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Good people we lost: Our 2019 obituaries

BurkePNGAttitude's obituaries column does not purport to be comprehensive, but we always publish what is submitted as a permanent record of people, very often people known to us personally, who mostly had close links with Papua New Guinea. In this feature we have reduced the length of the tributes but provide a link to the original along with the writer's name - KJ


Clarrie Burke - teacher, academic, humanitarian / by the late Murray Bladwell

Dr Clarrie Burke, known to many former educators and senior public servants in Papua New Guinea during the 1960s and 1970s, died in Brisbane of cancer. Clarrie was born in Port Moresby, his family evacuated to Australia shortly after the Japanese invasion of PNG in 1942. In 1958, Clarrie took up a two-year education cadetship at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney to train as a primary teacher. Later he was appointed principal of the Education In-Service College in Port Moresby where he mentored many of PNG’s early administrators. In 1975, he was awarded the Independence Medal for his services to education. His final appointment before retiring in 1998 was as associate professor and director of the Research Centre for Leadership and Policy Studies in Education at Queensland University of Technology. In retirement Clarrie was a tireless activist in human rights and was published widely in influential publications.

BartlettJon Bartlett - kiap, investor, entrepreneur / by Colin Middleton

Jon Bartlett was a country boy from Wagga, whose family antecedents were Irish and Chinese. He joined the Papua New Guinea Administration in the last permanent patrol officer intake of 1963 –completing a one month ASOPA course before his initial posting to the Kainantu Sub District. By 1974 Jon was Assistant District Commissioner at Misima in Milne Bay. On returning to Australia in 1981, Jon based himself in Potts Point where, along with ex kiap Mike Eggleton, he dabbled in the stock market and the Kings Cross night life. Jon was very proud of his time as a kiap and the achievements of the Administration of Papua New Guinea. He encouraged get-togethers and reunions and went out of his way to maintain contact with his kiap mates.

Bottrill receives OAM from WA governor Ken Michael
Gus Bottrill receiving his OAM from Western Australia governor Ken Michael

Angus Matheson (Gus) Bottrill OAM – soldier, kiap, advocate / by Keith Jackson

When Gus Bottrill, who has died in Perth at 94, was awarded the OAM in 2008, the citation read “for service to the indigenous community, particularly through research and assistance with land title claims”. It could have gone much further because as a soldier, kiap, court officer and advocate for the rights of indigenous people, he was a man of high values and exceptional dedication to his fellow humans. I knew him only in Rabaul in 1970, when he was a kiap engaged fully in seeking to stabilise the civil unrest at that time – a stocky man of avuncular demeanour and unflappable disposition. Those times, which ended in the murder of a district commissioner, unsettled us all. For Bottrill, they would also have offended his sense of propriety about how human relationships should be conducted.


MeaneyFr Adrian Meaney MSC – missionary, administrator / by Steven Gagau


Rev Fr Adrian Meaney MSC, who has died aged 85, was ordained together with his brother Basil in Brisbane in June 1961. He spent many years in the Northern Territory, especially in Alice Springs, and Papua New Guinea, especially in Bereina and Port Moresby, including work for the Papal visit in 1995 for the beatification of Peter To Rot. Known as "the missionary with a compassionate heart,” his principal work in later years was at the MSC Mission Office in Sydney, which he founded to help the poor in developing countries with potable water, medicine for TB and HIV patients as well as scholarships for children.

Pople soon after election in 1964
Graham Pople soon after election  to the House of Assembly in 1964

Graham Pople MBE – kiap, politician, publican / by John Pasquarelli

My long friendship and onetime political partnership with Graham has ended. My old buddy died in Cairns earlier this month aged 83. He had been ill for some time. Graham and I were amongst Papua New Guinea’s first parliamentarians democratically elected on a common roll in 1964. Before his election, Graham had been a patrol officer in the Gumine region of the Chimbu District. He was comfortably elected when he stood for the newly-created seat of Gumine. Many years later I met Graham when he was managing the Weigh Inn Hotel in Port Moresby and we reminisced over a few beers. Graham married a woman from the Trobriand Islands and they were together through life until age and illness brought them to a retirement home in Cairns where Graham died.

MilesHonourable Jeffrey Miles AO - Former PNG national court judge / by Richard Refshauge

Jeffrey Miles, the Australian Capital Territory’s second chief justice who has died aged 84, could and did impose long sentences when deserved, but his love of nature, his commitment to social justice and his devotion to his family showed that this eminent citizen and jurist was more human - and humane - than the stereotype. Miles presided over the third arm of the territory’s government for 17 years and his leadership spanned the period of transition to self-government. Born in Newcastle, NSW, Miles studied law at Sydney University, graduating in 1958. He was called to the bar in 1965; leaving in 1980, when he was appointed as a judge of the National Court of Papua New Guinea for a three-year term. At the end of his term, he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of NSW.


Dickson-WaikoDr Anne Nealibo Dickson-Waiko - teacher, advocate, mentor / by Cathy Keimelo

Anne Dickson-Waiko (1950-2018) will be remembered for her contributions to the advancement of women in Papua New Guinea. Born in Wagawaga in Milne Bay, Anne graduated as a secondary teacher at Goroka Teachers College and in 1974 joined the University of Papua New Guinea as a professional assistant in social science. She studied part time for a Bachelor of Arts, graduating with first class honours, later obtaining a masters degree in political science at the University of Mississippi in 1981 and a PhD from the Australian National University in 1993. Her work for women’s representation in provincial and local level government in PNG was a turning point for women in politics. Anne spent 45 years at UPNG, most of her career, and over the years she imparted her knowledge to contributing to the development of PNG, particularly to women. In 2016, she pioneered PNG’s first gender studies program.


StandishDr Bill Standish – academic, researcher, friend of Simbu / by Mathias Kin

Australian National University academic Dr Bill Standish was a great friend of Simbu and Papua New Guinea and his death is a great loss to many people in Simbu who knew him closely. He was involved in Simbu for nearly 50 years and had written so much on the Simbu, particularly on its elections and politics, since 1972. He assisted me with my history, ‘My Chimbu’, which was published in 2018. At that time, in the middle of 2018, he told me this could be his last project for Simbu and he said he was happy to do it for me. He did most of the work in bed. His friends in Simbu are heartbroken. I saw two with mud on their faces. He has kids here named after him and he was a true friend, my Gibraltar. I wish I could attend his funeral but that is not to be. I guess the hauskrai will do. It is such a loss of friendship and a great wealth of knowledge. The only solace will be his writings.


NeitzJohn Neitz- educator, businessman, farmer / by Keith Jackson

John Desmond Neitz, who has died aged 84, was born in Brisbane and spent his childhood in the Currumbin valley on his parents’ dairy farms. After high school, John entered teachers’ training college in Brisbane and completed a physical education diploma at Queensland University. He was posted to Kragra, near Chinchilla in Queensland but later decided to pursue his career in Papua New Guinea. Between 1958 and 1974, John was a teacher and then an administrator in the PNG education department. He taught at Yangoru, Pagwi, Brandi, Malabunga and Milfordhaven followed by postings as an inspector of schools, district education officer and later to the high rank of superintendent. Returning to Australia for many years he ran the liquor store in Avalon, Sydney, before returning to farming.

Robert James Lee (Bob) Hawke with Somare in 2009Hawke, AC GCL – union leader, prime minister, PNG chief / by Keith Jackson

In 1966 I was transferred from my remote bush school in the highlands to Port Moresby to edit the school magazines in Konedobu. Right next door was the colonial Administration’s industrial relations office, one of Bob Hawke's bases during his PNG union days. At the time he was the man responsible for wage arbitration in the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In 1965 Bob Hawke and his family spent three months in Port Moresby, where Hawke was helping establish the trade union movement and advocating for better wages and conditions for Papua New Guinea’s public servants. It was an influential role and a stepping stone to the leadership of the ACTU, Australia’s peak union body, of which he was to become president in 1969 and from where he achieved high public profile and, eventually, the prime ministership. He worked with Michael Somare and Dr Reuben Taureka and PNG Public Service Association executives Paul Munro and Rod Madgwick, who both later became Australian judges. Munro has written that Hawke “pulled out all stops in his presentation of what was effectively a national wage case for the Papua New Guinea administrative vanguard”. So began his long friendship with PNG, which continued apace when Somare entered politics. In 2009 Hawke was made a Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu, the highest award that can be given to a foreigner. The honour came with the title ‘Chief’, which greatly pleased Hawke. "I want deeper bows thank you, much obeisance," he said. And then, fearing he may be misunderstood, "No seriously it's a great honour, I'm very grateful." Bob Hawke died in Sydney aged 89.

RobbinsDoug Robbins – kiap, environmentalist, writer / by Keith Jackson

Doug Robbins was a great contributor to Papua New Guinea and to his home town of Springwood in south-east Queensland. Much of his writing for PNG Attitude was about the Northern (Oro) Province and the experiences of he and his wife Annette there in the 1970s. They remained committed to that part of Papua New Guinea right up until Doug’s death. Doug worked as a volunteer pursuing his friend Gangai Kokona's passion for eco-enterprise. He had known Gangai's family for over 40 years. Gangai has written: “Doug shares my passion for the protection of nature and all its providence, however his wealth of experience in outback eco-tourism surpasses anyone I have met. We engaged his services as a business volunteer to enhance our vision for communities in the Tufi District of the Northern Province to benefit economically from its natural beauty through tourism. With Doug's support the local villagers are well into marketing the pristine natural beauty of Tufi - a paradise in the Pacific.”

TapakauEric Tapakau – journalist, marketer, communicator / by Denika Seeto

Bougainville Copper Limited lost a dear friend and esteemed colleague with the untimely death of Eric Tapakau after a brief illness. Eric, 44, joined the company in September 2017 as media and communications adviser. He was deeply committed to the betterment of Bougainville and its people and had earned widespread respect. Eric was born in February 1975 at Siredonsi Village, Bougainville, and had a happy and active childhood growing up around the Panguna mine. He was a passionate rugby league fan with sworn allegiances to the Penrith Panthers and NSW Blues. He also loved music particularly hard rock and heavy metal, with Metallica one of his favourite bands. Eric undertook a Bachelor of Journalism and a Diploma in Media Studies at the University of Papua New Guinea. His education provided the foundation for a successful career with the PNG Banking Corporation as a marketing officer and then the Post-Courier newspaper as business editor and Bougainville bureau chief from 2002-2010. People loved being in Eric’s company. He was warm and welcoming and possessed a quick wit and wicked sense of humour.


BogeDikana ‘Ten Gun’ Boge – footballer, friend, great team man / by Sean Dorney

One of my most treasured possessions is a photo of the 1976 Kumuls and there, sitting next to me in the row at the front, is Dikana ‘Ten Gun’ Boge. Although I say it myself, I think we were a great combination. Dikana was fierce, fearless but almost always smiling. When we last met in Hanuabada almost 14 months ago, it was an emotional reunion. I have motor neurone disease and walk with a cane. Dikana was shocked to see how feeble I was. We shed a few tears together. I was certain that I would be gone long before he was. So, it came as a bit of a shock when, a few months ago, Dadi Toka Junior told me Dikana was himself suffering from a terminal disease. And when the news came through in the last few days that he had died aged 66, I felt a deep sense of grief and loss. He was a great team man and your own confidence was reinforced because you knew he would never let the side down. He was a punishing defender and very elusive in attack. Hanuabada – indeed the nation of Papua New Guinea – has lost one of the best.


McGrathWilliam Adrian (Bill) McGrath – kiap, land expert, bibliophile / by Arthur Smedley

Bill McGrath, who has died at 86 after a long illness, went to Papua New Guinea in April 1953 as a 20 year old cadet patrol officer. At the time he had just completed an engineering and surveying cadetship in the Public Works Department of Western Australia. Bill later transferred to the Royal PNG Constabulary as a police officer before moving to the Lands Department under the renowned Ivan Champion where he was involved with the purchase of land for the Rouna hydro-electric scheme. He also worked with Champion at the Land Titles Commission and was a consultant and adviser on land matters throughout the Pacific islands. After leaving the public service he returned to PNG from time to time to advise mineral and petroleum exploration companies on land matters. He later established the respected Pacific Book House on the Gold Coast, which became the go-to place for people wanting to obtain books with a PNG or Pacific theme.

Richards  (third from left) with other Bangarla elders)
Howard Richards (third from left) with other Bangarla elders)

Howard Richards – footballer, leader, Barngarla man / by Phil Fitzpatrick

Howard, who has died of liver cancer at 67, was a Barngarla man from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. He was of the stolen generation, taken away from his family as a child to grow up in a boy’s home in Adelaide. I worked with Howard and the Barngarla people on their native title claim for many years. Like Howard, many of the Barngarla had been taken away from their families as children and in the process lost their connections to their culture and their land. It’s a common story in Australia. Working with Howard and the other Barngarla men and women on the native title claim was a learning experience for us all. Together we scoured old government records, anthropological works and old newspapers to re-discover Barngarla culture. We also talked to elders from both nearby and distant tribes to establish what song lines and mythologies crisscrossed Barngarla land. Howard was one of the main drivers of the Barngarla Native Title claim and saw it through from the early years and the many, many Federal Court hearings until it eventually succeeded. He was a gentle, sober and thoughtful man and while he always projected a serious demeanour had a wry sense of humour.


Taylor and Andrea Williams
Graham Taylor with PNGAA colleague Andrea Williams

Graham Taylor – kiap, broadcaster, author / by Keith Jackson

Kiap and broadcaster Graham Taylor has died at the age of 90 after being afflicted with prostate cancer for more than 20 years. Graham was a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea in the early post-war period, transferring to the ABC to produce its ‘native people’s program’ and establish 9RB Rabaul before continuing his career in Australia where he reached a senior level in the organisation as general manager for South Australia. He recounted his PNG years in the book A Kiap’s Story, published by Phil Fitzpatrick, which Stephen Romei, literary editor of the Weekend Australian Review, asked me to review earlier this year. He had written to me a few months before he died, “Alas and alack. I am 90 on 29 May. And I am teetering on the brink of extinction given that I am been fighting prostate cancer for 21 years and am now told that I am losing the battle as life-threatening problems are arising in my kidneys, bladder and lower bowel. The prognosis isn’t very encouraging. I am not sure how and when the lights will go out. Possibly before this year ends.” He told me the publication of his book, and its review in a national newspaper, was one of his life’s great achievements. “I hope you are enjoying whipping up a review for Stephen. It would be personally very satisfying as a first time author were I to make it into the Weekend Oz review.”


Peter Kranz with his father Pastor Russell Kranz

Pastor Russell Kranz – evangelist, composer, artist / by Keith Jackson

Pastor Russell Kranz, who has died at the age of 94, was a church leader, composer, choirmaster, talented watercolour artist - and a good man. His legacy is one of love and achievement. He is also the father of PNG Attitude contributor, Peter Kranz, whose words have so often stirred and delighted readers of this blog. New Zealand born, Russell Kranz’s primary life’s work was as a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and evangelist. For several years, he was in charge of communications for the church in Australasia and the South Pacific. When Lindy Chamberlain’s infant, Azaria, was taken by a dingo in the vicinity of Ayer’s Rock on 17 August 1980, Russell was responsible for dealing with a sceptical media. He faced journalists many times to proclaim the Chamberlains’ innocence and to defend the respectability of the church in the face of cynicism and nonsensical stories of blood sacrifices and other depredations. “It took its toll on him and the family,” Peter Kranz says. Many years later, Pastor Kranz revealed that, during that period, he had received a number of death threats. In PNG he preached to many hundreds of people in Mt Hagen in the 1980s and, 20 years later in 2006, while in Kundiawa, his son Peter was mistaken for him by a man who remembered those sermons. He was also an artist of great talent and painted hundreds of watercolours, favouring boats, old buildings, landscapes and harbours. His works are featured in many galleries.

WagiebuJames Tawila Wagiebu – scientist, pioneering medical technician / by Betty Gabriel Wakia

Hela lost one of its most dedicated, committed and humble public servants with the death of James Tawila Wagiebu (1958–2019), the most qualified Papua New Guinean echocardiographer. With his death, echocardiography (ECG) services in PNG came to a temporary halt as an urgent search for a replacement was initiated. As the only practicing echocardiograph technician in the country he served thousands of Papua New Guineans over the course of his career. He also served hundreds of UPNG students by teaching basic ECG to fourth year medical students and postgraduate nursing students as well as assisting many doctors with their research. James Wagiebu came from a Pari clan of the Pandu village in the South Koroba district of Hela Province. He studied at the University of Papua New Guinea and was the first Papua New Guinean to study echocardiography at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.


Myrray Bladwell and Keith Jackson

Murray Vaughan Bladwell – teacher, administrator, friend of PNG / by Keith Jackson

Murray Bladwell, one of the loveliest men I have known, and our relationship had been close for 56 years, died in Brisbane aged 78 after a short illness. He was a man of little complaint and big deeds. After a short career as a health inspector in Queanbeyan, NSW, he had gone to Papua New Guinea in 1963 to train as a school teacher on the Rabaul-based E-Course. Murray went on to a distinguished career as an educator. He gained his master’s degree in Canada after leaving PNG and rose to a senior position in the Queensland education department. After early retirement he worked for some years as the Queensland branch manager of my PR firm, Jackson Wells Morris. In our lives, we were never far apart in mind or in spirit. Murray was an organiser, a fixer and a builder - and he was benevolent with all of that. It seemed there was little he could not achieve if someone was in need. He was a great friend of PNG and, along with the late Terry Shelley, a great mate of the Chimbu people. He performed miracles for Rotary, for which organisation he was a stalwart, and wherever he went things would grow around him. Truly a man who left the world a better place than when he found it. The deaths of our friends chip away at ourselves. These moments are the most awful ones.


ToroAlbert Toro MBE – actor, director, writer, politician / by Alphonse M Huvi

When I was told me that Bougainvillean actor Albert Toro MBE had died, my heart sank as I reflected on what he had contributed to Bougainville and Papua New Guinea and how he had mentored some of us. The tears fell from my eyes. I had met the veteran actor, co-director, scriptwriter and central character of the 1984 film ‘Tukana- Husait I Asua’ [‘Tukana, Who’s To Blame’] in 2015. The film, billed as a comedy-drama, tells the story of a university drop out who returns to his village in Buka, drifting into bad company and becoming alienated from his parents and village life with tragic results. In addition to the feature film which made him famous in Papua New Guinea, over his life Albert mentored many people and they each have a story to tell about him. He did so much apart from that famous movie. He wrote and produced radio dramas like ‘Sugar Cane Days’ and ‘Kunai Street’. He also produced TV series like ‘Warriors in Transit’ and stage plays like ‘A Step Further’. Albert will be missed in parliament as member of the Taonita Teop Constituency. Albert Toro left this world peacefully on the eve of the referendum results being declared.

Keith and Ingrid Jackson and Libby Lowig

Libuše (Libby) Lowig – refugee, mother, lover of life / by Keith Jackson

Libby was 94 and had been in pretty good health until a fall, two broken vertebrae and great pain compromised that shortly before her death. My mother-in-law was born in Prague in 1925, where her parents owned restaurants and lived a reasonably comfortable life until the Communists took over Czechoslovakia after World War II. Her marriage to Henry, 20 years her senior, was arranged and Libby pulled some smart tricks to escape the Czech bureaucracy and flee to Tasmania to marry him in 1949. When Henry was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Alberta, Libby and the family moved to Canada. She came back to Australia to be near Ingrid after Henry died. Libby was a strong and determined woman who thought little of those Czechs who caved in to Nazism and Communism; so little that she never deigned to return to the land of her birth. I’ll miss this straight talking matriarch who appreciated life’s good things, who was always grateful for the little things and who had shown her mettle as a 24 year old by escaping tyranny to find a better life for herself and the family she would build.


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