10 years of PNG Attitude in the National Library archives
29 October 2018
NOOSA – In 2009, the National Library of Australia sought permission from me to “provide public access in perpetuity” to PNG Attitude.
“The Library aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future,” said senior librarian, Edgar Crook at the time.
“It is [also] committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting research or cultural value. Since  we have been identifying online publications and archiving those that we consider have national significance.”
Mr Crook said the Library would take the necessary preservation action to keep PNG Attitude accessible down the years even with hardware and software changes over time, adding that its national database is shared by over 1,000 Australian libraries.
Well that was 10 years ago and, nowadays, each 15 October, the National Library takes a snapshot of the blog to ensure all the articles and comments it contains will live on into the future.
So let’s take a look at these snapshots with a short extract from each. While what I reproduce here are random selections, I think the 10 stories effectively represent the kind of content that will be familiar to readers as the heart of PNG Attitude.
2009 – A story with the power to keep on giving
A boychild was born in Goroka Hospital in the Eastern Highlands just five minutes after a visiting dignitary happened by in March 2008. So impressed were the parents, Esau and Lina Kitgi from isolated Degi village, they named the baby in honour of the visitor … Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd.
And from time to time since, with the help of AAP correspondent Ilya Gridneff, we have kept track of Baby Kevin’s progress. Well he’s reached another milestone in his short life – first words have been uttered. “He’s growing up so quickly, talking now too,” says proud Dad, Esau. Well, sort of. The 18-month old has managed “mum” and “dad” but, as Gridneff points out, “he struggles with his namesake’s favourite phrase ‘programmatic specificity’.”
2010 – Seeking goal compatibility in a risky climate
I don't believe that passing laws and winning court battles will reduce investment risk in PNG over the long term, and large scale mines are long life assets. Governments can change, laws can be challenged in court. In extreme cases (e.g., Bougainville) there is the possibility of violent revolt.
The only way for resource companies to feel secure for the longer term is to win hearts and minds by demonstrating that they can provide a lasting benefit to local communities, as well as the broader population, with minimal cost to the environment. People like Ross Garnaut, and the new management at Ok Tedi Mining, have been leading the way in these areas and I was baffled by the recent attacks on Garnaut.
As for Ramu, I think its importance is symbolic. Others here have described it as a defining moment - I hope it can be. I hope the result is a clearer understanding by all sides of the others' point of view, and a rewritten "pact" between all parties, government, miners and landowners. There is certainly room for miners to lift their game, to contribute more, and to reduce their environmental impact.
And there is room for the government to monitor, tax and police miners more effectively on behalf of their citizens. In exchange the miners want more security for their investments. These goals aren't incompatible.
2011 – Safeguarding heritage: guardians of the river
In 2005 A report by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, entitled Beyond Belief, reached a critical conclusion. “Sacred sites,” it said, “are the oldest method of habitat protection on the planet.” Yet these biological and cultural treasures were then and are still under assault — as are the people who have been safeguarding them for millennia.
Hence the Sacred Land Film Project is producing a four-part film series, Losing Sacred Ground, which exposes environmental assaults on indigenous sacred landscapes and promotes strategies to protect the integrity of these endangered places.
2012 – Cheap shot: curbing the destructive male egos of PNG
Some guy gets beaten up and won't stop acting like a bitch in order to recover lost pride. And because society seems too polite to tell them to put their tail between their legs and retreat, they give them their 15 minutes of notoriety and hot air. So the consolation for a broken ego is that one is allowed to wake up the neighbourhood at 1 am and declare to everyone that you would have beaten the other guy's butt but for the 'cheap shot' he gave you.
Of course the entire neighbourhood knows your butt got whopped, but they'll be silent and enjoy hearing you hang yourself. Eventually the alcohol wears off or the drunkard becomes satisfied that the rather large wound in his ego has been treated and he stops bitch'n. This sort of behaviour by a vast majority of men in PNG, whether under the influence of liquor or not, has significant developmental implications.
2013 – Will you help the brave man on the mobile phone
It’s a tough gig. Just imagine. Just imagine yourself in this situation. You’re lying on your back in hospital. You’ve been confined to bed for over a year now. The old wheelchair with the sagging seat rests against a wall. Your bedsores have put paid to the small pleasure of using it to propel around the wards. You’re realistic about your life situation. The accident in 1999 was so long ago you’ve adjusted to the reality you’re a paraplegic, never to walk again; the promising career of economist and senior banker a distant dream.
Your personal calculus tells you that you’re fortunate to be alive and amongst your own people; resident in a hospital where your wisdom is beneficial and your calm presence valued and you’re treated with care. Furthermore, you are a respected figure in a wider community. For a start, you are writer of books in a country of few authors. You’re an award-winning essayist and storyteller. You compose your telling words lying flat on your back and punching the tiny keys of a mobile phone.
2014 – Kombani blong me, Joseph Miulge
An extremely good-natured, stocky old feller – Joseph - used to come down from the high slopes of Mt Wilhelm every now and then to stay with his daughter, Dorin Bas, at the DPI compound near Kundiawa, where I also resided in 2004. Joseph called me “kombani blong mi” and I called him the same. After I learned his age and who he was, my esteem for the bloke increased greatly.
I was amazed that, at his advanced stage in life, he exhibited the stamina and charisma of a 30 year old. Many times we shared a beer at our local Kaugras Club. He smokes Cambridge brand cigarettes and even chuckled about the opposite sex. Since I had been indulging in the history of Simbu, I couldn’t let this fellow out of my sight every time I had the opportunity to talk with him. And what a historian he was.
2015 – The wolves are devouring us in broad daylight
(Busa Jeremiah Wenogo)
The phrase “Papua New Guinea has gone to the dogs” is no longer relevant in describing the extent of corruption in our country. It does not go nearly far enough. We all stand astonished at the magnitude and pace at which corruption has accelerated in PNG in the last decade or so. The state of service delivery in most parts of PNG is at a pitiful state even when we are in the middle of a “boom” - the boom was supposed to usher in a new era in our nation’s history where we could look forward to a more equitable and fairer society.
Yet in the 40 years of its nationhood, PNG has gone from a progressive nation to one of the most backward developing nations on earth. The irony is that, all this time, we have been rated as one of the most resource rich nations. Thanks largely to PNG LNG we have witnessed unprecedented growth in our economy in the last decade yet I can’t help wondering what we were raving about when the reality is that this project was not as “transformational” as it was predicted to be.
2016 – The new generation of sons: May they be strong & good
(Marlene Dee Gray Potoura)
Christian schools in PNG are no better than other schools when it comes to caring for students’ innermost needs. Schools run privately are all about money. It is a business and students are simply the wares in which they deal. Believe it or not, that is a fact. Is this a cause of the ‘lost generation’?
The time when our first national leaders like Paulias Matane matured was not an era of a lost generation. This was a success generation. Is there a more recent and more serious problem in the way our schools are developing students? If students are neglected in their homes, should Christian schools step in?
“A man who treats his wife like a Princess is raised by a Queen.” Is this saying true? How about, “A man who treats his wife like Trash is raised by a Hag.” What do you think? Is the “male in-between lost generation era” the fault of women? Did we neglect children who turned out to be losers and brutes? Can we, as women change this generation of modern readers, iPad fanatics, video gamers and internet nerds into better men? Are we as strong as our good men of that earlier era?
2017 -We came seeking your help; you denied our liberty & tortured us
(Abdul Aziz Adam)
We have been held in your country against our wishes and have been denied our Liberty and have been tortured in your country. We came to Australia for seeking Asylum. Australia has signed the 1951 UN refugee convention, however they deliberately broke it and have not offered us Asylum. The UN, UNHCR, Amnesty International, Save the Children, HRW and many other organisations have rebuked Australia's treatment of us here in Manus detention centre.
Please do not go along with this mistreatment of humans. We do not want to move into the new centres in Manus town. We do not feel safe there or anywhere in PNG. We cannot work or provide for our families. We cannot be respected by people in society here. We don't want to settle in PNG. We came to Australia. Australia should offer us Asylum. Give us to a safe country like New Zealand. New Zealand has already offered to take us. We will happily start a new lives there.
Your own constitution says that we are held illegally here.PNG High Court said last year that Lombrum detention is illegal and now in the end of October, Australian government said we are closing it. But they have built another three centres in town, where they will dump us in there for years. How is this not illegal also? What words and phrases have been changed to make it not illegal?
2018 – K38 million Maserati purchase made through Sri Lanka ‘backyard firm’, Bryan Kramer slams O’Neill govt & demands it ‘come clean’
Prominent Papua New Guinea Opposition MP and Member for Madang Bryan Kramer has slammed APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko for the purchase of 40 luxury Maserati sedans, which he says would retail in PNG for at least $400,000 (K950,000) each taking into account excise duty, clearance and freight. And he's in possession of what he says is a leaked invoice (right) to back him up. The cars will be used to ferry world leaders attending the APEC leaders’ summit that PNG will be hosting in Port Moresby next month.
“While the country faces a polio outbreak, failing health and education systems, systemic corruption, and escalating law and order issues, prime minister O’Neill appears to be more concerned about impressing world leaders,” Kramer said in a statement. “The bottom line is, we cannot afford to be this extravagant. Our country is broke and the O’Neill government continues to be irresponsible and reckless.”
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.