If you love her, treat her right
Secular or religious, ethics remain key

Seven huts for seven nights

KiapGOF | The Bucket Blog

FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND - The patrol officers, or kiaps (derived from the German ‘kapitan‘), who were responsible for the grassroots administration of Australia’s colonial presence in Papua New Guinea during the 20th century were outstanding young men.

They were trained at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney in preparation for careers which required physical stamina and total commitment in a country which would initially provide them with unparalleled culture shock.

As an agricultural officer, I worked alongside some of these men in remote locations and envied their vast range of administrative and practical skills, most of the latter acquired whilst working on the job.

A young kiap in his mid-twenties was commonly the road and airstrip surveyor, civil engineer, bridge builder, social worker, policeman, postman, banker, magistrate, jailer, builder, plumber, electrician, radio communication technician, post-mortem assistant, ambulance driver, paramedic, and marriage counsellor.

These men devoted the best years of their lives exploring formidable unexplored territory, dodging hostile arrows, then establishing and maintaining law and order in a tribally fractured country which they brought, along with Christian missionaries, from the stone age into the twentieth century.

No-one realised how important their presence was until after PNG’s premature Independence in 1975 when the kiaps were, without much appreciation in a political decision, told to go home.

Following their departure, anarchy, violence and lawlessness flourished in PNG and has continued to do so ever since.

Even though they were adequately compensated financially for this severance of employment, many kiaps had great difficulty settling back into Australian society after so many years of living with Papua New Guinea culture.

One kiap returned to Australia and bought a very large acreage of bushland upon which he built some rudimentary thatched huts in various widely spaced locations.

He would regularly pack up his camping gear and leave the main house to hike to one of these distant shelters in an effort to replicate his patrolling days in New Guinea.

His neighbours probably questioned his sanity.

I never did, because I understand precisely how he felt.

The only thing missing from his new life would have been the company of all the rural Melanesian villagers, 95% of whom never wanted him to leave their country in the first place.

P.S., Many of these patrol officers, now in their senior years, reminisce on the forum at www.exkiap.net. Within their ranks are gifted writers and published authors. They all have interesting stories to tell about the particularly proud chapter they wrote in Australia’s history.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Lindsay F Bond

Huts available and welcoming. How can that memory of kiaps not be celebrated?

History from another endeavour comes from Australia, telling of extraordinary and enduring accomplishment.


OK, its unrelated in location but if meaning is in the word 'marathon', it is a most trustworthy postman trekking 700km, repeatedly.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)