I am my father’s child
Violets are blue

A great idea is born


I CAN’T remember when I first started reading PNG Attitude.

I recall dipping into its predecessor, the ASOPA Files, occasionally but not too often because it seemed to be mainly run by old chalkies who were drinking mates and was of limited interest.

How it transmogrified into PNG Attitude I’m not quite sure.

Much of what has happened with PNG Attitude seems to have been serendipitous; that is unplanned, although upon reflection some it it has been anticipated and guided. Most good things develop that way for some reason.

From my own perspective there have been some significant events along the way.

I think the first came when my book, Bamahuta: Leaving Papua was published by the Australian National University.

The book was a memoir of sorts about my life as a kiap. There were a few contractions of time, renaming of characters and fill-ins but it was essentially the facts as I saw them.

In part of it I took the piss out of some of the old colonial Colonel Blimps I had run across. I thought I was doing it fairly gently but I still managed to stir their ire and came in for some sustained and unpleasant criticism; most of which simply confirmed my original views.

The blimps carried on about blemished honour and that sort of tripe and labelled me an upstart, Johnny-come-lately contract officer below contempt. I was pretty defenceless and figured that I’d just have to wear their approbation.

Then out of the blue Keith and PNG Attitude came in to bat for me. Keith had had a bellyful of the old guard and seemed to relish the opportunity to take it to them. I was most impressed and grateful.

The next significant event had its genesis in Papua New Guinea. Up to that point the blog had been accepting the occasional comment from Papua New Guinean readers but they were all posted anonymously.

There was a general reluctance about putting personal names to comments because of a perceived fear of retribution. The attitude also infected a few Australians with relatives in Papua New Guinea.

Then along came Reginald Renagi. Reg was a high profile ex-military man who wasn’t afraid to say what he thought and put his name to it. It was a very brave move because with his high profile he was a prime target.

From that point onwards other people began putting their names to their comments and even submitting the odd critical article under their own names. None of them were ‘disappeared’ in the night or shot in the streets and others began to emerge from the woodwork.

Shortly thereafter Keith refused to publish anything without a name attached to it unless there was a compelling reason to do otherwise.

This was the point, I think, when PNG Attitude found its feet as a social commentator and critic of what was going on in Papua New Guinea and how it related to both our countries.

The next major event was the Crocodile Prize. That was serendipitous too. It basically sprang from an article I had written and then reworked about the state of literature in Papua New Guinea since 1975.

I don’t know which of us suggested a competition but I think it was Keith’s idea.

Anyway, that really opened up a Pandora’s Box. It took a little while to take off and I was getting worried but, as is typical in Papua New Guinea, people left it until the last possible moment to submit their entries.

From my point of view it was a revelation. I realised that the talented writers were actually still there but they had had no outlets for their work and very little appreciation from the general public when they did manage to get published.

There are many unsung heroes in the annals of the prize but I think the standouts were the writers themselves. I can remember when I read the first few articles by Martyn Namorong and emailing Keith to say I thought we had a real live one on the end of the line.

Others followed but I won’t mention names because I’m sure to leave someone out. Rest assured it was dozens of people, both men and, surprisingly, women. In one year of the competition the women took out most of the major prizes.

I guess the other ongoing significant event from my perspective was the opportunity to publish articles on the blog. Up to that point I had been concentrating on writing books and publishing the occasional article in trade magazines or academic journals. The article on Papua New Guinean literature started out as one of the latter.

After a while I started writing stuff aimed solely for the blog. It allowed me to write about things that I thought were interesting to Papua New Guineans and Australian expatriates but which would never find a publisher in Australia. It was, in essence, writing for the sheer pleasure of it and for no other reason.

And one of the things I particularly enjoyed was the feedback from the readers. A mischievous streak in me delighted in rattling people’s chains. Keith was all for it.

Looking back I think the comments pages gave PNG Attitude its verve, vitality and uniqueness; especially since Keith was prepared to publish just about anything worthwhile as long as it was not in bad taste or otherwise unsuitable.

Many of the Papua New Guinean blogs at the time were saturated with obscene and disgusting commentary made by people too cowardly to put their names to it. PNG Attitude stood head and shoulders above this rubbish and I think it helped build up the thousands of loyal readers it did.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end. The last edition of PNG Attitude next February will be the last major significant event in its history.

What is now important is its legacy. I guess this will be serendipitous too. My expectation, however, is that it will be great.

PNG Attitude built a fire under the writers of Papua New Guinea and has maintained an enviable head of steam since. Hopefully the fire will keep burning and the steam hissing for a long time to come.


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Francis Nii

Much of what has happened with PNG Attitude may although seemed serendipitous as Phil has said, they are undisputably brilliant creativity beneficial to everyone who embrace and partake in them. The Crocodile Prize anthologies are the living testimony of this great thoughts and will stay a legacy in the history of PNG.

Many thanks, Keith and Phil.

Keith Jackson

And not forgetting another Fitzpatrick innovation, the marvellous Crocodile Prize Anthology which, in five years of publication, rose from a distribution of 200 to more than 1,000 and gets out to some of the most remote areas of PNG.

Phil Fitzpatrick

With the PNG stuff it's not so much the number of copies sold but the fact of getting them printed at all.

Numbers sold or any remote chance of making a profit or even recovering costs has not been a consideration in our endeavours.

The best I ever did with a book was about 8,000 copies for my Bamahuta: Leaving Papua. I made about $12,000 for about three years work.

My other books since then have only sold in the hundreds.

The Inspector Metau books offered as free downloads on PNG Attitude seem to have been read by a lot of people; how many I've no idea.

Most books by PNG authors seem to get passed on to many people until they fall apart. Metau has done that and I've stumbled across copies in the most unlikely places.

Richard Jones

Yairs, Phil, KJ and I and quite a few others still above ground --- if only just in some cases --- were old chalkies who left the chalk behind many, many moons ago and hived off into other pursuits.

But both KJ and I had (and in my case, still have) ties to community radio. Up till late 2007 I was part of a local central Victorian broadcasting crew calling Bendigo, Loddon Valley, North Central and other assorted Aussie Rules footy action.

And spouting off endlessly on Saturday morning preview shows and Monday night reviews. I now do a midweek wrap-up all winter on a 2nd local community station in Bendigo.

But it's about written material which prompted this response.

My most recent foray into published print was in mid-2013 when I penned a chapter for a book entitled Footy Town. It was about footy in regional Oz & edited by 2 former Age journos and upon release they did the publicity rounds: radio, TV, columns in newspapers particularly The Age, blogs by fellow sports journos. That sort of thing.

They even had the full hour one Friday on Jon Faine's Conversation Hour on the ABC's 774 Melbourne.

Now despite all this hoopla and there was a fair bit as they had multiple contacts, my 2 colleagues were besides themselves when the 1st print run sold out. Pretty good, you'd say. But it amounted to just 3,000 copies. Not 30,000 mind you.

Just three thousand. A second print run of 500 was commissioned.

So I'd say, Phil, you'd be looking at tiny, tiny numbers for print editions of books from PNG authors. And for self-published folks, some must be unlikely to hit three figures.

On this topic I enquired from a friend of ours how her official biography of early feminist Vida Goldstein fared.
She managed just the bare 1,000 sales for Vida.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Applause, indeed but Phil, whatever will become of your mischievous streak?

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