THERE is no turning back. The Croc is going to live in Papua New Guinea and that’s that.
For its six-year life, the Crocodile Prize has been an evolving and moveable feast. Not quite making it up as it went along but close.
There was a reason for this approach to instigating PNG’s national literary awards. On the one hand, there was no way of knowing what would work and what would not work – new ground was being broken.
On the other hand, the target group included a capricious mob which was very difficult to fathom. While enthusiastically endorsing the initiative, many people made the right noises but failed to deliver the goods.
I think it’s fair to say though that everyone realised the competition would have to be handed over to PNG at some stage.
You can’t have your national literature competition run by another country.
The difficulties and unpredictable nature of trying to organise a major project in PNG came home to Keith Jackson and me with a vengeance in 2013.
In that year, an attempt was made to hand over the competition to a new, legally constituted, democratically elected, apparently enthusiastic Papua New Guinean organisation. It didn’t work.
After rescuing the Prize from disaster late in 2013, a three year strategy evolved. And then, in 2014, the creation of the Simbu Writers’ Association offered an opportunity for more certain planning.
This involved the gradual handover of specific elements of the competition, beginning in 2015.
The thinking was that, over the following two years, more elements of the Prize would be handed over. If this was successful, by 2017 the Prize would be an entirely Papua New Guinean affair.
In 2015, the contest was managed from Australia but the bulk of the budget was raised from sponsors in PNG and the organisation of the awards ceremony writers’ workshop was undertaken by the Simbu Writers’ Association. The arrangement worked very well.
For 2016, the whole Prize has been handed over to a PNG-based committee headed by writer Baka Bina.
The publication of entries in PNG Attitude is still occurring and the Anthology will be edited and produced in Australia.
Hopefully in 2017, Papua New Guinea will take over the Anthology and the transition will be complete and the competition will be truly Papua New Guinean.
Keith is getting on with running PNG Attitude and I am concentrating on publishing books by Papua New Guinean authors through Pukpuk Publications.
A strategy for devolution has evolved and this will hopefully see the Crocodile Prize thrive in Papua New Guinea as it should.
Papua New Guinean writers should be aware that the process of devolution is now a one way street. There will be no more rescues. If the Crocodile Prize fails that will be the end of it.
The ball, as they say, is well and truly in Papua New Guinea’s court.