Independence Feed

'Change is up to the people,' says governor

"We must stop getting drunk in public. We must stop playing pokies all night. We must stop cutting deals & compromising the public interest. Our public servants must turn up to work on time"

Governor Allan Bird
Governor Allan Bird


WEWAK -Independence is not free, it comes with Responsibility.

In my address to the Sepik people on the occasion of Papua New Guinea’s 47th independence anniversary, I stressed that it is important we understand independence as meaning that the people have the right to do everything themselves.

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I have reason to celebrate Independence Day

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The celebration of a nation

| First published in PNG Attitude on 16 September 2019

In 2019, James Marape replaced Peter O’Neill as prime minister and briefly the nation breathed a sigh of relief that better days were to come. Francis Nii reflected upon the change of mood. The great author was to die before the disappointment set in

KUNDIAWA - In the last eight years, when other Papua New Guineans celebrated their country’s independence anniversary on 16 September each year, to me it was just like any other day.

I didn’t feel anything special about the occasion. Independence was meaningless and unimportant to me.

Continue reading "I have reason to celebrate Independence Day" »

How we raced to make independence happen

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The new Kumul flag is raised on Independence Hill

| First published in PNG Attitude on 16 September 2015

In 2009 former long-serving PNG district commissioner, the late David Marsh, who died in 2015, reflected upon what happened on that first Independence Day in 1975

PORT MORESBY -In late June 1975, Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam asked Papua New Guinea chief minister Michael Somare to provide a date for PNG Independence.

Somare set the date of 16 September the same year. Then he gave me the job of organising the event. We had ten weeks. Getting people to join me to get the job done was difficult.

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35 years on - some reasons for pride

The main issue was that too much experience and expertise deserted PNG in those few years immediately after Independence. But that was in the seventies, and nothing can change what happened then

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| First published in PNG Attitude on 16 September 2010

In 2010 I sought to draw back the curtains of gloom and identify some of the important areas in which PNG was doing well. Twelve years later, I leave it up to readers to assess how things are going. Plenty of space for Comments below

NOOSA – I was at that first Independence Day in Papua New Guinea and was amazed and impressed in how such an important and complex national event could be was organised in a heck of a hurry.

With only ten weeks’ notice, chief minister Michael Somare gave District Commissioner David Marsh the task of organising events both on the day and for the six days of celebration from 14-19 September.

Continue reading "35 years on - some reasons for pride" »

Independence Day: 47 years of failure

Before independence, our leaders chose and promoted a people-centred approach and enshrined this in our Constitution. But successive governments have steered another course



PORT MORESBY – It’s Independence Day for Papua New Guinea, marking 47 years since a new country was born.

But while we celebrate 47 years of political independence, we must acknowledge that, as a nation, we have failed to fulfil our aspirations.

Continue reading "Independence Day: 47 years of failure" »

Remembering the remarkable John Guise

John Guise - "The first Papuan to make a political mark and a true pioneer of nationhood"

| AAP Archive | 28 August 2012

SYDNEY - A little-known role of the most remarkable Papuan of his generation should be recalled during the commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the battle of Milne Bay - Japan's first defeat on land in World War II.

John Guise, the first Papuan to make a political impact, didn't mind a bit of boasting, especially if it involved cricket and the unbeaten 253 he once smashed which was, and may still be, a record for Milne Bay first grade.

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What did Whitlam ever do for us?

Gough Whitlam on the day of his government's dismissal on 11 November 1975. He died in October 2014 aged 98


NOOSA – I am, after a short stay in hospital, back home, still feeling a bit poorly – but that is my normal state.

You should also know I’m in something of an intemperate mood.

However, I’m feeling well and agreeable enough to manage this short compilation for readers too young or too senile to recall.

Continue reading "What did Whitlam ever do for us?" »

A nation in denial


UKARUMPA - We are a nation that is drowning in its own oil. We are a nation that is being dragged under – submerged by the weight of our gold.

We suffocate as our natural gases get sucked out of our lungs by the barrel. Our large timber exports continue to land us in cardboard shelters. Every ship that sails away with our tuna leaves us staring at an empty plate.

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Women journalists win media awards

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Russell Hunter - a fearless and ethical journalist who always had time to mentor and train younger members of the profession


NORTHCOTE, VIC - Women reporters with the National Broadcasting Corporation and EMTV have won the Russell Hunter Awards for Young Papua New Guinea Journalists of the Year.

When Scottish-Australian journalist Russell Hunter – who was living in Brisbane - died in July, a group of friends decided that the most appropriate way to memorialise him was through sponsoring an award for young journalists in PNG.

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Colonial echoes in PNG 'failed state' smears

Not a failed state
"Narratives evoking a sense of chaos in PNG, particularly by Australians, are not new"

| Divine Word University | DevPolicy Blog

MADANG - Covid-19 appears the latest instalment in outsider narratives of Papua New Guinea as a ‘failed’, ‘weak’ or ‘fragile’ state.

In April 2020, for example, with only eight cases of Covid-19 in the country, Australian journalists capitalised on the opportunity to put PNG on the failed-state precipice.

Continue reading "Colonial echoes in PNG 'failed state' smears" »

The handful of men who made PNG a nation

Phil Fitzpatrick - "For Somare the kiaps seemed to represent the worst anachronisms of colonial rule"


TUMBY BAY - When leaders with an aura of greatness die, there inevitably follows an assessment of their life and work.

Initially this reckoning will be largely praiseworthy but, as time goes by, a deeper analysis will occur. This is sure to happen in the wake of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s death.

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Tom Mboya, Paulus Arek & PNG independence

Tom Mboya in PNG 1964
Kenyan leader and independence advocate Tom Mboya talks with a school student when visiting PNG in 1964


TUMBY BAY – In 1971, between 4 January and 19 February, Paulus Arek took his Select Committee on Constitutional Development on a fact finding tour to gauge the feelings of Papua New Guineans about self-government and independence.

Arek, the MP for Ijivitari, was first elected in 1968 and was also Minister for Information (1972-73) and the first president of the Federation of PNG Workers' Associations.

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Views against early independence 'were correct'

Michael Somare and Gough Whitlam in 1973 - 'Conservative leaders spoke out against a fast transfer of power but were overtaken by these two unstoppable forces'


CLEVELAND, QLD - If one was to bequeath a view of history as it happened, Chips Mackellar’s recollection is accurate and reflects the general view of most Papua New Guinean people in the early 1970’s.

That’s what kiaps in the bush heard from the Papua New Guinean people they met and worked with.

There was a general view that more time was needed to effectively transfer power from a Western government to a people who had never experienced anything like it in the past.

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The hair-trigger path to independence

Papua Besena membership card - the Papuan separatist group under the strong leadership of Josephine Abaijah was a destabilising influence leading to independence


TUMBY BAY - In the end, Papua New Guinea’s peaceful transition to independence turned out to be a case of the right people coming together at the right time.

On the Australian side was the Liberal Party’s external territories minister Andrew Peacock, who remained committed to independence even after his party was defeated at a general election in 1972.

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Sir Michael: The loss of a giant

Morrison Somare Whitlam 1973
Territories Minister Bill Morrison, Michael Somare and Gough Whitlam at a press conference at Parliament House, Canberra January 1973


NOOSA - English scientist Isaac Newton admitted that, if he “had seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, was a reflection that we all benefit from the work of great people who came before us.

Last month, one such person was lost to the world.

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare was a giant of Papua New Guinea and, indeed, the world because of his significance to the decolonisation movement.

Continue reading "Sir Michael: The loss of a giant" »

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


The Chronicle of a Young Lawyer by Kerry Dillon, Hybrid Publishers, August 2020, 384pp. ISBN: 9781925736410, $35. Available from Booktopia & all good bookstores, 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.

Continue reading "Time of tension: Revisiting Kerry Dillon’s ‘Chronicle’" »

Let’s preserve our positive gains

As we were
"The biggest challenge ahead as we break with the past is to continue the struggle to decolonise our minds which keeps us in bondage. Those that do not believe that we can own and run a mine like Porgera are influenced and shaped by our past colonial history" - Gabriel Ramoi


WEWAK - The theme of this year’s Independence celebration should be ‘Preserving the positive gains made over the last 45 years of political independence and those made over the last 12 months under PMJM in particular’.

A bit of a mouthful, I know, but it sums up how I’m feeling this Independence Day.

This year as we celebrate 45 years of independence we can feel a renewed sense of nationalism and optimism in the air.

Continue reading "Let’s preserve our positive gains" »

Guise & Kerr – the Whitlam connection

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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


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.

Continue reading "Guise & Kerr – the Whitlam connection" »

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)


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.

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The unique experience of a nation born

Brown MBE and Kaad OBE
Former district commissioners Bill Brown MBE and Fred Kaad OBE. Said Kaad to the wavering young kiap Fitzpatrick: "You’ll never have the chance to be part of something like that ever again"


TUMBY BAY - My father came from Waterford in the warm southeast of Ireland. He had three brothers and two sisters. His eldest brother John carried on the family tradition of being politically active.

It was from an insistent Uncle John that I learned very early on about the colonisation of Ireland by the British.

That experience left me with a repressed but abiding suspicion about the whole enterprise of empire.

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Tell Robert Oeka ‘mi go lukim pinis lo Kerema’

Kerema - Daniel and a friend on the mud
Daniel and friend on the mud in K-Town


PORT MORESBY - I have finally satisfied my curiosity to see Kerema, the town about which top musician Robert Oeka penned the words ‘Yu yet kam lukim’ - a sort of challenge for people to visit his part of our beloved country.

I’ve flown over Gulf Province many times since arriving in Port Moresby in early 1975 to attend Form 4 at Idubada Technical College, transferred there after Lae Technical College experienced a shortage of electrical instructors.

Continue reading "Tell Robert Oeka ‘mi go lukim pinis lo Kerema’" »

Independence Day? We were always independent....

Powes Parkop
Governor Powes Parkop fronts an Independence Day crowd in Port Moresby - was the notion of gaining 'independence' ever relevant?


PORT MORESBY - As our 44th independence anniversary drew to a close, I took some time to reflect on the concept of 'independence'.

What are we independent of? And from who are we independent?

Since when did we depend on others, and what did we depend on them for that we don't need to depend on them anymore?

And, anyway, are we really independent in an increasingly interdependent world?

Continue reading "Independence Day? We were always independent...." »

At the dawn of independence, 1975....

Post Courier Independence Day
The front page of the Post-Courier of Tuesday, 16 September 1975. The newspaper in my archive is now brown and showing its age but it still radiates the excitement and joy of that remarkable day when Papua New Guinea set out on its own journey as a united and sovereign nation - KJ

And in this special Independence Day edition of PNG Attitude....
I have reason to celebrate this Independence Day, an essay by Francis Nii
Flying the new flag: It was the kiap's duty, a memoir by Robert Forster
Airwaves struggles: Broadcasting back then, history by Keith Jackson
Sgt Kasari Aru - recollections of independence, extract from a new novel by Philip Fitzpatrick
Today is our country's birthday, poetry by Porap Gai
Why we should celebrate Independence Day, article by Lucy Kopana
Take Back PNG, poetry by Joseph Tambure


I have reason to celebrate this Independence Day

Francis Nii
Francis Nii and the green hills of Kundiawa


KUNDIAWA - In the last eight years, when other Papua New Guineans celebrated their country’s independence anniversary on 16 September each year, to me it was just like any other day.

I didn’t feel anything special about the occasion. Independence was meaningless and unimportant to me.

Although 2016 had been a special year, in that I spent one week in Australia and attended the Brisbane Writers Festival, and in 2018, PNG hosted the historic APEC meeting in Port Moresby, when it came to 16 September there wasn’t any special feeling in me.

Continue reading "I have reason to celebrate this Independence Day" »

Flying the new flag: It was a kiap’s duty

The new flag is raised in a remote community  PNG Highlands  1974  (Graham Forster)
The new 'Kumul' flag of Papua New Guinea is raised in a remote Highlands  community in 1974 (Graham Forster)


NORTHUMBRIA, UK - On Independence Day in September 1975 few, if any, Papua New Guineans had not already seen their new flag flown formally or the respect with which it had been presented.

This was the result of a carefully planned operation that began well before the introduction of self-government in December 1973.

It was aimed at building familiarity with the flag itself as well as softening the mental jolt faced by villagers, especially in the Highlands, who were being asked to abandon the form of government with which they were familiar.

At the core of this successful story of hurried preparation for independence was a Port Moresby-led central bureaucracy, the kiap system, through which direct government contact with villagers throughout PNG was regularly maintained no matter how remote the location.

Continue reading "Flying the new flag: It was a kiap’s duty" »

Airwaves struggles: Broadcasting back then

NBC radio stations in 1984
NBC radio stations operating at independence in 1975. Vanimo and Wabag had begun transmission by 1984


NOOSA - I arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1963 as a school teacher and left in 1976 as a broadcaster and journalist with 10 years under my belt.

This was to be my first substantive career, and – after many adventures in Asia-Pacific - it culminated in my appointment as a senior executive in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), before I turned my communications activities to public relations in 1988.

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Sgt Kasari Aru – recollections of independence

Tambul warrior
Tambul warrior, 1970


PORT MORESBY - I can still remember Independence Day on 16 September 1975 as if it had happened yesterday.

I had been transferred from Mount Hagen to the high and chilly patrol post at Tambul. The local kiap was from Finschhafen and he felt the cold like me but Temi and my children seemed to enjoy it.

Roland was about five years old by then and our new daughter, Dinah, was about 18 months old. To all intents and purposes they were little highlanders.

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Today Is Our Country’s Birthday

Gai - Independence DayPORAP GAI

Today is our country’s birthday
Now is the time for fireworks and fun
But we shouldn’t forget its reason
This is one of the most important days
To mark the freedom of our people

Today’s the day the nation became our own
It’s the date of our country’s birth
For many years under Australia’s rule
And now a governance of our own
Give thanks to the good Lord above

Continue reading "Today Is Our Country’s Birthday" »

Why we should celebrate independence day

Flags a flutterLUCY KOPANA | My Land, My Country

LAE - Today Papua New Guinea celebrates 44 years of independence.

I’ve heard people ask questions about why we celebrate independence when our government systems are corrupt, when our service delivery is inefficient, when 80% of the people in rural areas still struggle with access to basic services, when our roads keep deteriorating, when there are so many other problems.

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I know when I’ll celebrate, but now isn’t the time…


I DID NOT CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY here in Tabubil. I started work at 7 and finished at 11 after nightshift.

The reason being that I felt there was nothing much I could celebrate. I’m still paying very high taxes (between K700 and K1,000 every payday depending on overtime). My employer’s contribution to superannuation will also be heavily taxed, leaving me with almost nothing.

The real estate industry in PNG goes unregulated, and thus I’m paying K500 every fortnight for low cost accommodation (it could be in a settlement in Port Moresby or a house in a village on the outskirts of Madang).

Continue reading "I know when I’ll celebrate, but now isn’t the time…" »