History Feed

Warlords enter 2020 striving for peace

A faction arrives for the peace ceremony
A faction of warlords and fighter arrives for the peace ceremony

KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

PORT MORESBY – People using the Okuk highway that ploughs through the New Guinea highlands know only too well the frequent tribal skirmishes that have caused fear to the travelling public this past 20 years.

The fighting has erupted violently and unpredictably at Ganigle in the Kerowagi district of the Simbu Province.

Continue reading "Warlords enter 2020 striving for peace" »


The iconic patrol box

Patrol boxes (Graham Forster)
"Their endurance was awesome. Since the moment they could walk they had been trained to overcome every discomfort" (Graham Forster)

ROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA, UK - Patrol boxes are embedded within the memory of every kiap and, indeed, anyone who went “on patrol” in pre-independence Papua New Guinea.

In difficult country they could be awkward, even brutish, burdens but nevertheless were toted, uphill and down dale for mile after endless mile by village carriers without whose help patrolling, a keystone kiap activity, could not have taken place.

Continue reading "The iconic patrol box" »


The 20 year old secrets PNG cannot know

Bougainville-Gawi-Blog
The irregulars of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army were so effective, Julius Chan's government tried to bring in overseas mercenary soldiers. Uproar ensued throughout PNG, including in the defence force

KEITH JACKSON

SYDNEY – Fairfax Media has reported that important information about Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea will remain a secret, even though it is 20 years old and due to be released.

The National Archives of Australia usually releases secret cabinet documents two decades after they were created in Australia.

The Archives director David Fricker says this is an "essential function we perform for transparency and integrity of Australian government in this democracy of ours".

Continue reading "The 20 year old secrets PNG cannot know" »


Pingeta’s daughter & bigman Kurai Tapus

Kumbon - Wigged villager  Wabag patrol post  when Kurai Tapus was a bosboi (Fryer Library UQ)
Wigged villager at Wabag patrol post when Kurai Tapus was a bosboi (Fryer Library, University of Queensland)

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Her voice was like the sound of angels singing joyous melodies in the starlit Bethlehem night in celebration of the birth of Jesus in a manger on that first Christmas Day.

In January 1946, in a very different place, a similar earthly celebration took place in a lonely pulim anda (birth house) among the casuarina trees at Kaiap village, where a young mother sang a victory song when her son was born.

Continue reading "Pingeta’s daughter & bigman Kurai Tapus" »


A Kiap’s Chronicle: 26 – The plot against Bougainville

Brown Pic 1
The mining agreement between the copper company and the colonial Administration passed into law without the field officers in Bougainville being forewarned, let alone fully briefed

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - As far as my kiap colleague John Dagge and I were concerned, everything was going well around Barapina and Panguna.

We were not gaining acceptance, but the people were at least listening to our explanations about CRA’s prospecting activity.

Then, on 29 August 1967, the House of Assembly – Papua New Guinea’s parliament - passed into law a mining agreement bill between the company and the Administration.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 26 – The plot against Bougainville" »


Bougainville: Powder keg awaiting a match?

Bville2
"A truth commission might provide an easing valve for past hurts, short of that Bougainville remains a powder keg, awaiting to be lit"

BINOY KAMPMARK
| Eurasia Review

ALBANY, USA - It would be an understatement to claim that Bougainville, that blighted piece of autonomous territory in Papua New Guinea, had been through a lot. 

Companies have preyed upon its environment with extractive hunger.  Wars and civil strife have beset its infrastructure and economy.

Continue reading "Bougainville: Powder keg awaiting a match?" »


Fascinating, sweet, incurable PNG

Phil very relaxed on patrol north of Nomad  1960s
Phil Fitzpatrick, relaxing in the haus kiap on a patrol north of Nomad in the 1960s - "I found that three months leave was about all I could stand of civilisation"

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Kiaps were required to work for 21 months in Papua New Guinea before they were granted three months leave.

When their leave was due they were provided with a return airline ticket to Australia.

After 21 months in the field most kiaps looked forward to their leave. It was a chance to catch up with their families in Australia, see what had been going on in the outside world and enjoy a few luxuries not available in PNG.

Continue reading "Fascinating, sweet, incurable PNG" »


The last kiap on the ridge

Wabag - Kompiam divide - the central ridge along which many patrols passed
Wabag-Kompiam divide - the central ridge along which many patrols passed

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - John Gordon-Kirkby was probably the last colonial kiap (patrol officer) to regularly visit the central ridge in Wabag made famous by the explorer Jim Taylor who described the landscape as a ‘garden land’ while on the Hagen Sepik patrol of 1938-39.

The route along the ridge starts on the banks of the Lai River at Wakumare near the present day Sir Tei Abal Secondary School.

Continue reading "The last kiap on the ridge" »


The making of a kiap

Cadet patrol officers  Sogeri 1950
Cadet patrol officers watch police on parade, Sogeri, 1950

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - The comment has occasionally been made that kiaps were just public servants, no more and no less. That’s technically true but there was a whole lot more to it.

In essence they were multi-skilled administrators doing a whole range of things quite divorced from the usual public service image of pen pushers and desk jockeys.

Continue reading "The making of a kiap" »


The fears of Luluai Tsike

Tsike – the Tsengelap clan leader burdened by the problems of looming Independence
Tsike – the Tsengelap clan leader burdened by the problems of looming Independence

ROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA, UK – I look at the two images accompanying this essay and ponder upon how rare it is that photographs in a random collection show the same man in such contrasting postures.

Luluai Tsike of the Tsengelap clan, which has its seat at Talu near Banz on the north side of the Wahgi Valley, is deeply troubled in the image at right and smiling and joyful in the one below.

Continue reading "The fears of Luluai Tsike" »


The kiaps: After dedication, melancholy

Oates
Paul Oates at Pindiu in 1970 with Papua New Guinea Administration colleaguesa

CHIPS MACKELLAR

Small Steps along the Way, by Paul Oates. Download it free here

WARWICK QLD - With Small Steps along the Way Paul Oates enters the pantheon of kiaps who have recorded their experiences in Papua New Guinea during the years of its prelude to independence in 1975.

Collectively they fill the void eschewed by mainstream historians, and for good reason.

Continue reading "The kiaps: After dedication, melancholy" »


The eighth wife of a ‘bosboi’

John Pundari (right) with Michael Malabag
John Pundari (right) with Michael Malabag in Pundari's house at Meraimanda

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Imagine how brave it was for local women to marry complete strangers – whether other Papua New Guineans or expatriates: men who dressed differently, spoke strange languages, ate weird foods and bore different skin colours.

This was the time when the PNG highlands were opening to the outside world of explorers, gold prospectors and kiaps (patrol officers), strange men who seemed to have appeared in their midst at the blink of an eye.

Continue reading "The eighth wife of a ‘bosboi’" »


When the white man came to Wabag

Thadius Kaka today
Thadius Kaka Menge today - almost 100, saw the onset of colonialism and mind as sharp as a tack

DANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Thadius Kaka Menge is one of the few surviving local leaders in Wabag who assisted the colonial administration pacify warring tribesmen and bring change and development to their communities.

The kiaps, or patrol officers, effectively used local leaders to partner with the police to establish Wabag town and built roads and bridges.

Continue reading "When the white man came to Wabag" »


On memorials & monuments for kiaps

Coastwatchers memorial madang
The Coastwatchers Memorial in Madang - should there be something similar for the kiaps?

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - There have been rumblings among the ever diminishing ex-kiap community for several years now about the desirability of erecting a monument to the work they did in colonial Papua New Guinea, and especially to commemorate those who lost their lives in the service.

The proposals range from a physical structure at a selected location to something like a scholarship for Papua New Guinean students named to mark the kiaps’ contribution to the development of their nation.

Continue reading "On memorials & monuments for kiaps" »


Don Dunstan’s role in PNG independence

Whitlam Dunstan
Gough Whitlam and Don Dunstan in Canberra in 1973 during Whitlam’s prime ministership (National Archives of Australia)

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - The argument goes that it was Australian opposition leader and later prime minister, Gough Whitlam, who led the charge for early self-government and independence in Papua New Guinea.

This is a naïve and simplistic view cherished by many observers in both Australia and Papua New Guinea. But the real story was decidedly more complex.

Continue reading "Don Dunstan’s role in PNG independence" »


PIM and me: a love story

Bob Lawrence
Author Bob Lawrence was first introduced to Pacific Islands Monthly by fellow ABC journalist Sean Dorney in 1974

BOB LAWRENCE

A Short History of the Pacific Islands Monthly Magazine, by Bob Lawrence, Chatswood Press, November 2019. 72pp,illus. ISNI:0000000067657158. $A25 plus $A5.50 post and handling charge. Available from Bob Lawrence here

SYDNEY - The Pacific Islands Monthly (PIM), my short history of which is being launched today in Sydney, was conceived during the trauma of World War I.

Some years later it had an unlikely birth in 1930, during the world’s worst depression, and then survived having half its subscribers driven from their home addresses in early 1941 as the Japanese advanced southwards in World War II.

Continue reading "PIM and me: a love story" »


Seven huts for seven nights

KiapGOF | The Bucket Blog

FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND - The patrol officers, or kiaps (derived from the German ‘kapitan‘), who were responsible for the grassroots administration of Australia’s colonial presence in Papua New Guinea during the 20th century were outstanding young men.

They were trained at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney in preparation for careers which required physical stamina and total commitment in a country which would initially provide them with unparalleled culture shock.

Continue reading "Seven huts for seven nights" »


The practical wisdom of the kiap

Cessna 206
Cessna 206 taking off from Siwea in the Morobe hinterland, early 1970s (The Bucket Blog)

DAVID KITCHNOGE

PORT MORESBY - I know at least one kiap who actually traversed the rugged terrain from his remote outpost.

My mother's offer letter to come to Lae and attend Busu girls’ high school from our hinterland Mindik village in Finschhafen was delivered by one Paul Oates to my grandfather.

Continue reading "The practical wisdom of the kiap" »


My first kiap encounter

Patrol
"There was a sense of relief when the patrol left my village as they caused tension and anxiety with their demanding behaviour"

JOE HERMAN

SEATTLE, USA – Many years ago when I was a small boy in the highlands of Enga, a kiap and his patrol erected tents and camped at my village for several days.

A policeman bought kaukau and greens from our women with payment made in salt and tobacco.

Fear was driven into us that the kiap and his team might hurt or take us away, so I never got close to the camp site and for hours watched all their movements from a safe distance.

Continue reading "My first kiap encounter" »


“No need for a patrol report, old chum"

Report cover 2
Constant patrolling made pre-independence administration very effective. The district commissioners kept up pressure to make sure boots were always on the ground

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Before independence in Papua New Guinea what are now the provinces were called districts. Each district was headed by a district commissioner, who pretty much had free reign to run it as he saw fit.

Each district was divided into sub-districts within which were several patrol posts. The sub-districts corresponded to what are now called provincial districts and electorates.

The sub-districts were under the charge of assistant district commissioners who also had a lot of freedom to decide how they ran things as long as they kept the district commissioner informed and on side.

Continue reading "“No need for a patrol report, old chum"" »


50,000 years of culture & heritage

Lapita
It is believed that the Lapita people, who inhabited PNG for perhaps 2,000 years before moving on, were great navigators.

PETER JOKISIE
| An entry in the Crocodile Prize

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea is blessed with a diverse culture and heritage. But where do these amazing cultural values and behaviours come from? How did they originate and evolve? Not much is known about the prehistory of PNG.

Written records go back to the 1500s when Portuguese sailors named the island Ilhas dos Papuas, the land of the fuzzy-haired men.

Continue reading "50,000 years of culture & heritage" »


Contact patrol, Western District, 1970

Harry West 2
Kiap Harry West on patrol, 1950s

PHIL FITZPATRICK

In the early afternoon
We crested the ridge
The sergeant and I
Behind us the mountains
Citadels of the Min
Before us the great plateau
Rolling green and unknown
Hiding the elusive Kanai
Our ragged patrol
Weary and footsore
Followed the river
And there in the longhouse
Under a blue black sky
Shivering and frightened
The past met the future.

Continue reading "Contact patrol, Western District, 1970" »


3,000 years of pottery show who we are

Ancient Lapita pot
Ancient Lapita pot

PETER JOKISIE
| An entry in the Crocodile Prize

PORT MORESBY - Clay pots in many parts of Papua New Guinea are household items and people say they enjoy food cooked in clay pots.

In the Markham valley, the signature clay pot, or ‘gurr’ as we call it, is on the fire every day of the week.

Continue reading "3,000 years of pottery show who we are" »


Robin Murphy OAM, the bridge builder

Robin Murphy
Robin Murphy - the  Queensland construction entrepreneur began designing bridges in PNG in 1963

KEITH JACKSON with thanks to Rob Parer

Link here to a video of Robin’s early days in PNG from 1963-69. https://vimeo.com/177157110

This second video, titled ‘Overcoming the odds’, tells the story of the building of four Oro bridges in 2014-16. https://vimeo.com/226839061?ref=em-share

BRISBANE – The founder of Brisbane-based Canstruct Pty Ltd, Robin Murphy OAM, started his career in Papua New Guinea in late 1963 a week before me.

He had recently graduated as an engineer and soon found himself designing and, not long after, building bridges.

Continue reading "Robin Murphy OAM, the bridge builder" »


The unearthing of 10,000 years of agriculture

Jack Golson (second left) and Philip Hughes (second right) with workmen from Kuk village  1974
Jack Golson (second left) and Philip Hughes (second right) with workmen from Kuk village, 1974

PETER JOKISIE
| An entry in the Crocodile Prize

PORT MORESBY - The history of agriculture in Papua New Guinea goes back about 10,000 years, with the country recognised as one of the global birthplaces of plant domestication.

The Kuk swamp in the Waghi valley of the Western Highlands has provided archaeological evidence of the agricultural practises of the people of that time, who probably first occupied the region 50,000 years ago.

Continue reading "The unearthing of 10,000 years of agriculture" »


Kerema: Dispela lapun i lukim tu

Shortcut through sago swamp in MV Aveta c1970
A shortcut through the sago swamps in MV Aveta, about 1970

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Daniel Kumbon’s enjoyable article on his visit to Kerema brought memories flooding back to me.

In August 1969, a little over 50 years ago, as a brand new Assistant Patrol Officer, I was posted to the Gulf District (now Province).

In those days, being posted to the Gulf was regarded by many young kiaps as a fate worse than death.

Continue reading "Kerema: Dispela lapun i lukim tu" »


The story of Belo - Maus Bilong God

Kaiapit bell
The original Kaiapit bell, 1943. Read the story behind the image at end of article (Australian War Memorial)

PETER JOKISIE
| An entry in the Crocodile Prize

PORT MORESBY - To tell a classic story that happened nearly 100 years ago is almost impossible to weave together today.

As close as I could get was to discover a source from 20 years after the event. My grand-mama, born around 1939 and who lived through World War II, related to us kids this account that was passed down from her father.

Continue reading "The story of Belo - Maus Bilong God" »


Galkope (except 9 lepers) celebrate 70 years in the Catholic faith

Neragaima Catholic Mission
Neragaima Catholic Mission

KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

PORT MORESBY - Galkope men’s houses (hausman), in what is now the Simbu Province, schooled young boys of the Dom, Yuri, Bari and Erula Nauro tribes, which had colonised their territories by migrating from different lands.

The Dom evolved out of Dlekopl while the Yuri walked east through the Wahgi valley. Erula 1-4 evolved out of Monguma, while the Bari arrived at Dukul Mormapir from the Gena-Nogar.

These four tribes, now referred to as Galkope, converged and settled on either sides of the Kola-Kawa River alongside an existing tribe, the Teklau-Baimane.

The Teklau-Baimane settled at Olkaipel, Mekul, Kaluvalu and the vicinity - but fled west after killing Yuri Alaibia before the coming of the Makruai, and settled at Kerual Apane in Jiwaka Province. To this day the older people still speak the Nauro-Bari language.

Against this backdrop, the Roman Catholic Church arrived unexpectedly and settled at Mingende just after the Makruai. The church extended its influence to new lands and built a new mission station at Yopar. The Gakwane and the Erula Nauro people were excited about the opportunities the church brought to their midst.

Continue reading "Galkope (except 9 lepers) celebrate 70 years in the Catholic faith" »


How PNG avoided Australia’s devastating ‘frontier wars’

Waterlook Creek massacre
New South Wales mounted police engage Indigenous Australians during the Waterloo Creek Massacre of 1838

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - In late 1982, I completed the last semester of my studies for a university degree, in which I had majored in history and politics.

When the official transcript of my academic record turned up, I was surprised to discover that I had, entirely by accident, also majored in a subject called Australian Studies.

So, in theory at least, I was a certified ‘expert’ in Australian history, not to mention having completed my bachelor's degree with an unusual triple major.

Reading Phil Fitzpatrick's article, Colonial wars much bloodier in Australia than Papua’, it occurred to me that at no time during my studies did the topic of Australia's frontier wars ever come up, except obliquely when race relations during the colonial era were discussed.

Continue reading "How PNG avoided Australia’s devastating ‘frontier wars’" »


Informal rural courts were an important part of the kiap’s role

Informal court (Graham Forster)
An informal village court (Graham Forster)

ROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA – Back in colonial times, informal bush courts were taken seriously by Papua New Guinea’s village people and also by patrolling kiaps.

In this photograph from 1974, the postures adopted by the village group were typical of people taking part in the informal community courts of the time.

Regular government patrols moved through rural locations holding these courts, conducting censuses, checking on sanitation and other issues, advising on road construction and undertaking many other tasks.

The gathering shown here took place immediately in front of the haus kiap and the kiap (back to camera), who was accepted as a neutral arbiter, is sitting on its step.

In front of him, one of the patrol’s policemen is summing up the circumstances surrounding the complaint.

Continue reading "Informal rural courts were an important part of the kiap’s role" »


A sight seen no more – a kiap walks into a mountain village

Kiap walks into a mountain village (Graham Forster)ROBERT FORSTER

NORTHUMBRIA - It is late 1974, just months before independence, and a white kiap conducting a routine patrol is walking into one of Papua New Guinea’s many mountain villages.

At the same time some government advisors in the capital, Port Moresby, are saying kiaps offend people in these communities and as a result of this, and other perceived misdemeanors, should be encouraged to pack their bags and return to their foreign homes.

However in this photograph, there is little to suggest the kiap – who is about to shake hands with village leaders - is not welcome.

Continue reading "A sight seen no more – a kiap walks into a mountain village" »


Three years on: Let’s not forget the brave students of 2016

Shot student
Friends carry a wounded student to seek medical help. It was a miracle that nobody died after police recklessly fired shots into university students protesting peacefully on campus

SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country | Edited

LAE - This week marks three years since students at the University of Papua New Guinea were shot at a public gathering.

In the days leading up to the shooting they were belittled, scorned and told their opinions on good governance and corruption did not matter.

The students were campaigning for greater transparency in government, a stop to overseas borrowing and the resignation of the prime minister.

Ideas whose time has come three years later.

The students coined the hashtag #UPNG4PNG to show their patriotism and loyalty to their country and extended their campaign on social media.

They were uncertain about the outcome and many were unsure if what they were doing would be approved by their parents, families and country.

The girls dressed in black.

Continue reading "Three years on: Let’s not forget the brave students of 2016" »


A Kiap’s Chronicle: 25 – The Administration versus the People

Map - The mine access road
The access road to the proposed Panguna minesite was the locus of most of the resistance action by landowners in 1969. At the copper company's insistence the colonial Administration began to harden its stance on forcing the people to comply

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - I thought Administrator David Hay’s decision to send a ‘welfare group’ - a team of outsiders – to visit Panguna for a week or two in May 1967 was extraordinary.

He told the Canberra bureaucrats that their task was to seek “further information about the people’s views and attitudes and the possibility of improving the Administration’s image.”

What made his statement bizarre was that only six weeks earlier he had directed Patrol Officer John Dagge and me to ignore the people’s protests and escort personnel from mining company CRA across the Kawerong River.

He must have realised that operation would have besmirched the Administration’s image beyond repair.

During the following weeks the villagers vented their displeasure. On a single night the wooden pegs that had been precisely positioned by surveyors around the Moroni hillside in a week-long operation were removed and dumped at Barapina on what we termed the parade ground.

Up the road at Panguna, a stack of cement posts was smashed to pieces in an overnight raid and dumped on CRA’s doorstep.

To the south of Panguna, at Deomori, Marist Father Woeste was accused of helping CRA and told that, as his mission station was on native land, he should follow the people’s wishes or get out.

The people around Panguna were still seething in the last week of May, when Terry Daw (1), Judy (JK) Peters (2) and Lukas Waka (3) arrived in Kieta to carry out the Administrator’s task of ‘improving the Administration’s image’.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 25 – The Administration versus the People" »


The final reel from my Papua New Guinea film collection

LES PETERKIN

NEWCASTLE – This is the last video in the series of short films I shot in  Papua New Guinea in the early 1960s when I occasionally visited the then territory as part of my work as a lecturer at the Australian School of Pacific Administration.

The footage traverses quite a bit of country as it moves from Rabuana Primary School near Rabaul and a tabloid sports event, then Wau and Bulolo in the Goldfields and what was a lonely drive down the mountain to Lae, where I visited the impressive war cemetery.

Next we move to the highlands and Goroka (mispelled Goroko in the film’s caption) and finally to Wewak and its fine marketplace.

Thank you for watching these short videos, digitally reproduced by the people at the National Archives of Australia. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

I particularly mention the students of mine from ASOPA and the E-Course students from Malaguna Teachers College with whom I am still in touch.

These people dedicated a major part of their lives to teaching in Papua New Guinea and I was fortunate enough to share some of their adventures,

The feedback I have received so far has been encouraging and rewarding, and I want to mention fellow ASOPA lecturer Dick Pearse was thrilled to see the Tubusereia segment in an earlier article.

Just a word of thanks to Keith Jackson for putting the films on PNG Attitude. I’m enjoying such a lot of reading there which is so interesting and well put together.

The entire series of 12 short films is now complete and you can fine all of them on YouTube at this link - https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Papua%2FNew+Guinea+Les+Peterkin


Chief Minister Somare’s dramatic visit to Bougainville in 1973

Michael Somare  Angoram  1973
Michael Somare in 1973

KEITH JACKSON | Extracts from his Radio Bougainville diary

TUE 2 JAN

Lyall Newby, Director of the Department of Information and Extension Services (DIES), rang and, amongst other matters, complained that other Territory departments were starting to take over traditional functions of DIES and that staff from our department were transferring to these better paid positions. I suppose he needed someone to grumble to but we haven’t experienced the problem at Radio Bougainville.

WED 3 JAN

There’s a rumour abroad that a Highlander was shot and killed with a bow and arrow by a Dapera villager. It is unfounded but 30 Highlanders went to Arawa Hospital and demanded to see the “body”. Arawa market was tense during the morning and police were present. There were also reports of conflict but nothing happened.

The police asked us to run a story scotching the rumour about the "death". After consulting with District Commissioner Bill Brown I decided a news report would exacerbate rather than assuage fears. So we canned the story. It will be used later if a deteriorating situation makes it necessary.

Continue reading "Chief Minister Somare’s dramatic visit to Bougainville in 1973" »


Kiap Days: Astonishing yarns from a remarkable time

A Kiap's StoryKEITH JACKSON | Weekend Australian Review

A Kiap’s Story by Graham Taylor, Pukpuk Publications, 2014, ISBN 1502703459, 404 pages. Amazon Digital Services, hard copy $US14.19, Kindle version $US3.79. Link here to purchase

NOOSA - In late January 1985 no sooner had I rested my feet under my faux oak desk in my faux oak panelled office as the ABC’s controller of corporate relations than managing director Geoffrey Whitehead instructed me to take a plane to Canberra to meet deputy chairman, Dick Boyer who, I was told, was hell bent on writing a ‘philosophy’ for the national broadcaster.

I quickly learned to dread this enforced collaboration with the loquacious and pedantic Boyer and began to search for a willing substitute.

Graham Taylor, the ABC’s boss in South Australia, came highly recommended. “He can get on with anyone,” I was told.

The avuncular Taylor proved true to this appraisal and willingly took on the project. After much iteration the ‘philosophy’ eventually surfaced as a slender document entitled ‘The Role of a National Broadcaster in Contemporary Australia’ which immediately sank without an oil slick.

Continue reading "Kiap Days: Astonishing yarns from a remarkable time" »


A Kiap’s Chronicle: 24 – An unwelcome call to Canberra

Brown map BougainvilleBILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – It was early 1967 and John Dagge and I knew something must be in the wind when District Commissioner Wakeford advised he was sending Ken Hanrahan, the Assistant District Commissioner of Buka Sub-District, on “a familiarisation visit to Panguna before the Karato exercise.”

Karato, Mainoki and Daratui were the three areas of mineralisation that Conzinc Rio Australia (CRA) said it needed to test before deciding whether Panguna was the best site to mine.

Mainoki was eight hours’ hard walking from Panguna and Karato was even further into the hills. The people of both villages refused to allow the CRA teams onto their land.

Ken (KJP) Hanrahan (Footnote 1), based at Hutjena on Buka Passage, was responsible for the northern end of Bougainville and had nothing to do with Karato, which was in the Buin Sub-District.

John (JE) Wakeford had been in Bougainville for only five months, after being transferred from the Sepik in November 1966 to take over from District Commissioner Mollison who was considered too old. (Wakeford was actually the older of the two but he had shaved eight years off his age before joining the Territory Administration in 1946.) (2)

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 24 – An unwelcome call to Canberra" »


Archival film from the early 1960s: Images of Kavieng & Rabaul

LES PETERKIN

NEWCASTLE – This short video is derived from a great deal of film I shot in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and which has now been digitised by the Australian Archives and I have edited into segments of five minutes or so.

In 1963, I took a 50 minute flight from Rabaul to spend a weekend at Kavieng which is the capital and largest town of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland.

It is a beautiful, peaceful and picturesque island surrounded by clear tropical waters.

There are many coconut plantations on the island and while there I visited a huge plantation and was given a dance demonstration by students of Kavieng Secondary School.

It was an unusual dance which clearly derived many of its movements from military drills, possible a remnant of the German colonisation of this part of the world until 1914.

The video ends with images of Rabaul Harbour and its volcanoes.


From the archives: A weekend in Tubuseriea in the early 1960s

LES PETERKIN

NEWCASTLE - On one occasion in the early 1960s, when visiting Port Moresby with student teachers from the Australian School of Pacific Administration, we heard of a feast and celebration taking place in the coastal village of Tubusereia.

The village is about 20 km by road south-east of Moresby and, on this particular weekend, my lecturer colleague Richard Pearse, some students and I we piled into a LandRover to pay a visit.

Continue reading "From the archives: A weekend in Tubuseriea in the early 1960s" »


In the case of land, the colonial administrators mostly got it right

Bill Brown on patrol in PNG
Respecters of the people's land - a young Bill Brown on patrol in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE – The Australian colonial administration in Papua New Guinea understood right from the outset of its rule that the concept of individual ownership of land didn't apply.

In part, this was based upon the British colonial experience elsewhere in the Pacific, like Fiji, where land was also a communally held and managed asset.

The Administration, as it was known, therefore pursued a policy of tightly controlling how land issues were managed and, in particular, demonstrated a strong general bias against acquiring land.

Given that a feature of the late European colonial era was the rapacious and violent seizure by colonists of traditional lands, it puzzled me that the Pacific colonies tended to be treated differently.

Continue reading "In the case of land, the colonial administrators mostly got it right" »


A policeman’s memories of the post-independence kiap system

PNG police 1970s (Paul Oates)
Disciplined forces personnel circa 1970s: Constable Temba from Pindiu area; Pacific Islands Regiment soldier from Hube area; Corrective Services officer from Hube area; Constable Paulus from Madang area (Paul Oates)

RAYMOND SIGIMET

DAGUA – In recent times there have been a number of articles and commentaries about kiaps and the Papua New Guinea kiap system in PNG Attitude.

So I decided to ask my liklik papa Mathew about his opinion and observations of kiaps as he worked as a policeman in the early years after PNG gained independence from Australia.

In 1976, Mathew Wasel Sigimet of Urip village, East Sepik, joined the Royal PNG Constabulary (No 6717) and served as a constable until early 1984 when he left the service.

He was deployed to Konedobu, Port Moresby, as a new recruit from Bomana Police College in early January 1976 not long after PNG’s independence.

He then spent six years part of the Sector Patrol Unit, a policing concept trialled in Port Moresby as an independence gift from Australia.

In 1982, Mathew was transferred to the Southern Highlands and served as a constable in Tari until early 1984 when he left the constabulary.

Continue reading "A policeman’s memories of the post-independence kiap system" »


My new book asks if PNG’s founders screwed up its future

Inspector Hari Metau 2
Inspector Hari Metau - Phil Fitzpatrick's splendid creation triggers a reflection on whether PNG's founders could have done more to protect the new nation from its present excesses

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - What if Papua New Guinea’s forefathers had seen what was coming; could they have avoided what has happened to their nation?

I’m currently working on two novels. One is about a massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia in the 1860s; the other a kind of prequel to the Inspector Metau trilogy.

I’m using Inspector Hari Metau’s good mate and mentor, Sergeant Kasari, as the narrator of the prequel. In the book, he describes the story of how he became a policeman and met up with Hari.

The prequel begins in the mid-1960s and moves through to the present. It is addressed to a couple of young journalists who have come to Sergeant Kasari’s house in Kwikila to interview him for a newspaper article.

I’m having a lot of fun writing the novel and creating a whole new history for a bunch of characters who never actually existed; although to me they are just as real as anyone else.

The other interesting aspect of my writing is being able to reflect on those earlier times in Papua New Guinea when everyone was full of optimism for the future.

The experience of optimism is something the politicians and elites of Papua New Guinea have stolen from their fellow citizens. In its place they have created foreboding and a pervasive mood of depression.

I’m trying to maintain the humour of my earlier Metau novels but now and again I get serious because I think the material deserves it.

Continue reading "My new book asks if PNG’s founders screwed up its future" »


Further adventures of a young patrol officer

Robbins - Musa Gorge downstream
Downstream from the Musa Gorge

DOUG ROBBINS

SPRINGBROOK - This first story is fairly statistical but I have to do justice to the magnitude of the proposed Musa Dam hydro-electricity project.

This involved some of the biggest challenges that I ever had to face in Papua New Guinea.

To get an idea of its size, the estimated budget was $130 million, and that was prior to 1971. It would have been $1.4 billion in today’s money.

My first task on this project was to locate a road from Pongani on the north coast using a strip map I had earlier prepared on a long patrol and which subsequently was extensively referred to by Comworks engineers.

Continue reading "Further adventures of a young patrol officer" »


Sir Joseph Nombri & the emergence of the Chimbu elite

Sir Joseph Nombri
Sir Joseph Nombri

MATHIAS KIN

KUNDIAWA - After the Europeans came to Chimbu their laws were introduced among the people and any old ways that were unacceptable to the general principles of humanity were forbidden.

The common Chimbu traits of peace, love, friendship, giving and family were encouraged so travel and communication among the tribes became easier.

In the beginning tribal leaders were the first to embrace the new ideas. The leaders were made Luluai and Tultul and others became policemen, postal boys, translators and held other responsible positions serving the colonial administration all over the highlands and the coast.

Dinga leader Aina was known as an engineer supervising the building of airstrips and roads throughout Chimbu and the highlands.

Kumga chief Tumun, Golen chief Ninkama Bomai, Karimui leader Inuabe Egaiano and Kamare chief Launa were tribal leaders who became some of the first elected leaders to embrace the white men’s ways.

Continue reading "Sir Joseph Nombri & the emergence of the Chimbu elite" »