BCL says no one told it of Panguna mining moratorium
The Captain of My Soul

Terry Shelley dies at 77: tough, generous, a true man of PNG

Terry Shelley
Terry Shelley


CAIRNS - A great and generous man of Papua New Guinea - as gritty as the highlands people he respected so much - died here early yesterday morning.

Just turned 77, Terry Shelley succumbed in Cairns Hospital. Direly ill, he had travelled there by what he termed “Dr Qantas” as the cancer he suspected, but did little to address, eventually overwhelmed him.

Terry had little time for ill health, doctors, Australia or the Papua New Guinean elite. But he had every minute he could muster for his family and the people of PNG whom he served so well for 55 years.

His son, Trevor, who he admired and loved like he did all his family, sent me a note yesterday afternoon to convey the wretched news. Trev is an information technology consultant with BHP Billiton in Perth following upon a distinguished career in Australia’s Army.

“Dad passed away early this morning in Cairns,” Trev wrote. “The silly bugger was riddled with cancer and, because he is a stubborn old bastard, did not seek any medical treatment - he would have had this [the cancer] for some time given the amount he had. Refused to seek help until he was cooked.

“Anyway Keith, I know Dad thought the world of you so I thought that I would let you know. Current thinking is to cremate Dad in Cairns and send him home to the masses for a wake. Mum can then send him home to Simbu or keep him in Goroka.”

Terry was as tough as they come and smart as a whip. We had spent some good hours together in Goroka at the Pacific Gardens Hotel on the last day of February this year, relishing the old days and the power of friendship to survive years out of contact but, thanks to PNG Attitude, never out of touch.

He refused a beer (“don't drink it now”) but cradled a whisky or two, still a great storyteller with the memories of days half a century ago as fresh as if those days were with us still.

We get old and family and friends die, and we know this is our fate and that we ourselves will go soon enough. But despite all this knowledge and experience there are some deaths that affect us much more deeply than others. For me, Terry’s is one of those.

And this is because that famous strength and candour, pugnacity and steeliness, thinly veneered a heart as big as Papua New Guinea and an enormous passion for its people and progress. This energy sat alongside the greatest contempt and scorn for the politicians and other exploiters that, whatever form they took or colours they wore, always managed to betray the ordinary people - the people who mattered most.

Terry's early career was as a cooperatives officer based in Kundiawa, where he and I and a rambunctious drunk named John Jones shared the ramshackle haus pik alongside the Chimbu Club. He worked with the farmers of Chimbu to grow and market coffee as a cash crop, later joining his wife, daughter and sons as he established Nowek Ltd in Goroka.

Nowek became a major local company concentrating initially on coffee processing and later diversifying into a thriving winery (strawberries and other local fruits providing the raw material) and a host of spin-offs in the manner of the true entrepreneur.

He drove his employees hard, paid them well and looked after them grandly and always showed huge benevolence to the ordinary people of the Chimbu and Eastern Highlands whom he loved.

Terry Shelley farewells the Great Book Container as it heads to Simbu
Terry farewells the great book container on its way to Simbu. He was the epitome of generosity and loyalty when it came to the people of PNG

Terry, Murray Bladwell and others collaborated on a number of projects carting books and medical equipment from Australia to PNG – much of it paid for by PNG Attitude readers with Terry always the most benevolent.

Just before Christmas last year, for example, over 100 Simbu schools and rural health centres were showered with boxes of books gifted by the Toowong Rotary Club in Brisbane. Murray and Terry worked together to deliver the Books for Simbu project, resulting in a huge shipping container of 11,000 books and health items.

Terry’s companies Nowek and Winestar kicked in the K25,000 required to buy and ship the container from Brisbane to Goroka and Kundiawa.

Although based in Goroka and making his business there over many years, Terry was always regarded as one of the great waitsikin man blo Simbu.

He fell in love with one of Simbu’s beautiful mountain orchids, Lyn from the Kamaneku tribe, and they married. Lyn became Terry’s lifetime partner and they had beautiful children: Louis (deceased), Trevor, Sarah, Ben, Terry Jnr, Joe and Jasmin.

Ben and Joe now run the family businesses in Goroka (including coffee, wine, construction, aggregates and bricks and cement). After many years in Winestar, Sarah recently made the transition to public service and the Ministry of Police. Terry Jr is Brisbane and Trev is in Perth.

Sarah & Terry Shelley & Francis Nii
Sarah Shelley and Terry deliver medical equipment to Francis Nii at Kundiawa Hospital

Terry's dear Simbu friend, the author Francis Nii, wrote overnight:

Oh, Keith, I am shattered and mentally crushed by this sad news. Tears are uncontrollably streaming down my cheeks. In my life as a paraplegic, there are very few people who are so close to my heart apart from my daughters and father and Terry because of their kindness, and now I lost one of them and this person is Terry.

Terry was a very kind man and his passing leaves a big vacuum in my life. I met him as a bank officer in 1997 and from there we developed a strong bond that spanned over 20 years. Losing him is like a part of me has been chopped off.  I will truly miss him.

We were still in touch up to this year but I never knew he had cancer. It is heartbreaking for me because he assisted me personally as well as the Simbu writers and schools in many ways. I will cherish his kindness forever.

My heartfelt condolences to the wife Lyn and all the children. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Terry would write irregularly for PNG Attitude but his words were always feisty, often witty and he was a constant truth teller.

In 2016, responding to disgraceful scenes in parliament as MPs laughed and mocked as the Health Minister joked about slashing K50 million from church-run health facilities, Terry wrote:

We have to get our priorities right. I keep telling people who are being turned away from Goroka Hospital that they should remember that we just had the most expensive and lavish Pacific Games ever with millions spent on fireworks etc and lack of medical and rural services will just have to wait. What should be realised is that whatever these 111 so-called leaders decide along with the 80,000 plus public servants is totally irrelevant to the daily struggle of 90% of the population of PNG. PNG - Poverty. Neglect. Greed.

This year, responding to my return visit to Kundiawa, he penned this note for PNG Attitude:

You have just driven the Okuk ‘Highway’ after 50 years and no doubt you were surprised and I would say saddened by the shambles it has been allowed to become. You no doubt saw the highland mammas washing themselves, kaukau, pikininis and second hand clothes in the gutters on the side of the ‘highway’. The last 41 years have forgotten these people like the vast majority of PNG citizens. Where is the equality for these people and their children?

And on another occasion:

Yes, things are simmering in PNG. I think the big driver is poverty and frustration amongst the young. Only 10% of the population is in the formal economy while the rest are left behind, with nothing but hardship and hunger down the track. Youths are no longer hunter gathers or gardeners. They are unemployed, poverty-stricken urban mobs and, yes, there is more to come.

He praised Murray Bladwell - who he knew was a kindred humanitarian - in 2011 as Murray turned 70:

Congrats Bladders on making 70 not out. You do not look a day over 30. Or are my eyes fading? On my many trips to Kundiawa, I often think of you as I pass through Chuave and have great memories of the wonderful displays you created of the sub-district for the Goroka Show with the local landscape of Mt Elimbari and Kongo made from paper and chicken wire. They really were works of art. All the best and keep going.

In 2014, I wrote a series of articles looking back 50 years to the early days of the Kundiawa News including its reportage of an ailing Chimbu Club, £2,000 in debt and denied credit for beer supplies. Terry provided a postscript: “Ah Taddie, home sweet home. I paid my bar bill and so the club was saved.”

And it was he who gave me the nickname Tadpole (or Taddy) because I was such a slender, immature creature back then.

Infrequently Terry would allow his thoughts to extend to more than 50 or so words, but when the pen did run free he knew how to hit the target. This from 25 August 2013:

At the podium
At the podium. For 50 years Terry was a community leader in every respect and a great rugby league administrator after a youth excelling at the sport 

Unequal distribution of PNG revenue is ‘obscene’

By Terry Shelley

GOROKA - The founding fathers of Papua New Guinea, conscious of the fact that we were erecting a nation out of more ethnic groups than any other nation on earth, framed a Constitution which emphasises that sharing what we have to allow all of us to develop at the same pace.

The Constitution's First National Goal calls for "every effort to be made to achieve an equitable distribution of incomes and other benefits of development among individuals and throughout the various parts of the country."

lt also states "equalisation of services in all parts of the country and every citizen to have equal access to legal processes and all services, governmental or otherwise, that are required for the fulfilment of his or her real need and aspirations".

Previous governments and this present government are guilty of gross dereliction of duty under the Constitution.

So what will be the legacy benefit to the vast majority PNG citizens who do not live in the national capital? Huge contracts are being handed out mainly to contractors of Chinese and Mediterranean ethnic links with Papua New Guineans picking up the crumbs of being labourers, plant operators and the like.

There is a virtual gold rush in the NCD which is awash with cash. This money belongs to all Papua New Guineans from all provinces and should be shared as per the Constitution.

The continuing media blitz telling us what a wonderful job is being done in vapourising one billion kina on the venues for the Pacific Games is becoming extremely annoying although it is hard at times to distinguish who is being promoted, the Games or the Minister.

PNG already has a silver medal on the world stage and that is for being second only to Afghanistan in infant and mother mortalities in child birth. This is something that we should be ashamed of.

The vast sums of money being allocated to NCD actually belong to all the people of PNG.

These disenfranchised asset owners will not be found in the bars and eateries of the likes of the Grand Papua or Airways but in the villages and hamlets throughout PNG mainland and the islands of the far flung atolls of the maritime provinces.

We ask the Prime Minister and his Sports Minister that on the next occasion of ground breaking on ribbon cutting ceremonies in NCD, they stop for a moment and give a thought for the rural people who have suffered in silence and for the many women and children who have paid the ultimate price due to lack of basic medical services.

And, to wrap this tribute, I republish a light-hearted piece Terry wrote for PNG Attitude on Christmas Day 2009:

Of rats, false teeth and Euclidean geometry

By Terry Shelley

GOROKA – I want to report for PNG Attitude on a couple of incidents that happened here during the year so that the B4s may know all is not doom and gloom.

One of the night shift workers came to me one morning stating he had liklik worry.

When I asked what the problem was he explained he had taken his false teeth out to eat his Navy Biscuit and, when went to pick them up, he saw a rat racing off with them.

Unfortunately he was unable to catch the rat before it disappeared down a hole.

He requested if he could have the teeth replaced as they were his front ones. Goroka Hospital came to the rescue at K20 per tooth.

On another occasion I requested my welder to measure the circumference of a screening barrel.

He replied: "Maski, em hat tumas.” [Forget it, it's too hard]

I was just about to give him a good old serve when he pulled out a tape measure and measured the diameter. Then he punched the number into his Nokia Mobile.

He then said: “Em ia, em mak bilong em." [Got it, here's the measurement]

I was astounded and asked him: "Yu savi long pi r²?” [You know pi r²?]

To which he replied "Nogat, mi savi long 3.146.” [No, but I know 3.146]

Who said there was no progress in PNG?

TerryAs we talked together for that last time at the Pacific Gardens Hotel, Terry mused on his failing health ("bloody arthritis") and his view that, whenever his time came, that would be OK. He told me he had no wish to return to Australia, that the Papua New Guinea highlands was his home, and that he was proud, so proud, of his family.

When we parted he suggested, briefly, that we should get together once more the following morning. But we both knew that would not advance the cause. We had met again, we knew we were both OK with each other and that we would now proceed alone with whatever lay in store. The bond had been maintained. That's what mattered.

Terry pulled himself up into the cab of his truck, gave a desultory wave and drove off into the night.


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Pedro Alcantra | Brazil

How sad it was to be told told today that Terry Shelley passed away.

I am proud this great man has been my business collaborator for more than 20 years. I have much to thank him for his honesty and hard work in bringing the name of my coffee machines to PNG.

What a struggle he fought. And how happy I have always been to have had his valuable help. And proud I have always been to see his Nowek business with my machines.

I talk about machines because this is my way of life. And Terry has played a huge role in my life because of his tireless work to help me and my family with his sales.

God bless you Terry. And God bless your family who will surely miss you.

Trevor Shelley

Terry's funeral in Goroka was a fitting tribute to him. The most touching part was the many attendees who filed past and comforted Terry's family and myself. The Prime Minister also took time out to attend.
Thanks to everyone for their kind remarks.

Jeremy Tamoa

A true Papua New Guinean... Rest in Peace Mr Shelley.

Trevor Shelley

Mike Bourke - I was unaware that Terry received a Logohu award. He certainly deserved one. For the record I had the honour of being awarded a LM a few years ago.

Trevor Shelley

It is certainly the end of an era, especially with the passing of Alan McLay a couple of days ago. Both my dad Terry and Alan were larger than life characters, great mates and deeply passionate about PNG.

My Facebook and email has been overflowing with tributes to dad but what has really been good are the snippets of memories that are coming through. Never a dull moment.

Thank you one and all from all of the family who are very much appreciating your condolences and tributes.

Philip Kai Morre

When I think of Bondor (Wandi) coffee factory I think of Terry Shelley in the 1970s when I was a kid attending Kondom Agaundo Primary School. He was a young energetic manager quick in temper but cooled down quickly. He was loved by many locals.

Terry, our tear drops are not worth the volume of work you have done for me and the rest of the Simbu people. Your wonderful sense of humour, and generosity and your great affirmation of common people will be remembered.

May God grand you eternal peace, May the angels welcome you to Heaven.

Mike Bourke

Keith - Do you know when Terry was awarded the ML (Member of the Order of Logohu)?

I'm currently compiling a list of those involved in PNG agriculture who have been honoured by PNG.

Great project, Mike. Perhaps a family member or one of our readers can help out - KJ

Ian Ling-Stuckey MP | Member for Kavieng

My sister Monica and the staff at Monian Ltd are saddened to learn of Terry's passing and forward our condolences to his family in PNG and Oz.

Like our own father, Peter Stuckey, who grew up in Parramatta, Terry was frank and forthright. Like my dad, Terry didn't take fools and pollies lightly!

He shared stories of his early years in Kavieng and also knew my paternal father Robert Cheong, a provincial politician of sorts.

I conducted a bit of business with Terry prior to entering parliament in 1997 when I first met him. He was a hard- nosed but fair businessman.

Rest in Peace.

Murray Bladwell

I have just opened PNG Attitude on my return from holidays to find that a great PNG man and friend has departed his country and its people.

Terry, as many respondents have already attested, was a man of the people. generous of spirit, a supporter of many causes, a straight shooter and a strong voice for his fellow countrymen and women.

It was a direct approach from Terry, who was concerned about the lack of reading material in EHD and Chimbu schools, that convinced the Toowong Rotary Club to forward a shipping container of school reading materials.

This would not have happened if Terry and his family had not stepped in to cover the shipping and land delivery costs. This was just one of many projects Terry undertook, often quietly and without acknowledgement.

Keith has given a wonderful overview of Terry and his contributions to PNG. I feel that this vivid memory of Terry should not be forgotten. How this might be achieved is for a discussion at a later date.

Vale Terry.

Michael Agum

A great mentor to many Simbus. His legacy will be remembered by many who met him. RIEP Papa Terry.

Mathias Kin

A deserving tribute to a true friend of Simbu. Thank you Keith. My bro Francis also has some kinds words for the great man.

I met Terry Shelley at his Kamaliki office in December 2014, he offered us coffee and biscuits. I took the opportunity to squeeze some old Chimbu stories out of him and he gave me some old pictures - he was such a kind man.

Sarah and Terry gave us a lot of wine for our Simbu Children Foundation Ball - they have been giving boxes of them to us at good discounts for many years now.

Terry assisted us with our work at SCF and Simbu Writers Association in many different ways, many times, being the reliable link between our many friends in Australia and PNG.

As many have mentioned, Terry Shelley, Barry Bond and Eric Pyne were the officers who started Kundiawa Coffee, later Chimbu Coffee, becoming the biggest indigenous cooperative in the Territory with more than 70,000 shareholders.

Terry was there doing all the ground work and laying the foundation.

I am sure there must be many wailing mothers among his tambus when they hear of his passing.

Mi wantaim ol members blong SCF na SWA laik salim bikpla tok sore igo long Sarah na ol famili blong yu. Tupla Terry na Sarah yet save wokim planti gutpla wok wantaim displa tupla NGO blong Simbu.

Indai blong displa gutpla man mas strongim yumi long wokim mo ol gutpla wok Terry Shelley save wokim.
RIP our friend.

Bob Phillips

God bless his family. A monument of a man: a great role model for others. Papua New Guinea is poorer for his loss.

Roger Gileng Otto

A strong-willed, witty and honest old bugger. Never showed a glimpse of illness. Will be missed by all who knew him. My condolences to Lyn and the children. May His Soul RIEP.

David Kelso

Very sad to see Terry go. What a great bloke he was, so down earth and always left him grinning and wiser.

No One Will Ever Know.

RIP Shell.

Tony Meehan

Terry Shelley was a Co-ops Officer in Kavieng in 1959 when rugby league was played on fields next to the tennis courts and Police Station.

He was the captain-coach of NINSA (New Ireland Native Society Association) and also took us ballboy kids aside to teach us the basics of the RL game, like passing and tackling.

He was a great mate of my old man, Bill Meehan, and they both use to play a lot of snooker together. Dad was also a sponsor of Kavieng Rugby League and Terry Shelley was the mainstay of grounds maintenance and supervisor of grounds with Dad's trucks and bulldozer.

We are indebted to men like Terry Shelley who started a lot of agriculture projects and rugby league in New Ireland.
RIP Terry Shelley, wanto lo olgeta.

Kerri Worthington | via Twitter

A lovely tribute.

I liked that you included some of his writing, especially those anecdotes 😄

Michael Butterfield

I remember one evening in the Chimbu Lodge when Terry said to Pita Lus, 'Yu are head kindam'.

Lus then said, 'Em wanem?'

Terry told him, 'Arse full of meat & head full of shit.'

Lus went off his brain telling Terry he'd be deported the next day. Never happened as we all know.

Tom Soles

Farewell Champ. Goroka will truly miss you.

Phil & Wilma Frame

A gentleman who spoke his mind and didn't tolerate bullshit!

Thanks for your tribute Keith. Condolences to Lyn, Sarah & family. RIP Terry.

Cynthea Leahy

Terry is a great loss to the Goroka community. He was a silent giver. He will be missed.

John K Kamasua

Vow great man indeed!

And a great life he had lived.

May his soul rest in peace.

Trevor Shelley Snr

Thanks for that Keith. When we have the final farewell in Goroka or Simbu it will be a time for laughter and recounting many memories from a most amazing life.

Gary Juffa | via Twitter

True words. So true. A kind witty passionate soul. Rest in eternal Peace.

Gordon Shirley

Keith, Many thanks for that tribute to Terry who in my opinion was the most honest white guy I met in PNG. That honesty always got him in to a lot of trouble with the authorities.

I first met him on the rugby field in Rabaul in 1966. He was very quick and very clever . He loved North Sydney.

Several years later I was the Headteacher at Wandi School just up from his factory. He was a tremendous help to me providing labour for classrooms and transport for cultural and sporting events. He even donated food to teachers and their families.

He was no ordinary business man. He helped myself and my family too in many ways when we used to visit the family of my wife up at Golgme. He helped my son get a teaching position at Goroka High too.

My wife and I are stunned today and are shedding quite a few tears too. God Bless the family.

Barbara Short

Thank you for the news. ..a great PNG man...gone to his rest. Thanks Terry Shelley.

William Dunlop

Vale. Red Shell.

Kevin O'Regan

Eloquent tribute Keith. Thanks.

Philip Fitzpatrick

How sad - a great man.

Robin Lillicrapp

A sad but eloquent memorial to a man long to be remembered in PNG.

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