remarks to the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, 7 December 2008. Photo: Ingrid Jackson

After the PNG 'sturm und drang' … art


John Pasquarelli’s been many things. Kiap, croc shooter, trader, Member of the first PNG House of Assembly, publican, self-described “maker of mayhem”, controversialist, and political adviser to Pauline Hanson. Now, at the age of 71, he’s an overnight success. As an artist. The paint-splattered clothes just give it away.

Overnight is not too much of an exaggeration. John has been painting just 18 months. When he gets round to sending PNG ATTITUDE a few samples that readers can't copy and hang on their walls, we’ll publish them. But in the meantime if you go to his website here, you can have the experience without waiting.

John’s father came from Northern Italy to Ingham before World War I and served in PNG in World War II. There he met Bill Dishon, who later recruited John as a pikinini kiap in Melbourne in 1959/60.

“After a lot of meandering,” John says, “I ended up here in Newstead, Central Victoria”. Many of the timber and stone structures still surviving in this region, and which have become a strong motif in much of John's painting, were built by Italians from Ticino near the Swiss border. This affinity, I am advised by John's website, inspired him to paint.

As the promotional blurb puts it: “Out of the Sturm und Drang of Pasquarelli’s past, a new and worthwhile field of endeavour has emerged. His paintings are striking and have the authority of a genuinely individual vision. Their mood is positive, as is his future as an artist.”

That’s the spin. But believe me, the products of this new Pasqua in his post modern persona as a man of art, are very pleasing to the spirit indeed.



My views on the role of the PNGAA

Duncan Kerr

Australia's relationship with Papua New Guinea is, by any measure, one of our deepest and most enduring. PNG is an important friend and neighbour to Australia, and we connect on many different levels--but especially through people-to-people links formed over many decades through family ties, business, education, and on the sporting field.

Through its extensive networks in Australia , the PNG Association of Australia has been integral in maintaining these people-to-people links.

This Association also plays a key role in educating Australians about our vital relationship with PNG, particularly through preserving for future generations important connections and historical materials relating to PNG…

The bilateral relationship which this Association embodies, and which we're celebrating today, is one of remarkable vitality. Our respective societies are bound together by ties that far transcend the government-to-government contacts that I'm now engaged in.

As neighbours, we enjoy not only a tremendously strong sense of shared history, but, dare I say, an equally strong sense of a shared future. That future will depend on people like you.

Source: 'Australia and PNG: New Beginnings', Speech by The Hon Duncan Kerr SC MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, PNG Association of Australia, 7 December 2008 Sydney

PNGAA raises $8,700 for PNG project

A major fundraising enterprise initiated by the PNGAA will today hand over a cheque for more than $8,700 to the Oro Community Development Project. The raffle was drawn at the Association’s annual Christmas lunch on Sunday and won by Len Bailey, a PNGAA member since 1984 who lives in the Sydney northern beaches suburb of Dee Why.

Oro Project organisers were delighted by the outcome. Project spokesman, John Kleinig, thanked the Association for what he called “this extremely worthwhile initiative”.

“The Hon Duncan Kerr MP [on Sunday] enunciated the need for closer contact between both the governments and the peoples of PNG and Australia,” says John. “Such a statement of intent is important and it reaffirms what we all believe should be the status quo.

“The Oro Community Development Project provides us with a remarkable opportunity to assist children in the province. The education and health systems struggled well before the impact of Cyclone Guba.

“We believe our decision to concentrate on helping teachers to teach, empowering mothers to be the basic health providers and encouraging children to take a much greater interest in the village garden and agriculture in particular, will make a difference.

“Without the wonderful support of PNGAA members, the idea would clearly have faltered. On behalf of all those directly associated with OCDP, we sincerely thank you for what you achieved.”

Kerr foreshadows South Pacific trade pact

Duncan Kerr In an important address to the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, foreshadowed a comprehensive Pacific trade pact to enable countries in the region to share more fully the benefits of increased economic growth.

The annual Christmas lunch of the Association was attended by nearly 250 people who Mr Kerr referred to as embodying "the remarkable vitality" of the Australia - PNG relationship.

Mr Kerr said that, in Australia's view, there is a sure way of improving the prospects of stable and long-term economic growth in the Pacific region. “That is to more effectively integrate the nations of the Pacific with the wider global community, and to free up the flow of goods, services and investments within the region,” he said in a speech entitled, 'Australia and PNG: New Beginnings'.

“Australia's relationship with Papua New Guinea is, by any measure, one of our deepest and most enduring,” he said, adding that, “through its extensive networks in Australia, the PNG Association of Australia has been integral in maintaining these people-to-people links.”

“Papua New Guinea plays an important leadership role in this region, and as such is well-placed to assist its Pacific neighbours,” he said. “If you set aside Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea has the largest regional economy and its population represents almost three-quarters of the population of the Pacific Island states.”

Mr Kerr said Australia is strongly committed to supporting the HIV/AIDS response in PNG. “Only through an energetic campaign of education, prevention and management can we help PNG drastically reduce the chances of a sharp increase in the number of HIV/AIDS sufferers. Unless more is done to address the spread of HIV/AIDS in PNG, the country's workforce may decline by 12.5% by 2025 and significantly reduce the size of PNG's economy.”

The Parliamentary Secretary said that over 4,000 Australian businesses trade with PNG and that, in 2007, bilateral merchandise trade was worth over $4 billion, with the balance of trade in PNG's favour.

“It has been encouraging to see the PNG Government's recent strong economic management record,” Mr Kerr said. “[the PNG] government has reduced government debt levels, and kept both the budget and the current account in surplus. Maintaining these settings will be a major challenge in the tougher economic climate we all face. To meet these and other challenges, Sir Michael's Government will need to continue to push forward with much-needed economic reform - which, as we ourselves know only too well, is a major commitment and requires sustained effort.”

Mr Kerr said that understandings have recently been signed with Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu relating to Australia's Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme. Australia is currently engaged in talks with the PNG Government to facilitate participation in the scheme by Papua New Guineans.

“The scheme is not, and doesn't pretend to be, a simple solution to the challenge of unemployment in the Pacific,” he said. “It's a scheme that is demand driven by the Australian horticultural sector but also a part of an overall development response we're working out together with Pacific nations.”

Mr Kerr said the PNGAA embodied the bilateral relationship between Australia and PNG, which was one of “remarkable vitality”.

“Our respective societies are bound together by ties that far transcend the govemment-to-government contacts that I'm now engaged in. As neighbours, we enjoy not only a tremendously strong sense of shared history, but, dare I say, an equally strong sense of a shared future. That future will depend on people like you.”

What’s hot on the PNGAA website

There’s no doubt that a good old-fashioned controversy about kiaps or the Montevideo Maru draws legions of readers to the PNG Association website Forum. The latest readership figures show that Forum visitors are particularly interested in issues and aviation stories. The number in brackets shows where each item rated a month ago. You can visit the Forum here.

1 (9) – 460 readers – Ex PNG patrol officers seek recognition (Keith Jackson, Issues)

2 (1) – 426 readers – Something at the bottom of the pool (Nick Booth, Past Times)

3 (2) – 373 readers – Desmond John Marks (Ross Johnson, Missing People)

4 (6) – 308 readers – Reaction to African chief justice (Keith Jackson, Issues)

5 (new) – 292 readers – Time to search for Montevideo Maru (Keith Jackson, Issues)

6 (5) – 245 readers – Jude’s big breakfast (Wendy Booth, Aviation)

7 (3) – 244 readers – Hot blood (Nick Booth, Past Times)

=8 (8) – 236 readers – Yearning for Chinese (Col Booth, Aviation)

=8 (10) – 236 readers – Charter flight (Col Booth, Aviation)

10 (4) – 233 readers – John Sutherland Anderson (Keith Jackson, Missing People)

Brisbane Asopians maintain the rage


From left: Diane Bohlen, Joe Crainean, Katherine Crainean, Colin Huggins, Bill Welbourne, Bill Bohlen [ASOPA 1962-63]

Big reunion news and mini-reunion news is always welcome on PNG ATTITUDE, but I don’t know where we’d be without the regular get-togethers of this handsome crew from Brisbane.  They are accomplished networkers, they make sure the ASOPA spirit is renewed on a regular basis and then they plan their next move – and report it.

Here are their reports about yesterday’s most recent exploit on the Deck at Brisbane’s Southbank Parklands:

Colin Huggins: “Today at was great. The usual camaraderie and laughs. The place was virtually empty. About 20 there - sits over 200 - a sign of the financial crisis? I felt sorry for them. We discussed among many things the date for the next ASOPA (Brisbane and close areas) get together. Possible dates are Wednesday 28 January and Wednesday 4 February.”

Bill Welbourne: “I thought this was a great shot of our small Christmas celebration at the Deck. As you can observe, apart from the grog, we are noted seafood specialists. Note Huggibear’s favourite colour – yellow. He not only wore his usual yellow socks but a striped yellow shirt as well!”

Diane Bohlen: “Well it is that time of year when friends get together to celebrate Christmas. Asopians are ex students of the Australian School of Pacific Administration, which was a college in Sydney where students trained, who were going to Papua New Guinea or the Northern Territory to work. We caught a train to the Parklands and then walked through the Bougainvillea Arbour to the restaurant. The lunch was delicious. Salmon, Snapper, Barramundi, Garlic bread, salad and chips. A glass of wine and an iced coffee. Colin is happy with his bucket of prawns.”

You can visit Diane’s blog, with its wonderful photographs, right here.

Letter to the Hon Peter Slipper MP

Harry Topham

Dear Peter,

I am writing seeking your assistance for some form of recognition for Australians who previously served their country as patrol officers commonly referred to as Kiaps in Papua New Guinea from 1945 to Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975.

There has been very little recognition of the role former patrol officers played in assisting Papua New Guinea towards independence during that period.

Australia’s role as colonial power was by other colonial country’s histories somewhat brief.

Australia’s role as a former colonial power was by comparison with other colonial powers of that period, something; I believe Australia should be proud of.

Although I like most of my former colleagues, believe that PNG’s independence may have been a little premature due to the insufficient infrastructure and human resource capabilities in place at that time however the role Australia played in assisting that country in economic, social, education and political development is something Australia as a nation should be proud of.

Unfortunately post independence, the PNG government of the day saw Australia’s role in it previous history as being irrelevant and the role of the former administrators, namely the patrol officers as a anachronism and dare I say it a threat to their power base hence most former patrol officers under duress from their new political masters left PNG shortly after independence.

The effect the cultural exposure, patrol officers experienced was to them selves un noticed, living and working with indigenous people at grass roots level tends to change one perceptions and a lot of that culture rubbed off on the kiaps resulting in changed individuals who when eventually returning to Australia, found themselves regarded as being outsiders ironically regarded as a proud term previously cited by Sir Hubert Murray a former Colonial Administrator of Papua who referred to his patrol officers as his “Outside Men”

Those older former patrol officers, who were permanent officers had the advantages of redundancy packages to tide them over, were more fortunate.

Many of the later younger ex kiap generation who were contract officers, post independence found themselves back in Australia having to try to re assimilate and find new less stimulating careers or occupations, a path many found very difficult as too much of PNG had rubbed off on their psyche and their superannuation provident fund insufficient to retire on.

I first journeyed to PNG in 1968 remaining until 1974, as a young 23 year old, initially looking for adventure and challenges and like most of my colleagues were inspired by the written recounts of the previous exploits of pre WW2 patrol officer legends such as Monkton, Hides, Champion, Townsend, Sinclair and others.

Alas, the sense of adventure sought did not take into consideration the hardships that would be faced by those seeking adventure nor the isolation factors associated in living in harsh locations.

The country at that time, was still in early stages of development, the terrain in most instances undeveloped requiring serious hard walking and living in areas with no services available or what services that were available very basic in nature.

These experiences of hardship and isolation, moulded what were initially young, inexperienced and some what naïve young men into stoic, laconic individualists who has a strong sense of esprit de corp often misinterpreted by those living in the urban townships as being conceited and arrogant.

The role kiaps played in the development of PNG has never really been fully documented, a sad fact that probably never will fully be revealed due to the passing of time and that the ranks of ex kiaps are thinning as most ex kiaps now are well over the age of 60 with probabilities that due to past exposures to diseases in PNG they remaining will probably pass away before their natural selection age.

As such I feel it would be timely for the Australian Government to formally recognise the role those young Australians played in the development of PNG and seek your assistance in raising this issue with the relevant current Minister.

Kind Regards

Harry Topham
Ex Kiap

Now is the time to get behind the kiaps

Like many readers of PNG ATTITUDE, I worked in association with and observed the nation-building work of Kiaps in PNG over a number of years. I formed a lifelong respect for these men – and no less for the wives and families who supported them in what they did.

For some time now, ex-Kiap Chris Viner-Smith has been striving to obtain some form of official Australian recognition of the Kiaps’ services. This has not always been easy – there are some Kiaps who think the notion of recognition is effete, which I have to say I find hard to understand.

Meanwhile, Chris has a submission currently before the Australian Parliament to give some formal recognition to Kiaps – and I think this is the time to get behind it. As a group, the contribution of Kiaps to the development of Papua New Guinea was critical and it was unique. I’m sure that any fair-minded consideration of their pioneering role would reach this conclusion.

So, having said that, let me turn to a letter from Paul Oates:

Dear ex kiaps

Responses from local Members and the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs (Hon Duncan Kerr) supporting Chris' submission are now starting to be received. All have promised to raise the matter with the Prime Minister.

If you haven't already done so, please contact every ex kiap you know and have them write to their local member, Duncan Kerr and the PM to support this initiative.

When you e mail or write, please let Chris or myself know as Chris has done a lot of work on our behalf and he should have all the support we can give him.

And this is where you come in. You can write a note (the shorter the better) to your local MP supporting Chris Viner-Smith’s submission. Just say something like: “The Kiaps built Papua New Guinea. Give them the recognition they deserve”. That’ll do.

And you can find the email address of your local MP here.

PNGAA proposes major shift in objectives

A historic meeting of the management committee of the Papua New Guinea Association yesterday decided to ask the Association’s membership to agree to extend and reprioritise the organisation’s objectives to give pre-eminence to strengthening the Australia-PNG relationship.

After a vigorous but amicable discussion, the 15 members of the committee present voted unanimously to a set of seven objectives, which will be put to a vote of all 1,600 members at a Special General Meeting to be held in April 2009.

If members agree to the changes, and a great deal of informal support for them already has been expressed, the first objective of the PNGAA will become “to strengthen the civil relationship between the peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea”. Other new objectives will formalise the Association’s activities as a publisher and give it a role in providing “appropriate financial, material or intellectual assistance to projects of benefit to Papua New Guinea” whether on its own or in conjunction with other agencies.

While all the Association’s existing activities will be maintained under the new objectives, the additional functions will provide the PNGAA with a role that will take it far beyond its origins as an organisation for retired expatriate PNG officials.

They will become the focal point of energetic efforts within the Association to recruit new members whose interests lie in the current Australia-PNG relationship as well as in the historical relationship.

The new objectives which will be put to the membership 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 appropriate financial, material or intellectual assistance to projects of benefit to Papua New Guinea as an Association individually or in conjunction with other agencies;

(5) To publish journals, magazines, newsletters, websites, books and other media to inform and educate 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.