There are hidden traps in helping others
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Kiap nation builders do not need a memorial


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

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 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 in PNG Attitude, 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.

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 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 with a citation crediting his work with 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.

But back to the kiaps’ 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?


Phil Fitzpatrick’s response to Bill Brown

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 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.


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Donn Kubai

Does anyone know who Nanong Ahi is? Heard of him when I was in Simbu.

Some brief research I’ve undertaken suggests that Nanong Ahi is from Morobe Province and was one of the first Papua New Guinean patrol officers.

He was active in the then Morobe District, especially in the area around Boana government station, in the late 1960s. He was also a school mate of Michael Somare and a member of the famous Bully Beef Club that was politically active before independence.

Ahi later became a successful entrepreneur and was a director of Riback Stevedores Ltd from 2005-2011 and chairman of the Butibum landowners association, BUP, which around the same time was active in its opposition to the practice of selling traditional land.

The last reference I can find of him is from 2021, when he was well into his eighties - KJ

Michael Dom

I believe that you kiaps have said enough, far too much.

Maybe you should stop arguing with people who want to find a way to honour what you did for Papua New Guinea and just accept that it might not be perfect the way you'd like it - I'd have thought you'd be used to that already.

It's worth suggesting too that all surviving kiaps serving up to, say, 1980, be awarded something in the Logohu.

Kiaps were integral to PNG history. There's no denying that fact.

Maybe I'm not following, and I haven't bothered reading the whole article either, but enough of the argument and on with the conferment before it's all sacrement.

Robin Hide

Mark - For one counter-example (and there are probably many others), take a look at the piece on Jack Karukuru

Philip Fitzpatrick

Mark, I think I would be right in saying that Indigenous kiaps were wholly accepted into the fraternity by their white peers.

I worked with many of them and became firm friends with quite a few. I shared a house in Kiunga with Joe Nombri.

They were also generally accepted on an equal status by the communities in which they worked.

When I write anything about the kiaps I am thinking in terms of both Australian and Papua New Guinean officers.

Papua New Guinean kiaps who are still alive are highly respected in their communities.

I suspect that if the kiap system had been continued PNG would be in better shape now.

Ron Knight | Former MP for Manus

Seems those kiaps that gave all are condemned to be forgotten while any crony or politician in PNG can get a knighthood for fuck all.

Mark Davis

I suspect kiaps are generally remembered as white and representative of the colonial power, but little is remembered of the many Indigenous kiaps later in the piece who were representative of the coming nation.

I’d be interested to hear views on this.

Peter Salmon

Bill, I agree.

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