Local authors need recognition & support
Essay contest delivered some useful lessons

Women triumph in first essay contest


PORT MORESBY – On behalf of the Ples Singsing Blog, and having cast our tired but sparkling eyes over the organisation of the Tingting Bilong Mi essay contest, we are ready to announce the winners of this inaugural competition.

And they are all women.

We were invited to undertake this important task of oversight to ensure contestants and the public that fairness and justice had been delivered at every stage of the competition.

We are happy to advise that they were.

Big pat
Big Pat Levo and armrest

Late last year, people under the age of 35 were asked to compose an essay on the general subject of whether the Papua New Guinea government should provide local authors with greater recognition and support.

After initial expressions of interest from more than 300 people, a final field of 24 entries was submitted.

From these, the team of judges, minus organiser Dr Michael Dom, selected the nine best essays to move to a second round of judging.

Keith Jackson

Michael disqualified himself from further participation after an unexpected entry arrived from his niece.

The final three prize winners were to be determined by two guest judges, Dr Fiona Hukula of the National Research Institute, and author and commentator Philip Fitzpatrick.

After reading searchingly through the finalist long list, Fiona and Phil found it impossible to choose a winner from the top two entries.

Essay - Illeana Dom
Illeana Dom

As a result of the vote, the narrow winner was Illeana Dom, who wrote ‘Local authors need recognition & support’ as she was completing Year 12 at the Port Moresby International School. Illeana wins a prize of K500.

The runner up was Mathisha Turi, a young writer in Grade 8.2 at Kopkop College, also in Port Moresby.

Her essay was titled ‘Why the PNG Government should buy PNG authored books’, which wins her a prize of K300.

In third place, with an essay of the same name, was Issabelle Vilau, a fourth year student in the School of Business at the University of PNG. Issabelle’s prize money is K200.

There are also book awards for the three finalists donated by Arnold Mundua, Michael Dom and Keith Jackson.

Essay - Mathissa Turi
Mathissa Turi

The judges said they were looking for work that offered interesting reading, good arguments and well expressed opinions.

It is intended that all 24 essays will be professionally edited and published as a collection of contemporary essays.

The book will be published by Jordan Dean, an independent Papua New Guinean author, poet and publisher.

This essay competition was privately funded by contributions from wantoks including Fiona Hukula, Ed Brumby, Phil Fitzpatrick, Keith Jackson and others.

The Ples Singsing Blog said is proud to have hosted the essay contest as this form of writing essays is important for developing critical thinking

You can find much more about all the entries on the Ples Singing Facebook page here.

Winning entrants

Illeana Maldowa Dom

Illeana, who recently turned 19, has a Simbu and Eastern Highlands heritage but was born and raised in Port Moresby. She is currently in her first year of university. Illeana’s previous writing experience was limited to producing work for school assignments and she had never written competitively.

Mathisah Turi

Mathisah is 15 and was born in Victoria, Australia, of East Sepik and New Ireland heritage but grew up in Port Moresby and likes to say she’s from Gerehu. Mathisah is currently in Grade 9 at Kopkop College. “I’m that kid in class who talks about books just as excitedly as anyone would talk about their favourite  rugby player,” Mathisah says. But she has never read a PNG-authored book.

Essay - Issabelle Vilau
Issabelle Vilau

Issabelle Vilau

Issabelle is 23 and comes from a mixed parentage of East New Britain, Eastern Highlands, Morobe and Jiwaka. She has an identical twin sister. She expects to graduate from UPNG in April as a Bachelor of Business Management. Her specific area of interest is public health but she is currently, unemployed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Issabelle has enjoyed writing since primary school and says the skills she has acquired have proven beneficial in her educational career and other formal and informal settings.

Other short-listed writers

Nathan Kilali, second year law student, UPNG - ‘PNG-authored books: A masterpiece in disguise’

Esther Tuweyo, postgraduate MPhil Applied Sciences student, UNITECH – ‘Why I think the PNG government SHOULD buy PNG-authored books’

Jamila Kawas, first year business studies student – ‘Untold Tales, the new world and beyond’

Sherbuel Sanduhu, second year surveying and land studies student, UNITECH – ‘What about our local authors’

Vilousa Hahembe, first 1st year business student, UPNG – ‘The Papua New Guinea government should purchase books’

Latasha Akane, third year law student, UPNG – ‘The purchasing of PNG authored book, by the government is a patriotic initiative’

The judges

Judges - Fiona Hukula
Dr Fiona Hukula

Fiona Hukula is a researcher and advocate against violence. She enjoys reading PNG literature and believes that reading is an excellent way to help think about the world around us. Fiona believes that all children should be given the opportunity to read books. She is a volunteer with the Rainbow Project, a reading group for children of West Papua refugees.

Judges - Philip Fitzpatrick
Phil Fitzpatrick

Philip Fitzpatrick is an author who worked for many years in PNG as a kiap and then social mapper. He has written numerous novels, including the Inspector Metau series, as well as non-fiction books. He was a co-founder of the Crocodile Prize literary awards and director of Pukpuk Publications, which published works by Papua New Guinean writers. He lives in Tumby Bay, South Australia, a short walk from the beach.

Judges - Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin
Sil Bolkin

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin was born in the Galkope area of Simbu Province. He began studying for the priesthood in the Catholic Church but quit to attend UPNG and then Australian National University where he completed a Master’s degree in Public Policy. His first book was published by Crawford House in Adelaide and he won the Award for Essays and Journalism in the Crocodile Prize. Sil’s job with USAID ended in November 2020 and he says he is now scavenging the streets of Port Moresby.

Judges - Caroline Evari
Caroline Evari

Caroline Evari works as a World Bank team assistant and began writing aged six. She is the author of 28 children’s books and has published her own book of poetry, ‘Nanu Sina: My Words’, all while supporting the World Bank and its nine projects in Papua New Guinea and raising two sons.

Judges - Betty Gabriel Wakia
Betty Wakia

Betty Gabriel Wakia is a writer, blogger and women’s advocate with qualifications in education from the University of South Wales and Tianjin University of Technology and Education in China. Along with Caroline, contributed to the milestone book by PNG wopmen, ‘My Walk to Equality’. Betty is a volunteer assistant teacher at New Erima Primary School where she has launched a student writing program also promoted by Ples Singsing.

Judges -Ed Brumby
Ed Brumby

Ed Brumby spent nearly 10 years in PNG as a teacher in the East Sepik and then editor of the School Papers. He graduated from UPNG in 1972 with a BA in linguistics and literature. He then produced educational materials for Aboriginal and immigrant children in Western Australia, at the Hong Kong Polytechnic and Shiga University and in Japan. For 10 years, Ed was director of educational services at Deakin University and CEO of Deakin University Press. He now mentors several PNG writers and plays classic guitar.



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Hi Daniel,

Thank you to you and Mr Paul Kurai for this unexpected and very generous donation.

We will continue our discussions through Ples Singsing address as noted.

Daniel Kumbon

K5,000 will be contributed towards the cause.

We, Paul Kurai and myself request the organising committee to contact us.

K1,000 of this contribution is from the first sales of Victory Song of Pingeta's Daughter. We wish it to be distributed to the three winners and the names of the writers whose names appear in the article here.

Give an extra K100 each to the three winners and K100 each to the others.

The K4,000 is for prizes at the discretion of the organising committee. We will formerly write to Dr Michael Dom and the organising committee for the possibility of naming one of the categories 'The Kurai Memorial Prize'.

We will discuss more later but first send the official bank account details of Ples Singsing to my email address.

Michael Dom & Masterminds

Hi Daniel - We have made a commitment to host this essay contest (with different topics) annually for the next four years as well.

There was also a smaller (less money, mobile credits) poetry contest held but this did not attract much attention at all.

Perhaps the requirements for that poem contest were too rigid for our poets.

(But isn't the meaning of competition to respond to the rules of play to gain victory?)

Keep in mind that the efforts to date were privately funded and we intend to find ways of gathering funds to pursue other Ples Singsing projects.

We are focused on the learning and growing process which writers/poets undergo through participation more than the result of competition, i.e. some will win but why did they win?

As you know there are four Masterminds, a small close circle to initiate ideas and share tasks.

We have some good projects planned, for example the Tingting Bilong Mi essays will be edited into a book collection for Jordan Dean to publish.

Then we'll think about purchase and distribution of hard copies versus the e-books.

There's also an e-magazine (printable PDF format) planned to bring the best writing of the year on Ples Singsing and identified on PNG Attitude and other blogs to a new audience.

Betty Wakia launched her own school writers program at New Erima Primary School, and that has been very successful for a number students who have been well published.

The stories brought to light, like those of Willie Tiwias and Liceanne Utah are profoundly moving and even controversial, like Moses Sine's take on coronavirus pandemic.

A program like Betty's should be promoted to other schools but that depends on the teachers who may get involved.

We have our wantoks like Ed Brumby and Phil Fitzpatrick who also help out with advice, chip in finances and provide their skills in editing.

But what we also lack are some wanlain blong mipela iet who may want to work together at Ples Singsing.

Our focus is on supporting and promoting PNG writers. And we'll do what's within our means.

Another way we work is through connections like yours and Caroline's with the National Library services and Gregory Bablis at the National Museum.

There are also other well placed people who stay out of the limelight but love to help where they can.

These tentative links through people to people interaction and sharing ideas is getting stronger.

We hope our ways and means can be built up so that Ples Singsing iken sanap strong tru.

Daniel Kumbon Jnr

Congratulations to the winners of this essay competition and also the runner ups. Will there be any other competition in the months to come?

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