Covid in PNG: A failure of state & a people betrayed

Rick Giddings MBE OAM: An exceptional man

Neil Leahy & Rick Giddings 1987 (Bill Gammage)
Neil Leahy & Rick Giddings, 1987 (Bill Gammage)

SONYA & LARA GIDDINGS

Rick Giddings was buried at Pontville in Tasmania on Tuesday and his family has kindly approved sharing this edited eulogy with his friends from his time in Papua New Guinea - PF

PONTVILLE - Richard James Giddings MBE OAM, our dad, was a good man. He was kind, generous, funny, intelligent and wise. He was a storyteller and a poet.

He lived his 84 years with love, devotion, passion and integrity, whether that be for his family, friends, community, or his work. He was a dear friend and mentor to many.

Dad was born in Maffra, Victoria, on 6 August 1937 to Albert William James Giddings and Annie Delcie Giddings nee McRae. Two years later his father joined the air force and was posted to Papua New Guinea and Borneo. He would not come home again until the end of World War II in 1945.

In these formative years, Dad was surrounded by women, all of whom he adored – his grandmother, his mum and his sister, Beverley. Being surrounded by strong women was the norm for him.

When their father returned from the war a stranger, it did not take long before father, son and sister developed a strong bond. It was cemented by their love of rifle shooting.

Every weekend the Holden station-sedan would be packed with rifles and ammunition - the smell of oil rags permeating the air - and the three would go to Lancefield Rifle Range, all of them collecting trophies for their efforts along the way.

Dad would begin his life-long love for Papua New Guinea in 1956, leaving his family home at the age of 18 to start his career as a cadet patrol officer, a kiap, working for the Australian government.

After the first three years in Bougainville, he was sent to Sydney for further training at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA), where upon he set eyes on our mum, Lynn, and her friend Jan, in the canteen.

Thus began a relationship that would see them through almost 62 years of marriage. Mum and Dad were soulmates and yet also chalk and cheese. Mum was a city slicker; Dad a country boy. Mum was Labor; Dad Liberal

Mum was a pacifist; Dad a Lieutenant in the Army Reserve and loved his military history. Mum was a Republican and Dad a Monarchist – but in the end he would always put his love for Mum first and this was born out on the day of the Republican referendum.

Dad took pity on mum, who had sat outside in the rain all day handing out how to vote 'yes' cards, even though it was clear the vote had been lost. After voting himself, he came over to her, wrapped his arms around her and said he had voted yes for a Republic.

For Mum, this was perhaps one of the most beautiful gifts he could have given her. But, importantly, they shared the same values and it was this that bound them together. Values of fairness, equality and respect.

They raised us (Sonya and Lara) to love people of all colours, creeds and religions. They raised us to care for other people and be thankful for the life we have and to work hard for others.

Dad was a brave man. He was used as a human shield once in a tribal fight over land he was in the process of settling. As an arrow fired from a bow skimmed past his side, he turned around to see a warrior ducking behind him.

As Chief Magistrate, he ended up on the front page of the Post-Courier newspaper with a rifle pointed at his stomach, capturing the moment he tried to pull it off a rascal who had stolen it from a police officer during a riot.

Dad was respected wherever he went in PNG. It was because of this that, when Sonya travelled back to Goroka in 1999, she felt safe – the people of Goroka were looking out for her, protecting her, because she was the daughter of Mr Giddings.

His work was recognised by the PNG government when he was became a Member of the British Empire (MBE). He was also Long Service and Good Conduct Medal among others – our dad loved his medals.

When he left PNG in 1992, after 36 years service, Dad mourned the life he once had and the people of PNG he shared it with.

It was not easy ‘going finish’, as it was called, and coming back to Australia to live, but it was made easier because his best friends, Pam and John Vandenberg from Goroka days, had made Tasmania home too.

Dad soon embraced the community, losing no time in finding St Mark's Anglican Church, which he faithfully served as Rector's Warden and on the Parish Council for many years. He worked with the Brighton Heritage Association, the local Crimestoppers advisory group, local historical arms and militaria collectors, and the Susan Neill-Fraser Support group among others.

His work earnt him an Order of Australia Medal for community service in 2013, just like his Dad, who had received an OAM in 1982.

Dad grew up in a loving home and that’s what he gave to Sonya and me. He was a good dad, a loving and devoted dad. He took us to school each morning singing ‘the nothing’ song to see how many verses we could get up to in the five minutes it took to drive to school.

(‘Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, we sing absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing all day long, listen to our nothing some, same song second verse could be better but it’s gonna be worse.)

He took us to swimming training and carnivals around the country. He served as the President of the Goroka Swimming Club.

Every week during our years at boarding school, he would write us a letter full of stories of home in Goroka. Seeing that little yellow envelope arrive in the post each week made our day.

In recent years, Dad’s health slowly deteriorated. In recent months, he had come to terms with the end of life. He was ready and content to leave the world as we know it.

Dad loved his life. He loved his lvy. He loved his fragments of pottery he dug up in the garden. He loved his poetry and singing hymns. But most of all he loved and took great pride in his family.

Giddings family
Lara Giddings (left) with sister Sonya, mum Lynn, niece Eleanor and (rear) brother-in-law Darren, nephew Nicholas and dad Rick, 2011 (Sam Rosewarne, Hobart Mercury)

Most of all he took great pride in the achievements of Mum, Sonya and Lara. We have all lost our number one fan.

His last day was a happy day – he revelled in the beautiful smile he had received from his seven-month-old great grandson, Max; he devoured scones, jam and cream at a Devonshire Tea with Mum in New Norfolk; and then he rested at home on his bed with Mum by his side.

His last image was of mum as he told her, "Please do not ring an ambulance". He died his way, at home.

We love you, Dad. We will all miss our Da. Go in peace.

Comments

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John Tinney

I have just learned of Rick's death. We were friends at Kyneton High School and I caught up with him in Tasmania many decades later.

He and Lynn kindly invited Jean (Lynn's schoolmate as it happened) and me to dinner in Pontville. A great man, sadly missed.

Sonya de Lacey (née Giddings)

Thank you all for your comments and sharing your memories of our dear Dad. It is comforting to read your words.

We miss him so much, so to have these touchpoints with others who knew him is such a blessing.

Gerard Phillip

Rick was the senior magistrate in Kundiawa when I arrived in December 1989 to work as a pilot.

He was a member of our small party that flew to the remote airstrip of Haia for a Sunday trek and a regular at the Cockroach Club.

Fond memories of a very nice man. I still regularly drive past his old house.

Barry Bollinger

Rick was very very well known and absolutely respected in PNG. He was a positive influence to be strong and firm and stand up for what is right.

A fine, helpful, cheerful Christian man who had an impact on thousands of people, and who provided wise guidance to me as the Secondary School Inspector at Simbu.

PNG and those expats there in his time were blessed by his presence and example.

Daniel Kumbon

Late Rick's last words - "Please do not ring an ambulance" - reminds me of an aunt who came to get medication at Wabag General Hospital many years ago.

She stayed with us for over a month but she never recovered from her illness. One mornin, her face had swollen and I wanted to take her to hospital.

But she said, "Daniel, take me home. I don't wish to give you trouble." I protested but she insisted. So I took her home in the government office car. I knew she was on her way.

About four hours after we dropped her in the village she passed on, but not after one last deed.

She had paid back K40 to one of my cousin sisters from whom she'd taken the money many years back. My aunt didn't want to die with the debt on her chest.

Relatives discovered that there was no other cash in her bilum.

Rest easy Rick, you've done great for my country. Travel well on the track, true wantoks of PNG have gone before you. And your good names will live on.

And Aunt Mina, continue to lie still at Kondo village, Kandep, Enga, 'until the roll is called up yonder'.

Kenny Pawa

RIP Champion.

Thank you for being part of the great people who have changed PNG for the better.

Bob Cleland

Rest in Peace, Rick.

Rick and Lynn lived next door to Julie and me in Goroka. I remember him as one of the best.

My condolences, Lynne.

Arthur Jones

A truly good and decent man. I always respected his knowledge, experience and his caring and firm approach to 'things PNG'.

RIP Rick.

Baka Bina

I heard a story that once when His Worship was walking to work in Kundiawa, he met an old man as he approached the court house.

His Worship looked at the beaming man and said with a stern face, 'Good morning', and walked on.

The old man was troubled by the non return of his smile and wobbled after His Worship.

He caught up with him and now, with a stern face, tapped His Worship to return the greetings back to him.

"Masta, yu tiing 'gut monin' em gutpela tok bilong yu ah, gut monin long yu tu."

And it was said this time His Worship beamed back a mile long smile.

It was a pity that the Apos did not make him an official honorary Apo but he was an Apo through and through.

May He Rest In Eternal Peace.

Philip Kai Morre

Goodbye Rick Giddings and may God grant you eternal rest.

I remember Rick Giddings when he was a senior magistrate in Kundiawa, Simbu Province. He was the last Australian kiap and magistrate to leave Simbu.

When he left he presented me with a manual typewriter and an electric stove.

My condolence to his family and relatives.

Norma Lynch

So sorry to hear of Rick’s death.... we have some lovely memories of he and Lynn in Goroka and his contribution in the setting up of the Goroka museum, and also catching up with the family in Tasmania.

You have lost a beautiful man. Be comforted with your memories.

Love, Norma Paula Michelle & Andrea

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