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NSW north coast kiaps celebrate award of Service Medal

BELINDA SCOTT | Coffs Coast Advocate

Ex-kiaps John Blyth, Dick Olive, Bob Smith and Gavin CarterKIAP IS A LITTLE KNOWN TITLE on the Coffs Coast, but a quartet of kiaps who have made the area their home are hoping the work of those who helped guide Papua New Guinea into the modern world will become better known in the future.

Kiaps were Papua New Guinea patrol officers, district commissioners and magistrates who worked in often inaccessible terrain in PNG until after that country gained independence in 1975.

Their roles in remote areas included being sole magistrates, jailers, policemen, surveyors, public works engineers, builders, mapmakers and explorers, welfare advisers, agricultural advisers and the only representatives of all other government functions in their area, which included weather observations, selling stamps, sending telegrams and even customs work in coastal locations.

The responsibilities and powers handed to these young men were so wide-ranging they have been described as "God's shadow on earth".

After independence, many kiaps returned to PNG to work in other roles.

Nana Glen resident Gavin Carter (right in picture) yesterday received the Police Overseas Service Medal from Federal Minister Luke Hartsuyker.

Mr Carter was 23 when he became a patrol officer and later district officer at Simbai in the Madang District, where he worked from 1958 until 1972.

Last week he met former colleagues John Blyth of Boambee, Dick Olive of Nambucca Heads and Bob Smith of Coffs Harbour for a lunch and discussion on their shared experiences.

Mr Blyth was 19 when he headed for PNG in 1967. He left in 1977 after 10 years as a kiap. He later returned to PNG and worked for 11 years as a field manager for an exploration company.

Dick Olive worked as a district officer in the Western Highlands from 1967 to 1980 and recently spent another three years in PNG working on the giant international Southern Highlands gas project.

Bob Smith was a district officer in Bundi from 1958 and later became a magistrate in PNG, leaving Port Moresby in 1980.

John Blyth and Dick Olive were just 19 when they headed for PNG and Bob Smith only 20.

At 23, Gavin Carter was the "old man" of the group and said his previous engineering and surveying experience stood him in good stead as he mapped routes and guided teams of villagers in hacking roads and airstrips out of the jungle with primitive tools.

John Blyth recalled the physical challenges of moving from a role as a trainee optometrist in Australia to hiking up and down "bloody steep" PNG mountains on patrols.

Mr Carter said he was pleased to receive the POSM, an existing medal which was extended to former kiaps last year after sustained lobbying by a group of former kiaps for recognition of their PNG service.


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Harry Topham

Only guessing but the venue looks like the bar at the RSL at Nambucca Heads.

If so would be very good spot for a reunion of sorts.

Top location overlooking the river below and well worth a diversion off the main highway for anyone venturing south

Phil Fitzpatrick

They're a lot more wrinkly and grey tufted since I last saw them but I reckon the blokes in the photograph are, left to right, John Blyth, Bob Smith, Dick Olive and Gavin Carter. I think the caption attached to the pic has got Bob and Dick mixed up.

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