Independence Feed

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.

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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"

PHIL FITZPATRICK

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

DANIEL KUMBON

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.

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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?

DAVID KITCHNOGE

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?

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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

FRANCIS NII

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.

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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)

ROBERT 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.

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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

KEITH JACKSON

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

PHIL FITZPATRICK

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

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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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