NOOSA – Sir Paulias Nguna Matane - author, educator, diplomat and former governor-general - turns 90 today, which is a grand age anywhere in the world.
Sir Paulias was born in East New Britain and educated at Toma Village School, Keravat High School and, in 1956, Sogeri Teachers College.
A highly effective teacher, he was given rapid promotion to inspector of schools and, around the time of PNG independence in 1975, he was appointed national director of education.
His popular memoir, ‘My Childhood in New Guinea’, which tells of his early life, has been on the school curriculum since the 1970s.
Sir Paulias has been a prolific author with 44 books to his name, many of them written in straightforward English to enable Papua New Guineans, who had only the most elementary schooling, to read them.
He was PNG’s first ambassador to the United States in 1975-76 and ambassador to the United Nations from 1975-79, where he served a term as vice-president of the General Assembly.
In the mid-1980s he headed PNG’s foreign affairs department, taking a special interest in the country’s relationships with Australia and Indonesia.
In 2004, parliament elected Sir Paulias as PNG’s eighth governor-general and he was vested by Queen Elizabeth II in October 2004. He was to serve a second term from 2010, but the supreme court ruled this unconstitutional.
He led a very active retirement telling PNG Attitude in 2008, that, “I went home and continued to work hard for communities, wrote books, weekly columns for one of our dailies, produced weekly EMTV Chit Chats, and travelled the world.”
Not only did Sir Paulias write books, he encouraged other Papua New Guineans to do the same.
“Due to my encouragement, 32 people have had their first books published here and overseas. Five have written their second books. This shows me that there are capable people here who can write.”
In 2011, when the Crocodile Prize was established, Sir Paulias told PNG Attitude that “as a passionate proponent of PNG literature, I welcome it warmly.
“I urge my Papua New Guinean sisters and brothers to ‘write, write, write!’
“We need to have more writers and more readers in our country,” he said. “Our nation has a rich oral tradition which has slowly extended into the written form.
“We want PNG to have a flourishing literature; we want creative and bold writers; and we want the means to publish their work.”
In 2014, Sir Paulias received an award for his lifetime contribution to PNG literature as part of the Crocodile Prize.
Sir Paulias has been much decorated for his outstanding service to his country and throughout his long life has been a faithful member of the United Church.
His wife, Lady Kaludia Matane, who also served PNG with great distinction, died in 2016.