NO, THAT'S ME. The kiaps looked fine. They hadn’t changed a bit in 35 years. They kept patting my corporation and commenting approvingly on the prosperity that had so clearly created a world of eating and drinking opportunities for it.
Except for Bill Brown, former Bougainville district commissioner, who, staring at me gimlet-eyed, pontificated that my image on this blog makes me look like a spiv.
Otherwise compliments for chalkies were hard to find at this year’s biannual kiaps’ reunion at the Kawana Waters Hotel on the Sunshine Coast.
But, as perhaps the only chalkie there, I think I may have been more of a lightning rod than usual.
The Fayles and the Faithfulls have maintained the tradition of this reunion for many years now. It is perhaps the largest gathering of former patrol officers and, increasingly, sad to say, the wives and children of those who have embarked on that final, long patrol.
Yesterday’s event enticed about 200 of the ‘raus o mi kikim as blong yu’ brigade. It was a good turn-out. The boys are a little stiffer and slower than two years ago, but their joie de vivre remains undiminished.
The mateship is always a good memory. ASOPA retains its positive glow. The pride in what was achieved by these men is still there. And it’s deserved.
As I’ve written here before, and doubtless will do so again, this group of Australians – who operationally in the field never numbered more than about 620 – did more than any other group to create the conditions required for what was ultimately PNG’s headlong rush towards independence
They would baulk at the description, but the kiaps were true nation builders, and it’s always a joy and a privilege to spend a few hours amongst them.