Pacific labour scheme to start by Xmas
Kiaps’ role - ‘sheer force of character’

‘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.


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