After its Port Moresby launch in the preceding week, the first-ever collection of writing by Papua New Guinean women’s was launched in Brisbane on 16 March 2017
“Just a small town girl
Living in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere….”
PNG Attitude readers who’ve followed my writing for a while will know my unabashed affection for the eighties pop hit to which that stanza belongs.
In fact, I have previously dedicated some 700 words to describing how its unfiltered presence in my childhood evolved into becoming the backdrop of my children's early years.
Inevitable, then, that Journey’s ‘Don’t stop believing’ became my daily companion, played incessantly whilst compiling My Walk to Equality: an emblematic anthem that is a clear contender as the soundtrack of my life (so far) for moments of which I am most proud.
It speaks to the exhilaration of “working hard to get my fill; everybody wants the thrill” of an (aging) Papua New Guinean girl with a simple plan, working alongside an equally passionate and ambitious group of volunteers to produce, publish and launch a landmark book in just six months.
And so, on the evening of Thursday 16 March in the inner-Brisbane suburb of Milton, My Walk to Equality was launched. In a superbly orchestrated function, Murray Bladwell and the wonderful staff at the Mary Ryan Bookshop played hosts to a mixed crowd of avid supporters and people with a developing interest in contemporary Papua New Guinean literature.
Six of the 44 contributing writers joined Keith Jackson and me to deliver brief presentations along with an oration of the poem ‘Drum Beat’ by its author, Vanessa Gordon.
Amongst the audience were the ever-friendly faces of members of our PNG Attitude family including Rob Parer, Bob Cleland, Joan Bladwell, Lindsay Bond and Bernard Corden. We were delighted to be joined by our generous sponsor, Jo Holman, to whom we are grateful for invaluable support. Not in attendance was another sponsor, the Paga Hill Development Company.
We were also delighted to be joined by the Brisbane-based PNG community and former residents of PNG as well as our good friends Roxanne Martens, Dr Genevieve Nelson, Dr Tess Newton Cain and Marisa Trigger. The overwhelming support received via the virtual world was very much appreciated and so thank you to all those who emailed and to facebookers, igers and tweeps.
Special mention must be made of the chief executive officer of the Brisbane Writers Festival, Zoe Pollock, for attending and responding positively to our launch.
This well-known literary institution played a key role in the genesis of the My Walk to Equality project. Unable to attend on the night, but gracing us with her well-wishes via Facebook, we also thank the Director of the Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writers Festival, Wendy O’Hanlon.
Journey’s ‘Don’t stop believing’ and Dame Carol Kidu’s address at the Port Moresby book launch both conjured up that wonderful four letter word, hope.
My Walk to Equality is a first and it emerged as the anthem of 45 Papua New Guinean women who used it to write about hope.
Good evening everyone,
Thank you all for joining us for this celebration.
My Walk to Equality was produced because an audience of readers suggested it was time more positive stories be told by Papua New Guineans. That the accounts contained within are entirely by Papua New Guinean women is a result of the incredible opportunity offered to me, and a decision I made.
Philip Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson – thank you for agreeing, supporting and helping me to deliver what was long overdue: Papua New Guinean women telling the world, in their own words, in a book publication - what and just how much they are capable of.
A few of these remarkable women are here with us tonight, and I will take this opportunity to have them join me here at the front : Roxanne Aila, Vanessa Gordon, Iriani Wanma, Elvina Ogil, Helen Anderson and Tania Basiou.
It has been such a privilege to feel, see and hear Papua New Guinea through their words.
Whilst our experiences of living life as a Papua New Guinean woman are individual, the scenarios described are rather familiar. What is most definite, is that we, are all hopeful, and being practical in our daily efforts, to reduce the inequalities within our communities in PNG.
I’d like to make special acknowledgement of Tania who has been beyond phenomenal in her talent, support, dedication and talent, as both a writer and the official photographer for this important project.
I am extremely pleased to have the Chief Executive Officer of the Brisbane Writers Festival, Ms Zoe Pollock, here with us this evening.
It was during September 2016’s Brisbane Writers Festival where, four Papua New Guinean writers (including me) presented a Panel Discussion. It was the same session that the suggestion for more of Papua New Guinea’s positive stories was received. The idea for My Walk to Equality was planted.
Six months later, we have ‘My Walk to Equality’ - as requested by that audience, and what I have no doubt will come to be appreciated by future readers. I thank Brisbane Writers Festival for having included PNG writers in its discussion of international, contemporary literature.
To Mrs Holman who is here tonight– thank you for believing in the vision. I’d aslo like to acknowledge our other generous donor, Paga Hill Development Company. hope you are proud of what we have produced.
Last but not least, all my gratitude to Murray Bladwell for doing a fine job of organising with tonight’s host, Mary Ryan’s Bookshop- Milton. It has been wonderful event and we look forward to Mary Ryan’s being the stockist of our book here in Brisbane.
I would now like to introduce you all to emerging Papua New Guinean woman writer, Ms Vanessa Gordon. Vanessa will orate one of her three poems contained in My Walk to Equality. This poem is entitled ‘Drum Beat’.
Thank you all.