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48 posts from June 2009

The fall of Rabaul and the Montevideo Maru

Elizabeth Thurston & Andrea Williams

A memorial to the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, Australia’s greatest disaster at sea, will be unveiled at a ceremony at Subic Bay at 11am this morning by Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Rod Smith.

The Montevideo Maru left Rabaul on 22 June 1942 with 1053 prisoners of war, all of whom tragically died when the ship was torpedoed on this day in 1942.

The establishment of the memorial has been coordinated by the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee supported by the NGVR/PNGVR Ex-Members Association, Lark Force, the PNGAA and Greenbank RSL. The site is part of the Hellships Memorial dedicated to prisoners of war who suffered on Japanese vessels.

With the outbreak of World War 2, Rabaul became of strategic importance. The Army authorised the formation of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR), a militia unit formed from Rabaul’s white residents. A detachment of young Chinese men, determined to contribute, formed an Ambulance Brigade which became part of the NGVR.

In March 1941, with the threat of Japanese invasion looming, the Australian Government sent Lark Force to Rabaul - 1400 men from the 2/22nd battalion and other units. Their band comprised the Brunswick Salvation Army band from Melbourne. Soon after, the 2/10th Field Ambulance, which included nursing sisters, also arrived.

On neighbouring New Ireland, Kavieng was defended by the Commandos 1st Independent Company.

Most European women and children had been evacuated from Rabaul on the Macdhui and Neptuna by Christmas 1941. The hospital nurses were offered evacuation but remained. The army nurses were not offered evacuation. Some civilian and missionary women stayed in the Rabaul area.

Because they were not Australian citizens, Chinese and mixed-race women and children did not qualify for evacuation. The civilians who remained in Rabaul consisted of administration officers, planters, businessmen and traders. Most of the women and children evacuated never saw their husbands and fathers again.

On 19 January 1942, the Norwegian cargo ship Herstein arrived in Rabaul to load copra. When it was bombed in a Japanese air raid, the civilian population suspected it had lost its last opportunity to leave. Although no one knew it then, the Australian Government had already made the decision that the men in Rabaul were ‘hostages to fortune’.

When the Japanese invaded with 5000 troops on 23 January 1942, Lark Force had little chance. The men of the 2/22nd put up a gallant fight but were overpowered.

The order “Every man for himself” was given and the men who had survived the battle tried to escape to the north and south coasts of New Britain. Without food in gruelling tropical conditions they faced great difficulty.

The Japanese dropped pamphlets declaring they would be treated as prisoners of war and many surrendered. Most returned to Rabaul and about 150 were executed at Tol Plantation on the shores of Wide Bay. Most of the civilian men were captured early after the invasion and interned for five months in a camp at Rabaul.

On 22 June 1942, 845 members of Lark Force and 208 civilians were marched aboard the Montevideo Maru. The ship set sail for Hainan Island. On the night of 1 July, about 30 km west of Luzon, the US submarine Sturgeon torpedoed the ship which listed and sank immediately.

The captain of Sturgeon, Commander Wright, had no idea the Montevideo Maru was carrying allied POWs. The men from Rabaul were all lost. The sinking of the Montevideo Maru became the greatest maritime disaster in Australian history.

A statement by the Minister for External Territories in the Australian House of Representatives on 5 October 1945 said: “These servicemen and civilians who have lost their lives in such a tragic manner have undoubtedly given their lives in defence of Australia just as surely as those who died face to face with the enemy. To their next of kin the Commonwealth Government extends its deepest sympathy.”

Lest We Forget.

PNGAA election puts sealer on corporate renewal

The Papua New Guinea Association membership showed maturity and sophistication in the recent committee elections, the results of which were announced on Sunday.

This was the first contested committee election in the Association’s nearly 60 year history, and the first time an election had been conducted through a postal ballot of members.

Fourteen candidates contested the six committee positions and around 400 members voted, a record, demonstrating that recent constitutional changes have been effective in engaging members deeper in the affairs of the Association.

Due to the great talent on offer, a number of strikingly good candidates missed the cut.  But the real triumph was the election – for the first time – of two Papua New Guineans to the leadership of the Association.

Gima Crowdy and Deveni Temu will bring great professional skills to the PNGAA but they are also harbingers of what should be a continuation of the growth in membership numbers of the last 12 months and an extension of this membership to include many Papua New Guinean residents of Australia – who should have a stake in an organisation that bears the name of their country of birth.

We now await a statement from new President Riley Warren about where he intends to take the organisation during his two year term – and this may be made in conjunction with the first meeting of the new streamlined committee in early August.

The PNGAA didn’t announce voting numbers after the ballot, an unfortunate reminder of the organisation’s old paternalism. I think members deserve transparency around all of its affairs.

It will take the committee some time to settle in, and there are some challenges it needs to overcome because of its geographical dispersion (for the first time it includes people from Brisbane, Newcastle and Canberra) - but members have high expectations of the new committee operating within an expansive new constitution.

The ‘social sauspen’ that looks like boiling over

Gelab Pelak

The PNG riots are still alive.

A newspaper report said hundreds of people went on a rampage in Popondetta on Friday looting the Bank South Pacific branch, the Air Niugini office and six Asian-owned shops.

The riot was sparked by oil palm growers who had come into town to collect money but were turned away by the bank.

It is clear the recent Asian looting was because of lack of government services. Now PNG businesses have been attacked, as the result of similar frustration. Police were unable to do anything because they were outnumbered.

I believe, as I have written on PNG Attitude previously, that this problem will not be solved unless the Government takes its citizen’s views on board and listens to their cries. Imagine how chaotic this would have been if it happened in Port Moresby.

I think the social sauspen of PNG, as it has been termed, is going to blow soon, maybe in the near future. Time will tell, and we will regret or praise.

I mean how can they do this? How can our own government do this, because it's partly the government's fault for not providing services to the rural people in the first place. That’s why they are coming to the cities and towns with false hopes of employment, and prosperity.

Not knowing men’s fate was the hardest thing

From ILYA GRIDNEFF, AAP's correspondent in Port Moresby

The hardest thing for families who lost relatives in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru during World War 2 was not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

But for those families, closure may finally come on Wednesday when a plaque is unveiled at an official ceremony marking Australia's worst maritime tragedy.

Ailsa Nisbet, 82, along with her daughter Marg Curtis and cousin Ron Hayes, will represent one of 15 Australian families at the July 1 memorial at Subic Bay in the Philippines.

They leave Melbourne today to pay respects to Ms Nisbet's brother, Private John "Jack" Groat, who was on board the Montevideo Maru when it sank on July 1, 1942, carrying 845 prisoners of war from Australia's Lark Force and 208 civilian men.

The troops had been taken prisoner after Japan invaded Rabaul in PNG in January 1942.

The unmarked Japanese ship left occupied Rabaul on June 22, 1942 but nine days later an American submarine, unaware it was carrying allied prisoners, torpedoed it off the Philippines coast.

The sinking of the ship was not reported back to Australia, and for several years the fate of the prisoners of war was unknown. Ms Nisbet said for years her brother's fate was a mystery.

"The family was first told he was missing," she said. "Then they said 'missing presumed dead', then we got a message he was a prisoner of war, then we got a letter from Jack saying he was being looked after by the Japanese. But that's all. Mum didn't hear what happened until late 1945. And there is still doubt about it," she said.

Phil Ainsworth, in the Philippines for the event, said the committee aimed to get more national recognition for the tragedy. "This memorial will give the families some comfort because even now 67 years later they still feel discomforted and in grief," he said.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin marked the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru in a speech to Parliament last Friday. "I've spoken to individuals who lost family members as part of the Montevideo Maru and I know these things remain with people forever," he said. "I express my heartfelt sympathy for their loss."

Source: Wartime sea tragedy to be marked by

Ilya Gridneff [AAP], The Age. 29 June 2009. Read the entire article here

Questions Australians want answered about PNG

Former PNG-based teacher and journalist Keith Jackson is passionate about building closer relationships between the people of Australia and PNG, writes MALUM NALU

An increasing number of Papua New Guineans and Australians are now turning to the ground-breaking PNG Attitude website and newsletter, two outlets with growing influence in both countries for their candid commentary on Australia-PNG affairs.

Both are published by former PNG-based teacher and journalist, Keith Jackson, 64, who is chairman of the Sydney-based public relations firm Jackson Wells. He lived in PNG from age 18 to 31 and still feels a strong sense of commitment to the country and its people.

PNG Attitude offers a range of views on current Australia-PNG issues from contributors such as Paul Oakes, Gelab Piak, Ilya Gridneff, Bernard Narokobi, Don Hook and many guest writers.

Mr Jackson is passionate about using communications processes to build closer relationships between the people of Australia and PNG. He believes the political relationship has been neglected until recently, and that the civil relationship has a long way to go. “We’re like a family that’s drifted apart,” Mr Jackson says. “We need to do something about that, on both sides.”

He says he has some crucial questions he believes Australians want answered about PNG. “I asked Sir Michael most of them a couple of months ago through an intermediary, but they obviously didn’t get to him. They’re questions Australians interested in PNG worry about.”

And what are Keith Jackson’s worrying questions that Australians would like to ask?

“We’re concerned about corruption, about public money going wrongly into private hands. Is this a serious problem? And if it is, what’s the Government doing about it.

“We’re concerned about violence. How safe would we be visiting PNG as tourists? How safe would we be living in PNG?

“It seems the public service is not really delivering for PNG. Rural infrastructure – health, education, basic services - is in bad shape and the people are not getting what they need. What’s the Government doing to fix this?

“We don’t know whether Australian budgetary support - $400 million this year - is being well spent. Can we get some assurance about this?

“Our aid agency, AusAID, spends a lot of the money Australia gives to PNG on consultants. How come these consultants are not delivering the services that are needed at the PNG grass roots?

“We’re not sure about the next generation of PNG politicians. Are they likely to be nation builders - and friendly towards Australia?

“The recent anti-Asian riots indicate a big problem for PNG. They seem to show that Papua New Guineans are being excluded from commerce in their own country. What’s going on?”

You can read Malum Nalu's full article on the website of the PNG National here.

PNGAA elects first PNG committee members

In a historic election outcome, the PNG Association has elected its first Papua New Guinean committee members. They are Gima Crowdy of Sydney and Deveni Temu of Canberra. A record 400 members voted for 14 candidates in the first contested committee election. The other people elected were existing members Juli Alcorn and Pam Foley and first timers Dennis Doyle and Chris Diercke.

MvM victims honoured in our Parliament

The Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin MP, and the Shadow Minister, Louise Markus MP, yesterday afternoon gave speeches to the House of Representatives marking the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.  Because of their significance, PNG Attitude reports them in full:

Mr GRIFFIN (Bruce—Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) (3.53 pm)—War brings many tragedies and next week we commemorate one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War. On 1 July 1942, a United States submarine patrolling the Babuyan Channel leading from Luzon in the Philippines into the South China Sea torpedoed and sank what it believed to be a Japanese merchant vessel. It was in fact the Montevideo Maru carrying Australian prisoners of war. Its sinking is the greatest single maritime tragedy in Australia’s history, with the loss of 1,053 Australian lives. The Montevideo Maru carried no markers identifying it as a POW transport and was indistinguishable from legitimate targets of allied aircraft and submarines. The prisoners were locked in the hold with no means of escape once the ship was struck. The Montevideo Maru took 11 minutes to sink. No prisoners survived.

What we know of this tragedy comes from Japanese survivors who eventually reached Manila and reported the sinking. By the time searches were launched, it was too late. No trace of the vessel or any survivors could be found. On board were 1,053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians who had been captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul on the island of New Britain in what is now Papua New Guinea. Among those aboard was former member for Brand Kim Beazley’s uncle and the current member for Kingsford Smith’s grandfather.

Through the war, Australian authorities sought information on the whereabouts of those captured at Rabaul. However, they were never informed that the Montevideo Maru was sunk with the loss of all prisoners during the war. It was not until after the war that Australian authorities discovered the tragic story. With 1 July this year being the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the ship, we will pause to remember the loss.

The servicemen lost on the Montevideo Maru are among the 12,104 casualties of World War II who have no known grave.

On 1 July this year, the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr Rod Smith, will unveil a plaque commemorating those on board the Montevideo Maru on behalf of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Association at the Hell Ships Memorial established in memory of all the ships that carried POWs. Later in the year, under a grant made by the Australian government to the RSL Angeles sub branch in the Philippines, commemoration of the Montevideo Maru at the Hell Ships memorial will be further enhanced and an interpretation will be placed in a nearby museum.

The families and associations with connections to the Montevideo Maru have never lost sight of the tragedy that occurred 67 years ago. That it is still shrouded in mystery must also add to their sense of loss. It is something that we as a nation should never forget, as I am sure all members would agree.

Mrs MARKUS (Greenway) (3.56 pm)—I rise on indulgence, Mr Speaker. I would like to associate the coalition with the minister’s remarks. The sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of 1,053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians on 1 July 1942 is the greatest single tragedy in Australia’s maritime history.

More importantly, it is also one of our lesser known.

The Montevideo Maru sank after being torpedoed off the Philippines. There were no survivors. The Australian prisoners of war and civilians who perished had been captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul on the island of New Britain in what is now known as Papua New Guinea. I note that the names of the army and air force casualties are listed on the memorial to the missing at the Bita Paka war cemetery in Rabaul, which I have had the honour of visiting.

In placing my condolences on the record today, I wish to help to bring to the attention of the Australian public this little-known sacrifice of 1,053 Australians on board the Montevideo Maru so many years ago. In particular, I wish to thank and acknowledge those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, a sacrifice that has contributed to the peace that we enjoy today.

I understand that on 1 July on the 67th anniversary of the tragedy the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines will unveil a new plaque commemorating those on board the Montevideo Maru on behalf of the PNG Volunteer Rifles Association at the Hell Ships Memorial established in memory of all the ships that carried prisoners of war. I commend this latest acknowledgement of the tragedy, but also wish to remind the House of the important and vital contribution of our veteran community, past, present and also into the future. It is important in honouring those who have served our nation and given the ultimate sacrifice and also in acknowledging the significant loss to their families that every effort is made to locate the resting place of those who lost their lives at sea on that fateful day. I ask and urge the government to do everything that it can to locate the resting place of those who lost their lives when the Montevideo Maru sank. Lest we forget.

Val Murphy seriously ill after heart attack

Headshot There is grim news from Perth this morning as we learn that Val Murphy has had a heart attack and is in a serious condition.

“Sad news for you all,” writes his dear wife, Mary. “My beloved husband of 47 years, through thick and thin in PNG and resettlement in WA has had a heart attack and is fighting for his life in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.”

Mary asks that friends not contact the hospital, but ring her on 0418 952 498 or son Mark on 0428 520 146 for updates.

Earlier this year Val was awarded life membership of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League adding to his life membership of the WA Rugby League. He has been an outstanding advocate for rugby league in WA and, over many years, hasensured that players were given every opportunity to develop and play at the highest level.

Val was a cadet education officer at ASOPA [1961-62] and, while teaching in PNG, became prominent for his rugby league activities.

As Principal of Aranmore Catholic College in Perth, Val established the Rugby League Academy in 2001, offering new pathways for elite rugby league players in WA.

Our prayers and best wishes are with Val, Mary and their family at this time.

Griffin makes parliamentary statement on MvM

It’s been difficult to get details. We even called the Minister’s office without luck. But it seems Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin made a statement on the Montevideo Maru in Federal Parliament this afternoon.

Our first alert came from Rod Miller, who, it is clear, assiduously checks hits on his website, and also has great prescience. “Had a couple of hits today that I haven't seen before,” said Rod, a pre-eminent researcher on the Montevideo Maru. They were all from the ACT and two from Parliament House itself.

Chris Diercke was the first to confirm the statement to Parliament, and tried hard to get a copy. Like me, he'll have to wait for Hansard in the morning.

Then Brian Darcey reported in: “4pm today. A belated, but welcome statement from the Minister just read out in the House of Reps was no doubt prompted by your letter to The Australian. Better late than never, but his lack of any real knowledge of the tragedy was confirmed when he repeatedly mispronounced 'Rabaul'.”

Come on, Brian, let’s not be churlish.

More information as we get it. I'm in Melbourne tomorrow for a few days and might find it difficult to post. Bear with me.

Leading academic busts some myths & legends

Down the years many myths and theories developed around the fall of Rabaul and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru in 1942. In next month’s Montevideo Maru Newsletter, historian EMERITUS PROFESSOR HANK NELSON addresses some of these. A preview...


There are repeated statements by people of good intent about the government declining to hold an inquiry after the war. Sometimes the Pacific Islands Monthly is quoted ['Australian government will not inquire into Rabaul'].

In fact, if you go back to Chifley's speech on 28 June 1946, he said at the end of a rowdy debate that had covered many subjects that if it could be shown that men in command were guilty of 'corruption, dishonesty or treason' he would favour inquiries.

He referred to specific military failures - Dunkirk, Malaya, the Middle East - but not Rabaul. At the end of his speech, Menzies, then leader of the Opposition, said 'I personally agree with him'.

Introducing the debate, Anthony had mentioned the three incidents involving the 23rd Brigade - Timor, Ambon and Rabaul. Anthony spoke mostly about Ambon and Timor but he did include Rabaul at the end of his speech.

The Curtin government is often held responsible for the disaster of Rabaul, and Curtin as Prime Minister in January 1942 certainly had a responsibility for events occurring then.

But the Labor Government had nothing to fear from an inquiry. The Menzies and Fadden governments had made the decision to deploy the troops to Rabaul (and to other points where over 20,000 became prisoners) and Curtin inherited those decisions in October 1941. Menzies had been in power when other disasters such as Greece and Crete had taken place.

The War Cabinet papers are instructive. After the Japanese entered the war, the fate of the troops in Rabaul was reconsidered. The Chiefs of Staff advised that they should stay. They made this recommendation knowing that the invading force likely to be faced by Lark Force would be overwhelming and that Australia would be unable to strengthen or evacuate the troops.

They made this recommendation because Australia was then making strong pleas to the Dutch and the British to fight in the Netherlands East Indies and Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong and we wanted the Americans to fight in the Philippines and to deploy forces in Australia and in the southwest Pacific. We could hardly do this and withdraw our own troops.

Also we wanted to maintain a 'forward observation line' and wanted to force the Japanese to commit troops and materiel to an invasion force. It was not so much the time taken by the troops in Rabaul in resisting an attack that was important, but the fact that their presence meant that the Japanese had to bring together an extensive force of ships (including aircraft carriers, mine sweepers, submarines, troop carriers) and aircraft.

The chiefs of staff reported that they did not have the shipping to evacuate or escort Australian troops and they did not have the aircraft to protect the ships at sea. It is true but unlikely that the Curtin government could have over-ruled the chiefs of staff.

The Chiefs of Staff also advised that civilian government in Rabaul should continue. Obviously they did not want the troops diverted to maintaining martial law and they did not want chaos on the eve of an invasion. (Kieta was looted when the civilian government left and even on Misima and the Trobriands there was a break down in law and order.)

When the War Cabinet received Page's urgent request to evacuate non-essential government personnel, it was the Chiefs of Staff who made what turned out to be the disastrously slow recommendation to Page to send a list of the numbers involved. The Chiefs of Staff were more aware by 17 December that they could not supply ships or aircraft to secure passage of civilians from Rabaul. They knew that they would be taking a great risk in encouraging people to put to sea when the skies were dominated by the Japanese. In retrospect of course that risk was worth taking.

The Curtin Government had inherited the policy of the dispersal of small forces to the north and it had acted in conformity with the best available advice. The arguments of the Chiefs of Staff were rational - even if you disagree with them. And you can read in the War Cabinet minutes Curtin asking the Chiefs of Staff for assurance that all possible was being done for the men in Rabaul. So the Labor government had little to fear from an inquiry.

PNG Attitude will bring readers full coverage of the Montevideo Maru memorial service at Subic Bay next Wednesday, the 67th anniversary of the sinking.

You can obtain the Newsletter each month by becoming a Friend of Montevideo Maru. I's free and you can be added to the email list here.


Jim Jacobi, GP & rugby league great, dies at 83

The death has occurred in Brisbane of Sir James Jacobi, 83, a key figure in the development of rugby league in PNG. He was President of the PNG rugby league for more than 25 years and a member of the international rugby league board.

He was born in Maryborough, Queensland, in 1925 and served in the Australian Air Force in PNG in the final stages of World War 2.

Jim was also probably the best known general practitioner in Port Moresby for forty years, in the process building the largest medical practice in PNG. He was a robust, avuncular and generous man – who often led us to believe that there was no disease known to mankind that penicillin could not overwhelm.

He also was the first rugby league official to be knighted (by the PNG Government in 1991) for his service to rugby league after earlier being awarded the OBE.

He was the first president of the PNG rugby league in 1964 and during his time in this role rugby league prospered and PNG became the only nation in the world to regard it as its national sport.

Jim moved to Brisbane in the mid 1990’s and continued to work as a locum until two years ago.

“Rugby league in PNG today would not be the strong national sport it is today without his leadership and commitment,” said friend and colleague Jeff Wall. “His passing will not only cause sadness in rugby league in PNG – he will be greatly missed by the nation’s political and community leaders, and the countless thousands of Papua New Guineans who benefited from his generosity over the best part of forty years.”

Source: Off the Wall by Jeff Wall, 22 June 2009, and other sources

Maru slips minister’s radar: The Australian, Today

Mark Day must be complimented for his compelling story on the Montevideo Maru ("Mystery of the missing hell ship”, Inquirer, 20-21/6). But Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin has fumbled the issue once again.

Last week Griffin said he was “not aware of any claims regarding lost documents” in relation to the sinking of the Montevideo Maru on July 1, 1942, Australia’s worst sea disaster that cost 1,053 lives.

A central part of the story surrounding the fate of the men of Rabaul was the disappearance of a Japanese manifest and other key documents relating to the men’s fate. Failure to acknowledge this is a serious enough admission for any Australian politician but a real own goal by the man who carries the title of Minister for Veterans Affairs.

Now Griffin has told Day he “will consider any requests from the (Montevideo Maru) committee” concerning the ship. But this was a grudging admission, as the next part of the quote showed: “Australians fought and died at many locations around the world. We do a lot in recognition of this and are doing more, but it is difficult to satisfy every concern people have.”

That’s quite a putdown. In the days before the July 1 unveiling of a memorial at Subic Bay—to which his government has contributed nothing, not even the presence of an MP—why couldn’t Griffin have said simply how sorry he feels for the relatives who still grieve for their men. Why couldn’t he have said that the Commonwealth recognises this as a great tragedy. Why couldn’t he have added how Australians should remember these sacrifices with deep gratitude and humility.

And why couldn’t he have pledged that, on Thursday June 25, the last sitting day before the ceremony at Subic Bay, he would rise in the House of Representatives to deliver a tribute to the men of Rabaul, including those who died on the Montevideo Maru?

Now that would be true statesmanship.

Keith Jackson
Chairman, Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee
Neutral Bay, NSW

Source: Letter to the Editor, The Australian, Tuesday, 23 June 20009

After the consultants, a practical proposition

“At 70 you'd think a bloke'd grow up,” says the irascible JOHN FOWKE, who writes about PNG affairs with knowledge, intelligence & passion and a weather eye for lefty luvvy atrocities

Australia's cardinal mistake in PNG was to allow a Westminster-modelled, party-based system of political representation to arise in a profoundly-tribal, profoundly-egalitarian landowner society.

This gave rise to today's hegemonic, exploitative and cynical governing elite, but was compounded by another factor. The other great grey elephant in the room, looming but ignored for decades. Never spelled out.

The Aussies decided "Black Mastas shall never arise", and so a trend to mediocrity and "lefty-luvvy-ideology" became the policy in education and social development.

To hell with informed, ethical leadership during the most important decades of PNG's rise from tribal horde to Nation State.

As with most colonial powers, Australia exhibited a supine even welcoming attitude to the flood of lefty political correctness which swirled like a fog behind UN visiting missions in the sixties and thereafter.

From this time, any pretence to excellence of outcome in education was sacrificed to the dull beat of fluttering left-wings.

It is no accident that the mention of names like Kidu, Kapi, Rarua, Taureka, Bouraga, Nombri and Karukaru all bring memories of balanced, urbane, highly-educated, personable and effective professionals; men of dignity and purpose.

A generation? No, unfortunately, because of Aussie policy not a generation; just a flash in the pan. So what happened to replace this cadre of leaders?

The output of a slack, second-rate caste of ideology-driven foreign educationists foisted upon a naive PNG by multinational consultancy corporations was unable to provide a supply of focussed, disciplined, ethical leaders in the same model.

In this way, by closing the gate to a socially-engineered class of properly-educated, open-minded and pragmatic non-tribal Melanesian leaders, we closed off the only avenue whereby young people might see and aim for ethical, socially-positive and creative careers in politics and administration.

Social engineering didn’t go away. It was put into reverse. And look at the result.

Now that Australia and PNG have concluded a new and potentially hugely-valuable scholarship scheme whereby 2,000 students a year will be brought to study in Austtralia, it is time for the re-energised and re-focussed PNGAA to set its cap at something worthwhile.

Let’s get hold of the plan, appraise it and remain in constant touch with AusAID on this important issue. Let us also look at providing emergency phone and email contacts, in loco parentis services for PNG students who, faced with life in a strange environment, find the need for advice or a shoulder to cry on from time to time. This is partnership. This is meaningful.

It seems the Australian Government and its minions in DFAT and AusAID are beginning to appreciate a little of the reality of what is needed by PNG, as opposed to "what Mother orders."

Lets get in there an help in a really practical way; a way which will have a long-term positive effect. PNG is our neighbour, and we are theirs, for the rest of humanity's existence upon earth.

On this day, 1942, the Montevideo Maru sailed


On this day, Monday 22 June, in 1942, 1,053 men – military prisoners and civilian internees - were marched from their camp to Rabaul harbour.

“On other days they had walked the same route to work on the docks,” wrote Ian Hodges, “but this time they carried whatever kit they possessed and were flanked by guards with machine guns.

“Chinese and New Guinean dockside labourers saw them board a ship, the 10,000-ton Montevideo Maru The labourers were among the last to see her human cargo alive.”

So on this day we remember the 201 civilians, ranging in age from 15 to 63, who were marched aboard that ship, including the 23 crew members of the Norwegian merchant vessel, Herstein.

And we remember the 852 personnel from these military units, most of them attached to Lark Force:

2/22nd Battalion
2/22 Battalion Bandsmen, all members of Salvation Army Bands
1st Independent Company
Fortress Artillery
Signal Units
No 17 Anti-Tank Battery
Anti-Aircraft Battery
No 19 Special Dental Unit
New Guinea Volunteer Rifles
2/10 Field Ambulance
Ordinance Corps
8 Division Supply Column
Canteen Services HQ
Royal Australian Airforce
Royal Australian Navy

Two emails but not a conversation as yet

 ----- Original Message -----

From: Griffin, Alan (MP)

To: Keith Jackson

Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 12:05 AM


Dear Mr Jackson

I get really sick of people who haven’t had the courtesy to put a proposal to me directly for consideration trying to conduct a campaign through the media.

Given your extensive involvement in the Labor Party for such a long period of time, I’m bloody disappointed that you know so little about how to try and have an issue properly considered. 

Given your supposed expertise on this matter I’m also surprised that  you are so unaware that Defence, not Veterans’ Affairs are responsible for support around searches for missing vessels and the recovery and identification of remains.  If you’d been paying attention you would have seen that recently with who was commenting around such matters with respect to HMAS Sydney, Fromelles and recent MIA searches in Vietnam.

As to what I said to Mark Day, I would have thought that someone with your extensive political and journalistic experience would know that journalist select quotes from interviews and the story is then edited accordingly.  Therefore, you should know that you don’t know what else I said or the context in which it was said.

And as a lobbyist I would have expected a bit more sophistication when it comes to commenting on the political process.

Best wishes

Alan Griffin


From: Keith Jackson

To: Griffin, Alan (MP)

Sent: Monday, June 22, 2009 07:34:42 AM


Dear Alan -

This issue has been put to Government many times. The relatives have been booted around the park, fobbed off, pushed from pillar to post. And, yes, advised that DVA was the place to go.

"Know how to get the issue properly considered", you're kidding. What do you expect people to do when they've been frustrated so many times? Meekly fade away? Hmm, I think I'm on to something there.

Mark told me he'd mentioned to you "Why not tell them what they want to hear – that you’ll find a way to give comfort". It was good advice. And you would not have been "taken out of context", if indeed you were, if you'd said something approximating those 'words of comfort' Mark referred to.

I'll ignore your final par. My colleagues and I will just keep on fighting for a group of Australians whose relatives paid a very high price for their country; a group of people who still grieve and who have been ignored for too long.

I am sorry, given your eminent position in our community, that you do not seem to be prepared to do likewise.



Leading Pacific academic Ron Crocombe dies


One of the best known figures in Pacific Studies, Emeritus Professor Ron Crocombe, died in Auckland yesterday of a heart attack while on a bus to Mangere for a flight to his home in Rarotonga.

Prof Crocombe, 79, an historian who earned his doctorate at the Australian National University, was considered the world's foremost authority on the cultures of the Pacific. Last week he had been inducted as a fellow of the Atenisi University in Tonga.

The New Zealand born academic lived and worked in the Pacific as an administrator in the Cook Islands, director of ANU's New Guinea Research Unit in the 1960s and as Professor of Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific.

Even in retirement in the Cook Islands, he continued to consult and publish widely on Pacific affairs. “He is a phenomenon,” said one commentator, “there is no one quite like him. He is not a disciplined nor a discipline-bound scholar. Indeed, he has a healthy disregard for disciplinary boundaries and niceties.”

Prof Crocombe lived in PNG from 1962 to 1969 and returned many times. He gained an international reputation for his work on Pacific land tenure systems and his scholarly reputation will probably relate to this work.

He will also be remembered as the indefatigable encourager and publisher of works by Pacific islanders. During his directorship of the Institute of Pacific Studies, hundreds of Pacific Island students, teachers, administrators and others published big and small works of varying quality on a range of Pacific topics.

Quality was not necessarily Crocombe's primary concern. He was more concerned to boost the confidence of the island peoples' in their ability to write and reflect on their experiences.

His lifetime partner and collaborator was Marjorie Tuainekore Crocombe, until recently Director of the Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland.

Professor Crocombe is also survived by four children, 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Prof Crocombe will be buried in Rarotonga later this week. A memorial service will also be held at the Pacific Islands Christian Church in Auckland next Sunday.

Macdhui a reminder Port Moresby’s dark days

Malum Nalu

MV Macdhui

A small but significant anniversary occurred on Thursday: the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the MV Macdhui by Japanese bombs on 18 June 1942.

The wreck of the Macdhui in the waters off Port Moresby Technical College at Kanudi remains one of the best-known landmarks in Moresby.

The Macdhui, 4630 tonnes, built in Glascow in 1930 was operated by Burns Philp. Her maiden voyage took place in March 1931, when she sailing to Suva via the Azores, Jamaica and the Panama Canal with a load of coal.

Macdhui then serviced the Sydney-Rabaul route with accommodation for 167 first-class passengers.

With the onset of World War II, she was used to evacuate civilians from  New Guinea and to carry Australian troops back to Port Moresby.

On 17 June 1942, Macdhui was attacked by Japanese bombers while discharging cargo to lighters in Moresby harbour. She zigzagged around the harbour but took a direct hit which caused considerable damage. The vessel went alongside the main wharf to unload dead and wounded.

MV Macdhui The next morning at 10.45 there was an air-raid warning and Macdhui moved into the harbour and began manoeuvring. Soon after she took a direct hit and then three more. The captain headed towards shallow water where Macdhui keeled over on a reef. Ten of the 77 crew and five Australian gunners from the 39th Battalion were killed.

The sinking was filmed from a nearby hilltop by Australian cameraman, Damien Parer.

The loss of the Macdhui was a great blow to the morale of the Australian troops in Port Moresby. Until then it had been the only regular link between Australia and Port Moresby.

The wreck is now deeply pitted and corroded under the waterline. It is gradually breaking up but even if it does slip completely under the surface, part of the Macdhui will remain. Macdhui_Bell In the late 1960s the mast was removed and stands outside the Royal Papua Yacht Club as a memorial to those who died.

And one of the ship’s bells was erected in the tower of St John's Anglican Church in Port Moresby and still calls parishioners to worship.

Source: Abstracted from a story in the PNG National

Merauke 5: tough experience had a silver lining

I rarely write here about my day job because, well, there’s infrequently any significant crossover between it and PNG Attitude.

But in the last few weeks there has been an overlap of sorts, and it occurred when Jackson Wells was retained to assist the Merauke 5 secure release from their nine months detention in the Indonesian Province of Papua.

You may recall that pilot William Scott-Bloxam, his wife Vera and three friends flew a light aircraft on the one hour trip from Horn Island to Merauke for a weekend’s sightseeing last September. They were given permission to land but didn’t have visas. The Indonesian authorities were less than impressed and detained them.

I don’t want to canvass the issues here, the Merauke 5 are due home in the next few days. But in my conversations with them in Merauke recently I’ve been particularly impressed by their stories of the excellent relationship that developed between them and the people of the town (population 50,000).

“We’ve received nothing but kindness and generosity from the local people,” Scott (as he’s known) told me. “Even when we were in jail, friends we’d made brought us food. We receive small gifts from local people.”

While in gaol (mercifully a relatively brief if unpleasant part of their detention: mostly they were confined to the town limits), Scott gave English lessons and Vera learned some Indonesian.

Karen Burke commented on the “very good relationship” the Merauke 5 had with officials and locals. “They are very friendly towards us and often express sympathy regarding our situation. They are generous and bring gifts. The bemo drivers sometimes refuse payment for the fare.”  Keith Mortimer agreed, saying he’d developed a good circle of Indonesian and Papuan friends.

Hubert Hofer, who spent most of his free time in Merauke pursuing historical research and learning Indonesian, said he found the people very friendly and supportive. “I share my historical information with locals who are interested. I’ve found an Australian soldier’s grave and I’ve shared information about the wartime construction of Merauke airstrip.”

So there you have it. The Merauke 5 have had a gruelling and difficult experience, but made a bit more tolerable by the warmth of the local Papuan and Indonesian population. A silver lining indeed.

Shock: Minister unaware of nominal roll mystery

In an extraordinary admission, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Alan Griffin, has told the Sydney Morning Herald he is "not aware of any claims regarding lost documents or a cover-up" regarding the Montevideo Maru.

The Minister has thereby revealed his ignorance of one of the great mysteries surrounding the fate of the men of Rabaul and reinforced the feelings of victims’ relatives that the Commonwealth Government doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

And that's the disappearance of the nominal (Katakana) roll - written in Japanese characters - and other key documents relating to what happened to the men of Rabaul interned by the Japanese in early 1942.

Mr Griffin made his remarks in an interview by the Herald’s John Huxley for an article published today to mark the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru. The article is online here.

It tells the story of Philip "Hooky" Street who grew up in Rabaul where his father, James, was solicitor-general.

"The last time I saw him was Christmas 1940. I was only 11 years old,” Hooky says. Hooky left Rabaul to attend boarding school in Sydney. His mother followed soon after as the Japanese forces approached New Guinea. His father, along with the other men of Rabaul and the islands, stayed on.

James Street and hundreds of other civilians and troops, captured by the Japanese in the fall of Rabaul in January 1942, then disappeared – whether in the nation's worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, or in the many random atrocities that occurred in the Gazelle Peninsula. It is likely that James Street was bayoneted to death in the Tol plantation massacre.

“More than 60 years on,” Huxley writes, “Street, like thousands of others who lost loved ones in the tragedy, is still waiting for explanations, still fighting for ‘comfort and closure’, still seeking national recognition of the sacrifices made by the Australians abandoned in PNG.”

"Many people believe there's been a government cover-up from the start, to prevent panic at home,” Street is quoted as saying, “I tend to think it was more a stuff-up … a terrible blot on the nation's military history. I don't want a witch-hunt, but I want answers."

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee is preparing a submission for presentation to the Federal Government later this year.

It will seek to educate Parliamentarians on this issue, to gain national recognition of the tragedy of the men of the Rabaul and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru, and to spur the Government into trying to locate those missing documents, the ones Mr Griffin, despite his portfolio, is not aware of.

Source: ‘Seeking comfort and closure 67 years on’ by John Huxley, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June 2009

The little things that lead to electoral oblivion

Many of us who are interested in politics have pet theories about why the Howard Government so spectacularly foundered before the Rudd challenge in the 2007 Australian federal election.

The Coalition’s favourite theory for the loss is that the onset of generational change from Howard to Peter Costello, who announced this week he’s leaving politics, did not take place as it was supposed to. Certainly a contributing factor.

Labor claim it was the unpopular (with some) Work Choices legislation that put paid to the Coalition. Certainly that was cream on the cake for those voters who turned against the Howard Government.

But what was the cake?

In my analysis ‘the cake’ was the gradual accumulation of poor decisions, broken promises, ill-timed actions, stupid statements, snouts in troughs, half truths, plausible deniabilities and high handed dismissals of issues voters felt strongly about.

A steady accumulation of real and perceived wrongs and slights that gradually gave every constituency (from pensioners to students, navvies to the Navy) a reason why it should not vote for the incumbents. It took some years, but it happened.

So what’s this got to do with the Attitude, I hear you roar.

Well, I believe I’m seeing evidence that the Rudd Government is beginning to descend this slippery slope to electoral oblivion.

It won’t take a year, or even a term, but it will occur inevitably ‘as night follows day’ as former Prime Ministerial contender Andrew Peacock said as repeatedly as day follows night.

Let me take a step back. This year I’ve been engaged in a number of worthy projects for which federal government assistance is required. We’re not talking large amounts of money. Some require little lucre indeed.

National recognition of the Montevideo Maru tragedy. Cost: bugger all.

Official recognition of the contribution of kiaps to PNG. Cost: bugger all.

Putting much-needed history books into PNG schools could be done for half the price of the annual fee of an average AusAID consultant. Cost: Not quite bugger all but, in the grand scheme of government budgeting, pretty much bugger all.

In each of these recent cases, and others I could mention, I have witnessed responses drafted in the interstices of the bureaucracy put into the mouths of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries. I have read the weasel words. I have seen the eyes averted when reasonable action is sought. I have felt the negativity as if it were a physical affliction.

Negative, nay saying, disingenuous, uncooperative, hostile, responsibility-shifting words written by bureaucrats over the name of compliant Ministers to unnecessarily offend yet another constituency.

This government, despite Kevin Rudd’s inclusive rhetoric, is no more interested in engaging with rank and file citizens like you and me than it’s interested in flying economy class, staying in a three-star hotel and dining on a hamburger.

The accumulation of the little reasons that cause ultimate electoral grief has begun. We are witnessing it. Reasons so small they’re easy to ignore. But reasons so small they’re easy to fix. At least in the beginning. But in the end, reasons that give many of us a reason to say, “They’ve been there long enough”.

Meanwhile, we keep on keeping on.

Report on torpedoed ship not passed on; then lost

Exactly two weeks from today, on the 67th anniversary of its sinking, a memorial to the Montevideo Maru will be unveiled at Subic Bay in the Philippines. DON HOOK and KEITH JACKSON look at the enduring mystery behind Australia's greatest disaster at sea.

The Imperial Japanese Navy completed a report within six months into the sinking of the Montevideo Maru and provided a complete nominal roll of those on board, but the details were never passed to Australian authorities.

The Montevideo Maru sailed from Rabaul on 22 June 1942 bound for Hainan Island carrying 1,053 Australian prisoners of war and civilian internees. Nine days later, the USS Sturgeon torpedoed the ship off the Philippines island of Luzon and all prisoners died in Australia's greatest maritime disaster.

After the war ended, an Australian Army officer, Major HS Williams, was attached to the Recovered Personnel Division in Tokyo to investigate the sinking of the ship.

In a report dated 6 October 1945, Major Williams said many enquiries had been made about the fate of the prisoners by Australian authorities through the International Red Cross and the Swiss Legation in Tokyo  , but without effect.

He said three crew survivors, who reached Manila ten days after their ship went down, had alerted the Japanese Navy to the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

According to the Navy, an immediate search was ordered but due to the lapse of time no trace of either ship or men could be found.

On 20 July 1942 the Navy reported the sinking of the Montevideo Maru to the owners Osaka Shosen Kaisha.

After completing its investigation, the Navy forwarded details to the Huryo Joho Kyoku (Prisoner of War Information Bureau) on 6 January 1943. The details included a complete nominal roll of 845 POWs and 208 civilians who were on board and presumed dead.

Major Williams said the POW Information Bureau did not act on the details provided by the Navy. In fact, he said the details remained hidden in the bureau’s files until he discovered them on 28 September 1945.

When confronted, Lt-General Tamura in charge of the POW Information Bureau admitted that the details had been in the bureau’s possession since January 1943.

According to Major Williams, the general expressed regret that the information was not transmitted to Australia  but claimed it was “due to an oversight”.

In 1945 Major Williams, who was fluent in Japanese, brought the nominal (Katakana) roll back to Australia – where, incredibly, it was lost.

“I have no idea what happened to the Katakana roll,” says eminent ANU historian Prof Hank Nelson, who has extensively researched the fall of Rabaul. “It might turn up. Sometimes these things are referred to another department - say Attorney-General's, because some matter of law arises, or Foreign Affairs - and are subsequently located by accident.

“But the more people who are alerted to the fact that it is important and missing, then the chances of it turning up increase.”

And, speaking of the efforts by the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee to get greater official recognition of the sinking and a renewed commitment to searching for the missing roll, Prof Nelson adds: “So power to your campaign.”

Country life: It's all sleet, steins & sentiment

Leiderhosen neatly ironed, stein at the ready, COLIN HUGGINS reports from the nearest hofbrauhaus in Hahndorf

Lederhosen Sunday in Burra is a write off. Sleet and winds from the South Pole mean only one thing. As close to a heater as possible. There are no photos at villages not there except for stones with me looking touristy in yellow pullover and matching beanie. None.

Similar conditions on Monday when Val Rivers and I set sail for the two hour trip to Hahndorf. Val can’t remember where we booked but it turns out to be a comfortable motel behind the Hahndorf Inn, blaring out hofbrauhaus music. Hahndorf is deutsche, deutsche, deutsche, could have been Bavaria.

You buy German beer in steins: Munchner Kindl Hefe Weizen, Hofbrau Dunkel, Hofbrau Pilsener. But unless there's money coming out of your ears you won't even get tiddly - a stein is $10.60.

I had one and did the hofbrau whack on the wooden table and that was that. I also sang the Drinking Song. Mario Lanza wept.

At 2 we presented ourselves at Dr Mary Guntner and Rudi's place. A Lutheran Church retirement village. The talk was Finschhafen, Dregerhafen, Butaweng, tennis, the old club, water skiing, people we could remember.

Mary recalled Gil Cook, Stu Woodger, Merv Dunkin, Judy (Peters) Duggan, Rover Leung plus kiaps and didimen Smith, Hoag, Oates and Hughes.

Val and I are now proud owners of Mary's book Doctor in Paradise. Mine is inscribed ‘With love from your tennis partner - Mary W Guntner’. That made this trip.

‘Good Book’ author Reg Thomson dies at 89

Mark Thomson & Graeme Parry

Reg Thomson was born in the Victorian goldfields in 1919. He left school at thirteen to work in a series of jobs in rural Victoria, joined the YMCA and enlisted in the Australian Army in 1941. He served in several theatres of war, including on the Bulldog Road in New Guinea and at Balikpapan in Borneo.

Following demobilisation, Reg gained admission to the University of Adelaide under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Scheme. On completion of a Diploma in Social Science he joined the colonial administration in PNG as a junior education officer. In preparation for his colonial service in early 1949 he was admitted to the ASOPA in Sydney. His association with the school lasted for 24 years, both as a student and later as a sometime lecturer.

From the late 1950s until 1973, Reg was chief of the Division of Social Development and Director of Child Welfare within the PNG Administration. This was a time of rapid social and political change, and his responsibilities were many and varied. Specialised offices in his division included child welfare, urban resettlement, training, youth work and women’s activities.

His community development officers were based in all districts. Their duties included community development projects and community education including health promotion and political education. Referrals under child welfare and adoption legislation brought them into close contact with courts and legal aid agencies. They worked with government and non government agencies in many activities including case work and counseling, migration referrals, grants in aid, pensions and sports development and the licensing and inspection of child care centres.

Prior to Reg’s arrival there were few written guidelines. Child welfare and adoption legislation were relatively new. Reg and his staff produced a range of publications which provided a “road map” through unfamiliar territory.

Through these activities and in many other ways, Reg built a number of agencies which became part of a modern social welfare system for PNG. His staff remember him with respect and affection. He was honoured by the PNG government for his outstanding contribution.

At the age of 89, Reg recently published his memoir, Looking for a Good Book. Early in his life Reg became an avid book collector. His book is a ‘tale of a gentle madness’, the story of a book collector thrown hither and thither by tumultuous events beyond his control.

Reg died on 2 June and is survived by his son Mark and daughter Julie.

PNG anti-Asian riots inquiry makes slow start

The bipartisan committee of 15 Members of Parliament established to inquire into Asian owned and operated businesses in PNG has made a slow start.

Maxtone-Graham_Jamie     Jamie Maxtone-Graham MP [left], the chairman of the committee has set up a blog to get feedback about the inquiry, but after thre weeks it’s pretty bare of ideas. PNG Attitude readers who have views to express may link to it here.

The terms of reference of the committee are to:

(a) investigate and report on the root causes of the spate rioting and vandalism against foreign, especially Asian, businesses;

(b) review the types of businesses owned and operated by Asians;

(c) investigate the causes of resentment by nationals against Asian businesses, whether it be:

(i) the quality of goods and services

(ii) workplace ethics and demands placed on nationals

(iii) lack of understanding of the culture in specific regions where Asians do business

(iv) whether lack of or inefficient delivery of government services, population growth and lack of development in rural areas are forcing nationals to vent their frustrations on Asian businesses

The committee is able to recommend changes to the relevant laws governing foreign involvement in PNG businesses and has been asked to “present its report and recommendations to Parliament as soon as it is able to do so”.

The committee has established four sub-committees, each of which will carry out inquiries in private and public hearings in the Momase, Highlands, Southern and New Guinea Islands regions. The Committee has called upon individuals, NGOs, businesses, churches and 14 relevant Government agencies to make representations and written submissions.

People presenting evidence will do so under the protection of Parliamentary privilege. People unable to attend public hearings may post information on the chairman’s blog.

Anti-corruption rallies in Moresby & Kokopo


An energetic Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane and PNG Transparency International chairman Peter Aitsi lead yesterday’s early morning Walk Against Corruption in Port Moresby. Despite bad weather hundreds of people also marched in Kokopo.

Ilya Gridneff of AAP, who covered the Port Moresby march, said only three Members of Parliament turned up, all of them from the Opposition.

Photo: Ekar Keapu, The National

PNG’s Winis revered footballer on western border

Richard Jones


PNG-born Aussie Rules coach Winis Imbi is a revered figure in Victoria's far south-west region.

As playing coach of Portland in the Western Border Football League, Imbi led the Tigers to the 2008 premiership and nine rounds into this season  Portland sits undefeated at the top of the ladder.

Imbi, 30, was born in PNG and spent the first 11 years of his life there. His mother moved the family to ortland where she had relatives.

The cold, windy winters were something of a reality check for the Papua New Guineans but they coped and Winis, in particular, thrived. He played footy in the local junior competition and by his mid-teens had caught the eye of scouts from the North Ballarat Rebels, a leading club in the TAC Cup under-18 competition.

Awarded a scholarship to St Patrick's College, Imbi moved to Ballarat. He played in the Rebels' 1997 premiership team. The side also included Adam Goodes (a Brownlow Medal star these days with the Sydney Swans) and North Melbourne's Shannon Watt.

Although overlooked in the AFL national draft despite selection in the TACCup team of the Year for '97, Imbi was eventually rookie-listed by Essendon. He made a few appearances for the Bombers in the pre-season Ansett Cup and then was cleared to North Melbourne where he had a short stint.

Injuries ended his AFL hopes so he completed a teaching degree before returning home to Portland in 2003. Since then he's won the WBFL fairest and best medal, helped the club win the flag under the coaching of former Adelaide Crows' midfielder, Brodie Atkinson, and then captained the Tigers in their 2006-2007-2008 premierships.

The hat-trick of flags was Portland's first in its 123-year history.

No longer a dashing speedster Imbi is now a stocky, bustling defender. On Saturday (June 13th) he led the Tigers to an 18.7 (115) to 15.11 (101) victory over fifth-placed North Gambier.

The Western Border Football League straddles two states. Five clubs, four of them from the City of Mount Gambier and one from Millicent, are South Australian-based. The other five clubs are from Victoria's south-west region.

With thanks to Adam McNicol and The Sunday Age

Photo: Winis Imbi [centre] leads his team off the ground

Talk to the trees: PNG’s big dollar ‘carbon trades’

PNG’s Office of Climate Change (OCC) seems to be in strife after a proposal to make $625 million from non-existent carbon trading was revealed.

Last month a PNG governors’ conference sought a probe into OCC affairs. Eastern Highlands governor, Malcolm Kela-Smith, a resolute critic of OCC, sponsored a motion that, until audit and Public Accounts Committee reports are delivered, the Office should be restrained from issuing carbon credits or approving carbon trade projects.

The governors say they don’t want OCC to be a regulator, participant or beneficiary of carbon trading. Instead they want it to operate as a normal government agency. They want it to consult with provincial governments in drawing up legislation to control the proposed trade. The governors clearly don’t trust OCC.

Furthermore, they are writing to the Norwegian government, the UN and AusAID to record their disquiet with OCC. Norway has expressed interest in buying carbon credits for the preservation of a huge forest area in the Sepik.

Let me backtrack a bit. At the centre of PNG’s climate change controversy is climate change ambassador, Kevin Conrad, who in Bali two years ago challenged the US to lead the world on climate change or “get out of the way”.

Mr Conrad is also a director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, an alliance of 33 countries promoting avoided deforestation – that is, stopping trees being chopped down.

The main thrust of the Coalition is that, if rich countries want poor countries to preserve their forests as a way of reducing carbon emissions to keep the planet cool, they should pay the poor countries to stop deforesting.

At present the UN does not endorse offsets based on avoided deforestation. But the proposed process for formalising carbon trading is now the subject of international talks in Bonn and the UN and donor countries such as Norway are enthusiastic about the approach — which PNG has been promoting.

Even before agreement has been reached, a market has emerged in avoided deforestation on the assumption that, one day soon, real credits will be delivered. And the PNG Government seems to have got in early - apparently pre-emptively issuing them. At a price.

“The OCC has no legal mandate to issue any forest carbon credits,” said Prime Minister Somare’s press secretary, Betha Somare, who claimed officials are investigating how credits came to be issued. According to a report in the respected UK business magazine, The Economist, at least 39 other ‘credits’ have been issued by OCC.

One of these caused particular outrage in PNG: 800,000 hectares of virgin rainforest in Kamula Duso, one of the reasons for the crisis meeting of the governors last month.

After being confronted with a copy of the Kamula Duso credit by The Economist last week, Ms Somare said “very recently apparent irregularities within OCC have come to our attention.

“As a result the prime minister has asked for a review to be carried out and a report to be made to his office,” she said.

Kevin Conrad has commented that it’s too early to state what went wrong but says an “independent review” is underway, mounting a defence that “carbon speculators” are putting pressures on landowners in many countries to sell large tracts of forest ahead of a possible deal on avoided deforestation in Copenhagen later this year.

Some might say it’s a case of ‘give me the money or the tree gets it’.

1966 – education's year of sympathy & stability

LOCH BLATCHFORD continues to weave the history of PNG education from the voluminous files of the Blatchford Collection

1966 is a year of top level appointments which provide sympathy and stability for education. Donald Cleland retires as Administrator and is replaced by David Hay. John Gunther, rejected for Secretary of the Department of Territories, resigns and is appointed Vice Chancellor of UPNG. Les Johnson replaces Gunther as Assistant Administrator.

Ken McKinnon, after resistance from George Warwick Smith, replaces Johnson as Director of Education - even though Don Owner is acting Director for most of the year. Matthias Toliman fills the newly created position of Under-Secretary for the Department of Education. William Duncanson, formerly Professor of Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology is appointed Director of the PNG Institute of Technology, which has its site moved from Port Moresby to Lae.

1966 is a year of planning. Other departments are becoming interested in the direction of education. Johnson goes overseas to study planning. A five-year plan is produced by May, but Treasurer APJ Newman and the Economic Adviser (Bill McCasker) are not satisfied. They want the Department to conduct a policy review.

Johnson, now Assistant Administrator, agrees. Views are widely canvassed and the country’s first census, held in June-July provides useful information for planning efforts.

The cost of education is paramount. The House of Assembly suggests introducing school fees, cheaper school construction and axing secondary education allowances. Government loans to missions is replaced by a subsidy. A UN loan of £1.5 million is obtained to construct Goroka Teachers' College.

Emphasis is also placed on improving the quality of education. Course content is revised to make it more relevant to the Territory. The secondary Science and Mathematics syllabi are modified. In technical education, the syllabus for technical schools is revised. A new Mathematics syllabus is planned for primary and a revision of the primary syllabus is ready for the printer.

Measures are introduced to raise teacher status and standards. Secondary teacher training is linked to the university and teacher exchange schemes are undertaken. Attempts are made to upgrade A and B course trained teachers to C course level through correspondence courses. 700 apprentices undertake correspondence tuition.

Fifty-seven students enrol in the preliminary year of UPNG and it is anticipated the majority will enter the first year of formal degree studies in 1967.

Localisation and preparation for independence continue. Five indigenous inspectors of schools are appointed – Alkan Tololo, Tau Boga, Kwamala Kalo, Paulias Matane and Mata Tau. Senior Officers Courses are increased and a one year Senior Officer Preparation course is introduced.

The House of Assembly is expanded and given some control over internal expenditure. The Constitutional Planning Committee increases the number of open electorates from 44 to 69 and special from 10 to 15.

To reassure permanent overseas officers they are not to be treated unfairly during this process, an Employment Security Scheme is announced. It will help replaced officers find other employment or provide them with reasonable compensation.

The complete abstracts of the Blatchford Collection 1966 are now published on Attitude Extra

Thousands to march against PNG corruption

In a spectacular outpouring of public discontent, more than 4,000 people are expected to join Walks Against Corruption in PNG tomorrow.

Around 3,000 people are expected to turn out in the capital Port Moresby and 1,000 others will take part in a march in Kokopo.

The walk is organised by Transparency International in PNG and is expected to raise K325,000 to support TI’s objectives in the fight against corruption.

People from 125 corporations and 93 schools as well as 2,500 individuals will participate in the demand for greater honesty and integrity in the political, public and commercial life of PNG.

Transparency International says it has been “overwhelmed” by the level of interest in the march. It said the response was so big it had to close registration for participants.

TI chairman, Peter Aitsi, told Radio Australia that mismanagement of the country's resources are keeping it poor. "The community is obviously concerned about the current situation,” he said.

“There is an ongoing deterioration of the ability of government to deliver services to its rural majority and out of those concerns has come this overwhelming support by the public to take part in this walk against corruption.”

Marchers will assemble at Murray Barracks Oval in Port Moresby at 5.30 am and the walk will move along 3 Mile Road, Angau Drive and back to Murray Barracks Oval.

The list of sponsors of the walk is a who’s who of PNG public, private and NGO enterprise, including some organisations that probably should take a harder look at their own practices.

Climate change - caught in the cleft of a big stick

PAUL OATES looks at an exquisite carbon trade contradiction

Articles in PNG and Australian newspapers have highlighted the next stage of
the potentially farcical debate over carbon trading.

In the Post Courier ['Carbon trade gets funding' by Poreni Umau], Luther Wenge, that clear sighted Morobe Governor, is reported to have allocated K150,000 for an inventory check of what trees are available for carbon trading in the Kasanombe village of the Nawaeb District.

In another article ['PNG and Carbon Trade'], James Gore points out that there is no global regulatory framework available to manage carbon trading. If and when there is one, the developed countries will clearly have the ability to continue what they are doing now and simply pay off the developing countries with carbon credits. (Olaman! Aiting nupela bengbeng ikamap nauia.)

PNG's population has doubled in less than 30 years and is set to do the same again. The available land to grow food is decreasing as a huge amount of land has been taken up with foreign owned, broad-scale plantations to produce so called (and politically favoured) 'green' biofuels.

Encouraged by the PNG government, vast tracts of PNG have already been logged by foreign timber companies. Now there is an expectation that developed countries will pay PNG people to leave existing trees alone and not chop them down for future firewood and space for food gardens when the current gardens are exhausted - a very fast process in the tropics.

Exactly what are people going to use for fuel or where will they find land to grow more food? Should payments for these carbon credits conceivably trickle down to rural PNG landholders, what will they be used for?

It doesn't take much imagination to see the choice that awaits the rural people: Either sitting beside a kerosene stove and cooking imported fish and rice or using traditional means to grow and cook their food from communally owned but still forested land.

But, in today's Melbourne Herald-Sun there appears to be a glimmer of hope. Ben Packham reports ['Climate laws add to police workload'] that Australian Federal Police will have the role of carbon cops and will be inspecting and policing climate offences.

In other words, in addition to their current duties, the Feds will now have the extra duty of policing those who don't follow the new Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority regulations.

Presumably, on the other side of the Torres Strait, PNG will follow suit by having its already underfunded and disintegrating Police Service monitor whether trees, that we in the developed world have paid to have protected in perpetuity, are not cut down by hungry and cold Papua New Guineans.

This is history PNG students can’t do without

RUTH SAOVANA-SPRIGGS makes a plea for the Eric Johns’ history books to take their rightful place in PNG schools

Eric Johns, an Australian, former high school teacher and lecturer at the Ward Strip Teachers College in Port Moresby in the 1960s and 1970s, not only has a love of the history of the people of PNG.

The work Eric has been doing in writing and publishing PNG history is of great value to the children and people of PNG. It will no doubt contribute towards raising the standard of education as well as helping build up a well informed population.

From my perspective as a Papua New Guinean who went through the national education system in the 1960s and 1970s, history was not considered an important subject, especially in primary and high school.

With the benefit of hindsight, colonial and national history should be taught, one of the aims being to foster a greater appreciation of the history of the nation told through the lives of prominent Papua New Guineans.

This is important for a number of reasons.

First, attempts to bring about a single national identity and unity against the tide of more than 800 different local languages, small-scale social and political entities, a weak modern infrastructure and operation, and a host of other social, political and economic issues and problems, ‘nation building’ will always be a difficult.

Secondly, it is a fact that since independence education standards have been falling and this is an ongoing concern to parents.

Thirdly, reading is very important, it underpins development. In PNG reading is not part of traditional lifestyles, yet is crucial to development. The national history books Eric Johns continues to work on capture the essence. His work is an excellent initiative and would contribute a great deal towards the enhancement of education system in PNG.

I’ve seen and read Eric’s collection. It is well researched and well written. I love and enjoy his work very much.

I strongly recommend Eric Johns’ work be given financial support, so it can be reproduced and introduced in PNG through the national education system.

Dr Ruth Saovana-Spriggs is from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. She is a research fellow in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies and a lecturer in the Pacific Studies Program at the Australian National University.

Country Life: where time is frozen to the spot

From COLIN HUGGINS in Burra, South Australia

Burra I'm here in Burra North at Val Rivers'  1849 cottage (a mere 17 rooms!) which until 1917 served as an inn. Burra was founded with the discovery of copper in the 1840's and was inhabited by migrants from Cornwall and Wales and Germans from the Harz Mountains.

Burra is three hours drive north of Adelaide. The countryside is lush from recent rains and the merinos are in fine fettle. The town is heritage listed and it seems nothing’s changed since the 19th century. Plenty of stone cottages - B & B's and antique shops. At Pharaoh's Tomb you can purchase, for the modest price of $950, a Shell petrol bowser. There’s also a bullock cart. Perfect for the front porch.

The nearby hotel (1850) serves great meals in front of a log fire - compulsory at present. The poker machines are vintage – they only take coins.

This morning I did the two kilometre heritage walk to Burra Central and purchased the obligatory key rings. The people are friendly, speaking sentences as one word - "Howyagoin".

I am staying in the B & B that Val rents out - bedroom (with heater, thank God), bathroom, sitting room and kitchen with all necessary appliances.

I walked to a stone bridge crossing a dry creek full of coolibahs and peppercorn trees. I was tempted to renew my childhood and climb a peppercorn but on reflection thought otherwise - how would I get down?

If you took the cars off the streets and removed the telephone poles it is 1850. Some properties have cottages minus roofs - something to do with taxes way back. Bullock drays in backyards, horse hitching posts and mail boxes Queen Victoria would have been proud of.

This town has stood still in a time freeze. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Baby it's cold outside!

How Canberra (briefly) stymied Ken McKinnon

It’s 1966. I’m at Gagl Primary T School somewhere in the middle of New Guinea teaching kids English and learning to ride a motorbike. Later in the year I’ll be transferred to Port Moresby, and the sweet life of town, to run school publications. The motorbike comes with me, totally buggered after six months hard labour on clay tracks.

Don Owner is Acting Director of Education. Les Johnson has departed for the greener and elevated pastures of Assistant Administrator of TPNG. An up-and-comer named Ken McKinnon is cutting a swathe through the educational bureaucracy.

But in the bush, we barely know these names. Moresby is far away and the only man to be taken seriously is the District Inspector who, once a year, visits briefly, sniffs the air and tells you where you’re going wrong.

In the bush, the matter of who will run the education system in a territory hurtling towards independence is of no consequence. We worry mainly about how to keep the beer cold and the meat frozen. But in Moresby, and to the developing nation, educational leadership is of vital importance.

And in the bureaucracy of Konedobu, where politics play out just as hard as in the House of Assembly down the road past Sir Hubert Murray Stadium and Hal Holman's unfinished ferro-cement catamaran, the matter of who runs Education burns with fierce intensity.

Educational historian Loch Blatchford records a conversation he had with Les Johnson in April 1982, long after the events in question took place: events that eventually led to the appointment of PNG’s fourth Director of Education.

 “McKinnon was the obvious successor, of course. Owner was the senior departmental officer but would have been a most unsuitable head. We set up a selection committee which consisted of [Territories Secretary, George] Warwick Smith and one other. We interviewed a short list of candidates.

“There were a couple of Australians – academics and inspectors of schools, there was Owner, and there was McKinnon. It was crystal clear that McKinnon was so far ahead of the others that it would be ludicrous to consider anybody else. So the committee unanimously agreed to appoint McKinnon.

“Warwick Smith held it up for a year just because he did not like McKinnon. We were stymied for a year with Owner vegetating in the job and this committee had unanimously recommended McKinnon.”

This conversation – and all the other significant educational events of 1966 - is chronicled in The Blatchford Collection for 1966, now on site in Attitude Extra.

Tracking the Trail: undying controversy lives on

Slouch-Hat Has NSW Liberal parliamentarian Charlie Lynn breathed new life into a fight that is taking a very long time to reach the bell at the end of the fifteenth round?

Is it the Kokoda Trail, as I grew up with and then had confirmed upon my PNG landfall, or the Kokoda Track?

According to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith it’s ‘the Track’. And, in a comment on PNG Attitude, Charlie takes exception to this.

While complimenting the Rudd Government for its positive re-engagement with PNG – making the point that “we must ensure we do not take a 'big-brother' approach as we have in the past” (presumably when the Howard Government was in power) - Charlie reckons that Australians must recognise the right of Papua New Guineans to call the Kokoda Trail … the Kokoda Trail.

“We must … respect their right to name geographical features,” he says. “According to the PNG statute books the correct name for the track between Owers Corner and Kokoda is 'The Kokoda Trail'. The reference is PNG Government Gazette No 88 of 12 October 1972, page 1362, column 2. Notice 1972/28 of the PNG Place Names Committee."

Editorial interpolation: A pre-independence statute that I presume still obtains.

Charlie goes on: “If we would like it changed to 'The Kokoda Track' to satisfy some of the new-age historians in Australia then we should follow due process according to PNG law. Until then Australian officials should refer to it by its correct title.”

I bet it’s the first time Stephen Smith, our small but perfectly formed Foreign Minister, has been called a “new-age historian”.

Historical footnote from the Australian War Memorial:

There has been a considerable debate about whether the difficult path that crossed the Owen Stanley Range should be called the Kokoda Trail or the Kokoda Track.

Both Trail and Track have been in common use since the war.

Trail is probably of American origin but has been used in many Australian history books and was adopted by the Australian Army as an official Battle Honour.

Track is from the language of the Australian bush. It is commonly used by veterans, and is used in the volumes of Australia's official history.

Both terms are correct, but Trail appears to be used more widely.

Dr Geoffrey Gibson, teacher educator, dies at 79

Laurie Meintjes

Dr Geoffrey Gibson died in Cooranbong NSW on 14 May. Geof began his long association with education in PNG when he arrived at Sogeri High School in 1956. He later became Head of Teacher Education, before teaching at UPNG. In 1985 he became Head of Education at Pacific Adventist College (now Pacific Adventist University).

Geof returned to Australia in the early 1990s following a health scare, and settled at Nambour. More recently, following a stroke, he was admitted to the Avondale Aged Care facility in Cooranbong NSW.

A man of utmost integrity, Geof dedicated himself to his work and is remembered with affection by hundreds of past students, including Sir Paulias Matane who was among the first cohort of young students at Sogeri in 1956 where he first met Geof, the pair going on to become lifelong friends.

Geof was an inspirational teacher and person. He gave his life to education in New Guinea and longed to be back in harness even after he was forced to return to Australia because of ill health.

He was always a very private person and not many people knew that he was awarded the OBE in 1983 for his contribution to education in PNG. He received the award from the Queen herself. Coincidentally, she was then in the 32nd year of her reign and Geof in his 32nd year of teaching, having taken up the "chalk and talk" in Victoria in 1951.

There will be a detailed obituary of Geof in the July PNG Attitude newsletter.

Ministerial forum addresses the wrong issues

PAUL OATES asks why today’s Australia-PNG ministerial forum is avoiding key questions about PNG's political and social problems

The 19th Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum you say? ...... Sounds like a splendid recipe for a talk fest if ever I heard of one.

If the last Forum held at Madang was "highly successful", one is tempted to ask, exactly what made it so? Did we see any change after the Madang Forum in Australia's role in assisting our closest neighbour? Why did it take a recent visit by the PNG PM to get our PM to express a change in emphasis in our AusAID policies? Where were the outcomes of the 18th Forum at Madang expressed or summarised and evaluated prior to holding the 19th?

So with a cast of many high level Ministers attending the 'much publicised' 19th Forum in Brisbane, we can obviously expect to see a joint communiqué issued after today's meeting with appropriate methodologies for evaluating the decisions that are reached at this high level conference? Obviously, before yet another Forum is held (the 20th), we will see some accountable results expressed and previously stated benchmarks being achieved? Clearly all these government Minister's are eagerly expecting to impress on the PNG team their department's importance and need to ensure PNG's government policies reflect a concomitant view or as expressed in bureaucratise as, "a bilateral issue".

But where is the importance of Public Health and Education? What about Law and Order and the fast, failing Police Force, the recent riots and the disintegration of the fabric of a cohesive nation state? What about assisting Public Service governance and some appropriate up skilling of government employees I hear you say? What about the future of AusAID?

Well of course, Climate Change, the Kokoda Track and other far more important issues have first to be considered, discussed and even debated. After all, it's a matter of priorities and the REALLY important ones for Australia's current government must be considered first. So with a full day to discuss and resolve all the crucial issues affecting the Australia-PNG relationship and with a huge team of qualified and knowledgeable advisers to prepare and help ministers understand the issues at hand, its a relief to know there will be some guaranteed, constructive and worthwhile results achieved for today's forum.

My, but I'm so glad I've not started to become a tad cynical in my senior years.....

Australia & PNG meet to discuss mutual issues

Like most matters concerning PNG, as we’ve noted previously in the Attitude, the 19th Australia-PNG ministerial forum to be held today in Brisbane has received little media publicity.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith is co-chairing the forum with his PNG counterpart, Sam Abal. This meeting follows the highly successful forum held in Madang in April last year.

A soccer team of nine Australian ministers and two parliamentary secretaries make up the Australian delegation, demonstrating the importance the government places on our bilateral relationship with PNG.

In addition to Mr Smith, the Australian Ministers attending are: Simon Crean, Senator Chris Evans, Senator Penny Wong, Peter Garrett, Tony Burke, Martin Ferguson, Alan Griffin, Senator Nick Sherry, Duncan Kerr and Bob McMullan.

“PNG plays an important leadership role in the Pacific region and the forum is the primary opportunity for regular ministerial level engagement on issues of shared importance to Australia and PNG,” said Mr Smith. “We will discuss a wide range of key bilateral issues including our Partnership for Development, the Kokoda Track and climate change.

“In addition, we will discuss important economic issues at a time when the global recession is creating new challenges for governments throughout the world. We will also have the opportunity to engage closely with business and industry representatives involved in the bilateral trade and investment relationship.”

Rabaul POWs were fearful of submarine attacks

Don Hook

As the inauguration of the privately-funded memorial to the Montevideo Maru at Subic Bay on Wednesday 1 July draws nearer, PNG Attitude is featuring regular stories on the events of this time.

USS_Sturgeon Australian prisoners of war boarding the ill-fated Montevideo Maru at Rabaul on Monday 22 June 1942 were fearful of being attacked by American submarines.

Nine days later, less than an hour after midnight on Wednesday 1 July, the ship was torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon [pictured] at a point about 11 km off Cape Bojeador Lighthouse on the north-west corner of the Philippines island of Luzon.

All 1,053 prisoners locked in the ship’s holds - 845 Australian troops and 208 civilians – lost their lives.

Captain Lex Fraser, a commando officer who was a POW in Rabaul from February to July 1942 says that, shortly before sailing, the troops were separated from their officers.

“We were told they were to be transported on a 10-day voyage to a better place with plenty of food and accommodation, and away from the front line,” Captain Fraser says.

“That sort of story was told everywhere to POWs and we did not believe it any more than others.

“Our guess at the time was that they were going to Hainan Island, and even then we were fearful of American submarine attack.

“We knew that they [the US submarines] were active, as the Japanese stores were getting low due to shipping losses.”

Captain Fraser, second-in-charge of the First Independent Company headquartered at Kavieng, said the POWs were very worried about the separation and they’d exchanged addresses hoping that one day they’d meet again.

Map_Mainichi_Shimbun Writing in his unit’s history We Were The First, Captain Fraser said he could still visualise his batman, Pat Byrne, who had just had his 18th birthday. “I had become very close to him and it was sad meeting with his mother in Sydney after the war when I had to tell her his fate.”

Captain Fraser, his fellow officers and a group of Army and civilian nurses boarded another Japanese freighter, the Naruto Maru on 5 July – about a fortnight after the Montevideo Maru sailed.

“We had several submarine warnings and were fastened down into the hold while the convoy scattered. We could hear the explosion of depth charges in the distance, apparently dropped by the escort destroyer.”

The Naruto Maru arrived at Yokohama Harbour on Tokyo Bay on 14 July. During the next three years, the officers and nurses were prisoners at various locations throughout Japan.

After the war, Lex Fraser returned home to Ingham in Far North Queensland where he still lives. He is now aged 90 and has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to the community.

Map showing the route of the Montevideo Maru and the location of its sinking [Mainichi Shimbun, 8 June 2009]

Are you getting your fair share of newsletters?

It’s been a busy weekend here at Jackson Publishing. Two newsletters produced and distributed to a growing list of (free) subscribers.

The circulation of PNG Attitude is moving towards 200 (and there I was a couple of months ago thinking the blog might preclude continuing the newsletter at all).

The Montevideo Maru Newsletter (number 2 just published) now has about 70 subscribers.

If you’d like to subscribe free to either of these newsletters you can do so by emailing me here. Meanwhile, here’s a content summary of this month’s publications:

Attitude_136 PNG Attitude Newsletter 136

Gelab Piak: Seeking answers to the PNG riots
Keith Jackson: Illegals & triads, behind the PNG riots
Feature: Bigman, gavman & planti giaman tumas
Terry Shelley: PNG today: poverty & hardship
Keith Jackson: Australia doesn’t know PNG
Paul Oates: Has PNG robbed a generation?
Sean Dorney: Albert Asbury and Papua New Guinea
Half of Australia's PNG aid spent on consultants
AusAID - denying PNG access to its own history
John Kleinig: Oro project: from strength to strength
First PNG candidates stand for PNGAA committee
Controversy surrounds ‘climate hero’
Loch Blatchford: teachers organise & politics stirs
Obituaries: Sir David Hay, former PNG Administrator, & Allan Jones, PNG educator

MM_2 Montevideo Maru Newsletter 2

Keith Jackson: Salvos join forces with Committee
Katrina Adamski: Quest for closure on worst sea disaster
Keith Jackson: One aeroplane flight, two John Curtins
Lindsay Cox: Tragedy of the bandsmen of Brunswick
Chris Diercke: Passage denied: Saga of MS Herstein
Phil Ainsworth: The story of Harry Francis Schiffmann
Book: Brave and True: From Blue to Khaki - the Band of the 2/22nd Battalion
Phil Ainsworth: Some thoughts on Australian hostages of fortune

Harry West honoured in Queen’s Birthday awards

Harry West Former President of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, Harry West, has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the Association.

Until he retired from active office last year, Mr West had served as Secretary of the PNGAA for ten years and President for sixteen years. In April 2008 he was unanimously voted an honorary life member for outstanding and meritorious service to the Association, only the third such appointment in its 58-year history.

His humility and a gentle manner belie his underpinning achievements and leadership qualities as demonstrated in his handling of one of the most difficult assignments in pre-Independence PNG: his role of District Commissioner of East New Britain at a time of serious civil unrest.

Harry West enlisted in the Australian Army at Paddington in Sydney on 3 February 1942 and was discharged at Lae on 1 March 1946 as a Lieutenant in the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit.

His PNG career effectively began in 1944 when the Army sought applicants for aspirant patrol officers to attend the School of Civil Affairs. He was interviewed by Colonel JK Murray, later the first Administrator of Papua New Guinea, Les Haylen MP and JR Halligan, Secretary of the Department of External Territories. With 40 other young men, he was sent to the School, based at Duntroon and, after five months, 16, including Mr West, were posted to PNG.

In October 1945, the Territories of Papua and New Guinea – administered separately under military rule – were returned to civil administration. This transition was to be formally effected by a treaty signed by Colonel Murray, representing the civil administration, and Lieutenant-General Sir Horace Robertson and Major-General Basil Morris, commanding the respective territories. Colonel Murray waited at Salamaua for Robertson and Morris, but transport difficulties intervened. So Lieutenants Harry West and Bert Wickham, the only ANGAU officers available, signed these important historical documents on the generals’ behalf.

Mr West took his Army discharge in Lae in March 1946 and was soon in the Highlands where, with Assistant District Officer Jack Costelloe and medical assistant Gray Hartley, he was responsible what is now the Simbu Province, at that time mostly classified as ‘uncontrolled’ and the scene of rampant tribal fighting.

In 1948-49, he undertook further training at ASOPA before being posted as Assistant District Officer at the remote outpost of Telefomin in the Sepik District. Here he led contact patrols to bring the rule of law to the fierce tribes in the Oksapmin and the May River areas, involving long and dangerous expeditions across mountainous terrain, out of radio contact and beyond airdrops.

Mr West was subsequently transferred to Aitape in 1951 and in 1952 to Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands District. Here he argued for the route – which remains to this day – for the vital road through the Kassam Pass linking the Highlands to the coast. He assessed that the route chosen by his predecessor was impractical and decided on an alternative. Thus the first motor track into the Highlands, now a highway, became a reality.

In 1956 Mr West, by then a District Officer in Goroka, assisted the Eastern Highlands District Commissioner, Bill Seale, inaugurate the now celebrated Goroka Show. In the following year he was promoted to Acting District Commissioner of the Southern Highlands. In 1958-59, he served as the first Australian liaison officer in Netherlands New Guinea, based in Hollandia at a time of serious conflict between the Indonesians and the Dutch, whose administration was collapsing.

Mr West was transferred to Rabaul as Deputy District Commissioner (later District Commissioner) in 1959. He remained there for over ten years, his period of office encompassing a time of tension over land that culminated in the Mataungan uprising, during which he was regarded as a cool and competent administrator in an extremely difficult period of civil unrest. His period in Rabaul was marked by his deep-seated understanding and sympathy for the problems being experienced by the Tolai people.

For two months in 1967, Mr West was assigned to United Nations headquarters in New York as Australia’s Special Representative at the Trusteeship Council’s 34th Session during the review of Australia’s administration of the Trust Territory.

Towards the end of his career in PNG Mr West was promoted to First Assistant Secretary for Native Affairs in the Department of the Administrator, later the Department of the Chief Minister, before leaving PNG in 1973.

Andrea’s quest for closure on worst sea disaster

Katrina Adamski, North Shore Times

NST_H&S Andrea Williams remembers growing up on an idyllic island in Papua New Guinea. Little did she know that her family would be tangled up in the mystery of what happened to the men who were killed in Australia's worst maritime disaster.

The Montevideo Maru, a Japanese prisoner-of-war ship, was torpedoed on July 1, 1942, off the coast of the Philippines with the loss of 845 Australian troops and 208 civilians - 1053 men.

Mrs Williams, now living at St Ives, said the prisoners had been put to hard labour in the township of Rabaul in PNG before being sent to sea. Her grandfather, Philip Coote, and her grandmother’s brother, Hugh Scott, were civilians who were listed as being on the ship when it was targeted by the Americans as “fair game”.

“It sank within a few minutes and there has never been a proper memorial dedicated to the men who died,” Mrs Williams, 53, said.

“The relatives of these men would like some recognition because they simply disappeared from our lives. Neither the ship nor the prisoners were ever recovered despite it remaining Australia's greatest single maritime disaster.

“Many questions remain unanswered, but all we want is for the Federal Government to fund a memorial in their honour.”

Her solace is being a member of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee, which represents the interests of the families of soldiers and civilians captured in Rabaul. Their greatest achievement is organising for a plaque to be erected next month in Subic Bay, 150km from where the ship sank off the Philippines.

Another member, Albert Speer, of Naremburn, who knew Mrs Williams’s grandmother, has devoted many years to looking for answers about who was on board. Mr Speer, 87, is keen that a katakana nominal roll (the only proof of who was on board), which he saw in New Guinea in the early 1960s, is located.

The Australian government ran a brief, closed inquiry into the fall of Rabaul in May, 1942, but it ended before the Montevideo Maru sailed. At the end of World War II the government said there had already been an inquiry into Rabaul and nothing would be gained by having another.

“I served during the war as a field ambulance officer in New Guinea and after the war I was posted to Rabaul as a medical assistant,” Mr Speer said.

“I became interested in the ship’s history and wanted to find out the truth. I’ve been searching for many years because the mystery remains about missing documents and who was on board. I won’t ever give up. It’s a never-ending search.”

Salvos join forces with Montevideo committee

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee has been boosted by the appointment of two members of the Salvation Army, John Cleary and Lindsay Cox, by Australian Territorial Commander, Commissioner James Knaggs.

“The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was a tragedy for the Salvation Army, with the loss of so many Salvation Army Bandsmen who were part of the 2/22nd Battalion,” Commissioner Knaggs said. “Please know that we are supportive of the efforts of the Committee, and would be willing to provide whatever support is appropriate and possible.”

The Committee was established earlier this year to represent the interests of the families of the soldiers and civilians captured in Rabaul and the New Guinea islands after the Japanese invasion in January 1942, many of whom are believed to have perished on the Montevideo Maru when it was torpedoed off the Philippines on 1 July 1942.

The purpose of the Committee is to gain national recognition and greater understanding of the tragedy and its antecedents in the interests of relatives and the historical record.


John Cleary has been described as one of Australia's leading commentators on religious affairs. He is a member of the ABC's specialist religion unit and is best known for his years as presenter of The Religion Report and the philosophy program, Meridian.

John is a member of the Salvation Army and former bandmaster of the Brunswick Band, closely connected to the 2/22nd Battalion and the Montevideo Maru. In 1994 his book on the Salvation Army in Australia, Salvo, was Australian Religious Book of the Year.

Head&Shoulder Lindsay Cox is the Melbourne-based Territorial Archivist for the Salvation Army's Australia Southern Territory.

As a Salvation Army bandsman and an ex-CMF soldier, he has long been interested in the tragic story of the 24 Salvation Army bandsmen who enlisted in the 2/22nd Battalion, featured in the comprehensive files and photographic collection at the Salvation Army Heritage Centre, where there is also a permanent exhibition.

Lindsay is author of Brave and True, a detailed account of the Band of the 2/22nd Battalion. He has also written several other books on Australian Military history and early Salvation Army history.

A memorial service for the 1,053 men who died on the Montevideo Maru will be held at Subic Bay, 150 km south of the site of the sinking, on 1 July. Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Rod Smith, will unveil a plaque at the Hell Ships Memorial.

This week, planning began on a major submission to the Commonwealth Government to gain national recognition of the sinking as a major national event and to secure the Government’s engagement in further historical research into the matter, which, like the fall of Rabaul in January 1942 – even 67 years after the event – remains shrouded in mystery.

PNG athletes win gold on and off the field

From DON HOOK, a media volunteer at the Arafura Games

Arafura_Logo Papua New Guinea athletes did well at the recent Arafura Games in Darwin, winning 40 medals - eight gold, 14 silver and 18 bronze. 

Their on-field efforts were matched – some would say exceeded – by the number of friends they made off the field.

From day one, they presented as a happy, smiling, singing group of sportsmen and women.

They enjoyed themselves. They were polite and friendly. They were enthusiastic yet fair and, above all, they were great ambassadors for their country.

One games official said that if you heard singing you could be pretty sure it was coming from a PNG team bus occupied by women bowlers.

The PNG lawn bowlers were the darlings of the games. Everyone loved them.

A New Zealand bowls official said: “The PNG girls are great characters. They love to sing and dance and they enjoy their bowls. They are very generous with gifts of pins and badges, PNG caps and even necklaces.”

The shell necklaces, dozens of them, were made in the months before the games by Walo Kirori, aged 60, who was taking part in her second Arafura Games. Originally from Daru, she now lives in Port Moresby and is a member of the Murray Barracks Lawn Bowls Club. Walo is related to WW2 veteran Ben Moide, a prominent sportsman in his day.

Another member of the Murray Barracks Club, Aloxcy Manjor, was taking part in the games for the first time. Ten years ago she was the first female to join the PNGDF and is now a senior officer. But to her fellow bowlers in Darwin she was just “one of the girls” – and a young one at that.

Major Manjor, aged 36, comes from Wewak in the East Sepik, and is a lawyer at the PNGDF HQ at Murray Barracks. She is a graduate of UPNG and studied international law in the US.

She says it was very challenging being the first female in the Army. “I believe I did well to overcome early problems and I hope I’ve been an inspiration to other females.”

Today, there are five females in the PNGDF – two lawyers, two pilots and a medical officer. Next year, it’s expected there will be an influx of women to general duties including clerical and transport positions.

One of the features of this year’s Arafura Games was the support given to PNG athletes not only from fellow team members and officials but from former PNG residents and their families living in the Northern Territory .

Kala-Kila The biggest gathering was for the final of the men’s volleyball between Macau China and the Port Moresby Vabukori village team representing PNG.

Dozens of supporters were in the stadium well before starting time carrying PNG flags and banners, and wearing PNG caps and shirts.  By the time the game started, they were joined by at least 100 more supporters chanting Pee-En-Gee and cheering every point scored by Vabukori in its thrilling and hard fought victory 28/26, 25/21, 24/26, 25/23.

Back home in PNG, the people of Vabukori were kept informed of their team’s progress by mobile telephone and they too joined in the cheering when the final whistle was blown.

The players were told the village people were already preparing for a week of feasting, singing and dancing to celebrate the gold medal.  And they were told there’d be a great homecoming followed by Vabukori’s biggest party ever.

Retired schoolteacher Paul Morea, who was visiting his NT resident daughter as well as watching the games, described the result as a remarkable achievement for a village team taking part in international competition.

“The team has won the PNG National title five times and competed in the South Pacific Games. But this final against Macau has been our greatest success.”

Paul is a brother of the late Sevese Morea, broadcaster and one time Speaker of the PNG House of Assembly. Sevese’s son, Tarau Morea, is president of the Vabukori Volleyball Club.

The Arafura Games, held in Darwin from 9-17 May, attracted more than 2,000 athletes from some 30 countries. The games, now in their 18th year, are specifically targeted at developing athletes across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Full results are available on the Arafura Games website here.

Photo: Kala Kila, a member of the PNG men's volleyball squad

Passage denied: The sad saga of the MS Herstein


The MS Herstein was a Norwegian cargo ship of 5100 tons, owned by Sigurd Herlefson & Co and which, since May 1941, had been chartered to the Commonwealth of Australia.

In January 1942, while berthed and loading copra, Herstein was severely damaged in a Japanese air raid on Rabaul. She caught alight and there were some fatalities. Herstein was eventually cut from her moorings and beached near Matupit Harbour.

The master of the Herstein, Captain Gotfred Gundersen, managed to evade capture by the Japanese and escaped from New Britain on the Laurabada, but, upon the fall of Rabaul, 31 of the ship’s crew were taken prisoner by the Japanese. They were interned and later transferred to the ill-fated Montevideo Maru.

Before the demise of the Herstein, Australian Administration officials in Rabaul had suggested to the Federal Government in Canberra that the ship forego loading copra and, instead, take on board non-essential civilian personnel and ship them to safety before the imminent Japanese invasion. The request was turned down.

And so it was that the original role of the Herstein, to take on copra, remained unchanged, the people of Rabaul effectively stranded, the last reasonable means of evacuation denied them.

On 20 January, the Japanese bombing raid scored several hits on the ship and the highly combustible cargo burned for two days. The Japanese invaded three days later.

Canberra’s reluctance to enable the Herstein to be deployed to the evacuation of civilians not only resulted in the destruction of the ship, it was a death sentence for most of its crew and perhaps for many hundreds of Australian civilians.

It was one of those enigmatic decisions that leave a multitude of questions unanswered.

Source: From research by Chris Diercke, who is investigating the Norwegian and Japanese antecedents of the Montevideo Maru disaster.

The candidates’ statements: Deveni Temu

PNG Attitude invited each candidate for the forthcoming PNG Association election to answer questions about their aspirations for the organisation

Why have you nominated for election to the PNGAA committee?

Because I have a genuine desire to persuade as many Papua New Guineans as possible resident here in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia to consider taking out membership in order to achieve the objective of strengthening the friendly relationships between the peoples of both countries.

What would you say is your single highest priority for the organisation’s future?

My highest priority is to encourage as many young Papua New Guineans and Australians to become members of the Association in order to continue the excellent work now being done.

What other things to you want to achieve in your leadership of the PNGAA?

I will endeavour to promote greater interaction between PNGAA members and the PNG communities in Canberra and Queanbeyan through cultural, sporting and educational activities.

Can you sum up why members ought to vote for you?

Members should vote for me because I fully support the objectives of PNGAA and will do my utmost to promote greater interaction between members in order to create a socially inclusive Association which will be culturally enriching for all.

Candidates Sue Ward, Colin Huggins, Dennis Doyle

PNG Attitude invited each candidate for the PNG Association election to write about their aspirations for the organisation. As ballot papers are now arriving in members’ post boxes, and I do not wish to tarry, we publish the last three responses today.



Having been invited to stand for election for the PNGAA Management Committee, I now offer a further snapshot of my more recent involvement with PNG and its people, and some ideas on how I might be helpful in fostering closer business and community relationships in the future.

As stated in my bio, I am presently the Board Deputy Chair of Australian Business Volunteers ( whose mission is ‘to contribute to sustainable growth in developing countries through the transfer of knowledge and workplace skills using volunteer expertise’.

We have developed a very strong relationship with PNG through the many projects we carry out there. Our PNG agents in-country look for business and community development opportunities and we have formed partnerships with organisations such as the PNG Business Council.

I believe we can enhance such a relationship through co-operation with PNGAA members who have the knowledge, skills, expertise and most importantly the interest and enthusiasm in moving things on.

I would see that as my mission as a PNGAA committee member, which would meet some of the aspirations of a revitalised PNGAA

I invite you to look up the ABV website (especially Upcoming Assignments) and I look forward to your support.


We, all the candidates, have the objectives of PNGAA firmly in our minds and want to see progressiveness in the relationship between the two countries for the betterment of all. Isn't that the aim of the PNGAA?

The way I see us doing things is to listen, analysis and comment. My initial view was for more diversity - get out of Sydney - and this seems to have been achieved with candidates for positions from Cairns, Brisbane, rural NSW, Sydney and Canberra, which is great news. It’s great to see PNG nationals becoming involved - diversity of thought.


I have nominated for the committee to serve the members in the best way I can to ensure that the PNGAA continues and grows as an effective and caring organisation.

I believe that I can assist in charting a sustainable and worthwhile future by contributing to the committee my years of successful committee and management experience in not for profit clubs and businesses.

I have strong past, present and future interest in PNG arising from my present family connections in PNG, which go back over 75 years.

A story of a plane flight & two John Curtins

Flying back to Sydney from the Sunshine Coast this afternoon, I happened to find myself in a seat adjacent to John Curtin, the grandson of the Labor Prime Minister of the same name who came to power in October 1941 as head of a government which, in the words of historian Prof Hank Nelson, “faced great and immediate danger”.

John Curtin petit-fils, a pleasant and cheerful man with his grandfather’s eyes, was explaining that he felt Australians in general lacked of a well-balanced sense of our own history.

His remarks struck a chord, and I asked if he had heard of the Montevideo Maru. He had not and, when I explained and he looked slightly crestfallen, I hastened that this was no fault of his. It was another momentous Australian event that for too long had not been made part of our story.

An early decision made by the Curtin Government had been to evacuate women and children from Rabaul and the islands, but to leave behind the male (and Chinese and mixed race) civilians and a small garrison of Australian troops, known as Lark Force.

Lark Force was the bastion against the Japanese advance. The bulk of these troops comprised the 2/22nd Battalion of the Australian Army. Amongst their number was the Brunswick Salvation Army band from Melbourne.

In January 1942, Rabaul was overwhelmed by a far superior Japanese force. Disaster ensued. Precious few of the troops and but one bandsman, Fred Kollmorgen, escaped alive. The Japanese executed many more.

Of the many men taken prisoner – 1,053 troops, civilians and the bulk of the Brunswick Band – died when the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed off the Philippines on 1 July 1942.

And there is another, even deeper, link with John Curtin, as ABC Radio’s John Cleary, a religious commentator, Salvo and former Brunswick bandmaster, has explained.

“The socially progressive and creative Salvation Army attracted a promising young man to its Brunswick Citadel in the 1900s,” he informed the ABC-TV program Compass in April 2008. “He was John Curtin and he would go on to be wartime Prime Minister of Australia.

“The young Curtin became an enthusiastic lantern bearer, assisting the Citadel’s brass band on its night marches through the streets of Brunswick."

John Cleary subsequently told a journalist from the West Australian newspaper: “So, in 1941, when [Curtin] had to make the decision to abandon the garrison on Rabaul, and he finds out later that they’ve all gone down [on the Montevideo Maru] courtesy of the Americans, he must have known their families. He would have felt that deeply personally.”

And now his grandson, also John Curtin, my companion on a flight to Sydney, has become the most recent Friend of Montevideo Maru.

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee has been established to gain official Federal Government recognition of Australia’s greatest maritime disaster and to secure government assistance in resolving a number of outstanding issues relating to the fall of Rabaul and the sinking of the ship.

This is the 1,000th post on PNG Attitude

The candidates’ statements: Terry Chapman

PNG Attitude invited each candidate for the forthcoming PNG Association election to write about their aspirations for the organisation. We publish responses in the order they are received.

I have agreed to accept nomination to the General Committee of the PNGAA because I am supportive of all of its objectives.

I recognise the immensity of the tasks to be pursued and can only begin to glimpse the challenges ahead of the enthusiastic volunteer Committee members: a committee without the staff or budget that would normally be needed for such an undertaking.

I am particularly interested in helping the Committee to establish its specific goals from time to time and in helping it to determine its operating processes and strategies in pursuit of them.

I have supplied this additional information and PNGAA members seeking further information or with (polite) suggestions can get in touch with me here.

Tomorrow - Sue Ward; Wednesday – Colin Huggins. Previously: Bernard Oberleuter, Chris Diercke, Gimanama Crowdy.