Citizenship issue for PNG-born Australians deepens
If we can’t change the government, let’s change the prime minister

To reunion or not to reunion? One place would get me there

Ek kiaps
Retired kiaps come together regularly to rekindle the comradeship that developed during their service in Papua New Guinea before independence


TUMBY BAY - I think I received my first invitation to a reunion when I was in my mid-forties.

Why on earth, I wondered, would anyone who went to the Elizabeth Boys Technical High School in the early 1960s even want to admit to having gone there and, worse, want to get together for a meal and a yarn?

I had for many years gone out of my way to avoid telling anyone that’s where I went to high school.

I did a little bit of delving and discovered the reunion was the idea of a couple of businessmen who had done well after leaving school and wanted to brag about it. They wanted to rub the collective noses of those who hadn’t done so well as the businessmen perceived they had themselves.

I duly gave it a miss.

Ever since then I’ve been wary of reunions, although I must admit I once went to a reunion of mud skippers from what is now Western Province. And I went to a one-off affair involving the crew from the old Aboriginal and Historic Relics Unit of the South Australian Museum.

Those reunions were based on old friendships more than anything else.

For some years now, people who worked in pre-independent Papua New Guinea have been holding reunions but apart from the above mentioned mud skippers bash I’ve avoided them.

Perhaps the most famous and enduring is the kiap reunion held on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland every alternate year. There is a smaller version in Cairns in the intervening year.

In recent years both these events have widened their scope to embrace anyone with a history in Papua New Guinea. A case of diminishing numbers I suspect.

I can’t imagine that kiaps are the sort of people who would get much satisfaction from bragging about themselves, so attending has always been an option for me.

Unfortunately I’m not the most organised person in the world and I’ve usually been busy doing something else somewhere else at the time.

I was thinking about this the other day and wondering what it would actually take for me to get organised enough to attend such an affair.

Then it came to me.

If they actually held a reunion in Papua New Guinea I’d make sure I got there.

Just think about it. A bunch of grizzled old kiaps in some middle-of-the-road accommodation somewhere in Port Moresby rubbing shoulders with their local counterparts and learning what has happened to the place since they left decades ago.

Maybe even invite some pollies along to join in the merriment and anything could happen.

Now that would be a reunion to remember.


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Harry Topham

Freudian slip, perhaps?

Philip Fitzpatrick

Procrastination is the thief of a very large book - you might have to explain that one Harry.

Harry Topham

Careful Phil, at our stage of life when time is precious and not to be wasted remember that old adage, "procrastination is the thief of tome".

Harry Topham

Good idea Paul. With all that moolah being splashed around at the moment there might be some left over to sponsor some old kiaps for a junket to PNG.

Uncle Peter the great might put on his jet for some of us less wealthy retirees.

Scenario_ Arrive at Jacksons and after getting our digs sorted out, into chauffeur driven Maserati's and Bentleys, with a suitable police escort organised by our man in Mosbi, to the new APEC convention centre for a knock out reunion party.

Might not do much for the economy but certainly would get the tongues wagging as our entourage sped past the peasants.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Most of my decisions are spur of the moment Andy. I leave the procrastination for afterwards.

The Weigh Inn would be a perfect venue, especially on a Saturday night.

Andy McNabb

Phil got honours in Procrastination, but can't make up his mind if he is a procrastinator.

Actually, I did have an email address some years ago [email protected] but people wrote to it asking if they should participate or not. I might crank it up again just for fun, but I cant make up my mind on this.

Phil, if you don't like Gorgonzola cheese, don't eat it, and better still don't buy it, so you won't be tempted to stand in front of the open fridge door wondering "shall I have some Gorgonzola cheese on my Jatz or not - perhaps I will ask my missus and kids we can discuss this from many angles and take a vote".

Will Self

The Weigh Inn? Are you mad? A dangerous and nasty place.

It was described a couple years ago in a travel blog in exactly those terms with the following added, "....where even the cockroaches have genital warts."

Paul Oates

Wouldn't it be great to actually be 'invited' back by the country we helped create and still hold her people in such high regard? Maybe even some assistance package like that offered to some through DFAT. Why the possibilities are so tempting just to think about.

Funny how that thought has never apparently occurred to the PNG government? I guess we might have a once off curiosity factor but no real power to actually do anything for anyone.

I guess the huge reception Bob Cleland and Goerge Oakes received when they paid a visit was enough to scuttle that idea but maybe not? Just look at how the younger royals were feted recently.

Maybe a new PM might like to make an offer of a lifetime?

Husat isave?

Ray Weber

I have been to two Sunshine Coast reunions and one in Cairns. It is simply a way of meeting old comrades and reminiscing about the past - I don't recall anyone bragging about their present situation. No formality and no speeches.

I agree that it would be great to have a reunion in PNG, whether it be in the new Hilton or the old Kerema Hotel, we would be made most welcome by Papua New Guineans, most of whom still have a lot of respect for the old kiaps.

Peter Salmon

Phil, I don't think your PNG reunion is going to wash. I'd love to go back to The Weigh Inn (near Kone for those who don’t know) for another good Friday night piss up (Oh those Tatana & Buruni ladies bring back memories of yore) and a Saturday lunch of lamb shanks but only if someone else will pony up for the expensive costs of air travel and accommodation to PNG nowadays.

Lonely Planet on The Weigh Inn: "This ageing place offers poorly lit standards with cinderblock walls and boxy but airier ‘premier’ rooms, all with TV and fridge. There’s a restaurant and cosy pub that serves daily specials, popular with expats and locals."

'Premier' rooms, I don't think so but the Lonely Planet comment was very politically correct in not using the adjective "sleazy". It is and I love it.

For a person who doesn't attend our south-east Queensland reunions, your comments are a little off the mark. Usually our numbers are up in the 250 to 300+ attendees and I'd doubt whether less than 20 or so of these weren't kiaps & family.

If anything the number of kiap attendees over the years has gradually increased as word has got around.

We've always tried to involve teachers, didimen, etc. because they were part of our milieu back in PNG as well as our friends and acquaintances.

I always wondered why didiman and other 'lains' haven't organised their own reunions. Maybe the teachers do now and again but I rarely hear of it if they do.

You do seem to indicate a latent or subconscious prejudice (maybe this is too strong a word) about attending these reunions but you redeem yourself by opining, "I can’t imagine that kiaps are the sort of people who would get much satisfaction from bragging about themselves, so attending has always been an option for me."

These reunions are not about bragging or discussing whether PNG is a "failing state" nor do we spend the day patting each other on the back.

Actually apropos of that article you wrote several months ago about PNG and the question of whether it is a failing state, personally I think PNG is a failed state.... but back to our reunions. Nor will not hear attendees rejoicing in the back sliding of PNG over the past 42 years, dancing on the graves so to speak.

(KJ, why haven't you got a search function built into PNG Attitude, I wanted to refresh my memory about Phil's article but couldn't find it.)

But until such time as you do attend, you'll never, never know. And if you do attend one of these reunions don't take it to heart if no one shows any interest in discussing the development of PNG literature, this is one subject I haven't heard crop up over the past years.

See you in November 2019.

Unfortunately Typepad does not offer a search function - one of it's many flaws but it's too late for me to start again! The chalkies have reunions but they tend to be limited to peer groups and are much smaller than the grand kiaps occasions, which are always worthwhile - KJ

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