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Reluctant kiaps: 'We don't want hero status'

"The kiaps’ role in the bringing to independence of PNG was undoubtedly unique and important and that should bring with it a certain sense of pride, but that is as far as it goes"

Don Kennedy  with his wife Glen  of Mitchells Island  is presented the Australian Federal Police Overseas Service Medal by federal MP David Gillespie
Don Kennedy with his wife Glen is presented the Australian Police Overseas Service Medal by federal MP Dr David Gillespie, the National Party member for the seat of Lyne on the northern coast of New South Wales


TUMBY BAY - Early this month, the Australian Institute of International Affairs published an article, The Forgotten Australian Patrol Officers’, by Luke Gosling OAM, the Labor member for Solomon in the Northern Territory.

“What the kiaps did for Papua New Guinea is today called nation-building in official jargon,” Gosling wrote.

And he continued:

“One way to show the kiaps the nation’s gratitude would be to build a memorial in Canberra commemorating those who died during their service.

“The majority of kiaps support this initiative. They also support a memorial in Sydney at the school where kiaps studied before deploying.

“The Canberra memorial could be located on Lake Burley Griffin, in a shady grove overlooking the National Carillon and the National Police Memorial.

“Surviving Kiaps ask for nothing extravagant or expensive, only a nook of the national imagination.”

I believe Gosling is wrong in his claim that the majority of  kiaps support this initiative.

Amongst those I have spoken to, the memorial is supported only by a small minority.

I’ve long been bemused, and at the same time quite saddened, by the preoccupation of some kiaps with medals and memorials.

The psychology escapes me but I assume it’s got something to do with their individual sense of worth and need for recognition.

Police Overseas Service Medal

And perhaps some sort of attempt at immortality.

Several years ago a group of kiaps lobbied hard for recognition of their service in PNG.

They succeeded in persuading the federal government to make kiaps eligible for the award of the Australian Police Overseas Service Medal.

Given that policing was only a small part of our role, the medal seemed an incongruous award but it seemed to make the supplicants happy.

Why anyone should be given a medal just for working overseas is a puzzle.

The premise of the argument that Gosling is now repeating is based on the misconception that the kiaps’ role and service in PNG has been ignored in Australia.

This claim is belied by the large amount of literature dedicated to their history that exists in our public libraries and on our domestic bookshelves.

That literature will outlive any sort of medal, honorific or memorial dedicated to these men.

It seems to me to be problematic to now have a memorial that commemorates those kiaps who died while on duty.

Their cause is not assisted by Gosling’s spurious assertion that “kiaps’ mortality rate was as high as 4.25% compared with 1.04% for Australians serving in the Vietnam War.”

There is no comparison between the role of kiaps and that of soldiers involved in a war.

Very few kiaps died as the result of violence. They mostly died as a result of misadventure, accident and illness. 

Conflating an administrative role in PNG with military adventurism in Vietnam is a very dubious proposition.

It’s an assertion that entirely misrepresents the responsibilities and functions of kiaps as field officers in PNG.

The rationale underpinning and defining what kiaps did was one of peaceful and cooperative administration.

There was nothing militaristic about it, despite what some people might think.

Those exceptional kiaps who gave outstanding service have been recognised and awarded appropriate honours by the governments of both Papua New Guinea (in the Order of Logohu) and Australia (in British awards and later in the Order of Australia).

The kiaps’ role in the bringing to independence of PNG was undoubtedly unique and important and that should bring with it a certain sense of pride, but that is as far as it goes.

Being accorded some kind of hero status for simply doing your job, even if it involved a certain level of discomfort, is silly.

Valorising that role with medals and memorials is a bridge too far because it creates a false concept of what the kiaps’ role was all about.

If the kiaps are to be remembered it should be for the work they did, not some idolised and dubious misrepresentation of their role.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

You're right Bill.

I charged the Nomad guys with "unlawfully interfering with a corpse". There was no charge of cannibalism in the adopted Queensland Criminal Code.

As it turned out they were acquitted by Justice Prentice. The defence invoked the Customary Recognition Ordinance and argued that eating one's enemy was a traditional cultural practise. The precedent that Prentice established in his judgement was later overturned.

My claim about post war cases of cannibalism was based on the dubious sensationalism in the media when the case came to court. I've never actually claimed that but have mentioned it as a possibility.

I think the distinction with the other cases you cite is that the men were charged with murder instead of cannibalism whereas my blokes didn't actually kill the guy they ate.

The guy who did the killing was convicted of manslaughter, which I thought was unfair because he had simply been defending himself.

Bill Brown MBE

I read ‘The Forgotten Australian Patrol Officers’ by Luke Gosling OAM MP and wondered who misled him and who determined that the majority of kiaps support a memorial.

I am one of the former kiaps who think the memorial concept is a nonsense. Distinguished former kiaps like Harry West and Fred Kaad have departed, but they did not support the push for either a medal or a memorial. They thought a library, or some appropriately named research facility, might provide more worthwhile recognition.

Former kiap Terry Kelliher, who recently left us, also had a view aired it on the ex-kiap website. Titled ‘A Footnote in History’ it is well worth reading, but it is too long to reproduce here. Still, some excerpts:

"Whilst respecting at all times the beliefs and feelings of those who pursue 'recognition', I did not, and do not, actively support it as I feel that the 'recognition' I received in TPNG from the people whom I served, and with whom I served, was quite sufficient. I have many special privileged memories to look back upon and relive that 'recognition' if I so desire."

"Many of the people I served and with whom I served have passed on. With the passage of time, they will all be gone, as will I be, and we will all become footnotes in history if we're lucky - and we are lucky. Apart from the great times we had in TPNG, we have had much of our history wonderfully recorded by talented people such as JK McCarthy and James Sinclair, to name but two. Our Reports have been preserved to some extent in various libraries and collections throughout the world. All these things will be available in the future to those who are interested in the TPNG past."

As to Ross Wilkinson's comments, I think I was the individual "who attempted to list the kiaps that had lost their lives through violent confrontations." I included accidental deaths, but I did not include suicides or those who died from illness etc. I sent the list to Keith Jackson in 2008 when, as President of the PNGAA, he assisted former kiap Chris Viner-Smith with his negotiations in Canberra. I never intended that it would be passed to Cadet Patrol Officers training at ASOPA. Paul Oates, who curates the Honour Roll, might confirm the circumstances.

At the same time and for the same reason, I sent Keith a copy of the text of Field Marshal Sir William Slim's statement to Paul Hasluck:

"I do admire what you have done in New Guinea. I know something about this. It is the sort of thing that I was trying to do during most of my life.

“Your young chaps in New Guinea have gone out where I would never have gone without a battalion, and they have done on their own by sheer force of character what I could only do with troops. I don't think there's been anything like it in the modern world..."

I agree with Phil Fitzpatrick's remarks about the Police Overseas Service Medal (POSM), referred to by some former kiaps as the Possum Medal. (Others speak of the medal detectors and the OPSM - the spectacle makers.)

Neither Harry West, Fred Kaad nor I supported the medal campaign. The Australian government had not recognised West’s or Kaad's exceptional service in colonial Papua New Guinea. West said imperial awards were as scarce as hens' teeth, although he was later awarded with a medal in the Order of Australia, the citation emphasising his long service to the PNGAA.

When the Police Overseas Service Medal became a reality, we accepted it. I have never worn mine, but one day soon someone will add it to my father's and uncle's World War I medals and my brother's from World War II.

I add a final comment because PNG Attitude readers are wont to accept what Phil Fitzpatrick opines as gospel. I doubt that Phil charged the seven men he arrested with cannibalism. Maybe my memory is failing, but I don't think cannibalism was ever on the statute books. Perhaps Phil charged them with murder or indecently dealing with a human body.

As to whether Phil’s foray was the first post-World War II arrest of anyone for murder associated with cannibalism, Patrol Officer Tony Redwood may have been some years ahead. He arrested the 40 men involved in the notorious Sepik/May River cannibal raids in August 1956.

Three years later, in 1959, Jack Mater and Jim Fenton apprehended the 15 Mianmin men who killed three men and a woman from Suwanana village near the May River. The Mianmins cut up the bodies and set off home with seven female captives. One had difficulty keeping up, so they also killed and butchered her.

In another Sepik event, Brian McCabe (Assistant District Officer, Ambunti) and Patrol Officer Tony Pitt arrested and charged 20 men with murder related to cannibalism in June 1964. In 1968, PO Tony Plummer, stationed at Green River Patrol Post, arrested seven men for a cannibal-related massacre in the West Range area.

In other Sepik/May River cannibalism/murder events, ADO Brian McCabe and Patrol Officer Tony Pitt arrested 20 men in June 1964 and PO Tony Plummer, stationed at Green River Patrol Post, arrested seven men in the West Range area in 1968.

Back to the memorial discussion and rephrasing Kelliher: When we are gone, the books by Ian Downs, Keith McCarthy, Jim Sinclair and others will continue to tell our story. The archives and libraries around the world record our history. What better memorial could there be?

Will Muskens

I agree wholeheartedly with Phil that a special memorial to kiaps is not justified.

According to Wikipedia "a memorial is an object or place which serves as a focus for the memory or the commemoration of something, usually an influential, deceased person or a historical, tragic event."

It is claimed that at least 88 kiaps died while working in PNG but apart from those who died in active service in World War II, according to historian and former kiap Jim Sinclair just eight were actually killed on duty:

The most memorable of these were Geoffrey Harris and Leo Szarka at Telefomin in 1953, which sent a shockwave through the service.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 December 1953 records the official statement to parliament in Canberra by Minister for Territories, PM Hasluck, about this tragic event:

Presumably the other 80 individuals died as a result of accidents or misadventure - one that I knew personally from my course (February 1958) was Fergus Anderson who drowned while crossing a flooded river in the Fly District in the early 1960s.

Another very good friend, Don Simmins, was killed in a motor vehicle accident in the Highlands in the 1970s.

I don't understand why kiaps should be any more deserving of an official public memorial than field officers of other departments in PNG that died serving in PNG prior to independence - why are they considered to be so special?

Yes, I know that kiaps had a leading role in the Administration and were acknowledged by the people as the public face of government, but officers from Agriculture, Health, Education and other departments also made very important contributions to improve services and the life of the ordinary villager and should be no less deserving of recognition.

As for the Police Overseas Service Medal, that's entirely up to each individual. I chose not to apply for this medal as I disagreed with the concept that kiaps were in the same category as uniformed police officers.

Nor were we technically serving overseas (in the same way as, for example, Cyprus), because TPNG was an Australian Territory.

Furthermore our policing role was always ex-officio and I doubt that we ever exercised our police powers in towns and places where the RPNGC had established police stations.

I am somewhat bemused by the apparent need of some former kiaps to be 'recognised' for their work in PNG and found it interesting that these campaigns have only started in the last 10 or so years, rather than by the officers who started in the period from 1945 to the early 1950s.

Those men who did the hard yards, endured the hardships, deprivations and loneliness of very lengthy and sometimes exploratory patrols, and laid the foundations for eventual nationhood.

They're the ones that deserve recognition, certainly not the ones like me that came along later.

Chris Overland

I agree with Ray Weber's point as it relates to the work of kiaps after around 1970. I arrived in PNG in May 1969 and my police work was entirely restricted to the period mid-1969 to 1971, after which it effectively ceased.

While I remain somewhat ambivalent about an honour roll, I can see why it is being advocated. The job of the patrol officer was very unusual and could also be very dangerous.

That said, I am acutely aware that many people have been and continue to be injured and killed in the course of their work.

For example, in the construction industry, people are killed and seriously injured on a weekly basis. Also, during my time working in the health industry at least two doctors were murdered in South Australia, one of whom was a colleague and friend.

In addition, police, doctors, nurses and ambulance officers are almost routinely assaulted while doing their jobs. Even as Chief Executive at a regional hospital I was assaulted on one occasion whilst trying to deal with a psychotic patient who was threatening the nursing staff.

For this reason, I struggle to see the justification for singling out kiaps from amongst the distressingly large numbers of people who have died doing their jobs.

The only basis upon which I feel able to support this idea is because it may help preserve knowledge of Australia's role in PNG which is in danger of slipping out of the national consciousness.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Ray makes an interesting point about the dominance of the police role before and after World War II.

Around 1970 Craig McConaghy and I, working out of Nomad River, arrested seven men for cannibalism and took them to the Supreme Court. I think it was the first post WW2 arrest of anyone for cannibalism.

It involved leading police on a night time raid. It sounds dramatic but the men happily gave themselves up and cheerfully admitted to eating one of their enemies.

I did other police work but I never considered it my primary role. That's the problem I have with the POSM. It over emphasises the police role while ignoring the much larger body of constructive administration that informed our role as kiaps.

The POSM is fair enough but what about all the other stuff that was equally, if not more important. If the kiaps are going to get an award it should be comprehensive and not some half-arsed fudge by the government based upon some gung-ho, macho misconception about what we did.

I didn't want my kids thinking I was in PNG solely as a copper and therefore didn't apply for the medal.

The memorial proposition, to my mind, is a continuation of that misinformed view.

Ross Wilkinson

Phil, you have drawn attention to the press release from Luke Gosling MP and made some observations. Some of these I agree with but, in the main, I think the thrust of your argument is very disingenuous.

As you would be aware, I’ve had some involvement in this proposal which arose out of the decision to award ex-kiaps the Police Overseas Service Medal so can provide some background and, perhaps, some clarity.

Administrative History

So first, a quick historical background. In the 1870s the pre-Federation Queensland Government urged the British Government to adopt the land and islands that were to become Papua New Guinea as a British Colony. Whilst awaiting the British response it posted a Government Agent to Port Moresby.

With the German occupation of the northern islands and part main island, in 1884 Britain confirmed that it would take on the south-eastern portion and nearby islands.

The protectorate became known as British New Guinea. After Australia’s Federation Britain decided to gift the Protectorate to Australia and this was formalised in 1906 when the Australian Territory of Papua came into existence.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and acting on Britain’s orders, Australia captured German New Guinea and established a military administration.

With the end of the war in 1918 and the subsequent peace conference, a world peace body, the League of Nations, was established.
The League created a mandate system to administer the captured German colonies and Australia was granted the mandate for German New Guinea. The new Australian civil administration replaced the military administration in May 1921.

The two distinctly separate administrations for Papua and Mandated New Guinea operated until February 1942 when, after the Japanese invaded the islands, they were suspended and replaced with a single military administration.

Known as the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), this remained operational until June 1946 but was being progressively replaced by an interim civil administration as territory was regained from the Japanese occupation.

The interim administration looked after both territories as a single entity until 1949 when the United Nations, as successor to the former League of Nations, approved a request to formally continue the single administrative model.

The necessary legislation was passed and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea came into being and continued until Independence.

Throughout the various administrative periods men were engaged as kiaps under various titles with the extension of law and order a major focus but not exclusively.

Kiap Honour Roll

Recognising that kiaps had lost their lives through violent confrontations I understand that one of our former senior officers attempted to document these events.

The intent was to pass this on to Cadet Patrol Officers training at ASOPA in an endeavour to create a sense of history and awareness of potential danger.

A number of years back one of our colleagues, Paul Oates, began to re-collate this data and it was posted on the Ex-Kiap website. Several years ago I commenced the creation of a Kiap Nominal Roll to identify all those who had served as kiaps in all administrative periods.

The Kiap Nominal Roll currently has approximately 2,000 names of expatriate kiaps with a number of these serving in multiple administrative periods.

It should be noted that a number of expat kiaps stayed after Independence as part of continuing Australian government assistance.

I have the names of approximately 500 PNG nationals who served as kiaps but data on this has been very difficult to locate after 1974.

As a result of this research, more kiap deaths in service were identified as arising from various causes so the concept of an honour roll was considered.

The Australian Federal Police and Australian War Memorial guidelines were reviewed and the AWM model was considered the best fit.

As a result, the Kiap Honour Roll currently has 85 entries with the first in 1878 and the last in 1978. Research into the Nominal Roll is continuing and this may disclose more entries to the Honour Roll. I have been unable to identify any national officers who died in service.

Kiap Memorial Proposal

Following the awarding of the POSM an informal approach was made to the AFP to consider placing the names from the Kiap Honour Roll on the National Police Memorial in Canberra.

Because of debate about kiap police status arising from the medal, it was considered prudent to invite discussion about the proposal on the Ex-Kiap website.

From this there were many responses with some making multiple submissions. A total of 99 people made comments and only four were totally against the concept which is where Luke Gosling’s comment of majority support comes from.

The other major point from this was agreement with your point that we were not, primarily, police and that any memorial to our deceased should be a standalone memorial.

The other point from this was the question of location with the numbers roughly split between Canberra and the ASOPA site on Middle Head in Sydney.

As the exact number, identity and circumstances of those that died is unknown or subject of debate so it was considered that the design and tribute wording to those that died would not include names or details but remain a general recognition of service and loss.

Current Position

Based on the results of this consultation, approaches have been made to the Australian government for approval and funding for the design and construction of a memorial.

Luke Gosling MP has become a strong supporter, hence his comments that you have drawn attention to.

I agree with you about the ratio comparison to Australian losses in Vietnam being inappropriate but as Luke Gosling is a former Australian Army officer it probably resonates with him.

So to my opening comments, all through this you have indicated your opposition to the concept of kiaps being police and the awarding of the Police Overseas Service Medal. You indicated your opposition to the proposal during the previous consultation and now, by again referring to the medal, have twisted your comments here to revert to your position about our role as police. That has nothing to do with this proposal.

By virtue of our duty statement we were on duty 24 hours a day 7 days a week and had to be prepared to respond to anything that came our way, policing or not.

During the course of this service at least 85 kiaps died from a variety of causes, not all policing and this proposal is about recognising that.

Ray Weber

I was amused at the statement that "policing was only a small part of our role" until I realised that the kiaps who thought this way were probably those who arrived around 1970 when the main emphasis was on local government and development.

During my first years from February 1961 to 1972 I depended greatly on my police role. I established the first permanent Patrol Post in the inland Gulf Kukukuku country.

These people lived their primitive traditional lives including killing their enemies and practising sorcery. The population was grossly underestimated to be around 3,000. After my term there I had counted 9,000 and estimated another 3,000.

This was followed by six years in the Goilala District where, at the time I transferred out, kiaps were in charge of all police (Tapini, Woitape and Guari) and prison warders.

In July 1972 I was posted to New Ireland (what a change from my last eight years!), and even here I was in charge of the last police detachment on New Hanover.

I am proud of my service as a commissioned officer in the Field Constabulary and being awarded the POSM by Australia, as well as a hatful of medals, including the Order of Logohu, from the PNG government.

Arthur Williams

As one of a minority of Pommie kiaps excuse my interrupting the discussion that has raised more comments than many on PNG Attitude.

I am glad that at least some or may be most Australian kiap heroes have been awarded some public thanks by their government

So firstly may I say I am proud of my little role pre-Independence as a field officer for the Australian government.

I was so happy to get my six year service contract as it meant I could quit my very short foray into teaching, at which I had proved a disaster.

I had only known about PNG from my interest in postage stamps and knew that there had once been Papuan ones as well as New Guinea ones.

That piqued my grey matter as it had previously done in adolescence when I peeked at the New Guinea articles in the National Geographic.

Since quitting PNG for the last time in 2008, I believe my few friends and almost all of my family are secretly fed up with hearing anecdotes about a distant place they are almost 100% never to visit.

Sadly that includes my three mixed race daughters who now live in the UK. I add to their ennui by having kept up to date with all-things New Guinean with my daily reading of The National newspaper. So I can bore them with current events.

Oh how I wish I could have been able to relate the Kumul rugby league team getting into the finals after walloping Wales in the current World Cup being held in UK. Perhaps the PNG Orchids can help me.

New Guinea was my adopted home for over 30 years and is a huge part of my personal story that has molded me into this ageing body, mind and soul.

Most of my close PNG friends have departed this noble sphere ahead of me as though life at expectancy at birth for PNG is now 63 (UK 79).

When I arrived as a 'new-boy' in 1970 life expectancy was merely 45 . I believe that even the primary age children I noted on the annual census update when I was a kiap have died while the remaining adults I knew are now 'lapuns' in their communities.

I did nothing as a pre-Independence kiap worthy of being awarded a medal but still was glad to have at least my 100th Anniversary award.

Much to the futile disgust of my dad, who did 30 years in the force, I had once joined his Cardiff City Police. Even got a commendation from Cardiff's Chief Constable in what was a very short interlude on my life's journey.

Possibly another anecdote that has already bored my kin too. So to be a temporary sub-Inspector in PNG was an ironic moment to trump my earlier probationer-constable rank.

I have always been glad of my one heroic moment that happened not long after I became a lay missionary for the Catholic Church when I put my life saving skills to use and saved one tiny tot from drowning in the flooding Saula River.

In six years of high school swimming I had achieved the bronze medal and bronze cross from Royal Life Saving Society never thinking I would use this skill 10,000km away from Cardiff.

Thankfully too I did save my own life when as a kiap the tiny aluminium dinghy capsized in the narrow gap in the reef to access Metesilen village of South Lavongai Island.

Wm Shakespeare wrote:

1 - "But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will.

"And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all"

2 - "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones."

For the pro-memorialists that sadly is the general finality of life and of course it is the rule of the game for atheists too.

Most anti-memorialists have accepted the idea too though many Abrahamic religionists the Christians, Hebrews and Muslims seem to back death both ways with small, big and even very big mausoleums to the death.

Personally I would like to be cremated and thrown into the ocean as some scientists has once claimed that eventually a tiny molecule or two buoyed by the oceans' circulationary currents can circumnavigate the world to come ashore on my beloved Lavongai shore.

'Ovna na ovna angai'. One of my former Welsh Guards company mottos - 'Feared be he who fears not death'.

Paul Oates

I wondered if and when you might throw a bit of bait with my name on it, Phil. I'm afraid we will probably agree to disagree about the POSM and our police role.

Chips is spot on in my view. Without our police powers (and magisterial), in the bush, we were nothing and would have had a hard time achieving anything like what was achieved.

The essence of what I believe is sadly lacking is not personal recognition but recognition that we were part of a system that had both personal responsibility and accountability.

Sure some made mistakes and sure some could well have done better. But in my view, the glass is well and truly better than half full.

If it takes a POSM or any other form of public recognition that might, mark you, just might, draw attention to the fact that PNG was managed with systems that did work and services, and was provided with almost no resources to the then 97% of the PNG people who didn't want us to go before they were ready.

Why doesn't either the Australian government or the PNG government now recognise what was a fact before 1975? Why is PNG history pre 1975, taught in schools? Why is it that the Australian school curriculum doesn't mention our shared history and how we worked together in what was achieved?

Yep! The answer is easy to see. Neither government wants to recognise the past and compare it to the present.

That's why I see at least some glimmer of understanding being slightly possible, whatever is finally agreed to, about our shared history with PNG and how kiaps fitted into that history in a significant way.

Chris Overland

In answer to Phil's question about when I wear my medals. I do so on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, along with my father's vastly more significant medals for his heroic service in World War II.

With respect to Chips' point, I think he is right to say the local people knew we possessed police powers and so our mere presence was some deterrent for crime. This is why our police carry out routine patrol work in the public eye.

My intent was to point out that active police work as in apprehending criminals was not the predominant part of our work.

As to whether we kiaps will be remembered, like Phil I think that this is much less important than ensuring that Australians are taught that this country played a crucial and mainly positive role in governing PNG for nearly a century before peacefully launching it on its way as an independent country.

That was no small achievement, yet it has passed largely out of memory. This is sad because it has allowed our political elites to largely forget that our real nearest neighbour is actually PNG, not the much larger and important nation of Indonesia.

I remain at a loss to understand why PNG has been very much an afterthought for most federal governments, only drawing their attention when something goes wrong, or they suddenly remember our 'Pacific family' actually exists.

Outside of this forum, Phil and I once made inquiries about PNG's status within the Department of Foreign Affairs and discovered that it is covered by a small and obscure unit within DFAT.

At the time, the Assistant Secretary in Charge appeared to us to be a once rising star who had inexplicably been relegated to what was clearly an area of only minor interest or influence within DFAT.

Also, it seems that appointment as Australia's High Commissioner in PNG is not a prestige post from a DFAT perspective, serving at best as a stop on the way to greater things.

If this assessment is fair and accurate, then the likelihood of PNG history figuring anywhere in an already crowded school curriculum seems vanishingly remote.

This being so, we ex-kiaps should resign ourselves to fading rapidly into obscurity, leaving our medals as a reminder to our children or grandchildren that, once upon a time, Grandpa did something in a country about which they know little or nothing.

Such is life!

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think I've made the point about the kiaps hogging the limelight elsewhere, Ed, but it's worth repeating nevertheless.

I'm curious about what you do with the medals, Chris. Do you wear them on occasions or put them on display somewhere?

I didn't bother about the POSM but I unexpectedly scored a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal from the PNG government. I went hunting for it a while ago but have forgotten where I put it.

Lindsay makes a good point about the ABM. What annoys me about the POSM is that it is cheap fudge to keep people happy.

If the government had been really serious and truly appreciative they would have created a special award. The fact that Scomo was involved in the process (along with Jason Clare) says it all.

One thing that Keith edited out of the article was a comment that asked why the kiaps should worry about what the average Ocker Aussie thinks anyway. The inference there is that it doesn't really matter whether the kiaps are remembered by 99% of the population.

Paul Oates often laments the fact that Australia's role in PNG is not taught in schools as part of the history curriculum. That's where it matters I think.

Chips Mackellar

With the greatest respect I disagree with the proposition that "policing was only a small part of our role" because it begs the question, "what is the police role?"

Take the troopers of the NSW Mounted Police, for example, whose role is largely ceremonial. Are they not legitimate police officers? And how about the officers in the Queensland Police Pipe Band whose role is mostly to entertain at schools and retirement villages. Are they not legitimate police officers?

And how about the London bobby on the beat whose main duties are to direct foreign tourists to the nearest tube station, or to Westminster Abbey or to the Tower of London and so on. Is he not a legitimate police officer?

Then how about a kiap building a feeder road to the Highlands Highway. Was he not a legitimate police officer, because his mere presence there was in itself a deterrent to crime and disorder.

He did not have to spend his time arresting crooks or solving murders because in 1829 Sir Robert Peel said, "The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police actions in dealing with it."

So, all over PNG were kiaps on lonely outstations doing their ordinary duties of building roads, assisting Council projects, sorting the mail, sending weather reports and so on. They too were indirectly contributing to an absence of crime and disorder.

Although we were indeed commissioned police officers it didn't matter what we were doing. Our mere presence fulfilled our assigned police duties. And that is how we earned our Police Overseas Service Medal.

Lindsay F Bond

Imposition of matters not understood by the then existing population, encompassing decades and offsetting effect of a global conflict (WW2), and ending in assumption of a new nation by persons participating in the year 1975. Amazing decades, courageous participants and dedication. What compares?

By the way, the Anglican organisation, Anglican Board of Missions (ABM), gave to its returnee adherents, a recognition of appreciation, and not only for matters of PNG.

Chris Overland

I agree with much of what Phil has written, although not entirely.

He is quite correct to assert that kiaps were not heroes although some did display considerable heroism at times.

It is true that service in PNG carried with it inherent dangers and kiaps (and others too) did die in the course of performing their duties. The causes of such deaths were various: disease, drowning, aircraft crashes and, sometimes, murder.

Consequently, while the percentage of kiaps who died in the course of their duties is unknown to me, it was not negligible and certainly much greater than was the case for public servants ensconced in the offices of the Department of External Territories in Canberra.

Comparisons with the soldiers fighting in Vietnam are fallacious: there is a vast difference between the stress and anxiety of moving carefully through the jungle knowing that you could be ambushed at any moment by a heavily armed and determined enemy and the arduous but largely peaceful task of plodding through PNG's majestic but sometimes intimidating mountains.

Like many ex-kiaps I was very pleased to be awarded the Police Overseas Service Medal in recognition of my service in PNG. This is the case even though I regard my police activities as having been very secondary to the main task of bringing good order, competent government and some basic public health, education and other services to Papua New Guineans living in the remote parts of PNG.

I was even more pleased to be awarded the RPNGC Centenary Commemorative Medal by the PNG government for very much the same reason.

Like most ex-kiaps (and presumably like teachers, agricultural officers and others too) I went to PNG seeking challenge and adventure and that is what I got. It was a seminal and formative period of my life, and I am mightily grateful for the experience.

I am ambivalent about whether there should be a memorial specifically for kiaps who died while on service. I would find it much easier to support this idea if it was expanded to cover people in other jobs who took similar risks and, sometimes, came to untimely ends.

It is now over 50 years since I first set foot in PNG. It was and remains a country that is beautiful and awe inspiring as well as intimidating and scary. Its people were mostly kind, generous and good humoured although capable of great violence and cruelty as well. In short, they were pretty much the same as other humans.

As kiaps we fancied ourselves as the agents of 'civilisation' and, to a degree, I think that this was true. However, it is equally true to say that we were the fortunate witnesses of a place and time in which there were still humans who were living the lives of our not so distant ancestors.

Getting a medal for having that experience seems to me to be very much the icing on the cake rather than a reward for supposed heroism and self sacrifice.

Ed Brumby

Very well said, Phil. I would only add that, while kiaps were certainly in the front line of the so-called 'nation-building' in PNG, so were the didimen, schoolies and so many others.

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