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83 posts from April 2020

Covid-19’s global stress test

Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern - Excellent example of the type of leadership required in a global crisis


ADELAIDE - When I was managing hospitals and health services I participated in exercises designed to test their collective capacity to respond to a crisis that stressed the entire health system.

Typically, this involved a theoretical event that generated mass casualties such as a bushfire, train derailment or plane crash.

Continue reading "Covid-19’s global stress test" »

Will PNG & Indonesia become failed states

James Marape
James Marape - discussing the coronavirus situation with Australia's leaders almost every day

| Australian Broadcasting Corporation

SYDNEY -Countries with pre-existing conditions — poverty, limited healthcare, ineffective or corrupt governments — are fragile, and it is these countries that Covid-19 is threatening to push to the brink of survival.

Some have argued the United States has made solid start on the journey to failed-state status.

Continue reading "Will PNG & Indonesia become failed states" »

PNG’s Covid-19 economic response

| DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA - The Covid-19 pandemic could not have arrived at a worse time for Papua New Guinea.

In addition to its declining health indicators, years of mismanagement have significantly weakened the country’s economic fundamentals, depriving its government of the ammunition needed to combat a looming economic downturn.

Continue reading "PNG’s Covid-19 economic response" »

Radio Days: Brink of secession

Somare cuts trip - head
Thursday 11 January 1973 was a tough day for chief minister Michael Somare - helicoptered out of Panguna when felt to be under threat only to be confronted by an angry protest in Kieta


BOUGAINVILLE 1970-73 – Bougainville is a magnificent gem of an island; and its people are warm and generous in that customary Melanesian way.

Kieta, which had become the Bougainville district headquarters just before I arrived in late 1970, was an idyllic seaport nestling on the side of a steep ridge; its deep harbour protected from the ocean by Pokpok Island.

Continue reading "Radio Days: Brink of secession" »

Midnight vigil of the buai buyers

Buai tradeISO YAWI

LAE - With the clock displaying all zeros representing midnight in digital time, the buai buyers were anticipating the arrival of three 75-horsepower dinghies carrying 200 plus bags of buai at the shore next to Voco Point.

It was the third day of the coronavirus state of emergency lockdown and police officers were patrolling the four corners of Lae city looking for buai sellers and crowds of people they could disperse.

Continue reading "Midnight vigil of the buai buyers" »

The Great Disruption of 2020

Depiction of the 17th century plague in Italy (Rome’s Museo Storico Nazionale Dell’Arte Sanitaria)
Depiction of the 17th century plague in Italy (Rome’s Museo Storico Nazionale Dell’Arte Sanitaria)


ADELAIDE - In the reign of the Emperor Justinian, embracing the years 527 – 565, what was at least nominally the Roman Empire (but more commonly called the Byzantine Empire) reached the zenith of its power and influence.

By the middle of Justinian’s reign he controlled nearly as much territory as the entire Roman Empire had once controlled and his influence extended across much of Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East.

Continue reading "The Great Disruption of 2020" »

A Pandemic Far Worse Than Covid-19


A man searched for someone to confide in,
to discuss the things he has heard and seen.
But all his neighbours had their gates closed and
beside the road he cannot find a friend.

This road, once the heart of daily routine,
has been left barren by Covid-19.
He dragged his suitcase along the pavement.
There was no buai. He cannot pay rent.

Continue reading "A Pandemic Far Worse Than Covid-19" »

Covid-19 & China’s soft power ambitions

| DevPolicy Blog & The Asia Foundation

SAN FRANCISCO - For many years, China has been a major contributor to global development and the sustainable development goals.

Much of this Chinese South-South Cooperation has flown under the radar of Western media and traditional aid discourse.

Continue reading "Covid-19 & China’s soft power ambitions" »

Radio Days: Blood on the streets

I was surprised, when visiting Rabaul Museum in 2006, to come across a small display marking Gough Whitlam's visit to the town in 1970. It featured my words, an adaptation of which you can read here


RABAUL, 1970 – When I arrived in Rabaul with Sue and two-year old Simon in late January 1970, I soon discovered the most hated man in the Gazelle Peninsula was not one of the leaders of the feared Mataungan Association.

It was not the anti-colonial John Kaputin, who, despite his acclaimed prowess at rugby league, had offended the colony by marrying an Australian woman.

Continue reading "Radio Days: Blood on the streets" »

Simbu group proposes coronavirus concept


KUNDIAWA - Covid-19 is a new disease that caught the whole world off-guard like a tsunami rendering all known medical science irrelevant and ineffective.

Even the best organised nations have struggled to effectively contain the virus.

It was in December at Wuhan Central Hospital, China, that Dr Li Wenling, an ophthalmologist and physician, first observed signs of the virus and warned colleagues about a possible outbreak of an illness like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) that had broken out in 2003.

Continue reading "Simbu group proposes coronavirus concept" »

Ruby Princess, with love from Wollongong

Chaplain John Kewa and packages (Robert Peet)
Chaplain John Kewa, Alison Covington, Wollongong MP Paul Scully and Nicole Dillon with some of the 1,200 care packages sent to the Ruby Princess crew (Robert Peet)

| Illawarra Mercury | Edited

WOLLONGONG, NSW - The troubled Ruby Princess cruise ship has now left Port Kembla for the Philippines while police continue a homicide investigation into the source of Australia's largest outbreak of coronavirus.

But on Tuesday, before it sailed, a little bit of hope and compassion - in the form of well-loved Aussie snacks - arrived to lift the spirits of the 1,000 crew members on board, thanks to a generous donation of care packages from the Illawarra community.

Continue reading "Ruby Princess, with love from Wollongong" »

On War


Yesterday, on Anzac Day, like many of my neighbours, my wife and I stood at the end of our driveway at 6.00 am to remember those who fell in order to preserve the way of life we enjoy today.

As if on cue, the Last Post rang out across the neighbourhood, followed by a minute’s silence and then Reveille. I assume that the bugler was playing at our local War Memorial, which is about 500 metres away.

Continue reading "On War" »

Fortress Australia – or what?

Fortress-AustraliaPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - As the nations of the world seal borders to ward off the coronavirus and questions begin to be asked about the future of globalisation, the concepts of nationalism and identity are moving to the fore.

Suddenly the progressive idea of being a citizen of the world seems to diminish in favour of national identity and loyalty.

Continue reading "Fortress Australia – or what?" »

In defence of the new world

Paul Keating
Paul Keating - "The Australians who served here in Papua New Guinea fought and died, not in the defence of the old world, but the new world.  Their world"


The 1992 Anzac Day speech by Paul Keating at Ela Beach. Extract from Recollections of a Bleeding Heart: A Portrait of Paul Keating PM, by Don Watson (Random House)

PREAMBLE BY DON WATSON - Keating strode gracefully to the microphone [at Bomana War Cemetery] and began: "This is ground made sacred by the bravery and sacrifice of those who lie buried here." It did have a ring to it.

Later that morning he delivered the big Anzac Day address outdoors in Moresby. It was mildly inflammatory. The Anzac legend binds Australians and "defines us to ourselves", he said. But legends "should not stifle us. They should not constrain us when we have to change".

Continue reading "In defence of the new world" »

Thoughts on an unusual Anzac Day

Soldiers landing at Gallipoli  25 April 1915
Australian soldiers land at Gallipoli, 25 April 1915. Prof Henry Reynolds writes: "The heroic image of the digger inhibits any assessment of the costs and benefits of war. Questions about the wisdom of engagements are seen as diminishing the sacrifice and suffering of participants"

| Pearls & Irritations

HOBART - This Anzac Day we should question the relentless militarisation of our history and the cult of the digger.

These ideals make it easier for Australian governments to commit to wars overseas and more difficult for critics to engage in serious debate.

In 2008, a few months before he suffered the onslaught of a fatal disease, the Anglo-American scholar Tony Judt contributed an essay to the New York Review of Books entitled ‘What Have We Learned, If Anything?’

Continue reading "Thoughts on an unusual Anzac Day" »


Anzac Cove Gallipoli landing 1915  painted by Paula Benson for Manjimup RSL
Anzac Cove landing, Gallipoli, 1915,  painted by Paula Benson for Manjimup RSL, Western Australia


If you have read the poem
Of the Anzac on the wall
Then he like many others
In our mind stands proud and tall

They left their home and country
And from loved ones they did go
To heed the call from o’er the sea
In a land they did not know

Continue reading "ANZAC" »

George & I


DAGUA - Today, it’s just George and I. Well, it’s been just the two of us since Thursday, that’s like five days ago.

It's been five days since missus and the girls left for Wewak because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Everyone is talking about the coronavirus thing and how it came from China after someone there decided to make bat soup, got infected with bat virus and eventually infected the whole wide world.

Continue reading "George & I" »

Radio Days: Journey into management

Leigh HH 'Jim'
Jim Leigh with trainee broadcasters. He had a deep-seated dislike of the ABC but was instrumental in constructing 18 government radio stations across the length and breadth of PNG


PORT MORESBY, 1969 – For some minutes my eyes remained fixed on the newspaper advertisement.

Placed under the logo of the Department of Information and Extension Services, it sought three assistant managers for government broadcasting stations in rural areas of Papua New Guinea.

The colonial Administration, fed up with the ABC dragging its feet on extending its own PNG services throughout the Australian territory, was building its own radio stations and looking to recruit expatriate managers.

Continue reading "Radio Days: Journey into management" »

Dr John Gunther: PNG’s colonial 'driving force'

Sir John Gunther - "Easily the strongest single driving force in the PNG Administration”(Sir Paul Hasluck)

| Australian Dictionary of Biography | Edited extracts

CANBERRA - Sir John Thomson Gunther (1910-84), medical practitioner, public servant and vice-chancellor, was born on 2 October 1910 in Sydney.

He studied medicine at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1935. His mother had been one of the early women medical graduates there.

Gunther represented Sydney in inter-university boxing and rugby. After a year’s residency at Sydney Hospital, he applied to be medical officer with Lever’s Pacific Plantations Ltd and, working out of Gavutu and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands, he travelled widely to over 30 of Lever’s properties including to Milne Bay.

Continue reading "Dr John Gunther: PNG’s colonial 'driving force'" »

The last hockey game

Graham King
Graham King in action on the hockey pitch


YUNGABURRA - I remember the date of my last hockey game as it was the same day as the more famous Live Aid concert - 13 July 1985.

My wife had gone to her village, Tubusereia, for the weekend and I was to play hockey and then go to a friend’s place to watch the concert live.

I also remember the date as it also relates to my favourite memory of Dr Jim Jacobi.  Recently there have been some photos and memories of Dr Jacobi on Facebook and I have my own story to tell.

Continue reading "The last hockey game" »

Radio Days: Welcome to the ABC

P-C front page 16-8-69
I have always freelanced, still do. I spent two weeks on leave from the ABC writing for the Post-Courier in August 1969 reporting on athletics at the South Pacific Games


PORT MORESBY, 1966 – Late in 1966, I received a pleasant surprise when Papua New Guinea’s 30-something director of education, Ken McKinnon, recently returned from Harvard with a PhD, transferred me from my highlands hideaway at Gagl Primary T School to Port Moresby as editor of the School Paper.

For this unexpected elevation I had to give thanks to the trifecta of Kundiawa News, scriptwriting for the ABC, and freelance journalism for Pacific Islands Monthly and the South Pacific Post.

Continue reading "Radio Days: Welcome to the ABC" »

Dom’s poetry receives Pacific praise

Faumuina Tafuna'i

| Flying Geese Productions

CHRISTCHURCH - Poet Michael Dom’s two newest books are being praised for their illumination of life in Papua New Guinea and as a “treasure chest of a special type of poetry”.

Dried Grass over Rough Cut Logs and 26 Sonnets: Contemporary Papua New Guinean Poetry were launched this month.

Continue reading "Dom’s poetry receives Pacific praise" »

Major world upheaval – or pitstop?


TUMBY BAY - It feels like someone or something has taken the world by its bootstraps and thrown it up in the air.

Where it lands is anyone’s guess. We are all sitting in our bunkers with bated breath.

A real expectation is that a new world order will emerge after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

Continue reading "Major world upheaval – or pitstop?" »

Radio Days: In the beginning

Haus Pig (Pig Sty)  Kundiawa  1964
The haus pik, just across the road from the Chimbu Club, and my first home in Kundiawa (1964)


GAGL, 1966 – I’d been teaching in the New Guinea highlands for two years at the one-teacher, 12-student Australian curriculum primary school in Kundiawa when Konedobu (Pidgin English for ‘place where big men give orders’) decided I was old enough.

With me having reached the significant age of 20, Konedobu determined I had accumulated enough chronology to be dispatched as head teacher to a more remote primary school – a fully-fledged institution with real classrooms and 150 students.

Continue reading "Radio Days: In the beginning" »

In times of crisis we learn together

As we face Covid-19  HIVAIDs reminds us it is still there (Judith Moinoar Sirias)
As we face Covid-19 HIVAIDs reminds us it is still there (Judith Moinoar Sirias)


PORT MORESBY - In early 1987 the first case of HIV/AIDs was reported in Papua New Guinea.

I had just started as a young reporter with New Nation, a youth magazine published by Word Publishing Company.

It was a very frightening period for me. Coming from the countryside of East Sepik and then Madang, the city was a new thing for me. The cars moved too fast and the streets were scary.

Continue reading "In times of crisis we learn together" »

An unnecessary shot in the leg

Erico found himself looking down the barrel of a .38 pistol
Erico found himself looking down the barrel of a .38 pistol


NORTHUMBRIA - Back in 1972, Erico Aufe, a former government interpreter on Bereina station in the Kairuku Sub-District, refused to pay his local government tax.

This triggered a chain of events, some farcical, which highlighted the difference between the consensual approach to village administration favoured by the majority of kiaps and the less flexible tactics employed by most Australian police officers of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Continue reading "An unnecessary shot in the leg" »

God, Covid-19 & remote health

The remote Fly River port of Kiunga in PNG's Western Province

| DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA - The first Covid-19 case reached Papua New Guinea on 13 March 2020, though it was several days before it was unambiguously confirmed.

On 17 March the pandemic was declared a national security issue, and a state of emergency came into effect on 24 March.

Continue reading "God, Covid-19 & remote health" »

Getting used to culture shock

Pig kill
"Watching over 100 pigs being clubbed to death was an enlightening experience. So too was being handed the gift of a bloody portion of pig meat wrapped in a banana leaf"


TUMBY BAY - While we were in Australia training for our roles as kiaps in Papua New Guinea we were warned about the possibility of experiencing culture shock.

Culture shock is the feeling of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that people experience when living and working in a society that is different from their own.

Continue reading "Getting used to culture shock" »

Coronavirus isolates Marape & Kramer

Kramer marape
Bryan Kramer and James Marape - in isolation after coronavirus infected customs officer visited their work place


NOOSA – In a shock development, Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape and police minister Bryan Kramer have gone into self-isolation as the country’s lucky run in avoiding the tentacles of coronavirus seemed to reach an end.

Kramer used social media yesterday afternoon to state there had been an increase in coronavirus cases and said that he and Marape and will now work from home. “Further cases are anticipated,” he said.

Continue reading "Coronavirus isolates Marape & Kramer" »

The prayer from next door

Daniel Kumbon - "And the birds continue to sing every morning, perhaps praising God as they've done for millennia"


PORT MORESBY – With Papua New Guinea under a state of emergency, I haven't been able to return to my home in Wabag and, here in the national capital, I continue to hear the lady next door pray to God every morning.

Today's prayer, translated from the Enga and Pidgin languages, went something like this.

Continue reading "The prayer from next door" »

Chief Covidiot blocks health unity

| Pacific Media Watch | Extract

David is self-isolating in Auckland under New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown. You can read his complete article here.

AUCKLAND - Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling freeze on funding for the World Health Organisation at a time when many countries are pulling together for a global response to the coronavirus pandemic has surely earned him the epithet of the “world’s chief covidiot”.

The US President’s efforts at deflecting the blame for his country’s national public health crisis by pointing the finger at WHO and announcing that Washington would pull funding as the largest donor has shocked the world, triggering widespread condemnation from leaders and public health experts.

Continue reading "Chief Covidiot blocks health unity" »

Taim bilong masta i spak

With my long-suffering manki masta Di Siune, Goroka, January 1964


NOOSA – This confinement to barracks, lock down, home isolation or whatever the authorities term it, occasions plenty of opportunity for reflection on past adventures.

The early 1960s was another era, Papua and New Guinea (as it was called) another place and, for a young man, the highlands a new frontier.

Continue reading "Taim bilong masta i spak" »

The black swan has arrived

Black_swan_cartoonCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - I once wrote a piece for PNG Attitude entitled ‘Waiting for the Black Swan’, in which I offered a prediction about the world’s debt problem:

“Black swan events are inherently unpredictable except that we know that they can and do occur. It therefore seems quite crazy to build a financial system that is, figuratively speaking, balanced on the head of a pin and so exquisitely susceptible to even predictable disruptive events let alone something utterly unexpected, unknown and massive in size.

“For this reason, I think that we are truly waiting for the Black Swan. As ordinary folk, all we can do is try to minimise our financial vulnerabilities, hunker down and hope for the best. Hopefully, this will be enough.”

Continue reading "The black swan has arrived" »

World Bank commits to coronavirus fight

| World Bank | Edited

PORT MORESBY – The World Bank has approved an emergency K70 million project for Papua New Guinea to provide rapid support the country’s coronavirus pandemic response.

The emergency support will fund rapid health support for PNG focused on protecting health workers and others in the response effort, helping PNG health authorities quickly scale-up testing capacity, and strengthening public education to combat the spread of the virus.

Continue reading "World Bank commits to coronavirus fight" »

‘Cry Me a River’ - the encore

Encore to Cry Me a RiverBAKA BINA

PORT MORESBY - You may have read now the four stories in my ‘Cry Me a River’ flash fiction series #1 here, #2 here, #3 here and #4 here.

Trying to craft out a series during the 14 day state of emergency lockdown was not easy given the rubbish that was put out on Facebook. This was my attempt to provide alternate reading material.

Continue reading "‘Cry Me a River’ - the encore" »

A million ideas & millions gone

Simon Davidson h&s
Simon Davidson - "Then rumour seeped and spread around/Of influence applied to siphon millions/Floating swollen sums to bloated cronies"


This man was minted as a lawyer
Understanding of human rights,
Rising to prominence in politics.

With fancy partisan rhetoric;
He wooed the city’s grand elite,
To secure their political mandate.

He trumpeted to the ill-starred mass
The gullible people of suburb and slum,
The nation too, through incurious media

Continue reading "A million ideas & millions gone" »

A dangerous year for poetry

Phil Fitzpatrick - ready to publish a collection of PNG poetry in the year of the plague


NOOSA - Author, kiap, anthropologist and PNG Attitude bulwark, Phil Fitzpatrick, has emerged with a wonderful proposal for Papua New Guinea’s poets to motivate them to inspiration in this, the year of the plague

“I thought I might experiment this year and collect poems that appear on PNG Attitude that appeal to me or attract positive comments from readers,” Phil writes.

Continue reading "A dangerous year for poetry" »