New mining act poses economic threat
The end of the world – Part 2

We’ve all got a book in us – or two

Better-Rich-than-FamousNICHOLAS C BROWN

VICTORIA - I had gone to Papua New Guinea in 1971 as a 25-year old seeking adventure.

I’d found life in Britain a little less exciting than I had originally hoped and wanted to do something useful.

But, in those days, I had really no idea as to what that might entail.

I was born in London and left the UK in 1972 and, determined to travel and see the world, lived and worked in Papua New Guinea, after which I took up a similar post with the Commonwealth Secretariat in the British Virgin Islands before eventually continuing my career in Australia in the early 1980’s.

I’ve been retired since 2011 and am currently working on a sequel to my first book, ‘Better than Rich and Famous – My Papua New Guinea Days’.

Arriving in PNG to captain a boat carrying cocoa and copra between Rabaul and Bougainville was a bit of a worry. Until then, my experience in sailing had been limited to messing about on a small placid lake in Britain.

Coming face to face with the implications of sailing between islands on the Solomon Sea, I had to admit the lives of others (and myself) were too precious to risk.

Staying at Kuraio on Bougainville was also a bit of a shock. The Bougainvilleans were all kind and helpful but it was all a bit too much.

Fortune prevailed however and the Voluntary Service Overseas representative managed to get me a job with the colonial Administration in Port Moresby.

This involved travelling to various parts of the country meeting craft producers in towns and villages to find out what they were making and then, back in Moresby, helping to develop a scheme to encourage the development of the handcrafts industry.

Apart from all this being of social benefit to PNG generally, I was fortunate to have time to explore the country and enjoy myself in climbing mountains, sailing and generally enjoying a great social life.

Self-government in 1972 and independence in 1975 were exciting times for Papua New Guineans and us expatriates and there was a positive mood in being part of a new nation moving forward.

With these good memories of PNG still in my mind even after so many years, I simply had to write about my experiences.

And with all the aerograms I had sent home, plus the diary I’d kept and more recently a wealth of information available on the internet, I had plenty of raw material to go on.

What became of the boat I came to captain and progress on the craft project and many other anecdotes are related in my book of the first two years of the seven I spent in this wonderful country.

A further book, to be entitled ‘Fortuity: Of Virtue and Reality’ covering progress in business development and my further adventures, will be complete by early next year.


My memoir ‘Better Than Rich and Famous – My Papua New Guinea Days’ deals with my experiences during the first two years, firstly in Bougainville then Port Moresby. I believe it would be of some interest to Papua New Guineans and expats alike (a second book relating my time over the later years is due in 2021). It is published in Britain by Mereo Books: and available through Dymocks in Australia: and on Amazon internationally and Australia, here:


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Ross Wilkinson

As Phil alludes to, the meanings attributed to words and phrases change over time and generations.

As one who spent the greater part of my field service on the New Guinea side of the island, both before and after Independence, the New Guinea villagers had a Tok Pisin term to describe colonial administration - "Gut Taim." However, the interpretation of this depended on factors of age and experience.

In the pre-War Australian administration the lapuns would compare the style of the Australians to that of the Germans and describe the German administration as the “gut taim.” This was allegedly because in the comparison of the two styles the villagers respected the strength of the German style of administration.

In the post-War period the interpretation of this term changed to compare the two Australian administrative styles with the pre-War period being described as the “gut taim.” However, there were still a few lapuns who remembered the Germans and would also use the term “gut taim tru” to describe the Germans.

After Independence this term again changed its purpose as the Australian post-War, pre-Independence administration became the “gut taim.”

I wonder if this term and meaning still exists in the Tok Pisin lexicon or it has gone the way of application of many words in the Australian lexicon and now merely means “Great Party, dude!”

Phil Fitzpatrick

Many Papua New Guineans use the term 'the colonial period' to describe the time prior to independence in 1975.

I think the term has acquired a different sort of meaning to the correct technical one that Peter alludes to and has become simply an accepted and useful description without the connotations usually attached to the darker sides of colonialism.

This happens a lot in English. A classic example is the use of the word 'icon'. An icon is, strictly speaking a religious statuette but nowadays everyone and their dog with even the slightest form of significance is described as an icon. If you take the definition in its original form that makes some of the things and people described as icons sound quite ridiculous. Similar things have happened to words like 'absolutely', 'fantastic' and 'gay'.

I don't think the modern aberration of the term is worth stressing over.

Daniel Kumbon

Ed, I don't know if I have been wrong to use 'colonial administration' in my writing. Nobody attempted to correct me. Maybe, they didn't have the chance to read my articles in PNG Attitude.

'Colonial administration' is the phrase I use in the first chapter of a book I am working on pointing out that the 'colonial administration' did nothing to investigate the unfortunate killings of 15 people at Tole in Wabag in 1934.

An official investigation would have cleared the names and good intentions of the people involved.

The Australian continent was colonised by the British. Australia as a country never had the experience of colonising another people. To me whether Australia 'colonised' or 'administered' PNG is the same. We are now an independent country.

I have read a couple of books written by former kiaps. I enjoyed them all. The latest being 'The Northumbrian Kiap' by Robert Forster, another British national.

I will try and access 'Better Than Rich and Famous: My PNG Days' by Nicholas C Brown.

Experiences of foreigners - administration officials, kiaps, missionaries, volunteers, businessman, travellers and even those who became naturalised citizens is part of PNG history.

The Education Department ought to purchase copies of such books and have them stocked in main libraries like the National Library, UPNG Library and other tertiary institution libraries.

Nicholas, you have preserved a part of PNG history. Congratulations on your work.

Ed Brumby

I wonder what term(s) Papua New Guineans would use to describe Australia's governance/administration of PNG? I'd venture a guess that the term 'colonial' would feature.

I'm wondering, too, just how 'progressive' Australia's governance was ... and compared to what?

Nicholas C. Brown

Hi Peter et al - A couple of things - firstly I apologise that the date of my arrival in PNG was put at 1971, when in fact it was 1972. Memory and passing of time is no excuse but '72 was the year!

Secondly, as KJ has acknowledged I don't actually refer to the Administration as being 'colonial' with all that the term suggests, although, in my book, I do refer to the colonial lifestyle of some as being a disincentive to leave PNG and briefly about dress code.

Indeed I recall the Australian Administration was quite fair in dealings with Papua New Guineans (pay-scales aside perhaps - although that is arguable).

Bear in mind I was a 25 year old volunteer and had nothing at all to do with the nature or style of Administration other than being given the wonderful opportunity to help out.

Happy to take any further questions - particularly from anyone who reads 'Better than Rich and Famous - My Papua New Guinea Days'.

William Dunlop

Government Transport. You all called us Administration Transport when in fact we were Treasury Transport. Slantie.

Peter Salmon

Keith - You stirrer, you knew that this was going to keep on rolling. Are you just doing this to shake the cobwebs out after your recent stay in hospital, a sort of a physio-mental therapy routine?

"Colonialism is the policy of a country seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, economics, and other cultural practices on indigenous peoples. The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources."

I don't think that colonialism could be used in the context of a trusteeship that obliged the trustee in general terms to develop and lead a country to independence. It was not Australia's intention to retain control of those two territories simply for personal national gain.

Remember when the Public Service split the salary structure into expatriate and national wages. This was part of forward economic planning for an independent Papua New Guinea in that the planners knew that an independent Papua New Guinea could not bear the cost of a public service based on Australian standard salaries. It would have saved a lot of political angst (remember the demonstrations) had the public Service maintained an Australian salary base and then handed that over at independence.

The whole idea of the first Australian five year economic plan that was rolled out in 1968 was to drive Papua and New Guinea towards economic self sufficiency preparatory to independence. A far cry from "...The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources."

I'm sure that if we were to look at the cash book between Australia and Papua New Guinea over the past 50 years that PNG has come out on top.

We were not colonists or colonial administrators in the time frame relative to Nick's book.

Peter Salmon

Keith, Maybe the editor should ask Professor Google, what is a "colonial administration".

Prof Google responds that a colony is "a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that country" and other variations on this theme - KJ

Peter Salmon

"We've all got a book in us - or two", so true. But the problem is that nobody else wants to read it.

Fortunately our mates will usually listen to brief extracts over a beer, especially if the author is paying - KJ


Peter Salmon

Nick, I know you probably mean well but I must take you to task for the use of the expression "colonial administration". Of course I do understand an author's need to add flavour to his book but Papua or New Guinea were never colonies of Australia. And in my mind the style of administration could not be described as "colonial" in the historical or literal sense of the word.

If anything I would have described the administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea post The Papua and New Guinea Act 1949 as "progressive" particularly when we consider the prevailing world standards in those early years of the administration. It was no perfect but pretty good.

Colonial administration was the editor's addition. He stands by it as an adequate descriptor of the political relationship - KJ

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