Val Murphy – in a league of his own
Phil Ainsworth – profile of a reformer

Reformers bring new hope to PNGAA

The formation of the PNGAA Reform Group in Brisbane this week brings new hope for an Association that in recent times has never been particularly close to its membership, and a new opportunity to enhance the relationship between the people of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

If it wasn’t for Una Voce, the Association’s journal edited by Andrea Williams, and the untiring efforts of long-serving committee member Ross Johnson, it is arguable that the PNGAA would have had difficulty surviving this long as a viable organisation.

Headshot   Now a Brisbane-based group has appointed respected Queensland businessman Phil Ainsworth [left] to lead a reform effort aimed at instilling a new spirit in the Association, especially to promote and encourage a close relationship between the people of Australia and the people of Papua New Guinea.

Within the first 48 hours of this group forming, PNGAA members from across Australia had offered to join its cause and more supporters are sought. You can email Phil Ainsworth here or email PNG ATTITUDE.

Phil has made it clear that a reformed organisation will be representative of all members, including people who need support and who want to avail themselves of fellowship and social networking as well as those who want to promote and encourage a close relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“We want the PNGAA to commit to necessary reform, to be a broad church and to operate in a harmonious way,” Mr Ainsworth said yesterday. “It is imperative that the Association embrace the interests of all its members.”

And, in a move that promises to change the face of the Association for all time and which many members would see to be long overdue, Mr Ainsworth has said the organisation must encourage Papua New Guinean residents of Australia to join and become an important part of the Association. One of the aims of the Reform Group is to include Papua New Guineans on the committee to be elected in April.

The Reform Group also wants to make the national committee a body that is representative of the broad membership of the PNGAA irrespective of factors of geography, vocation and demography. At present, the committee is entirely Sydney-based.

And, in a gesture to current committee members, Mr Ainsworth has encouraged those who “feel comfortable in joining this group to do so.”

The Reform Group is committed to adopt and implement new objectives proposed for the Association, presently formulated as:

·          to strengthen the civil relationship between the peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea;

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

·          to foster and maintain an interest in contemporary and historical events in Papua New Guinea;

·          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;

·          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;

·          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;

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

PNG ATTITUDE encourages readers to show their positive support for the Reform Group’s objectives by contacting Mr Ainsworth, contacting this blog or leaving a comment on this site.


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Colin Huggins

I would like to make three analogies with the present PNGAA fracas as pointed out by John Fowke. I have never met John but I like what he has written.

The three analogies refer to matters of change and acceptance of change while still having enjoyment within the social contentment of tales of the past, change and progress for the future.

The first analogy regards Rotary circa 1970s. The year doesn’t matter but I was 31. I had been elected President of my local Rotary Club and the board of directors of the Club were just a bit older - no one was over 35.

It was decided by the board that things had to change. The money in the bank that we achieved for charitable programs had to be spent – the ideal as it was then in Rotary and I should imagine is the same now.

One didn’t have to be Einstein to see a brew was coming between the “Old Guard” and the “Young Turks”. At a weekly meeting, things erupted. The “Old Guard” – all of them previous Presidents - accused the “Young Turks” of stealing the money.

The Treasurer at this time was a manager of one of the local banks who went on to hold a high position within his organization. He lost his temper, hurled his brief case down the table – plates, glasses and everything else went everywhere.

Silence was golden! Staff came running into the meeting room to clean up while stares were exchanged. The meeting was hastily adjourned. The following week the “Old Guard” apologized for their accusing remarks. The Club moved on.

The second analogy refers to the situation in Brisbane. We members of PNGAA and ASOPA meet on various whims – someone going on holidays, any excuse will do. As we are now all seniors, we often meet at the Sofitel, which has a Seniors Discount Lunch.

This lunch has been attended by people since 1984 and some of the originals still attend. We refer to them as “The Blue Rinse Set” (we called ourselves that until Diane decided the name should be changed to the “Yellow Attire Set”, apparently Blue Rinse is Old Hat).

These elderly people over the years have slowly declined in numbers but those who are still with us enjoy their social outing to the hilt. You see, older members of PNGAA, you can still have your social get togethers and enjoy the camaraderie of the old days - but please don’t stop progress. We, like the Sofitel “Blue Rinsers”, will go one day, so progress should not be stifled.

The third analogy refers to my previous employment. I was on a project for change in methods. I have never been so subjected to abuse from those who oppose change as I was for the 12 months of this project.

Many of the opposers were not even my age – but they had only been in one work situation and did not want change. Well guess what – we won. They had to change.

Please let harmony return and we can all enjoy the social activities of what the PNGAA has to offer and move forward with new challenges.

Colin Huggins
PNGAA member 2751

Keith Jackson

John Fowke is a person of unusually good sense and I always enjoy reading his views. They are down to earth and, especially in regard to Australia's role in PNG, right on the money.

I can reassure John that the proposed PNGAA objectives are far from silent on matters of fellowship, social networking and caring. The second point in the objectives - “to foster and encourage contact and friendship with Papua New Guineans and promote friendly association among members” - may be succinct but under its rubric is the Fellowship and Caring Sub-Committee, which has a clear brief to promote social activities and networking among members and to exercise a support function for those people who are aged or ill.

The PNGAA is a broad church that ought to be able to accommodate people who join just for social and support activities, or because of interest in the expat history of PNG, or who want to contribute to building good relationships with Papua New Guineans or who want to pursue a range of other activities in relation to PNG.

My understanding of the Reform Group is that it seeks to entrench such a broad and inclusive approach. Unfortunately, it’s an approach that has met with the vehement disapproval of some members, who have a narrower view of the PNGAA, hence the current conflict that John finds so tiresome.

So do I, to be perfectly honest, but sometimes a stand has to be made. In this case, the stand is for a PNGAA capable of embracing all schools of thought, all spheres of interest and all kinds of people.

John Fowke

I’m in full agreement with the listed objectives of the PNGAA Reform Group. However, mention of an intent to preserve friendship and contact within the ex-PNG expat diaspora and the promotion of social and sporting events which provide a focus for these is muted to say the least.

Contact and support of members in hospital and in ill-health-is a worthwhile formal objective, too. Maybe all this is taken as read and already in the constitution but it’s not immediately obvious from the proposal.

I raise this in case these matters are being overlooked. They should figure as major objectives of the PNGAA if it is to continue into the future and develop successfully along desired lines.

Personally, I have to say without wanting to cause undue offence (and in the knowledge that I am renowned as a bad-tempered old bighead), that I tend to keep my distance as far as ex-PNG expats are concerned. I find a great many of them are complete bores. I was pressured into joining the PNGAA by a good friend who is a long-time member, and quite honestly find the whole thing including the current internal fracas a complete bore.

Nonetheless, as a member of the local vintage car club here on Brisbane's south side, where members are all on the wrong side of 60, and where the social side and care for those on the sick-list takes precedence over the overt purpose and reason for existence of the club, I have come to see that the social side does come first. Its the matrix from which the other endeavours emerge. Especially where much of the membership tends to be of a certain age.

Initially the lack of a real "nuts-and-bolts-and-carburettors" focus struck me as ludicrous, but I have come to the opposite view after a couple of years in the club even though I don’t go to the morning-teas or picnics myself. To use a rather churchy word, the fellowship created is the prime foundation for enjoyment and binding sense of purpose, and my elderly car-buff mates, male and female, value the club greatly for this.

I have to say in conclusion that there has recently been a bitter internal factional struggle for control of the club, and horrors, its now in the hands of women! As a character in one of my favourite novels says "Modern time, mon. Modern time!"

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