We need rationality in our leaders
A most readable novel connects two worlds

A beautiful book, long in the making

Mutiny on the 37th (Rob Barclay)
Mutiny on the 37th - an illustration from 'Cannibals, Conflict and First Contact' by Rob Barclay


BLACKBURN, VIC - Cannibals, Conflict and First Contact is my illustrated adventure memoir of a New Guinea patrol officer spanning 21 years from 1958 to 1979.

From the early 1900s to Independence in 1975, New Guinea was Australia’s only colonial experience.

Australia was determined to ‘do it right’, evolving initiatives that were widely copied by other colonial powers as a textbook study of how to bring primitive peoples into the modern world with a minimum of trauma.

In the book, which I hope will soon be reviewed on PNG Attitude, I deal with the country’s big five colonial challenges:- cargo cults; sorcery; first contact patrols; endemic cannibalism; and Highlands tribal fights with up to 1,000 participants a side.

In 1969 I took American journalist Lowell Thomas’s film crew expedition on a first contact patrol.

In 1970, the subsequent documentary was reportedly watched by 20 million American television viewers on NBC.

Four enormous bags of fan mail arrived from the US as a result, and the Australian ambassador in Washington sent his congratulations: “This is exactly the image we wish to project for our work in New Guinea.”

Danadu (Rob Barclay)
Danadu (Rob Barclay)

I married after 12 years in PNG and my then wife, Sandra, has written two of the book’s chapters. The first tells of our 35-day initial census patrol of the Biami cannibals, where she was the first white woman to be seen by 2,000 people.

In the second chapter, she describes an attack on Gumine station by Highlands tribal fighters. In both chapters she details what it was like to live on remote stations for up to two years at a time.

Over 30 of my patrols were longer than a month, the two major first contact patrols the longest - 74 and 80 days each.

Both were carried out in previously unexplored rainforest regions. I spent over 2,600 days on patrol, more than seven years in total.

Alone in the wilderness with only my native police and interpreters, I had to come up with solutions of my own making. It was a survival of the fittest, ‘do it yourself’ life.

In the book there are 115 original unpublished images, my own work, most in colour.

They include 30 acrylic paintings of interesting and crisis moments I have done from memory.

Most of the photos have been contributed by fellow field officers. In addition, there are 11 detailed Conti chalk drawings – most done on patrol - and seven full-colour scaled maps with coordinates, showing the routes the patrols followed.

Delores (Rob Barclay)
Delores (Rob Barclay)

After eight years of preparation, and over 20 global publishing knock-backs, I decided to self-publish.

It is a 22 chapter, 282 page, A4-sized book, so the maps can be easily studied.

It is produced in hard and soft cover, and I asked for thicker satin text paper to enhance the images.

I spared no cost including in the small one-off print run of a permanent hard-cover bound collector’s edition.

Printer’s costs for the book are soft-cover $55 and hard-cover $150. Add $18 postage (express $22).

If you wish to buy email me a note here or wait for the review before making up your mind to buy what is a very special publication.


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Harry Topham

Chips - Fair enough, but Nauru was the only territory acquired through the former League of Nations which later was declared as a Mandated Trust Territory under United Nations control with the aim that it would eventually achieve independence.

The other territories mentioned were either bought or acquired as forming part of the Australian Commonwealth
Some years back through my interest in philately I wrote an essay of the history of Nauru.

How ironic that its original name given when discovered by passing sailors was 'Pleasant Island' which was way back then, at first contact, had a estimated population of some 1,000 souls. Today I believe its population is nudging 13,000.

Based upon the current sitdaun of most Nauruans, I do not think Australia together with its fellow other appointed management partners namely NZ and Britain did do a very good job of managing Nauru.

So there’s the rub.

Chips Mackellar

Also Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, and the Cocos Islands.

Harry Topham

Rob - Not wanting to sound pedantic but your comment "From the early 1900s to Independence in 1975, New Guinea was Australia’s only colonial experience" is not quite true.

It overlooks Australia's colonial involvement as partners with New Zealand and Great Britain in administering Nauru post World War I when the previous German rulers were deposed.

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