Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 3
Walking out rich from the Bougainville government

Catch up with Gram Bomai – member of the first House


GrahamONE OF THE MANY pleasures I have in publishing this page each day (I’ll enumerate them all sometime when I have 30 seconds to spare) is the catch-up moment.

More often than not, the catch-up occurs by email when a figure from my past blasts through the ether to say g’day.

Most recent of these has been Graham Pople (pictured here as a young man) – ex-kiap, member of the first PNG House of Assembly (1964-68, campaigning as Gram Bomai, ‘Graham of the South’) and businessman - including a stint as mine host of that noted Port Moresby hostelry, the Weigh Inn (below).

Graham and I first ran into each other in the 1960s when he was an occasional contributor to a local newsletter published by Murray Bladwell and me, the Kundiawa News – its 50 issues now at repose in the National Library of Australia.

After something like 60 years, Graham ‘came South’ in 2012 requiring medical treatment for cancer and now – in recovery – he’s living with his wife on Brisbane’s Redcliffe Peninsula, three of his kids close by, another two in Cairns and one still in Papua New Guinea.

Weigh In Hotel PublicanGraham was awarded a most deserved MBE for the work he did with the rural communities in PNG, including the establishment of a number of local government councils.

He recalls that he assisted his great friend the late Barry Holloway to set up the Agarabi council, which was the first in PNG. “Barry was my senior officer and I was fortunate enough to work with him.”

Earlier in his career as a kiap, in 1956, Graham took part in a pioneering patrol with Gus Bottrill from Kiunga through to Telefolmin during which they first contacted the Bolivip people.

Later, he was posted to Laiagam, from where he patrolled the lands to the west, and observes today that the present claim of ownership by the Tari people of the richly-mineralled Mt Kare area could not have happened 50 years ago.

“When I patrolled through there on a medical patrol in 1959 we met up with only the Paiela people from Enga Province.

“They used to harvest the pandanus nuts in season and the owner of each palm was known and there were no Huli owners.

“But the Huli people are a forceful group who push their claims whichever way they can and the Paielans are easy going and do not challenge their more forceful neighbours.

“I only hope that this information does not die with me,” says Graham, “and the Paielans can get some benefit out of Mt Kare.”

Of such precious nuggets of information is history composed and, now Graham and I are back in touch, I hope he’ll be able to share a lot more with us.


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