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From Blinky Bill to one of Australia’s premier writers’ events

Martyn NamorongMARTYN NAMORONG

WHEN I was a kid, my siblings and I enjoyed reading the adventures of Blinky Bill, a cute Australian koala.

But on my trip down under to the Brisbane Writers Festival in September I’ll be seeking the higher pursuit of learning from internationally recognised writers and building networks that help promote literature in Papua New Guinea.

The favourite moment of my first trip to Australia – the ‘Taking the Truth’ tour of 2012 - was visiting the Australian National Museum in Canberra where I saw the Taim Bipo (Time Before) exhibition on Torres Straits Island culture. It showed how closely connected our people are despite the modern day boundaries.

I think my fellow Papua New Guinean writers and I have a role in informing the work of Australian writers in understanding the Pacific and Australia’s place in it. And I’d like to understand what makes a good piece of literature from the point of view of the Anglophone populace.

But mostly I’ll be talking with Australians about PNG, a land of a thousand tribes and millions of stories waiting to be told.

Many PNG writers are responding to the test of telling these stories, but it is an uphill battle. Through my role as a committee member of the Crocodile Prize awards I’m working towards creating an enabling mechanism to ensure the stories that need to be told are written.

As readers will know, life in PNG is quite challenging but has is up sides too. Family connections are important and the land and sea and forests both nourish life and make it difficult.

I’m very grateful for the support provided in promoting PNG literature in Australia. This support shows a commitment to the development of literacy education and a literary culture in my country.

Comments

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Steven Gimbo

I started writing at an earlier age, and got published by Oxford in 2000. For the local PNG writer, the challenges are great, even if there is a million stories waiting to be told. Among the many challenges, a foremost one is the fact that writing for us must be a side dish, something we do while we have the free time and desire to do so. While we can build a career out of writing, we cannot do it as a professional full-time job. The reason for that being the fact that there is almost no market for books written by PNG authors. If we can get together to pressure and lobby the government successfully, particularly the Education Department, into buying books written by PNG authors for our schools, then we can create a conducive environment for our local writers (and our readers, particular school children).

Rebecca Duckworth

It was a pleasure to read your article. I was born in PNG in 1959 and lived there until 1979.

Although my current home is halfway around the world in San Diego, California USA, my heart still belongs to PNG.

My character was formed by living in one of the most remote areas in the highlands and I am who I am today because of that experience.

I am currently writing and illustrating a children's book about the family pet we had when we lived in the highlands. He was a cockatoo we named Sammy, who kept our family and all the villagers laughing with his crazy antics.

All the very best to you, Martyn. I would love to read your work. There are so many important stories, so much culture and so many important legends about PNG must be shared with the rest of the world.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Looking forward to your offerings, Martyn.

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