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Old original kiap Bill Aaron dies at 82

Bill Aaron's Oro
Bill Aaron's Oro - a province of mountains fjords, fast-flowing rivers and home to the Kokoda Track


TUMBY BAY - Bill Aaron (aka Aaron William Panige), one of the original Papua New Guinean kiaps recruited in the 1960s, has died in Oro Province.

Aaron, 82, died on 17 January in his home village of Dombada. He had been the second patrol officer recruited from Oro following Basil Koe of Buna.

Before his death, Aaron surprised his family by revealing all his patrol reports from the 1960s which he had kept in a patrol box.

His first posting after graduation from the Finschhafen Training Centre in 1963 was to Tapini in Central Province.

In 1963 he was posted to Koroba in the Southern Highlands and then successively to Bereina, Kerema and Baimuru.

By 1973 he had reached the rank of Assistant District Commissioner and was an acting District Commissioner on several occasions.

Also in 1973, he took up the role of Government Liaison Officer and played an important part in political education programs leading to PNG’s self-government and independence.

Building the Kumusi Bridge
The Kumusi River bridge under construction

After independence in 1975 he returned to Oro and joined the construction company of Stan (The Bridge Builder) Rybarz.

Aaron assisted in building many of the bridges along the Oro Bay Road and the Kokoda Highway, including the Kumusi Bridge, later washed away during the cyclone disaster of 2007.

He also served as a ward councillor with the Oro Bay Local Level Government from 2008 to 2013.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

Some of these old local kiaps are passing away without much notice.

Arthur Smedley reported the death of Gabriel Buanam on the exkiap website a while ago.

"The Post Courier reported on 26 October 2021 that former kiap and district commissioner Gabriel Buanam died in Madang on 20 October 2021.

Here’s the link to the article –

The Post Courier reported –

The last of the 15 national district commissioners who replaced the expatriate commissioners in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has passed on.

Late Gabriel Buanam from Korak village in the Bogia district, Madang Province, died on October 20 in his home in Madang.

Mr Buanam served in Southern Highlands, Milne Bay, West New Britain, Simbu, Eastern Highlands, Northern and Madang provinces as a public servant.

He started his career in 1964 after graduating from Sogeri High School in Central Province in 1963.

The soft- spoken, down to earth man climbed the public service ranks to become a district commissioner for Milne Bay Province in 1973, replacing the late Kingsley Jackson.

He was one of the top administrators then, and it was during his posting in Milne Bay that he and his late wife Dorothy, hosted Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, in their family home in 1974, when they visited the province.

In October of 1982, during Her Majesty’s next visit to the country, Mr. Buanam was awarded the Order of the British Empire or OBE for distinguished services to the public service, among others like the late Noel Levi and Colonel Robert Dademo. Their investiture was held on board Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia in Port Moresby.

The elderly people in Tari, SineSine/Yongumul and Kainantu, will remember him as the first local kiap who helped establish those stations, which are now called districts.

After many years of serving in other provinces, he moved to Madang in the late 1970s, where he served as the deputy secretary for the Madang Provincial Administration until he retired in 1984.

He died two months short of his 80th birthday."

Lindsay F Bond

Honouring the name of Aaron WP, this comment laments that more was and is not known of Bill Aaron and his cohort who courageously ventured the 'imposition' of governance change in the remoter places of the then TP&NG in the 1960s.

The name Aaron P can be seen at:

The name Panige is not readily seen. A hope is that PNG folk will find opportunity for wider recognition of Bill Aaron and Basil Koe and their compatriots.

Dombada village at the beach was severely impacted by the November 2007 flooding of Eroro River, and many folk relocated for relief assistance and safer housing.

Dombada is between Oro Bay and Buna and greatly loved by by its residents. In 2010, I stayed some days at the relief location, having earlier lived 18 months at Katereda (Oro Bay).

I was at the time quite unaware that my radio officer father was on a ship at Oro Bay in 1943 during raids against shipping by aerial bombing.

Most likely, Aaron WP observed some of these raids.

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