From the Kundiawa News 50 years ago today
Bloodshed & suffering: A chronicle of the Yuri people

It’s a constant struggle but life goes on in Banana Block

In the Banana Block settlement, GorokaROSA KOIAN

GOROKA is always refreshing and, despite the deteriorating state of infrastructure, the warmth from these people reassures us that there is more to life.

A couple of months back I had the opportunity to visit the famous Banana Block. It is not a place many city dwellers would like to visit.

Yet this visit was a timely reminder of how modern developments in Port Moresby’s rush for growth are leaving behind the people that matter.

As I took a kaukau from a mama’s barbecue plate with my friend Awayang Namorong, I looked back at the track we had struggled along that morning.

It had been raining for a week and down here in the ankle-deep mud we were alongside teapots, barbecue plates and dishes over small fires with kaukau, sausages and lamp flaps cooking.

Bingo, decks of cards, cigarettes and betel nut had been produced and the people ushered us to make sure we didn’t slip and fall on this ugly mud. Some people apologised for the condition of the track.

A 15-minute walk it was claimed but it had taken we paved-road trekkers and office dwellers 45 minutes to reach our destination.

The ward councilor met us and, now that the sun was out, he rearranged the chairs. He was a pleasant man of prayer from Lufa and he told of his struggles to keep his community together while at the same time accessing government services for them.

For women in settlements like Banana Block, life can be harsh.

The Kafe Women’s Association has started quietly to try to improve the law and order situation and also find ways to help women earn an income and live a dignified life in Goroka.

In addition to literacy, counselling and peace mediation work they run sewing classes and are making professional PNG women’s wear and uniforms for schools in Eastern Highlands.

Yet they continue to struggle with the law and order situation.

As more people move from rural villages to seek work in towns the pressure is on the settlements.

Banana Block is no stranger to the tag ‘notorious’ but it is not so much on the edge of town any more as Goroka grows.

Proper sanitation, good roads, a stocked up health post and a school are necessary for a growing settlement. Creative opportunities for young people are also needed.

Life is difficult on the edges of cities but the perseverance of these people has for years helped to keep cities and towns alive.

They are prepared to put in more work hours, go through the difficulties of keeping jobs and getting less pay.

It is often on the margins that humanity finds meaning in life. These people deserve to be heard.


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Barbara Short

Thank you for a glimpse into the life in one of the squatter settlements of Goroka.

It must be quite a contrast between places like this and the new accommodation blocks at the Goroka University.

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