Those tough Chimbu kiaps included the remarkable Joe Nombri
The laurabada blows & I long for a true PNG-Australia partnership

All round, those Papua New Guinean kiaps had a tough job

Postage stamp
Not the best rendered PNG postage stamp, but it did mark the onset of the first indigenous kiaps


ADELAIDE - I worked with Papua New Guinean kiaps Jack Karukuru and Cedric Tabua, both now deceased I think.

They were intelligent and capable men. Jack went on to become a departmental head but Cedric's ultimate fate is unknown to me.

I always thought that PNG kiaps had a really tough task.

They were being asked to join a colonial force that was designed to impose the rule of a foreign power upon their fellow citizens. There was, amongst some officers within the Department of District Administration, more than a hint of racism with which they had to contend.

Also, it was my impression that it was harder for them to win the confidence of the local people they were working with because they were not automatically covered by the mystical prestige accorded to white kiaps.

This ‘glamour', if I can call it that, was a function of history rather than a reflection of personal capability or charisma (although some of us fondly imagined otherwise).

So, unlike the white kiaps who were obviously outsiders, PNG kiaps could be seen as brothers. I think that this may have set up a different set of expectations about how they would behave and do their jobs, which could be both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Sadly for PNG, the government did not persist with the kiap system, presumably believing it to be an anachronistic colonial relic.

This was, I think, true to some extent, but jettisoning an entire working administrative system left a gaping hole in the new country's public sector structure which does not seem to have been filled by any viable alternative.

Anyway, irrespective of what I may think, history has moved on and PNG has developed another way of doing business.

Whether that is a good thing or not is a matter of conjecture although the current state of affairs in rural and remote PNG suggests not.


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Paul Oates

Mathias, your post has clearly resonated with many lapuns like myself who continuously lament that given enough time, a better outcome would have eventuated.

It's now too late to overturn history however the principles that have been allowed to lapse can always been reintroduced.

All it takes is guts, gumption and get up and go.

Mathias Kin

I started work at Kondom Agaundo House (the Simbu Provincial Government building) around November 1993 after university.

There were many of the old PNG kiaps still in the system then, mostly working in district affairs and the provincial and local level government offices.

I remember many of them for their cleanliness and their discipline. They were always very smartly dressed, usually the best dressed workers each day.

They were at their offices at 8.00 am sharp and left after 4.06 pm each day; their punctuality left a mark on me.

They spoke much better English than most of the government workers and their written instructions were good also.

They maintained the highest standard of integrity and were graceful in all their dealings.

To this day, after all the turmoil and ills of governance we see every day, many PNG people talk of bringing back the kiaps as District Administrators, Election Returning Officers etc.

We may have come too far to turn back, but just think of what it would it be like if the planners at independence had maintained the kiap system for a little longer until the new system settled?

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think I should have added that kiaps everywhere, including a lot of national kiaps, were advocating a go-slow policy towards independence, which was counter to everything Michael Somare wanted. Ellis was echoing the kiap line.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Michael Somare had a particular dislike of the Australian kiaps and wanted them gone. A lot of his animosity stemmed from his poor relationship with Tom Ellis, the Director of DDA.

Given there was a core of well-trained national kiaps it now seems silly that the system wasn't kept on. I think it's called cutting off your nose to spite your face.

A few provinces like East Sepik had their own kiaps for a while after independence. They actually had khaki uniforms with kiap badges.

Some of those senior kiaps like Jack Karukuru were quite capable of running a kiap system but I think a lot of them didn't have the stomach for the politics and slowly faded back into civilian life.

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