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Kiaps – PNG didn’t push us out

Mark Lynch (standing left rear) with the first PNG Cabinet  1975
Mark Lynch (standing left rear) with the first PNG Cabinet, 1975


SYDNEY - I had a sandwich and a glass or two of red with Fred Kaad and two of his daughters on 14 January.

Actually, it was a rosé, not a red. And Fred, at 99, the oldest surviving former kiap, was a tad non-verbal.

The meet-up went for five hours and inspired me to revisit some of the more recent booboos in the stories about kiaps.

Keith (KW) Dyer may have been confused in June 2018 when he wrote in Una Voce, "If anyone can claim to be the last Australian kiap still standing … it might be me."

I wondered how that could be.

Graham (GA) Tuck was born in 1949 the same year as I went to PNG. Chris (CA) Overland was born two years later in 1951. They are just two of the many former Australia kiaps still standing who will be here long after Kaad and Dyer and I are gone.

Of course, Dyer may have meant that he was the most senior in terms of age or when he joined the service. But Kaad was three years older and had become a patrol officer in March 1946, six months before him.

Even so, Dyer had a remarkable career. He made his way up the ranks from Patrol Officer to District Commissioner, and then became the First Assistant Director of the Department of District Administration.

He then continued, in an enduring career, as an Assistant Secretary involved in mining and major projects from 1973 until June 1980.

That Chief Minister Somare agreed to Dyer's continuing in that role for eight years after self-government belies the assertion that "Michael Somare hated the kiaps and wanted to get rid of them."

Dyer was just one example. Vin (EV) Smith was another, but he was from a different mould.

Hardly out of school when he became a kiap in 1949, Smith spent half a dozen years as Deputy District Commissioner (or its equivalent) in Rabaul, resigning at the end of 1977.

But after six years in Australia, and footloose, Smith returned to PNG with Somare's blessing. That was in 1983. He too became an Assistant Secretary, and he stayed for 11 more years.

Even more astounding, Somare relied on former kiaps to play vital roles in Papua New Guinea's move to Independence. Strange behaviour for a man who allegedly "hated kiaps and wanted to get rid of them."

We all asked, "Paul who?" when Somare selected Paul (WP) Ryan to head up the Department of Chief Minister and Development Administration in early 1973.

Ryan had been a kiap for just 10 years when he transferred to the Public Service Commission in 1962. In 1968, he became Secretary of the Administrator's Executive Council (AEC). With that limited field experience, as head of Somare's new department, he was now the kiaps' boss.

Max (MB) Allwood, a kiap from 1954 - in Southern Highlands, Sepik, New Britain and Bougainville - moved to the Department of Law in 1968. Under Somare, he was First Legislative Counsel from 1973 to 1975 directly responsible for the development of the new laws tied to PNG's Independence.

When Allwood's contract was due to expire in December 1976, Somare asked him to stay on for at least another year as a consultant on drafting and legislative matters. He eventually retired after suffering a heart attack in December 1977.

Patrol Officer Mark Lynch on patrol from Wonenara Patrol Post to the Lamari Valley  Eastern Highlands  1964
Patrol Officer Mark Lynch on patrol from Wonenara Patrol Post to the Lamari Valley,  Eastern Highlands,  1964

Mark (MA) Lynch, a kiap from 1959 to 1968, had gained a couple of university degrees and was lecturing at the Administrative College when Somare agreed to him replacing Ryan as Secretary of the Administrator's Executive Council in March 1973.

Somare was known as Chief Minister even though the title did not officially exist, and self-government was six months down the track.

In 1975, at Independence, Lynch became Papua New Guinea's most influential public servant when now Prime Minister Somare appointed him Secretary of the National Executive Council (NEC). He served as Cabinet Secretary for three years.

When he stepped aside in 1978, he continued as an advisor to the Prime Minister Somare and as Secretary of the National Planning Committee of the NEC for a further year.

Perhaps not as noteworthy, but notably significant, David (DRM) Marsh had been a kiap for 27 years when Somare selected him to chair the Papua New Guinea Independence Celebrations.

Somare was a pragmatist. He knew that expatriate District Commissioners had to be replaced by Papua and New Guineans. Even so, he kept some expatriate DCs on - two of them until Independence.

And, with four exceptions, he encouraged them all to take up other positions in the public service.

Other kiaps - DDCs, DOs, ADOs, and POs - were also encouraged to stay. All but a few received a letter jointly signed by Somare and the Administrator, Les Johnson.

It guaranteed them a minimum of three-and-a-half years employment, continuing Australian standards of education for their children and first-class medical services.

And stay they did. I recall that amongst them were Bob (RD) Cleland, John (JC) Corrigan, Jim (PJ) Fenton, Des (JD) Fitzer, Fred (FJL) Haynes, Bob (RA) Hoad, Mal (M) Lang, Stuart (SFJ) Priestly, Harry (HJ) Redmond, Graham (GA) Tuck, Noel (NH) Walters, Norm (NL) Wilson, and many others.

Many departed between 1974 and 1975 - some to a new career or, spurred on by wives, to re-establish families in Australia. 

Some stayed a few years after Independence. Others stayed much longer, leaving when they turned 60 - the mandatory retirement age under the new regime.

John Corrigan left Simbu (Chimbu) in 1997. Des Fitzer, Fred Haynes, Bob Hoad, and Mal Lang were in the Central District until the end of the 1990s.  Other younger kiaps like Stuart Priestly until the end of 2001, and Graham Tuck even later - the last of them all.

Ron Hiatt adds his words to the story:

I was Deputy District Commissioner with a small team of Kiaps, and we organised ceremonies to lower the Australian flag on the eve of 15 September 1975. We raised the Papua New Guinea flag on the following morning.

Lucas Waka from West New Britain was the recently appointed District Commissioner. Some of the kiaps in my team were Bernie Mulcahy, and Noel Walters. (There were others, but I cannot remember their names.) I stayed on at Mount Hagen until 1980 as DDC Inspector for the Highlands.

The expatriate kiaps started to thin out, but a few remained active in district administration. John Corrigan did an incredible job at Kundiawa for years after Independence faced with deteriorating law and order, particularly a resurgence in tribal fighting.

Graham Tuck carried out a similarly challenging task with the warring Engans at Wabag for quite a few years after Independence. The loss of our police and magisterial powers made it harder than ever to control tribal fighting.

I remember asking Michael Somare when he stayed overnight at my house how he thought we should handle tribal fighting. It was just after Independence, and he was visiting Hagen as Prime Minister.

He said, "I want you kiaps to go to the fights with the police, but you are not to try to stop the fights. Let the fight leaders stop the fights. But I would like you to take cameras and take photos."

I took my camera to the next fight. It was just out of Hagen on a Sunday morning and went on for quite a few hours. I took a lot of photos. The police made arrests and secured convictions, but the warriors soon became wary of the cameras.  They took their fights well away from the roads.

The police were not like the old Constabulary who enjoyed going bush; they preferred staying in motels when they went near a tribal fight. Moreover, high powered rifles and shotguns were replacing traditional weapons, and cameras were not.

By 1980, I was instructed by Headquarters to transfer to Port Moresby after 14 years at Mount Hagen. I was working at Waigani for a couple of years with kiaps like Tony Pitt, Noel Walters, Des Fitzer and Mick Carrol.

About 1983, Charles Ali, who had been District Commissioner at Mount Hagen, but now was head of the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) in the PM’s department, appointed me Director of Foreign Intelligence.

Charles wanted to bring some new blood into the existing security organisation, so he selected a few other experienced kiaps, including Chris Warrillow and Bob Welsh.

During the post-Independence period, former kiaps contributed their bush-based skills to the mining and petroleum industry. Others worked in government, particularly the Department of Mines and Petroleum.

Men like Noel Walters, Chris Warrillow, Ron Brew, Vin Smith, Mal Lang, Ian Thompson, Chris Makin, John Reid, Bill McGrath, Alan Stevens, Jack Scott, John Bligh, Clive Nichols, Peter Maynard, Bernie Mulcahy, and Paul Van Staveren.

The Canadian mining company, Placer, employed me as PNG director in 1986. I spent the next 14 years liaising, during the development of the Porgera and Misima gold mines.

I joined an American petroleum company, InterOil Limited, in 2000, did much the same work as I did for Placer, and left Papua New Guinea in 2005 after 48 years.

I think a comment made to me by Prime Minister Michael Somare some years ago in Port Moresby says it well. "You ex-Kiaps have contributed a lot to PNG's development since Independence. We are fortunate we have had the benefit of your knowledge and experience.”

Sadly, there has not been similar recognition by PNG or Australia of the incredible contribution made by kiaps to PNG's progress from 1906 to Independence in 1975.

Bill Brown  Kieta  Bougainville  1973
Bill Brown, Kieta, Bougainville, 1973

Now a flashback of my own, to Thursday, 27 July 1972. That was the day Somare and PNG Administrator Les Johnson visited the District Commissioners conference in Port Moresby. The venue was the lounge of the Davara Motel, across the road from Ela Beach.

The Chief Minister ignored his prepared statement but delivered it almost word for word. He said he saw some advantage in letting us know his thinking about the future:

If people are uncertain about their future, their work is affected, and so I think it is important to dispel any doubts you might have. For the foreseeable future, I intend to continue with the DDA type of field administration…

There is little point in closing down the kiap system as many African countries did on Independence only to re-establish the same system a few years later.

The Division of District Administration will become part of my new department. You will become responsible to me. Now my Ministers and I are the government.

It is up to you to let the people know and to let them see that you are responsible to us. Some of you will have to change your style.

We were too surprised to ask any questions, but someone handed copies of his speech around. In an aside, District Commissioner Eddie Brookes, an observer from Gizo in the British Solomon Islands, said, "If we had received assurances like that in Africa, we would have been over the moon!" Brookes had formerly served in Kenya and had vivid memories of the Mau Mau.

March 1973 was the action month. That was when Ryan, following Somare's instructions, posted Phil Bouraga to Rabaul to take over as District Commissioner from Arthur Carey. Bouraga became the District Commissioner New Britain on 27 March 1973.

On that same day, the new Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Sere Pitoi, gave District Commissioners Des (DN) Ashton (Manus), Mert (MW) Brightwell (West New Britain), Bill (FG) Driver (Headquarters), and Ron (RT) Galloway (Central) their marching orders: six months' notice of termination.

All over 50 years of age, they were entitled to a pension under the new retirement benefits scheme, but they had to wait six months.

Chief Minister Somare surprised the journalists at his press conference on 18 May 1973. They expected him to talk about the national airline.

Instead, he rambled on, playing to the crowd and telling a little lie about how Cabinet had approved a Bougainvillean, Dr Alexis Sarei, to replace me as District Commissioner, Bougainville.

Somare was on the front page of PNG Post Courier on 7 June 1973 announcing that only Papua New Guineans would be District Commissioners by July 1974.  He said the expatriate DCs had a wealth of experience that the country could use and offered them alternative positions in the public service.

But he thought they would be reluctant to take up a different type of employment.

His timing was ambitious. Bernie Borok took over the Eastern Highlands on 17 November 1973 when Jim Sinclair relocated to Port Moresby. Sinclair spent 10 months researching, photocopying and writing the department's history - departing Papua New Guinea in August 1975.

The result of all that work, ‘Kiap: Australia's patrol officers in Papua New Guinea’, a 295-page book was published in 1978.

Another noted bushman and explorer, Des Clancy, District Commissioner at Mendi, was the next to leave the Highlands.  Clancy then served as District Commissioner, Central District, from February 1974 to December 1974 when Vaving Tauni took over the role.

Bob (RS) Bell and Laurie (LJ) Doolan were the last expatriate District Commissioners in the Highlands - and probably in the field.

Bell moved from Mount Hagen to Wabag when the Enga District was created—carved out the Western Highlands District in July 1973. Doolan replaced Bell at Mt Hagen, handing over the District Commissioner's role at Kundiawa (Simbu) to Jerry Kasip Nalau from Finschhafen.

Doolan remained as District Commissioner at Hagen until just before Independence - finishing his career with six weeks in Chief Minister Somare's office in Port Moresby. After two years as District Commissioner at Wabag, Bob Bell departed the Enga District on Independence Day 1975.

I knew Michael Somare in New Guinea for nigh on 13 years. We were barely acquainted 1963 when he worked as a reporter with the Radio Wewak and I was ADO of Wewak Sub-District.

In 1964, Somare flew into Maprik to cover the House of Assembly election campaigns. I did not see him arrive, but I heard him an adjoining office asking one of the Patrol Officers if he could borrow an Administration vehicle to travel up the road towards Dreikikir.

Fortunately, I heard the PO's reply, "Vehicles are in short supply; you will have to walk."

I told the Patrol Officer to call Somare back and arrange a vehicle to take him where he wanted to go.

Our paths crossed several times in later years but particularly in Bougainville in 1973, but that is another story. In Port Moresby, in 1974-75, I called myself a ministerial advisor. I actually engineered the short-order replacement of the Commissioner of Police – and, when Somare was in town, he invariably summoned me to end-of-week drinks.

I had a handshake agreement with him. Either of us could give the other a week’s notice. I exercised my option in May 1975.

Two years later, the Prime Minister who purportedly “disliked kiaps and wanted to get rid of them” again exhibited strange behaviour.

Even though I had severed my connections with PNG and was living in Australia, he helped me secure an overseas position. Responding on the PM's letterhead to my thank-you letter, Somare wrote:

Dear Bill,

I was pleased to be able to do you this favour. I believe you made a great contribution to the people of this country and am sure you feel the same way. ... I am looking forward to seeing you when you visit us next year. Perhaps a cold SP with me will be better than just chatting away with old-timers. 

Sincerely yours,


It is true that Somare, did not like Tom Ellis, but I do not think he hated him. He said that Ellis was the symbol of the kiap, had no faith in the ability of Papua New Guineans to govern themselves, and was a man of the past not of the 1970s.

Maybe Somare was right, but in 1972, very few of the Highlands members of the House of Assembly would have agreed with him. Ellis stayed until June 1973.

If Somare “hated kiaps and wanted to get rid of them”, he missed many opportunities. He was Prime Minister from 16 September 1975 to 11 March 1980, from 2 August 1982 to 21 November 1985, and finally from 5 August 2002 to 2 August 2011.

Papua New Guinea should be proud of what he achieved.


Appendix – Michael Somare’s Press Conference of 17 May 1973

MR SOMARE: Well, I hope all the souls on the earth are burning to know what's happening. I'd say first of all that I won't be making any statement on Cabinets national airline decision. However, I hope I can promise you all a fairly full statement after tomorrow's talks with the Australian Minister.

I think you all will be interested in why Cabinet has given formal approval for [the] appointment of Dr Alexis's Sarei as acting District Commissioner Bougainville. This matter has been under consideration for some time, but it was not until yesterday that I was able to consult with both Bougainville politicians and put it before the Cabinet.

Dr Sarei will take up this position in about ten days. He will work with the District Commissioner, Bill Brown, for about two weeks. Mr Brown is due for leave, and when he goes, Dr Sarei will take over. When Mr Brown returns from leave, he will not return to Bougainville.

[Recitation of Sarei’s credentials omitted.]

The second point I want to make about this appointment is that it does not reflect in any way at all on the work carried out by Mr Brown. Mr Brown when he was sent as special District Commissioner has done quite a lot for Bougainville.

You know that the feelings on Bougainville before were different. Today they work much closer. The decision was taken in full consultation with Mr Brown, and he told me that he can see the reasons and gives his full support of Dr Sarei going to Bougainville.

Mr Brown has been extremely popular District Commissioner on the island since his first appointment as District Commissioner on Special Duties five years ago. The Bougainville politicians although in favour of the appointment of Dr Sarei expressed regret at the loss of Mr Brown from the island.

Mr PAPPAS:  Mr Somare, what will happen to Mr Brown?

MR SOMARE: Well, as I have said we haven't finalised what posting we are giving to him. He will still be, he's one of our best District Commissioners we've got in the Districts. We have to consider and come to finality where we want to post him, as a District Commissioner.

He doesn't lose out in any way at all. He's still a District Commissioner. I'm taking him out of that district, and I'll probably have to give him another district, but that decision hasn't been made yet.


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Ian MacDonald

When I tendered my resignation as Deputy Divisional Commissioner, North Solomons Province, effective 14 January 1980, Dr Alex Sarei wrote a farewell letter which compliments us all.

“I have known and worked with you whilst I was District Commissioner and now as Premier and I have always appreciated your ever-ready helping hand.

"I will always remember you amongst the many Australian officers who worked under me when I was District Commissioner with great respect.

"Your help and that of others enabled me, for almost two and a half years as District Commissioner to do my work even though I was new at it and did not know procedures. On behalf of the Government, the people and myself, thank you."

I had worked at opposing secession as part of my duties, but I had wanted to make Provincial Government work, so, it was a nice gesture.

Ric Raymond

I went to school in Port Moresby, partly, back in the 1960s. On finishing, and with an Air Force flying scholarship, I flew there as a bush pilot and came across a few kiaps in my time.

I was always awestruck in their company on those occasions I shared a few beers with them.

Well, a lot of time has flowed under the bridge and, after many decades of flying all around the world, I'm finally settling back into something of a retirement.

Like many old Territorians I'm putting my hand to writing up a few of my PNG experiences.

One of them involved flying a mortally wounded local policeman or patrol officer from Bereina to Port Moresby after he'd been speared in a fight in 1978.

Though quite lucid when we took off, he died enroute to Moresby.

I was wondering if he was a kiap, or a patrol officer, a government officer, or simply a policeman in 1978? How long was their training?

Mark Lynch

I’ve just caught up with Bill Brown’s fascinating account of how an array of kiaps and ex-kiaps contributed to the frenetic years of transition to Independence and, in some instances, for many years beyond the change of flag.

To this day, I remain in awe of Dave Marsh who, with only three months notice, brilliantly organised PNG’s Independence celebrations – a task far more complex than people will ever know.

Bill is very generous but exaggerates greatly his description of me as “PNG’s most influential public servant” when appointed Secretary of the National Executive Council (NEC) in 1975.

I was just one of many people at the time who worked well together, determined to prove (against some dire predictions to the contrary) that PNG could be capable of effectively handling its own affairs.

Public servants, Mekere Morauta (Finance), Charles Lepani (National Planning Office), Public Service Commissioner Sere Pitoi, and Philip Bouraga (Prime Ministers Department) were all highly influential.

Morauta, Lepani and Bouraga also underpinned the cabinet’s National Planning Committee comprising the Ministers who lead the coalition parties.

Other influential public servants included Alkan Tololo (Education), Paulius Matane (Foreign Affairs) and Noel Levi (Defence). Within the PM’s department was Jean Kekedo and also Ilinome Tarua, head of Legal and Constitutional Division (and my successor as NEC Secretary), who played a key role on legal and legislation matters.

As Bill pointed out, so did Max Allwood who, as First Legislative Counsel, drafted the laws necessary to make Independence a reality.

Some of Somare’s staff were significant, particularly Rabbie Namaliu and Meg Taylor.

I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with so many good people and at such a historic time.

Daniel Kumbon

I had the pleasure of meeting Philip Bouraga in London in 1991 when he was the High Commissioner there. I still have a photo of him sitting in his office. He was receptive and very easy to talk with. He must have been a good kiap.

And you heard the story of Joe Nombri in Japan?, A lady collapsed in the lift when she came face to face alone with the heavily bearded Nombri. I don't know if the story is true but it certainly made the rounds in PNG.

Ross Wilkinson

We currently have about 500 national kiaps on our Nominal Roll and are still adding to or amending data on these men. Of those you mention Philip Bouraga was recruited in 1961, Donald Sigmata in 1966 and Joe Nombri in 1964. Unfortunately Joe passed away in 2008.

Mark Davis

A fine, detailed piece thank you. As a Post-Courier journalist (73-77) I knew a handful of the kiaps mentioned, and I still keep in touch with a few.

It is good to see some PNG names there - it is not widely known that there were PNG kiaps immediately prior to Independence. The two I had most contact with were Donald Sigamata and Joe Nombri. I believe Phillip Bouraga was also a former kiap???

Ross Wilkinson

I was a kiap from 1968 until end 1981 with secondments to other sections of the administration on a couple of occasions.

My last posting was Madang and my contract was due to expire on 31 December 1981. About September of that year I was offered a further three year extension but declined. Our house had been broken into twice in the previous twelve months and our eldest child was approaching primary school age,
This was a bit sad for us as I enjoyed working and living in PNG and my wife, Louise, had been born in Lae when her father was flying for Mandated Airlines.

So I was not forced out by government policy but my personal choice brought on by social issues.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Thanks for clarifying that Bill. I often wondered about Ellis. He was a complex individual. Here's a quote from Michael Somare in his autobiography, 'Sana'.

"Up until self-government there were also four official members on the AEC. They were APJ Newman, the Deputy Administrator; Bill Kearney, the secretary for law; Harry Ritchie, the secretary for finance; and Tom Ellis, the head of the Department of District Administration.

"Even though I had to tolerate this degree of Australian influence until self-government, I flatly refused to admit Tom Ellis into my cabinet - because in this country Tom Ellis was the symbol of the 'kiap'. Perhaps in his own way he meant well, but he was a man of the thirties and not of 1972.

"He had no faith in the ability of Papua New Guineans to govern themselves. He was a paternalistic father figure, and he had attacked and rubbished every nationalist movement in the previous House.

"He once crawled along the floor of the House of Assembly on all fours to ridicule Oscar Tammur. I could not conceive of such a man in the cabinet of a country about to be independent. Maybe he had done some good in the thirties when he had made people build roads and plant coffee. But he was a man of the past." (Page 96)

It's easy to construe these words as a general dislike for kiaps.

Bill Brown

I don’t think there is much difficulty in defining the Tom Ellis/Michael Somare relationship. I paraphrased Somare’s words.

As to the antics in parliament at the time, Ellis did not “pretend to crawl across the floor”; he was on all fours, but he did not crawl towards Somare. He was mocking Oscar Tammur.

District Commissioner Jack (EJ) Emanuel had been murdered the previous month. When Ellis accused the Mataungan Association of being involved, Tammur, who was also the Association’s patron, kept interjecting and accused Ellis not to lie. And it escalated as the night wore on.

I don’t think the idea that Somare hated the kiaps had anything to do with the event.

And, like many other kiaps who knew him, I think the assertion is BS.

Philip Fitzpatrick

It will be interesting to see any responses to your article Bill. You’ve laid a nice trap.

The Tom Ellis/Michael Somare relationship is a bit hard to define. Judging by press reports and some of the antics in parliament at the time it is easy to conclude that they didn’t like each other. Ellis pretending to crawl across the floor of parliament towards Somare comes to mind. Did that actually happen? Maybe that’s where the idea that Somare hated the kiaps originated. In any event, the idea grew legs and has been perpetuated ever since. As Joseph Goebbels is reported to have said, repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.

I met Somare a few times when I was working in Port Moresby with the Commission of Enquiry into Land Matters and he was always affable and friendly. I recall running into him in a supermarket where he was pushing a trolley behind his wife. I later ran into a lady working as a justice of the peace in Queensland and she told me she used to be Somare’s secretary. She thought very highly of him, the word adoration comes to mind.

Quite a few of Somare’s ministers disliked kiaps I think. Or at least didn’t like the more arrogant and racist expatriates, numbers of which abounded in PNG prior to independence. That more generalised antipathy might have had something to do with the idea of Somare disliking kiaps.

And, of course, a lot of expatriates in other parts of the public service and particularly in private enterprise disliked the kiaps. Like the ministers, they hated the kiap’s power more than anything else. Curbing that power had a lot to do with the police takeover of kiap duties I suspect.

Somare was, and probably still is, smart enough not to let any prejudices he holds get in the way of practical matters and he would have recognised and used any talented people available to him.

Maybe someone should ask him to clarify the matter.

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