Over the Hills and Far Away: Memoirs of a Kiap in Papua and New Guinea from 1952 to 1975 by Graham Hardy, privately published, 2020, 207 pages with numerous photographs, $42 plus $9.95 postage, available from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
TUMBY BAY - If I could live my life over I think I would prefer to have been born 20 years earlier.
That would have made me too young to take part in World War II but just the right age to go to Papua New Guinea as a kiap in the immediate post war period.
That period, especially in the highlands, probably represented the halcyon days of the Australian Administration.
The Papua New Guinean people still lived a largely traditional lifestyle, there remained large areas unexplored, and development after the war was still in its infancy. There was a lot happening and life was exciting.
In that sense, I’m envious of Graham Hardy who went to Papua New Guinea in 1952 and remained there until 1975.
In kiap terms, there is nothing particularly spectacular about his time in PNG but the story is honestly told with a wry sense of humour and describes in fascinating detail his day to day experiences.
Graham began his kiap career at Kikori in the Gulf District but as usual the practical exigencies of administrative life saw him soon sent to Beara Patrol Post as officer in charge.
He was still a Cadet Patrol Officer when he carried out his first patrol. It a rule that cadets had to be accompanied by a senior officer on their first patrol but that never happened then or anytime later.
I had a similar experience and just like Graham put my trust in the senior policeman and made up the rest as I went along.
Graham attended the ‘long course’ at ASOPA in 1956 and was then posted to the Western Highlands, first to Wabag.
His time there makes for interesting reading and I’ve forwarded copies of the relevant chapters to Daniel Kumbon who is writing a history of Enga Province.
Graham married Patricia in 1958. Their favourite posting was Tambul and while they were there they built a large round house for visitors. Ten years later I was living in the same roundhouse while based there with officer in charge Ken Wallace.
To give you a feel for the book, among the interesting details that Graham provides is a description of the general practise of kiaps as creative book keepers.
Each station received funds to buy sweet potato to feed staff and prisoners:
“As the amounts allocated by Treasury were always far in excess of the amount actually needed to feed station people, fictitious sales were created and the money thus generated, known universally as “funny money”, was put in a safe place for use in building houses or buying equipment that was not available through official channels.”
While in charge of Wabag Graham was nearly caught out when a Treasury auditor arrived unexpectedly. He had over £700 of ‘funny money’ locked in a stationery cabinet, “so a spending spree resulted with all stations in the sub-district getting lawn mowers and other exotic items available from the Lutheran Mission store at Wapenamanda – a very useful outlet for laundering funny money.”
Not to labour the point too much, another funny incident occurred when Graham was allocated £2,000 to improve the Wabag airstrip and did exactly that. This horrified Bob Bell, who was the Assistant District Officer at Wabag but was in Mount Hagen filling in as District Officer while Mick Foley was on leave.
Bell told Graham, “You don’t use airstrip maintenance money on airstrips!” He obviously had other plans for the money and Graham had upset them.
Several of Graham and Patricia’s eight children were born in Papua New Guinea and Graham describes how his wife, while looking after her children, often had to deputise as the station’s unofficial officer in charge while he was away on patrol.
This included taking the police parade in the morning and allocating the day’s work for the station staff, attending to the radio schedules and carrying out Graham’s other normal duties. Not a lot of credit goes to kiaps’ wives but in many places they were integral to the running of remote stations.
Graham was posted back to the coast in 1964, to Kaiapit in Morobe District. In 1974 he was based in Port Moresby.
About that time negotiations were underway to design separation packages for permanent Australian administration staff and Graham and Patricia decided to take a “golden handshake”.
Their year or so in Port Moresby, where cyclone wire barriers on residential windows was becoming necessary, was a deciding factor and a portent of Papua New Guinea’s coming problems.
Graham wryly and modestly notes that he never quite made it to District Commissioner level, although he acted in that post several times.
As noted above, the book was written mainly for Graham and Patricia’s family and only a limited number of copies were available and I was lucky to obtain one.
Given the quality of the writing and the wide ranging content it is nevertheless a valuable historical document, especially for Papua New Guineans anxious to know about those fascinating times.