Recent Notes 26: On patrol in 1970s PNG
The ABC & me: a story of respect & rebellion

Recent Notes 27: Kevin Byrne dies at 74


Kevin Byrne, who died in Cairns on Thursday, was born in Lae in 1949, the scion of a family that first set foot in Papua in 1906 when his grandfather was sent to Port Moresby as Chief Collector of Customs. Kevin received his primary education on Manus and then, like many expatriate children, travelled to Brisbane and Nudgee College for secondary schooling.

I received the sad news of Kevin’s passing from his mate, Mark Mathews, who remarked that Kevin, former chief executive of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and Cairns mayor, was “a great leader with vision and drive; I was privileged to work with him.” As for me, I only met Kevin – a keen reader of ours - in emails and blog comments. He was a straight talker, a thinker and a bloke who would get things done.

After leaving Nudgee College in 1967, Kevin graduated from the Officer Cadet School in Portsea in 1969. His 17-year military career included postings in PNG, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Vietnam. His military career progressed and he was finally appointed to the Royal Military College, Duntroon, as a senior instructor.

Kevin moved to Cairns in 1987 to manage the Office of Northern and Regional Development and in 1990 became the regional manager of the Queensland Confederation of Industry. His involvement in civic affairs in Cairns and Far North Queensland provided a solid platform for his election as mayor of Cairns city from 1992 to 1995, when he took the tourism post in PNG, and then, after he returned to Cairns, served a longer term from 2000 to 2008.

He will principally be remembered in Cairns for his dedication to the city’s progress and the many achievements for the region in which he played an integral role. Kevin was one of the principal architects in the establishment of Advance Cairns and remained active in advocacy for the region until his death.

Kevin was awarded the 25th anniversary PNG Independence Medal in 2000 for services to aviation and tourism and the Australian Centenary Medal in 2001 for services to local government.

On behalf of the contributors and readers of PNG Attitude, I pass on our sad thoughts and condolences to Kevin’s family and friends. And special thanks to Mark Mathews for thinking of us at this time. “Thank you as always for the work you do and insights you share,” Mark wrote. The death of a good mate is can be rough time for friends as well as family. I’m glad Mark took the opportunity to pay tribute to Kevin through setting up this obituary.


Bobby Junior (via Ekis)

Notes fiji pic

Fiji showing ‘em how it is done.  PNG backstroking while others move forward. Sorrow. PNG was never a big brother in the Pacific. PNG is the small brother to Fiji and other Pacific islands. It's just that we're big in land mass and population. If not PNG is the small bro’.


Philip Fitzpatrick

We’re often told to be mindful of our historical past to avoid making the same mistakes over again. The inference is that once we are mindful of the mistakes made by our predecessors we can avoid doing so ourselves.

While this seems like a sensible thing to do in reality we are more likely to ignore what we know about the past. We know, for instance, that going to war has never been a good idea because everyone suffers from the consequences and yet we keep doing it, even in this supposedly enlightened 21st Century.

Some people say this is because humans are naturally, if not genetically, inclined to warfare. This is said about tribal warfare in places like Papua New Guinea for instance. If you extrapolate from that idea it’s possible to also explain some of the other stupid things we continue to do even though we know from the past that they are stupid.

What we seem to forget in accepting that history can be a teacher is that most often we as ordinary people seldom have anything to do in its creation. The people who make history are not us. They are people with entirely different views and motives to us.

We are not warmongers, for instance, but there are people who see war for the opportunities it presents to them, making money and gaining power. We might be cognisant of the folly of past historical mistakes but it is really difficult for us to do anything about it.

Like those people who suffered from the misdeeds of the past, we are just as powerless.


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Ross Wilkinson

Kevin Byrne served as a 2nd Lieutenant in 4 Battalion Royal Australian Regiment operations in South Vietnam where he was awarded a Mention in Despatches for brave conduct in action against enemy forces.

Specific details about his actions in 1971 are not immediately available.

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