PORT MORESBY – Is one of our greatest struggles the struggle to stay focused?
Is it a truth that not one of us was born to stay focused?
Staying focused seems to be something we learn in life. Didn’t seem to be born with it.
PORT MORESBY – Is one of our greatest struggles the struggle to stay focused?
Is it a truth that not one of us was born to stay focused?
Staying focused seems to be something we learn in life. Didn’t seem to be born with it.
PORT MORESBY - I believe distraction is the greatest hindrance to impede human potential to accomplish great things in life.
The world today is encircled by distraction. And no person is immune.
The clever inventions developed to help humanity in some cases take us captive as we become fully absorbed in them.
ADELAIDE - One of our species’ best inventions is the scientific method, which has enabled us to create and sustain what we call the modern world.
Importantly, science works by discovering and understanding the reality or truth about how the natural world and wider universe operates.
TUMBY BAY - We’ve only got one pharmacy in Tumby Bay. I believe it’s been in the same family since it began.
The grandfather passed it on to the father and now the father has just passed it on to the daughter.
I was in there the other day collecting some diabetic gear: a box of needles for my disposable syringes; a couple of packets of test strips for my glucose testing gizmo; and my blood pressure tablets.
TUMBY BAY - After 70-odd summers on the surface of this planet, my impression is that it is a decidedly cruel and dangerous place.
It is a place where one’s major preoccupation has to be avoiding being eaten by the savage beasts that occupy it, both in reality and metaphorically.
TUMBY BAY - Edward Banfield was an American political scientist who studied a poverty struck Southern Italian village, Chiaromonte, in 1955.
There he discovered a self-interested society that put the needs of the family ahead of the public good.
He postulated that the backwardness of Chiaromonte could be explained in large part by the inability of the villagers to act in unison for their common benefit or for any other end not immediately related to their family interests.
TUMBY BAY - You may have heard more than once persons of senior years proclaiming that the older they get the less they know.
That proclamation doesn’t mean a shrinking knowledge. What these aged folk mean is that the older they get the more they discover the vastness of human knowledge and the small part of it that they know or understand.
TUMBY BAY - If you were born in Papua New Guinea after 1975, especially if it was in Port Moresby or one of the other big towns, you would have grown up in an entirely different country to the one your parents knew.
Even if you were born in a village after 1975, unless it was extremely remote, the same circumstances apply.
NOOSA – Having just spent three weeks hovering between the drug-induced world of surreal images and the body-induced pain those images sought to drive away, it was with some pleasure that I edged into my emails.
Edged into them because my focus and cognition are not quite stable just yet, weaving and wavering between some sort of comprehension of what you have written and what combination of words and voices I am able to understand.
TUMBY BAY - My wife, Sue, and I own our home and we have a retirement income that is sufficient for our daily and longer term needs.
Without the need to work we are, in theory at least, able to enjoy the freedom to do pretty much as we please.
But are we really free?
TUMBY BAY - My maternal grandparents lived in a house without electricity, running water or sewerage.
Their lighting came from paraffin lamps, they cooked on a wood stove, their water came from an outside well and their toilet was a big bucket set underneath a wooden seat in the barn outside.
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.
TUMBY BAY - Patrolling in the spiky top end of the old Western District in the late 1960s, particularly in the Star Mountains, made me so fit that I had to be chained up under the office for several days whenever I returned from the bush.
I was so fit I was dangerous.
Being young and fit and full of fizz is now an indistinct and fading memory shrouded in the mists of overindulgence in habits I should have known better than to even contemplate.
Yesterday, on Anzac Day, like many of my neighbours, my wife and I stood at the end of our driveway at 6.00 am to remember those who fell in order to preserve the way of life we enjoy today.
As if on cue, the Last Post rang out across the neighbourhood, followed by a minute’s silence and then Reveille. I assume that the bugler was playing at our local War Memorial, which is about 500 metres away.
TUMBY BAY - On Monday my elderly neighbour dropped by to report that he had just been to the Tumby Bay local council offices to pay his quarterly rates instalment and had discovered they were closed.
Mystified, he went to the local supermarket, which was open, and asked the people at the checkout whether they knew why the council offices were not open.
TUMBY BAY - I wonder whether people in Papua New Guinea are following the run up to the election in the United States.
They go to the polls in November but are now enmeshed in the Democratic Party state ‘primaries’ that will eventually decide which leader will contest the presidency, probably against Donald Trump.
There is a hope among ‘progressives’ in the USA (and worldwide) that whoever wins will be able to oust Trump.
TUMBY BAY - When I arrived at my first posting in Papua New Guinea’s Western Highlands in 1967, the Australian administration was well into transitioning its largely British made vehicle fleet into a Japanese one.
The tough Series 1 and 2 LandRovers that had been stalwarts for field work were rapidly being replaced by BJ40 Toyota LandCruisers.
TUMBY BAY – Authenticity. It’s a concept that repeatedly appears in modern advertising.
It can range from claims that foods are just like grandma used to make, beers are ‘hand-crafted’ and motor vehicles have a link to our adventurous spirits or penchant for luxury.
The reality, of course, is completely different.
TUMBY BAY - I’ve got a bird feeder in my backyard. I built it out of scrap wood. It’s got a platform where I put bowls of seed, fruit and other stuff for the birds and a roof over it to keep off the rain.
It looks quite picturesque but the only customers seem to be sparrows, starlings and the odd blackbird.
An occasional galah drops by and a few New Holland honeyeaters go past on their way to the blossoms in my flower beds.
TUMBY BAY - Scientists tell us that the first humans were hunters and gatherers who lived in roving bands. They cooperated with each other in their pursuit of game and bush tucker.
Through experience they learned where game was to be found and where and when certain native foods were available.
TUMBY BAY - One of the most striking things about Papua New Guinea is the profusion of happiness and laughter.
I noticed this when I first went to the then Australian colony in 1967 and the picture hasn’t diminished over the years.
Whenever I arrive at Jackson’s Airport in Port Moresby I am greeted by happy, smiling faces.
TUMBY BAY - This week the Doomsday Clock moved its hands to 100 seconds to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe.
It has been maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
TUMBY BAY - I was very interested in art when I was at high school and in my final year visited an advertising agency as part of a school careers program.
It wasn’t a work experience program, just visits to places where people worked in careers that interested us. I was intent on talking to the commercial artists in the company.
TUMBY BAY - My next door neighbour and his wife are in their eighties. He’s a tough old cereal farmer and she’s a retired hospital matron. They are trying to live out their twilight years as happily as possible.
Not a week goes by, however, that they don’t come over to ask me about a concerning telephone call they’ve had or a strange email they’ve received.
ADELAIDE - In his reflection, ‘The Ways of Our Ancestors’, Robert Forster raises an important issue for Papua New Guinea..
Tribal fighting was the bane and curse of pre-colonial PNG. It was an affliction that the kiaps strove to suppress as they undertook their pacification and then nation-building tasks.
NORTHUMBRIA, UK - We all have tumbunas and this horse rider could have been one of mine.
He is a Northumbrian reiver [border raider] who would have secured his livelihood, and protection, within a tight family group which shared the same surname and didn’t care about much else.
TUMBY BAY - Stupidity is a complicated subject. Context is everything.
Just as common sense can be nonsensical; cleverness can be stupid.
Stupidity comes in myriad forms. There is imbecility, idiocy, dullness, obtuseness, thickheadedness, foolishness, irrationality, illogicality, fatuity, silliness, lunacy, folly, senselessness, recklessness, and absurdity. To name a few.
TUMBY BAY - Around 1958 my father drove to the top of a hill on a deserted road in our 1948 Austin A40 and planted his foot to the floor.
We hurtled down the hill at increasing speed and when the car levelled out it had hit 61 mph. That’s about 98 kilometres an hour.
SONOMA - He and I had many things in common and were best buddies in our secondary school days. That’s my brother, David Johns.
Doing Grade 12 in Kopen Secondary School, we both loved reading, church activities, leading students in ministry and working with peers and older folks.
We worked hard for the Grade 12 examination and, when the time came to fill the school leaver’s form, we both marked our choices as Sonoma Adventist College and Pacific Adventist University to take theology.
TUMBY BAY - An old windup clock tick-tocking on the mantelpiece above the warm orange glow of a fire in the hearth.
A comfortable chair, a good book and an old malt whiskey. On the rug a dog snoozes as rain patters against the window.
TUMBY BAY - Over the years I’ve learned that the opinions of certain people are best left ignored.
These include the opinions of shock-jocks, celebrities, reality and lifestyle television hosts and most politicians. They all carry biases that are subjective, value-ridden and sometimes positively dangerous.
Just lately I’ve started to include people from the so-called professions, including doctors and medical specialists, and people in certain trades, like motor mechanics. Many of these people now seem driven solely by a profit motive.
SONOMA - I’ve heard it said that leaders are readers and, traversing back in history, I’ve discovered that certainly many past American presidents were avid readers.
No country’s history seems to have had so many leader-readers as the United States. Despite differing education, upbringing and politics, they all met at the junction of reading. They all had that same insatiable craving.
BRISBANE - A display featuring part of the history of the Pacific Islands Regiment was unveiled at the Australian Army Infantry Museum on 16 October.
The display was curated at Lone Pine Barracks in Singleton, NSW, with the assistance of the Australian Army History Unit.
It was opened in the presence of senior military and government officials and former PIR national servicemen in the main from the Royal Australian Army Educational Corps (RAAEC). Interested members of the public were also in attendance.
PORT MORESBY - Educated and employed couples are becoming like poles that don’t attract and therefore cause lots of problems in our society in this 21st century.
Instead of understanding each other and living in harmony, they repel, causing instability in the lives of their family and in their own lives.
TUMBY BAY - Social evolution, just like biological evolution, doesn’t proceed in straight lines, there are stops and starts, divergences, reversals, regressions, regional differences and sometimes dead ends.
Just as we are not on a path of natural evolutionary improvement neither are we on a natural path of constant social improvement.
DUMBY (er, TUMBY) BAY - It’s easy to imagine that one day in the not too distant future everything will be digitised and automated.
Here is a blurb about the latest trend in toilets:
“It's a germophobes dream come true: Never having to touch a toilet handle again. With the latest Numi toilet from Kohler, you can simply ask it to ‘flush’ and it will comply. If you forget, it will flush itself anyway.
“The toilet also lets you choose the colour of ambient lighting and the music from its speakers. At night, the lid automatically opens as you approach and the seat warmer activates. It flushes and closes the lid as you leave.”
TUMBY BAY - One of the important strategies politicians use is to identify the concerns and fears of society and then to exploit them to their advantage.
This strategy informs much of the divisiveness that plagues our daily lives.
Things like racism, gender inequality, domestic violence, immigration and homophobia are used by politicians to artificially create situations they can exploit.
About 2,000 years ago a very clever politician in Palestine called Jesus Christ used the same tactics to create opposition to the occupying Romans.
Monty Python reckons his outfit was called the Palestine Liberation Front, or was it the Liberation Front of Palestine…..
Anyway, whatever it was called, it quickly morphed into what we now call Christianity. Like all such movements, Christianity uses the concerns and fears of its followers to its advantage.
One of the things it created to this end was the concept of an afterlife and a set of rules governing progress to that elevated state.
TUMBY BAY - There are very many good people in Papua New Guinea. We often hear their stories on PNG Attitude. They are a welcome respite from all the doom and gloom that otherwise reaches our ears.
Papua New Guinea is a Melanesian society that is founded on the concept of community, as opposed to the concept of the individual, and one shouldn’t be surprised by these stories.
These good people exist in most communities. They are working quietly and without any expectation of reward in all sorts of ways and in a huge variety of different fields.
Teachers work in remote communities without resources and sometimes even without a salary. Aid Post orderlies and health clinic workers toil under similar conditions in many areas.
TUMBY BAY - Most mornings I check a range of websites including PNG Attitude, the ABC & BBC, the local Weather Zone, Amazon’s KDP, and the Ex Kiap website.
The last mentioned has lately been creating in me a distinct feeling of unease.
The major preoccupations of contributors seem to be centred around medals and gongs, the construction of memorials and reunions.
Underlying these preoccupations there appears to be great umbrage that Australia and the world at large have failed to recognise what wonderful people kiaps once were.
WELLINGTON, NZ - When there was a shooting on the street outside his hotel on his first night in Papua New Guinea, David Lee wondered whether he had made the right decision, accepting a job in the country that had seen his wife and children move there with him.
Lee, who hails from Lower Hutt, knew that running insurance company Capital Life in Port Moresby was a great career opportunity, and he and his wife Lydia thought their sons Jayden and Jack, aged five and almost three respectively, were young enough to adapt to a different way of life. But they got a bit of a shock when they began reading up on the place.
"What we read and saw focused mainly on the negative stuff, which made us pretty nervous," David, 38, says.
While the shooting initially exacerbated their fears, David says they have come to see PNG as a beautiful, and beautifully diverse, country that, for expats, offers an enjoyably exotic lifestyle.
NORTHUMBRIA - This photograph was taken deep in Papua New Guinea’s interior in 1974 – and it is a metaphor.
I was a bush administrator, a kiap, and I was on patrol.
The image underlines how young I was, and conveys something of my apprehension about the drop below.
But its underlying message is that I was alone, bridging two philosophical fixed points, and so in a cultural no-man’s land.
These contrasting pivots were the chasm that lay between two realities.
The global economic, political, and administrative ideals that my work required me to encourage isolated village people to adopt.
TINPUTZ - The meaning of the word ‘risk’ is the possibility that something bad may happen. As in, ‘it’s a risk’.
Author Mike Murdock has written that “most people choose to sit as spectators in the game of life rather than risk the arena of conflict to wear the crown of victory.”
I guess it comes back to each individual as to whether one is willing to take the risk of pursuing something they’re interested in and capable of doing.
So many times we ask ourselves a question starting with, ‘What if…’?
What if I do this and others think badly of me?
What if I do that and others disapprove?
What if I do the other and create enemies?
The ‘what if’ question troubles many people because it expresses the fear of facing the challenges that lie ahead.
TUMBY BAY - I’ve written a lot about Papua New Guinea over the years. I’ve also written a lot about Aboriginal Australia.
My writing has been as an observer and sometimes as a participant, but it has never been as a Papua New Guinean or an Aboriginal Australian because I am neither of those people.
This fact has occasionally been used to criticise what I write and I admit that such an argument has relevance.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a Papua New Guinean or an Aborigine. All I can do is use what I see and hear, and guess what it feels like.
Some people might say otherwise, but I don’t think this invalidates what I write.
I am well aware, perhaps more than most Australians, how oppressive has been the treatment of Aboriginal people.
TUMBY BAY - Bill Brown’s last couple of chapters of his ‘A Kiap’s Chronicle’ reminded me of all the sycophants in the higher echelons of the Australian Administration in colonial Papua New Guinea that field staff had to deal with prior to independence.
A sycophant is a person who acts submissively (but insincerely) towards a more important person in order to gain advantage. In colloquial terms, dating back to the 16th century, they are known as arse-lickers.
One of the key aspects of an arse-licker is to tell other people, especially superiors, what the arse-licker thinks they would like to hear rather than what they need to hear.
Those colonial sycophants did an enormous amount of damage before PNG’s independence in 1975 and their legacy still lives on in the way Australia’s foreign affairs department operates today.
Sycophants have been around since the world began, of course. And especially where you have anything resembling a bureaucracy you’ll surely find them.
They are a self-perpetuating breed of hangers-on.
NOOSA – When John Pilger wrote his book, A Secret Country, he referred to me as a “mate” of Bob Hawke.
Like much of what Pilger writes, that was wrong. I never knew Hawke well, but we had some brief encounters over the years, especially when I worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the second time around, between 1985 and 1988.
In March 1986, in my role as the ABC’s Controller of Corporate Relations, I accompanied Chairman Ken Myer on a visit to Canberra for a series of meetings with senior government politicians including prime minister Hawke.
The purpose of the visit was twofold: for Ken to explain how the ABC was addressing some challenging problems, but primarily for him to respond to political concerns about how the organisation was performing under his stewardship. This is an edited extract of my diary from that time….
Tuesday 4 March, 1986 – Canberra
Bob Hawke, perfectly clothed and coiffed, seems rather distant at first, as if the early conversational niceties are an imposition. Then, without warning, Ken pulls out a compact disc player. Sitting beside him on the lounge, I’m stunned. This was something we hadn’t discussed.
Hawke could not have been more surprised had Ken drawn a revolver from his satchel.
TUMBY BAY - Did you know that the most violent and aggressive people in Papua New Guinea come from Goilala?
Or that all the prostitutes and burglars come from Kerema?
How about the highlands being responsible for all the conmen and wife beaters?
On a more positive note you probably know that the smartest people in Papua New Guinea come from Manus.
Or that the most beautiful women come from Tufi.
Stereotyping on the basis of a person’s origins was a popular mythology in pre-independent Papua New Guinea and it still is amongst some people today.
It’s also a worldwide pre-occupation and has been so for however long humans have been on the planet.
If you are black in the United States of America you are much more likely to be convicted of a crime simply because of your colour. The same injustice occurs in Australia with Aboriginal people.
BIALLA - On most mornings when it’s not raining I look out from my veranda to check what the weather’s like and to see whether the summit of Mt Ulawun is visible.
I take regular photos of the emissions and send them through to the vulcanologists at the Rabaul Volcano Observatory.
Ulawun is almost symmetrical with the northern slope forming an almost perfect angle of repose. It is a strato-volcano with the upper 1,000 metres not vegetated.
The lower slopes are mainly vegetated with large tracts of Kamarere (Eucalyptus deglupta) which have thrived on the old lava flows.
TUMBY BAY - I live in a small country town on the south eastern coast of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. It has a population of about 2,500, of which about half are elderly or retired.
A lot of those people used to be farmers but they have now left their sons and daughters in charge of the farm and bought houses with an ocean view.
The pristine coastal environment and laid back lifestyle also attracts people from far and wide, including, and perhaps surprisingly, many from Queensland.
They tend to arrive as grey nomads in their covered wagons, fall in love with the place and buy property.
This all makes for a somewhat eclectic mix of inhabitants. We have got, for instance, a Frenchman and his Congolese wife running a very popular French patisserie in the town.
We’ve also got a nice scattering of writers and artists. They tend to offset the crazy fishing addicts.
TUMBY BAY - The last batch of Australian kiaps in Papua New Guinea was appointed in the early 1970s. They were the tail-enders of a fraternity that shared a working experience that was decidedly uncommon in modern times.
As a loose cohort they continue to share camaraderie through continued interaction at reunions and other social events and through social media, where they interact on their own website and through other social media sites like PNG Attitude.
A significant majority of them maintain an abiding interest in Papua New Guinea.
There’s nothing unusual about that, people with common experiences tend to be drawn to this kind of sentimentality and nostalgia and often gather together to remember and celebrate their past and discuss what has happened since then.
NOOSA – At a court hearing in Goroka in 1978, Wayne Ryan – who grew up in the Papua New Guinea highlands and lived there in the 1960s and 1970s - was found guilty of the manslaughter of Caroline Benny after a domestic argument.
Mr Justice Pritchard said “the death of Miss Benny, 21, from Losuia in the Trobriand Islands, had occurred in distressing circumstances during an emotionally violent scene”.
Ryan, who was 23 at the time and originally charged with murder, spent three years in gaol in Lae. His family still believe the death was an accident.
Susan Francis is completing a memoir, which will soon go to the publisher, and had been urgently seeking further information on this matter.
Many thanks to Arthur Smedley from Milne Bay who provided some first rate detail for which Susan Francis has expressed deep gratitude. She will soon be rushing to the publisher with the final manuscript.