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The long uphill struggle for kiap recognition

“In March 2002 I commenced a lone campaign to have the service of Kiaps in the Australian External Territory of Papua and New Guinea formally recognised under the Australian Honours and Awards System by the Australian Government.”

So begins Chris Viner-Smith's description and analysis of a Kiap recognition project that has got somewhere, but not quite to the end of the road.

Referring to the specificity of his original goal Chris says in a summary document The Case for Kiap Recognition (you can download it here): “That campaign has been lost, other than gaining eligibility for Kiaps to the National Medal, but on the way some small victories have been achieved.”

Let’s itemise those ‘small victories’ because, in the context of an issue not yet finally resolved, they do count for something:

The Federal Government has agreed to:

Extend to Kiaps eligibility for the National Medal for service to 30 November 1973

Accept that Kiaps were sworn commissioned officers of an Australian external territorial police force, that is, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary

Mount a Kiap exhibit at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra, researched by professional historians and funded by the Government to provide a means to formally acknowledge and laud the collective efforts of Kiaps in steering PNG towards independence

Sponsor a launch event to which key officials including the PNG High Commissioner would be invited to coincide with the 35th anniversary of PNG independence on 16 September 2010

Publish an article on the contribution of Kiaps in the NAA magazine, Memento

Consider a Ministerial speech in Parliament to place on public record the nation’s gratitude for the Kiaps’ contribution to the development of PNG

What the Government has not agreed to, and what is unfinished business, is more formal recognition through the presentation of a citation or certification to ex Kiaps.

In seeking this greater recognition, Chris has the support of former Governor-General Michael Jeffery who has said: “I am disappointed with [the] response and will take the matter up personally …”

Chris remains hopeful that General Jeffery might have some success in persuading the Government to recognise the incredible work Kiaps undertook on its behalf in bringing a nation to independence.

“You will understand how we feel,” says Chris, “when ADF reservists are entitled to a medal for three months service in Brisbane whilst we put our lives on the line daily for the Australian Government in a foreign country and are denied any recognition.”

You can read the submission provided to Senator John Faulkner, then Special Minister of State, earlier this year by downloading it here. It remains an important document.


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