History Feed

Brian Cooper’s conviction was a fit-up

Cooper at Sydney Airport after release from prison
Brian Cooper at Mascor after his release from prison

CHRIS OVERLAND

"[Brian] Cooper wasn't the only one espousing such messages in Papua New Guinea before independence, especially after the UPNG was established. In most cases the local kiap or the district commissioner would have a quiet word with them and tell them to tone it down and that would be the end of the matter" – Phil Fitzpatrick

ADELAIDE - I think that Phil is right. At worst, Mr Cooper was guilty of tokim mauswara tasol or, as my children would have said, ‘dribbling shit’.

Why then Australian prime minister Robert Menzies decided to single him out as an 'enemy of the people' is hard to fathom.

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The trials of Brian Leonard Cooper

Sir alan mann
Sir Alan Mann, then PNG chief justice, conceded that the words attributed to Cooper were highly improbable

MICHAEL HEAD
| University of Western Sydney | Extract

SYDNEY - In January 1961, when [Brian Leonard] Cooper landed in Port Moresby for his trial, a large police contingent awaited his arrival at the airport.

Media publicity ensured that the courtroom was full of spectators.

The Crown prosecutor opened by telling the territorial Chief Justice, Alan Mann, that Cooper had demonstrated “prior motivation” to commit a criminal act.

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When orthodoxy seeks to strangle dissent

Cooper
Brian Cooper - Uttered a n opinion that the Australian government of the time was determined to suppress

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE – The story of Brian Leonard Cooper is a very sad story indeed.

The early sixties in Australia were a period in which there was developing a simmering pent up desire for significant socio-economic change.

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Bousimae, the chief who resisted colonisation

Waide - Bousimae  the Binandere chief
Bousimae, the Binandere chief

SCOTT WAIDE
| My Land, My Country

LAE - Papua New Guinea is a collection of nations, each with its own rich history.

Much of that history has been lost and much needs to be told.

The stories need to be told not in the context of the 200 years of colonialism, but from the perspective of our elders and based on 60,000 years of unwritten precolonial history.

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‘Victory Song’ dedicated to a kiap wantok

John Gordon Kirby  Melbourne 2019
John Gordon-Kirkby was a kiap in Enga when he encountered Daniel Kumbon as a boy. After connecting on the internet in recent years, they have formed a great friendship

DANIEL KUMBON

PORT MORESBY - Early this morning, I received a ‘thank you’ note from one of the kiaps (patrol officers) John Gordon-Kirkby, now aged 84, who had served in Enga Province up to the time of Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975.

A few days ago, John asked me to send him a dedication note with my signature on it so he could stick it somewhere in my new book, ‘Victory Song of Pingeta’s Daughter’, which he had just ordered.

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Chimbu peoples uneven & constant rise

Chimbu Valley
Chimbu Valley - 24,000 years of settlement

MATHIAS KIN
| Republished in an edited form from ‘Not always easy, not always nice, but look where we are’, PNG Attitude, July 2018

KUNDIAWA - From the north coast our ancestors climbed into the mountains arriving here in Chimbu more than 24,000 years ago.

Organised in small groups, they freely roamed the vast forests of the time, living by hunting and gathering.

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Calamity of the mountain in the mist

Approaching Mt Lamington after the explosion 1951 (Fred Kleckham - PNGAA)
A small group of government officers approach Mt Lamington after the 1951 eruption (Fred Kleckham - PNGAA)

FRED KLECKHAM & MARJORIE KLECKHAM
| Library of the PNG Association of Australia

Fred Kleckham - The last surviving expat remembers

BRISBANE - 21 January 2021 commemorates the 70th anniversary of the eruption of Mount Lamington, near Popondetta in Papua New Guinea’s Northern Province.

Mt Lamington was probably the most destructive volcano to human life in modern history, taking the lives of an estimated 4,000 people.

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Mt Lamington: Remembering the 4,000

Mt Lamington in eruption
At the time heavily forested. Mt Lamington was not believed to be a volcano until shortly before it exploded

SCOTT WAIDE
| My Land, My Country

POPONDETTA - It’s early morning at Hohorita village, a few kilometers outside Popondetta town.

Organisers of the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Mt Lamington eruption on 21 January 1951 are putting the final touches to preparations as they wait for the guests to arrive.

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The indispensable manki masta

Kure Whan at Balimo in 1972
Manki masta Kure Whan at Balimo, 1972

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - When writing about their experiences in Papua New Guinea, many old kiaps mention the special relationship they enjoyed with members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Very often they highlight the sense of teamwork enjoyed with the policemen under their command – those wise old sergeant majors and sergeants get special praise.

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1997 – That turbulent and defining year

(Waide) PNG was witnessing a law and order breakdown
1997 was a dangerous year in PNG, but it ended  more positively with Sir Mekere Morauta  at the helm

SCOTT WAIDE
| My Land, My Country

LAE - In the first quarter of 1997, word came out that the government of Sir Julius Chan was in talks with a British security contractor, Tim Spicer, to bring in South African mercenaries to end the Bougainville civil war that had been running for eight years.

The protracted conflict had seen the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) withdraw from Bougainville, depleted, demoralised and badly in need of rebuilding.

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Morauta’s masterclass in economic reform

Mek
Sir Mekere Morauta - brought Papua New Guinea back from the brink of economic disaster

MATTHEW MORRIS
| DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA - Following independence, the Papua New Guinea economy fared relatively well. From 1980 to 1994 it grew at an average of 4% a year.

It was a bumpy ride though, with peaks and troughs in growth, notably the closure of the Panguna mine in 1989 and the start of the Kutubu oil project in 1992.

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Rose Kekedo’s string of firsts

Rose kekedo
Dame Rose Kekedo

CATHY KEIMELO
| Ples Singsing | Edited

Dame Rose Kekedo by Eric Johns, pamphlet, Famous People of PNG series, 27 pages. Pearson & Longman Publisher, South Melbourne, Australia, 1 January 2002, ISBN-10: 0733933300. Available on Amazon for US$39.99 at this link

WAIGANI – This is a short biography of Dame Rose Violet Kekedo (1942-2005), the first Papua New Guinean first woman to venture into fields and roles that had been traditionally reserved for men.

Like her mother, Dame Mary Kekedo, she was knighted for her services to the government and people of PNG before and after independence.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 29 - 'CRA, you're unwelcome'

Brown - Pic 1 - MV Craestar moored at KIeta (Peter Steele)
MV Craestar alongside the small ships’ wharf at Kieta circa 1965 (Peter  Steele)

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - On 24 July 1968, Craestar (1), Conzinc Rio Tinto's (CRA) research vessel, motored into Kieta harbour.

None of the onlookers were excited, even though Craestar had a helicopter sitting on a landing pad over the stern.

The townsfolk had seen it all before. CRA had been using the vessel's helicopter to move drilling gear around Panguna in 1965.

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Now a video record of an historic moment

Uechtritz
Alfred Max Parkinson Uechtritz shows his delight at receiving the first English translation of Dreissig Jahre in Der Südsee (Thirty Years in the South Seas) in 1999

MAX UECHTRITZ

SYDNEY - "Without Richard and Phebe Parkinson, we would be strangers in our own land."

These words were spoken by the wonderful Papua New Guinean historian Gideon Kakabin in our first conversation and formed the basis for our enduring friendship and shared passion for history.

My Danish great grandfather Richard Parkinson published his famed tome Thirty Years in the South Seas in 1907.

Continue reading "Now a video record of an historic moment" »


Ageing kiaps worry about their legacy

Bob Cleland
Many ex-kiaps maintain a close relationship with PNG. Here Bob Cleland looks out over the Asaro Valley from the Daulo Pass. Bob was instrumental in building this challenging stretch of the Highlands Highway in the early 1950s

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - It began about 10 years ago when a group of ex-kiaps sought to have their services in pre-independent Papua New Guinea formally recognised.

The end result was a reluctant awarding of a Police Overseas Service Medal by the Australian government for those interested in applying for it. It was a fancy piece of tin to keep the old chaps quiet.

The award failed to recognise the kiaps’ primary function as change and development agents and concentrated solely on their police role, which in many cases was minimal.

Continue reading "Ageing kiaps worry about their legacy" »


Time of tension: Revisiting Kerry Dillon’s ‘Chronicle’

Kerry Dillon
Kerry Dillon today - his perceptive chronicle of a time in PNG as independence loomed is well worth reading

KEITH JACKSON

The Chronicle of a Young Lawyer by Kerry Dillon, Hybrid Publishers, August 2020, 384pp. ISBN: 9781925736410, $35. Available from Booktopia & all good bookstores, www.hybridpublishers.com.au and as an ebook from Amazon, Kobo, Google Books and Apple iBookstore

NOOSA – In case you missed it, or on the off chance you want to know more, in this piece I’m revisiting Kerry Dillon’s memoir, ‘The Chronicle of a Young Lawyer’.

After publishing a brief review of the book in PNG Attitude in August, I exchanged a number of emails with Kerry, mainly on the subject of Rabaul in 1969-70 when his and my paths crossed during the tense days of the Mataungan Association’s challenge to the colonial Administration.

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From tragic first contact to now

Daniel & Paul
Author Daniel Kumbon and the subject of his latest book, Paul Kiap Kurai with the vista of Enga below them

DANIEL KUMBON

This is the Introduction from a new book by Daniel Kumbon which will come off the presses in a few weeks’ time. It tells of three generations of a prominent Enga family over a period of 90 years, from first contact with waitman gold prospectors in 1930 to the present day. The book features the prominent Enga businessman Paul Kiap Kurai who carries with him the knowledge that tradition is not something of the past but part of the spirit that carries his people forward into the future - KJ

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Papua New Guinea patrol reports

Sir Peter Scratchley in Papua
In the early 1880s, Sir Peter Scratchley was sent to Papua to manage the affairs of this latest addition to British imperial interests. And so began the important practice of compiling patrol reports

FACT SHEET
| National Archives of Australia

CANBERRA - Papua New Guinea's patrol reports had their beginnings in 1885 and are credited to Sir Peter Henry Scratchley who, as well as establishing Port Moresby as the seat of government and administration of British New Guinea, also developed a plan for administration and land policy.

The administration plan involved establishing government stations along the coast. These were staffed by a government officer, whose tasks included establishing contact and developing friendly relations with the inhabitants of the area.

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Patrolling the Maramuni with Graham Hardy

Aerial view of the new Maramuni road
Aerial view of the new Maramuni road

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Graham Hardy was posted to Wabag as a cadet patrol officer in 1954 and has recalled that period in an enthralling book, ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, and in other writing, including a September 2015 article in Una Voce, the newsletter of the PNG Association of Australia.

It is clear that he, like former kiap and magistrate Chips Mackellar, developed a special affection for the people of Enga and related areas of the Papua New Guinea highlands.

Continue reading "Patrolling the Maramuni with Graham Hardy" »


The first outsiders into Enga

Akmana gold prospecting field party  1930
Members of the Akmana gold prospecting field party and local villagers. The party were the first outsiders into Enga in 1929

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG – The field party of the Akmana Gold Prospecting Company were the first Europeans to set foot in what is now Enga Province.

The Akmana prospectors, trekking south from the Sepik, had penetrated the Maramuni area and into the Wabag district four years before the ill-fated Leahy brothers’ expedition of 1934.

Michael Leahy’s diary stated that 15 tribespeople were killed and an equal number injured in a bloody encounter at Tole village and five more were killed as the Leahy party retreated back to Mt Hagen.

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The papers being sorted; the drawers emptied

Kiaps 1960
Newly recruited kiaps having completed their training in Port Moresby observe a march past by police in the early 1960s

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - In an article a few days ago about Francis Nii and the effort to memorialise his contribution to Papua New Guinean literature, Keith Jackson reiterated an earlier comment that “this is likely to be PNG Attitude’s last big project. It was always going to happen that Phil Fitzpatrick and I would age and gradually run out of steam. Well, that point is arriving”.

I can wholly endorse that observation, no matter how hard I try to build up a head of steam about lots of things these days it seems to inevitably dissipate in ineffectual little puffs from all the leaks in the rusty old boiler.

Continue reading "The papers being sorted; the drawers emptied" »


There’s no escape from our changing world

ChangeROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA, UK - It does no good to pretend that late 19th and early 20th century Papua New Guinea with its stone based technology and scattered and perpetually warring tribes could have lain forever undisturbed by the relentless impetus of the world.

Any discussion of Australia’s presence in PNG should not begin with whether it had any right to be there, but with what might have happened if a potentially harsher Japanese or Indonesian administration had taken over the country before it became independent.

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Guise & Kerr – the Whitlam connection

Ind Day
Prince Charles speaks at PNG's independence day. Sir John Guise (left) and Sir John Kerr (centre) themselves had an interesting private talk the night before

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - There’s an interesting conversation currently taking place in the Australian media following the release of letters exchanged between Queen Elizabeth II and Sir John Kerr, the former Australian governor general who dismissed the Whitlam government in 1975.

The release of the 211 ‘palace letters’ from the Australian Archives follows a protracted effort by historian Jenny Hocking who wanted to know what role the queen might have played in the dismissal of an Australian prime minister.

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How PNG escaped colonialism’s worst

Kiaps
The Australian colonial Administration's basic position was that PNG people should be brought under the rule of law as humanely and non-violently as possible

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Phil Fitzpatrick is right to equate racism with economic oppression, as they clearly go hand in hand.

You do not need to be a Marxist to understand that neo-liberal capitalism relies upon the ability to exploit labour in order to flourish.

The basic theory underpinning capitalism as outlined by Adam Smith is that if each person is free to pursue his or her own economic best interests so the total economy must inevitably grow.

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The finding of Ok Tedi

Ok-tedi-aerial-2
"Young came to have more profound impact on the Wopkaimin than any previous colonial administrative or army patrol. He made ethnographic observations but more importantly recorded that the streams seemed to contain copper deposits"

COL YOUNG

EX KIAP WEBSITE - I have often meant to write of my 24 day patrol to the Star Mountains (Wopkaimin) in August and September of 1966 and the finding of copper sulphate presence in that remote north western corner of the then Western District.

There has been some confusion as to who first discovered evidence of copper leading to the Ok Tedi venture, hence this article.

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The end of the world – Part 2

The endCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - As regular readers will know, our esteemed guide and editor has until very recently been in a world of pain, having undergone unpleasant surgery in a hopefully successful attempt to treat a debilitating back condition.

Anyone who has undergone major surgery can tell you that the easy bit is the time spent unconscious on the operating room table. What follows is almost invariably unpleasant. It is merely a question of degree really.

Continue reading "The end of the world – Part 2" »


The end of the world

Yucatan crater
The Yucatan meteor strike left a crater 150km wide and caused climate disruption that made extinct 75% of Earth's plant and animal species including any dinosaur that could not fly

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - In the very midst of the Dark Ages of Europe, the coming of the year 1000 was viewed with fear, trepidation and alarm.

This was the year many theologians of that era believed would see the end of all things and the second coming of Jesus as foretold in the Bible.

There was a palpable sense of expectation throughout Christendom which grew steadily as the year 999 CE progressed, reaching a crescendo on New Year’s Eve.

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Our horrible history

WInston-ChurchillCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - The study of history is not likely to inspire belief in the inherent virtues of humanity.

There are so many conspicuous examples of our species’ propensity for violence, venality and depravity that it sometimes takes a certain resolve to stare the facts directly in the face and recognise them for what they tell us about the human condition at a given point in time.

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Turning point: Dorney’s history revisited

Dorney
Sean Dorney on the job. His early independence history reveals a significant turning point in PNG's story as a nation

CHRIS BANGA

Papua New Guinea: People, politics and history since 1975 by Sean Dorney, 335 pp. ABC Books, 2000. ISBN-10: 0733309453. Available from Amazon here for $US31.70

PORT MORESBY – In this book, first published in 1990, the noted journalist Sean Dorney gave us a glance of Papua New Guinea, its people, politics and history over its first 15 years after independence.

Dorney lived and worked in PNG for 17 years as the correspondent of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation having previously been assigned there in the early 1970s to work with the embryonic National Broadcasting Commission.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 28 – In defence of the people’s land

Pic 1 - District Officer Ross Henderson
District Officer Ross Henderson in 1968

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - Tuesday 7 May 1968. District Officer Ross Henderson and I were dumbstruck at the tone of the on-site meeting at Panguna that morning.

Conzinc Rio Tinto Area Manager Colin Bishop was unusually forceful with his demands.

He wanted more assistance in the coming months when the CRA teams - geologists, engineers, planners and surveyors – would start tramping through the villages and gardens of central Bougainville.

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Telling a kiap apart from the crowd

Papuan kiap Geoff Smith
Papuan kiap, Geoff Smith

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - I served as a kiap in both New Guinea and Papua. In New Guinea the kiap rig generally consisted of a khaki shirt and shorts, shiny RM Williams boots and a slouch hat.

In Papua, especially on the remoter stations, kiaps tended to get around in whatever took their fancy or whatever they deemed suitable for the climate and circumstances.

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The soldiers that never were

Newspaper advertisement for kiaps  circa 1966
Newspaper advertisement for kiaps, 1966

PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - How often have you heard the admonition to always read the fine print before signing anything?

And how often have you had some sneaky little paragraph in the fine print pointed out that you never read excusing a manufacturer or insurer from honouring what you thought should have been an obligation on their part?

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The tragic history of Goaribari Island

Kerewa longhouse, Goaribari Island, 1923  (Frank Hurley)
Kerewa longhouses,  Goaribari Island,  1923 (Frank Hurley)

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Daniel Kumbon’s recent article on the work of early missionaries in Papua New Guinea triggered some memories for me, especially in relation to Goaribari Island.

By a strange quirk of fate I met a man who witnessed the events of 8 April 1901 when the Reverends James Chalmers and Oliver Tomkins, together with 12 colleagues, were murdered and then eaten by the people living on Goaribari Island.

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That their names may live on

Rev James Chalmers - Tamate
Rev James Chalmers (Tamate) - his name & the names of many other heroes of PNG will be remembered forever

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Today, 8 April, is the anniversary of the untimely death of Rev James Chalmers – ‘Tamate’ – who was killed and cannibalised along with Rev Oliver Tomkins and local missionaries on Goaribari Island in Western Province 119 years ago.

When I think about their horrible deaths, the names of four friends come to mind who were all posted to serve in the Western Province at some stage of their careers in the 20th century.

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The turbulent story of Enga

Cr Paul  Kiap Kurai with his father's last wife Kipaukwan and some of his children at Kaiap village_
Cr Paul Kiap Kurai with his father's last wife, Kipaukwan, and some of his children at Kaiap village

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - One of the greatest feats Kurai Tapus accomplished occurred in World War II when he accompanied Daniel Leahy and a group of men to rescue eight missionaries including five Catholic nuns hiding from the Japanese in the jungles of Wewak.

What is intriguing about this story is whether Kurai recognised Leahy as the other white man who had come to Tole on that dark day of the mass killing some nine years previously.

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The story of how ‘gavman’ came to Wabag

Jim Taylor and Michael Leahy
Early highlands explorers Jim Taylor and Michael Leahy

DANIEL KUMBON

PORT MORESBY - The colonial Administration utterly failed to understand why native people in the vicinity of Wabag patrol post vehemently opposed the government establishing contact with them.

Colonial kiaps described the native people as the “most difficult to be found anywhere” for continuing to oppose them after a base was established in Wabag during the Hagen-Sepik patrol of 1938.

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The old priest & the young councillor

Alois Alapyala Yolape (right) speaking with Paul Kurai at opening of new Leptenges churchDANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Alois Alapyala Yolape often thanks Fr George Schubbe publicly, even though the priest is dead, for playing an important role in getting him elected for the Monokam council ward in the Ambum Valley 57 years ago.

Recently, he again acknowledged Fr Schubbe at a new church opening at Leptenges near Sirunki, where his late mother was born.

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The mysterious Goilala ‘totem pole’

Totem

ROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA - This photograph is the most puzzling in my Papua New Guinean collection.

I tramped through the bush for almost six years and it is the only example I bumped into that had any resemblance to the totem pole so often presented as typical of Native American culture in the nineteenth century or the mumbo-jumbo, voodoo style, pagan doll depictions so readily associated with early British exploration of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Did kiaps and anthropologists who broke PNG bush much earlier than the late 1960s come across anything that was similar?

It was housed in a traditional sentry box-like structure standing at the end of a line of village houses in the Pilitu section of the Goilala Sub-District that I came upon in January 1974.

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Whose history do you believe?

American-declaration-independenceCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE- When I was a small child I was a precocious reader. By the age of 12 I had ploughed through Edward Gibbon’s ‘History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. This made me unusual amongst my peers.

Mind you, I also devoured, just as avidly, ‘Treasure Island’, ‘The Coral Island’, the entire series of Biggles books and pretty well anything written by Gerald Durrell.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 27 – The UN Visiting Mission

Bill Brown MBE and Kaad OBE
Bill Brown MBE with Fred Kaad OBE. A recent photo of two of colonial Papua New Guinea's distinguished district commissioners

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - It was not a massive upheaval, but the last quarter of 1967 and the first quarter of 1968 saw two of the kiaps enmeshed in Conzinc Rio Tinto’s (CRA) operation leave Bougainville and four newcomers arrive.

District Commissioner John Wakeford moved to another hotspot, the recently created West Sepik District. His headquarters were situated at Vanimo, just 45 kilometres from the border with West Irian. (1)

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Kiaps – PNG didn’t push us out

Mark Lynch (standing left rear) with the first PNG Cabinet  1975
Mark Lynch (standing left rear) with the first PNG Cabinet, 1975

BILL BROWN MBE

SYDNEY - I had a sandwich and a glass or two of red with Fred Kaad and two of his daughters on 14 January.

Actually, it was a rosé, not a red. And Fred, at 99, the oldest surviving former kiap, was a tad non-verbal.

The meet-up went for five hours and inspired me to revisit some of the more recent booboos in the stories about kiaps.

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When the white men came

Auditorium and mess at Mougulu High School (Sally Lloyd)
Auditorium and mess at Mougulu High School (Sally Lloyd)

PETER DWYER & MONICA MINNEGAL

With a rare and wonderful book. Download here: 'Taim Bipo - People of the Nomad District. When the White Men Came'

MELBOURNE - In late January 2020, Bedamuni (Biami) people hosted an inaugural Strickland, Sisa, Bosavi cultural festival.

There were guests and performers from all neighbouring language groups.

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Fr Jerry Bus & the Enga

Sir Albert Kipalan (with spade) on the spot where Fr Jerry Bus settled at Kopen
Sir Albert Kipalan (with spade) on the spot where Fr Jerry Bus settled at Kopen

DANIEL KUMBON

PORT MORESBY – In 1948, there was a sudden rush by Christian denominations to establish mission stations after the colonial Administration lifted restrictions of movement to unpacified areas of what is now Enga Province.

Prior to that there had already been rivalry between Lutheran and Catholic missionaries to win new converts around Mt Hagen.

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The story of Joseph, once Kurai

Lutheran Church pastor Ango Panao with his son and grandson
Lutheran Church pastor Ango Panao with his son and grandson

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG – “Call me Joseph. I am not Kurai anymore,” Joseph Kurai Tapus said to his friends, associates - and anybody he met - soon after Fr Peter Granegger SVD baptised him at Sari Catholic Mission on 8 April, 1977.

Not many Christian converts are known to have done that, but Kurai made public announcements of his conversion and subsequent name change.

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