NOOSA - “Are you going to stray from your lofty editorial cyber-perch and grace us with your presence at the next reunion?” said the email.
It was impertinence normale from onetime pikinini kiap Peter Salmon. A missive of characteristic disrespect.
As soon as they put on their broad brimmed military-style hats, these young turks of pre-independent Papua New Guinea thought they sat at the feet of god. Which in a sense some did.
Vale nambawan kiap Tom Ellis.
Peter and I were contemporaries in Chimbu in the 1960s – him a kiap, me a tisa - before we both went on to other careers and other lives.
Since 2001, Peter has been publisher of the valued and historically valuable Ex Kiap website (if you haven’t seen it, catch up here). He is a communicator after my own heart – keep the channels open, the debate free and duck for cover as required.
The website believes there are few punches worth pulling and it is as straightforward and unflinching as were the kiaps themselves. You'll get a flavour of this from its mission statement, which reads in part:
“I'm sick and tired of hearing the ‘fat ones’ (olesem ol grisman na stilman na giamanman) blaming PNG's current parlous state on their so called ‘colonial inheritance’.
“I believe that PNG Administration was one of the most cost effective imperial, bureaucratic interventions of recent times, I cannot think of another similar endeavour that was more effective or delivered ‘more bangs for the bucks’.
“At the ‘business end’ (or the ‘grass roots’ level, whatever) it was in general purposeful, moral, ethical, honest regardless of whether we were part of an imperial policy whose motives may not have been as altruistic. I believe that we did do a good job in PNG.”
So bloody there.
Every couple of years, the kiaps reunite on the Sunshine Coast. Being men of strict routine, they gather at the same drinking hole (this is the fourteenth year at the Kawana Waters Hotel on Nicklin Way in Buddina), entry is always by a gold coin no matter the state of the economy, there is always a warm comradeship and by common consent there are no speeches.
Kiaps have long believed that the only purpose for a speech was direction or pacification.
This year’s gathering is on Sunday 12 November. Kawana Waters Hotel is on the main road between Mooloolaba and Caloundra and I am reliably informed there’s plenty of parking for those who believe a car is advisable.
The invitation is broad and includes not only ex-kiaps and their families but also friends and former colleagues, a category in which Peter Salmon has included me in his declaration that I should stray from, as he puts it, my perch.
Even with the event more than a month off, 150 people have signed up and, while it is over 40 years since they last saw kiap service, these men are proving to be as resilient, vigorous and acute as they always were,
More creaky in bone and wider in girth, certainly, but fellas you’d rather have on your side than any other.
As no less a soldier than Britain’s Field Marshal Sir William Slim, later governor-general of Australia, said of them to Australian politician Sir Paul Hasluck:
“I do admire what you have done in New Guinea. I know something about this. It is the sort of thing that I was trying to do during most of my life.
"Your young chaps in New Guinea have gone out where I would never have gone without a battalion and they have done on their own by sheer force of character what I could only do with troops. I don’t think there’s been anything like it in the modern world...”
Selected books & articles on the kiap experience
Bill Brown MBE: ‘A Kiap’s Chronicle’
Scott Morrison MP: Speech, House of Representative Debates, 21 November 2011
Chips Mackellar: ‘Sivarai: Memories of Papua New Guinea’
Chris Overland: ‘Esprit de corps and the power of the kiap myth’
Phil Fitzpatrick: ‘Days of the Kiap: Constable Okomba & the cannibals’
Harry West OAM: ‘Graham Taylor’s kiap’s story tells it all & makes history live’
James Sinclair: ‘Kiap: Australia's Patrol Officers in Papua New Guinea’
More on the reunion
The venue outlook is over water to an extensive marina and has a covered outdoor deck area linked to an indoor bar/lounge with adequate dining and seating facilities available for our use. Last time they ably catered for 329.
There is a good restaurant/bistro adjoining our area where as with previous reunions you will be able to order your own meals and sit with whom you choose. The restaurant will be open from 11.30 am to 8.30 pm. Since we will be sharing the restaurant facilities of this popular establishment with the regular Sunday clientele, the Hotel’s Function Co-ordinator has requested that we provide an approximate figure of attendees by the 16 October, 2017. So do let us know of your intention to attend or otherwise. All the tables are reserved for our Reunion.
Drinks will be available at bar prices from the Lounge Bar and Public Bars and these bars will be open from 11am to 10pm.
Informality will continue to be the order of the day. Definitely no speeches, everyone is far too busy catching up with friends. This format has proven popular so we will stick with it.
The Kawana Waters Hotel has 16 motel style rooms available which we have tentatively booked for the nights of Saturday, 11 November and Sunday, 12 November, 2017. If you require a booking please phone the hotel on 07. 54446699 and mention you are part of the “Kiap Reunion” group to secure a unit. It is the case of first in etc but we know the rooms were found to be very much in demand at all our previous reunions.
Other accommodation for those needing it may be available at:
- Kyamba Court Motel, 94 Brisbane Road, Mooloolaba, Ph. 07. 54440202.
- Mooloolaba Motel, 46 Brisbane Road, Mooloolaba, Ph. 07. 54442988.
- Mantra Sirocco, 59-75 The Esplanade, Mooloolaba Ph. 07. 54576000.
- Raffles Mooloolaba, 65 First Ave., Mooloolaba Ph. 07. 54440077.
- River Esplanade Motel, 98 River Esplanade, Mooloolaba, Ph. 07. 54443855.
- Twin Pines Motel, 36 Brisbane Road, Mooloolaba, Ph. 07. 54442522.
- Seaview Resort, 143 The Esplanade, Mooloolaba Ph. 07. 54443400
Breakfast on the Monday morning is another popular gathering and this will be arranged again. It is held at Bellissimo’s Restaurant on the Esplanade at Mooloolaba overlooking the beach and is near the Mooloolaba Surf Club and opposite “The Loo With a View”..
We ask that you spread the word and pass on this invitation to those you feel would enjoy the day. Please mention the reunion to all of the kiaps you know.