Bougainville red flags ignored back then - and again now
What has PNG become and how to describe it?

Whatever happened to the Crocodile Prize?

Crocodile Prize memorabilia (Michael Dom)MICHAEL DOM

LAE - Why did I write for the Crocodile Prize? I didn’t. I wrote for me. We all do.

All writers, poets, essayists, bloggers, tweeters, Facebook champions and slanderers, regardless of nationality, proclivity, intended objective, altruistic notion, educational or inspirational motive…. we write for ourselves first.

We want to make our thoughts known. We want to have our say. We want other people to know what we think, how we feel, who we blame, why we agree, disagree, why we want to live and for what cause or status we’d happily die.

Communication is a fundamental human need. It’s as basic as eating, sleeping, fucking and dying.

So, colleagues, get over yourselves.

You are not special in the multiverse of higher-level organisms capable of accumulating and dispersing information of fundamental intellectual value or otherwise plain stupidity.

Back in the bad old days, in some places, folks could find themselves dead very quickly for making marks in the sand.

In today’s modern-age world writers can still, by state sanction no less, be removed from their corporeal bodies simply for doing what they loved best.

What’s changed?

I think the United Nations recognises this, or should, as a basic human right: the right to write.

So, when I was writing for myself and sharing my stuff on PNG Attitude and entering the Crocodile Prize, I was fulfilling my own fundamental need to communicate, for me mostly through my poems.

Published. Job done. It’s all good. So, what?

Well, the what is not all about me. And it’s not all about you either, Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick, although I insist you’re mostly to blame for egging us all on.

It’s not about the Crocodile Prize itself either, or the kudos and koble (moni).

It’s about what the Crocodile Prize represents, what it captures and nurtures, what it provides for us all now and for future generations, from the well-spring of human endeavour and creativity, desire and being.

That’s the what.

It’s all about us as Papua New Guineans.

Not Australians. Not Americans. Not Chinese. Not Kiwis or Kanaks. Not British or Germans. Not Tolais or Sepiks. Not Simbus or Centrals. Us. Papua New Guineans. Collectively. All our voices. In one book.

If there is nothing about this that you find as valuable or worthy, then eat your writing pad and laptop and call them kumu na kaukau [green leaves and sweet potato].

That said, my next question is, what happened to the Crocodile Prize?

One of you writers-in-the-know please communicate to the rest of us on this, please. Or just eat your kumu na kaukau.


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Caroline Evari

Please email me [email protected]

Michael Dom

Alright. That's a good start.

Thanks everyone for putting your hands up.

I will email over the weekend and we can catch alight.

Jimmy Awagl

I will be a mumu stone as well if there is a need for the new Crocodile Prize committee in place.

Rashmii Bell

With Michael as Chair, I am happy to undertake tasks as needed.

I am on [email protected]

Ben Jackson

Baka and others - I'm happy to be part of a group to take this forward.- Let's get together an make a plan. Give me a call on 7180 1037

Daniel Kumbon

Michael, take the lead..DK is ready on the sideline to cheer you on

Philip Fitzpatrick

Perhaps a new species of crocodile might be discovered in the highlands.

The Mountain Crocodile or Crocodylus highupicus no less.

Michael Dom

Great, Daniel.

You were already on my list.

Jimmy Awagl

Volunteerism is part of a growing culture that can help revive the Crocodile Prize to captivate writing blooming in PNG.

It must on PNG Altitude since it's more transparent than any other blog.

Daniel Kumbon

Michael, thanks for bringing up the subject to resurrect the Crocodile Prize.

And yes, I agree there are good mumu stones in Simbu.

The food down by the riverside was good too during the 2016 presentations of the CP.

And I can remember Mathias Kin talking about the need to establish a 'home' for the CP.

Michael and Mathias, can we talk more about the Simbu mumu stones please.

That makes three of us.

Michael Dom

Yeah, we Simbu's got the right mumu stones, Mathias.

Ed Brumby

Trust the good Doctor Dom, poet extraordinaire, to put up his hand to help revive the ailing Pukpuk.

Pigs his specialty may be, but the Doc is nothing if not versatile, and talented, and dogged.

But the good Doc, like most/all other previous (and forthcoming, hopefully) volunteers is not a free agent entirely: many others have demands on his time and talents, not least his employer and colleagues and clients and family and friends.

He will need all the help he can get.

There is, as Chris has reminded us, great virtue and value in volunteering and, until this year at least, volunteers from all walks and many regions of PNG life have sustained the Pukpuk – at, in many instances, considerable personal inconvenience.

Indeed, as we all know, the genesis of the Pukpuk was the inspired coupling of two esteemed and highly talented volunteers, Keith and Phil.

They, however, unlike many, if not most of their Papua New Guinean successors, had, by virtue of their ‘retired’ status, more time than most to devote to nurturing their progeny – which is why, for a time, the Pukpuk became and remained a robust literary beast.

As their successors have found, the Pukpuk is a hungry beast that eats into time, and energy and commitment and needs discipline and leadership and ongoing, continuous sustenance to remain viable.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the good Doc has the capability and commitment to lead the Pukpuk’s revival – or that other capable Papua New Guineans will also contribute to the cause.

I also agree, wholeheartedly, with Phil that some form of commercialization to underpin and sustain the Doc’s volunteer brigade will be necessary.

Commercial sponsorship is an obvious necessity – but not just for prizes or events.

The volunteer brigade needs a dedicated, preferably salaried executive officer who can, among other duties, co-ordinate meetings and correspondence, secure sponsorships, manage the website, events and such.

Perhaps the likes of Air Niugini, Oil Search, Steamships, MTV et al could be persuaded, as part of their corporate social responsibility endeavours, to assign one of their suitably-qualified and experienced people to take up this role on a part-time basis?

And, as Phil has noted, don’t let any government or quasi-government entity anywhere near the Pukpuk ….

Mathias Kin

Disappointed I was and still am. No answers needed but what ever happened to that group? Anyhow you explained it Baka.

Michael, I could keep the fire burning in the old mumu place if that's the only thing I am good for.

Email: [email protected]

Michael Dom

Caroline, and anyone else with this good thinking, I'm on [email protected].

Let's do this.

Caroline Evari

I am not an active writer but the Crocodile Prize was one platform that exposed my writing. I volunteered twice but up to this date, I am not aware of what's happening.

Perhaps volunteering is not the issue, we just need to be on top of our game in terms of communicating with each other.

I'd agree with Phil and say that the working group should be reformed.

Michael Dom

Hi Phil, I'm on that schedule.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Keith offered space on PNG Attitude to help the prize Betty and I offered editorial and publishing assistance. Both offers were ignored.

That aside, there is not much point in PNG Attitude running the prize again. It's supposed to be a PNG endeavour by PNG's writers and publishers. Having a couple of old white blokes in Australia do it hardly makes it a PNG affair.

If you want a truly PNG national competition you have to do it yourselves.

Michael Dom

The Breaker. Message copied.

Michael Dom

Hi Baka,

I had volunteered to help read stuff but my offer was ignored.

I thought that was one core task that I could execute without being physically present.

My offer has not been retracted.

Jordan Dean offered to publish FOC, but no go.

I would like to talk more about what's involved in the "doing to' sand fro's".

It's certain that we all appreciate Emmanuel's enthusiasm and Gretel's energy.

However, it needs to be explained dto other volunteers what else we need to do to help with this toing and froing.

Volunteering works best with a specific task: e.g. fire safety, water safety, helping old folks. There's some understanding of what tasks need to be done and someone who directs the doing of tasks.

I've been a permanent volunteer for the Crocodile Prize since it started and my only question has been what do we need to do and how can I help?

I'm sure that's the way it is with many others.

There are limits to what volunteers may contribute so each task should be specific to what's within their individual capacity to deliver.

Also, let's not ask for volunteers and then not give them a responsibility or ignore their contribution.

Perhaps you and I can strike up an email/mobile conversation. I would really appreciate your advice.

I'm still on gmail.

Betty Gabriel Wakia

This year the Crocodile Prize should be on PNG Attitude.

John Bennett

To the poet laureate,

Watch the film 'Breaker Morant' (I can send a DVD if the carrier pigeons are not working).

The Breaker, as he was called, wrote considerable poetry. Just before his execution by firing squad (bloody British!) he asked his defending officer to have his poetry published. He said "we poets crave immortality".

I have never met the poet laureate (but would very much like to), but I have met his sister, who is decidedly much prettier that the poet laureate.

Chris Overland

For many years the Crocodile Prize relied largely upon the voluntary efforts of Keith and Phil. Of late, it has relied inordinately upon the energy and enthusiasm of a handful of Papua New Guineans.

Like many volunteer driven activities, it seems that the Crocodile Prize has run out of steam, in part at least, because it lacks a "champion" with the energy and commitment to make it happen.

Out of curiosity, I checked Volunteering Australia's most recent fact sheet on volunteering to see how much volunteer effort is being reported for Australia.

While there are a few issues about what data is counted as volunteer work done each year and how it is valued, it would be uncontroversial to say that around 800 million hours are worked each year by volunteers and that this work can be valued at about A$25 Billion.

There is a respectable argument that the true value is many multiples of this, so the figure I have given is very, very conservative.

Even by the most conservative method of counting, the value of Australian volunteers' annual input to the economy equates to roughly the GDP of Papua New Guinea.

There are many services across this country that rely almost exclusively upon volunteers, notably Fire and Ambulance services in rural and remote areas. There are also heavy volunteer inputs to organisations like the Royal Flying Doctor Service, hundreds of Surf Life Saving Clubs and a myriad of smaller organisation such as the Council on The Ageing and Red Cross.

My point is that PNG does not seem to have a well developed volunteer culture outside, of course, of what happens at the village level.

In a traditional setting the principal of reciprocity is regularly invoked in seeking the help of wantoks for a diverse range of reasons.

Whether this is strictly voluntary is perhaps debatable, but I assume that simple altruism is at least part of the process.

So the Crocodile Prize can only flourish if one or more volunteers is willing and able to the do the hard and frequently thankless organisational and other tasks that are necessary to make it happen.

The rewards are not monetary: they are the quiet satisfaction derived from seeing the Prize flourish and knowing that your efforts helped make it happen.

A great complaint in the western world is that much of the world's ostensibly great literature has been written by dead white men, with women and people of colour not being given adequate recognition.

If this is true then activities like the Crocodile Prize are all the more important in enabling the world to hear the voices of people other than those dead white men.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Maybe a new working group needs to be formed.

Since the Crocodile Prize is a registered entity there is room for negotiations with prospective supporters.

The working group could develop a concept that would appeal to a major sponsor. Part of this could be naming rights, i.e., 'Steamships Crocodile Prize for Literature'.

A package deal might involve the sponsor providing the prize money and maybe a staff member to coordinate the competition.

Editing and publication of an anthology might be achieved with the same sponsor or with another sponsor, preferably one in the media business.

An awards night could also be developed in the same way. Maybe EMTV could be convinced to hold it.

The idea of the Crocodile Prize running as a volunteer-based endeavour might work in Australia but it seems ill-suited to PNG where people are less likely to volunteer or volunteer and then lose interest quickly.

Commercialising the Crocodile Prize might give it the best chance of survival.

The only word of caution would be to not let Australia's DFAT or the PNG government anywhere near it. I would also be wary of the Post Courier, The National and UPNG.

My inclination would be to try Air Niugini/Paradise Magazine and then work down from there.

Another piece of advice would be to keep it simple. Have just four categories, poetry, essay, short story and book.

Baka Bina

Crocodile Prize in Port Moresby has been a group of volunteers. It is hibernating and will wake up if there are more volunteers who can put in some shake into their doing to and fros.

I have written and called up people who indicated some desire to come to CP's aid but have not put in the yakka to do so. Another group in Port Moresby Writers Association is in operation so the volunteering base in Port Moresby may be limited.

The last two years ran on Emmanuel's enthusiasm and Gretel's fuel of burning the hours with my occasional mauswara and busybodyness. We had one or two who showed interest but could not attend committee meetings.

So first up, those in POM put your hands up and roll up or get on the website to say yes to being a volunteer for the organising committee and get to avail yourself for the committee meetings and tasking.

Those outside of the province can be members of the editorial group looking at the writings and pieces submitted for the various prizes.

The other bottom line is that the committee generates no funds to operate. All sponsor money is used for the prize money.

Mr Dom, Mr Awagl, Mr Davidson and any other person who wants to put int their two bits, your views are appreciated, please let us all rally the Port Moresby crowd around to the Crocodile Prize Organising Group.

Theresa Meki

Please come back Crocodile Prize!

Simon Davidson

Michael -Thanks for the elegant piece. Writing is the vent through which our sweetest thoughts are poured out.Writing is also therapeutic.

Regarding the Crocodile Prize, Emmanuel Peni and the team of volunteers did a marvellous job in 2017.

But last year, it was in hibenation. This is a new year. Can the Crocodile Prize be resurrected this year? This is the premier literary competition in the nation; it electrifies the imagination of writers to write.

We cannot afford to let it disappear from the literary landscape.

Jimmy Awagl

The Crocodile Prize has been in hiding since 2018. Maybe it is drowning in the swamps of Morata.

But the Crocodile Prize is my pride. When will it be resurrected?

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