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Julie says 'thanks Australia for treating me as one of the writers'

Julie, never before seen the ocean, & DanielDANIEL & JULIE KUMBON

I HAVE been listening to my wife, Julie’s, daily prayers to God in the Enga language in the privacy of our hotel rooms in Noosa, Brisbane, Sydney and Cairns over the action-packed two weeks we were in Australia.

All this was made possible by the inaugural McKinnon-Paga Hill Development Company fellowship scheme, PNG Attitude and many other friends of Papua New Guinea.

One morning in Brisbane, I heard Julie plead with God to make Keith Jackson’s spinal operation successful and when we heard in Sydney that it had indeed gone well and that Keith was ready to go back to Noosa, Julie was elated and thanked God again that night.

“Thank you Lord for making Keith Jackson’s operation successful,” Julie prayed.

“I ask you, oh Lord, to please bless him and keep him strong with good health as well as all the other lovely silver-haired men and women so they can live longer and continue to help more writers from PNG.

“I thank you Lord Jesus for making it possible for me to come here to this beautiful country. Amen.”

I thought that was thought-provoking and I decided to interview her on Saturday before we departed for Wabag in the highlands yesterday.

I talked to Julie in our room at the Bellview Motel on The Esplanade in Cairns. I knew she would find the words to relate her experiences here in Australia but was surprised at how she poured out her thoughts without any hesitation, like a spring.

What follows is the word for word transcript:


Daniel & Julie at Treasure CoveBEFORE leaving my highlands home at Wabag in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province just over two weeks ago, I was wondering what kind of place I was going to.

Having seen some action movies about Australia in PNG, I thought I would see violence and rough people on the streets, especially in cities like Brisbane and Sydney.

But there was none of it. I think action movies are an illusion that gives a bad image of peace-loving Australians.

As soon as I landed at Brisbane International Airport, I saw that Australia was beautiful. I also saw that the people were humble and kind. The coach driver was very helpful. He handled our bags with care and spoke to us with kind words.

A lady in Noosa offered to take my photo in front of the Noosa Blue Resort where we stayed. She told me her dad had fought in New Guinea during the war and that she was happy to meet me.

I was made to feel welcome on the Qantas flight to Sydney when one of the cabin crew brought me three bottles of water and spoke to me in Pidgin English, saying he had grown up in Rabaul.

I have seen clean streets, beautiful parks and even saw a lady walking her dog in a public place in Noosa and picking up its excrement using a plastic bag and dumping it in a rubbish bin provided by the local council.

Daniel & Francis' books were popular after the eventAustralians know how to enjoy life. They create heaven on earth and I think many of them will go to heaven. They are so kind, happy and willing to help each other.

I think they live less stressful lives and that’s why they live longer. I could not believe that Professor Ken McKinnon, our Sydney host, was 85. I am sure he and his lovely wife, Sue, will live to be 100 and I told him so in his apartment where we had dinner with two other guests.

He took us to his secret place, a small beach where he swims every morning and has been doing this for many years. I wish buai chewing, cigarette smoking, boozing Papua New Guineans would follow his example and learn to live quality lives. I think lifestyle diseases are destroying many of our people in PNG.

I went into many Australian homes, ate with them and shared jokes with those who could speak Pidgin. I sensed that I was accepted as I was – an illiterate woman from a remote province up in the highlands of PNG who was on her first trip overseas.

If I struggled with my fork and knife and ate with my hands, they didn’t seem to mind or notice. These gestures comforted me. I mixed with them as if I had known them before.

Something I noticed in the shops, train stations, hotels and public transport systems is that everywhere there are people ready to help.

I went shopping on my own in Brisbane and Sydney and, when people realised I was new to the place and gave only one word answers, they simplified everything for me. I was able to understand much better and felt at ease.

The streets are designed with everybody in mind – the mother with a baby in a pram, the old men, a person in a wheelchair. That’s why we were able to take our wheelchair writer Francis Nii to many interesting locations in Brisbane.

I wish our towns and cities in PNG could be designed in such a manner so people can enjoy themselves. Francis Nii was even booked into hotel rooms, like at Noosa Blue, especially designed for wheelchair guests.

Glen Elmes, Daniel & Julie Kumbon and Tony WellingtonI will take many memories with me back to PNG but the one that stands out is me standing beside my husband to give presents at the Jackson’s home in Treasure Cove to Hon Glen Elmes MP, Noosa Mayor Cr Tony Wellington, Deputy Mayor Cr Frank Wilkie, Cr Ingrid Jackson and many Australian friends including the youngest of all, three year-old Leilani.

And finally, I thank Paga Hill Development Company, Keith Jackson and Professor Ken McKinnon, Ben Jackson and organisers of the Brisbane Writers Festival for treating me as an equal to the PNG writers – Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong, Rashmii Bell and my husband Daniel Kumbon.

I received the same treatment and I thank you all for your generosity and foresight.

Julie says goodbye at Cairns Airport - lukim yuI am a mother of five children and what I will do now is to encourage my children to read and write more.

I know the problems my children’s schools face – no libraries, no books, no properly trained English teachers and so on but, despite the odds, it is my duty as a parent to encourage them to read and write more.

And maybe one day they can follow in the footsteps of their illiterate mother to Australia.


Photos (top to bottom): Julie and Daniel on the beach at Manly, Sydney; in Ingrid's and my home at Treasure Cove, Noosa; Daniel signs his book at the Brisbane Writers Festival; Daniel and Julie gift two Enga sand paintings to Glen Elmes MP and Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington; Julie says goodbye at Cairns International Airport - lukim yu


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Rod Ritchie

What a gracious and honest account of what must have been an eye-opening visit for Julie.

I was honoured to meet her and her compatriots at Keith and Ingrid's PNG writers' reception event.

Arthur Williams

Wow! A really lovely tribute to the Oz friends and people who made their trip enjoyable. Very spontaneous thank you.

God bless in your years together that are still to come.

Daniel Kumbon

Roseanne, it would have been nice to meet you and the PNG community in Cairns.

I know who Nora-Vagi Brash is. Her husband, the late Dr Elton Brash, the UPNG Vice Chancellor, gave me the initial capital of K500 (alot of money at the time) to publish the UPNG Enga Students Association Yearbook in the mid 1980s.

Many of the short stories, poems and essays Enga students published at the time have been compiled and published in two of the books I have compiled. Entitled 'Remember Me' and 'Can't Sleep', thy are available on Amazon.

Sorry I missed you all. But we never know what will happen tomorrow.

Bakri Dumu

Wambel em stap long Julie na Daniel, na Keith na ol team bilong em tu.

Roseanne O'Rourke

What a gem! I am sorry I missed you, Daniel and Julie, when you were in Cairns.

Chris and Joanna Thomas | Noosaville

Thank you for including us in your project which was indeed wonderful.

We will remember the Noosa occasion and the visitors. Francis, Daniel and Julie and Martyn are fine people of substance and Julie's article is poignant and touching. Thank you for the experience.

Grace Heaoa

"Something I noticed in the shops, train stations, hotels and public transport systems is that everywhere there are people ready to help."

Helping in whatever way big or small transcends colour, language, education and race. Its people-centred.

These are great observations of what quality of life should be. It should be the Papua New Guinea dream to take care of people, infrastructure, our own health and to want things that make life easier.

Congratulations to the writers and the lovely silver haired men and women who made the event a success.

Daniel Kumbon

Everything seemed like a dream when we stepped off the plane at Jackson's International Airport yesterday.

But all the high emotion subsided to find our son, a third year Arts student at the University of Papua New Guinea suspended for four semesters. He was waiting to tell us the bad news.

He was the group leader from Kandep District in Enga Province in the protests. That is what got him into trouble.

What he can do now is accept the decision and wait his chance to re-enter UPNG in 2018.

He comes from a good, tough, intelligent family and will do well in life. A harsh and foolish government imprisoned Nelson Mandela for 27 years. There's your son's inspiration - KJ

Steven Ilave Snr

Such a beautiful heartfelt thankyou note, Julie and Daniel.

Once in a while, simple (heart to heart, people to people) positive accounts of kindness, goodwill, gratefulness and faith like this come along that inspire one to celebrate the good that is in people across racial lines.

I was inspired by Julie’s story.

A fabulous memoir underlining faith and simplicity, capturing fleeting moments of the best there is in society, and frozen memories of the beauty there is in humanity.

The five Kumbons are in safe hands, and indeed Lord, bless the “lovely silver-haired men and women with good health and long lives”.

Bob Cleland

Mi hamamas tru long toktok blo yu, Julie. Gutpla tu sapos ol pipal husat i halivim yu inap harim displa tok. Tasol husat i lukim PNG Attitude? A sori.

Ed Brumby

Thank you, Julie and Daniel for reminding us of all the things that we Australians take for granted but that many others, and not only in PNG, do not have. You have touched my heart ....

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