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The complexity of stupidity

Phil reading
Phil Fitzpatrick


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.

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The power of persistence

David Johns and Justin Kundalin
David Johns and Justin Kundalin - brothers in arms and partners in persistence


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.

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I don’t listen to opinion traders

"Those poor dumb bastards haven’t the faintest idea about what life is all about, so why should I listen to them?"


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.

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Real leaders should be good readers

Many American presidents have been hungry readers. But as for President  Donald Trump, we'll just have to take his word that the hunger is not just for Big Macs....


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.

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PIR on parade at Oz exhibition

Sgts Lodi ReniWilly Kana
Back in the day - Pacific Islands Regiment Sergeants Lodi Reni and Willy Kana relax in the mess


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.

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Secular or religious, ethics remain key


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.

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Warning: You’re being dumbed down


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.”

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The afterlife as a political promise. Are you sure you want it?

Phil 2015
Phil Fitzpatrick - "I suspect this afterlife is another political fable"


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.

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PNG's real people: the antidote on which the future depends

Port Moresby - A Western city perched on the edge of Melanesia


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.

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Gong fever! Medals earned, unearned & that just turn up in the post


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.

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‘I'm glad we took a chance on Papua New Guinea’

FriendsLORNA THORNBER | Stuff New Zealand

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.

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In the chasm of change: do its agents often feel alone?

Image - Graham Forster


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.

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Taking risks – is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Alphonse Huvi
Alphonse Huvi - "We have the choice of putting those doubts where they belong  - out of the way"


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.

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The value of the outside view: we observers also learn

Phil Fitzpatrick recent
Phil Fitzpatrick


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.

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A short essay on sycophants, toadies & arse-lickers


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.

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‘No, I won’t sell the ABC’ - My fondest memory of Bob Hawke


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.

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‘Isn't that typical?’ The curse of stereotyping in society


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.

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The Father – one of PNG’s most dangerous volcanoes

The Father at dawn
Mt Ulawun (The Father) seen from Graham King's veranda at dawn


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.

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Old farts on surfboards & the future of the world

Old man and the sea (Pinterest)PHIL FITZPATRICK

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.

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Burying (or ignoring) the wisdom that comes with age

New kiaps early 1960s
Cadet patrol officers new to Papua New Guinea watch police parade at Sogeri in March 1950


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.

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Readers provide information on the death of Caroline Benny


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.

Strength in diversity: Why PNG is better together

Leilani and schoolmates - all bilased up to celebrate Papua New Guinea culture

BEN JACKSON | Sun Earth Sea Blog

PORT MORESBY - “Even the word ‘country’ is difficult to grasp in a group of islands where there are hundreds of different languages and thousands of dialects, and where communication and trade through transport are difficult, inaccessible to much of the population.”

There is still an element of truth to Gay Davidson’s words from The Canberra Times of 16 September 1975.

Papua New Guinea’s infrastructural challenges have changed shape, but remain present, as do the complex and tense issues of land ownership, tribalism and ethnicity.

However, having being in amongst the people of Port Moresby as they celebrated 43 years of Independence last September, it is not difficult to understand PNG as a country .

A majority of people here identify strongly with the ancestral cultures of their mothers, fathers and grandparents, but they simultaneously see themselves as Papua New Guineans.

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Here’s an idea: Imagining a Museum of the Pacific

Chambri mask  middle Sepik
Chambri (middle Sepik) mask from the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Michael Pascoe comments: "It does a better job of displaying our region's art than anything I've seen [in Australia]"


SAMFORD QLD - Could we dare to imagine that, in 2019, Australia might make a move to establish the world's finest Museum of the Pacific (my working title) on our shores?

This could be a stand-alone entity dedicated solely to the cultures, social mores, artefacts and histories of our region.

Not only would the museum display 'the best of the best', it could be a globally significant research centre as well as a training base for Pacific curators and archivists, not to mention being a temporary holding facility and conservation centre for objects under threat in the region.

This year, the Australian government spent over $100 million on an audio-visual museum in France to commemorate General Monash and Australia's World War I efforts on the Western Front. It was no doubt a worthy contribution to remember great sacrifice.

But how about a Pacific museum in Australia to recall the huge history and prominence of this part of the world? Perhaps $50 million - half the cost of one new RAAF fighter aircraft and a mere drop in the government funding bucket.

Oh, and by the way, a Museum of the Pacific doesn't have to be based in Sydney or Canberra or Melbourne. There are places called Brisbane and Townsville and Cairns which all have closer affinities with the Pacific and its peoples.

Let us dream of what could be....

The most venomous snakes in Papua New Guinea

Papuan taipan
Papuan taipan


DAGUA - Most people have an instinctive fear of snakes, which is believed to be evolutionary. Researchers think the fear came about as a prehistoric survival mechanism but this does not explain why humans do not fear other predatory animals as much.

Ophidiophobia (also ophiophobia) is the word used to describe this human fear of snakes. It is a sub-category of herpetophobia, the general fear of reptiles like snakes and lizards.

There is mild ophidiophobia where any encounter with snakes brings fear. And there is extreme ophidiophobia in an abnormal fear of snakes.

In extreme ophidiophobia, sufferers develop physical and psychological stress when near snakes, shown images of snakes or told stories about snakes.

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Christmas’s Past: Jesus Christ, God’s perfect gift to humanity

Wherever 2017 - Melanesian NativityPHILIP KAI MORRE | 25 December 2017

KUNDIAWA - Many Christians around the world have adopted a material and secular meaning of Christmas: giving and receiving gifts to strengthen social and economic bonds; reuniting with families and friends; celebrating; and taking holidays from work.

Special gifts are given to special friends at this time of year, representing personal commitment, appreciation, beauty, joy, pride and positive experience.

In Papua New Guinea, and especially in the Highlands where I live, the true meaning of Christmas is not fully observed. Rather, it is seen as the time to receive and remit bride prices, celebrate weddings, pay compensation, hold funeral feasts, drink and enjoy in a more casual way.

The problems to be solved can wait.

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Christmas’s Past: Christmas for atheists

Phil FitzpatrickPHIL FITZPATRICK | 25 December 2016

HERVEY BAY - I WAS about eight years old when I realised that organised religion was a giant confidence trick.

The thing that made me aware of this was my mother’s plan to send me to the local Catholic school. We’d just moved out of the migrant hostel after arriving in Australia from England and I was bound to a new school.

Although my father was an atheist he was a nominal Catholic, and had succumbed to family pressure to marry in the church.

My mother, abiding by church rules, had converted from Methodism to Catholicism. That marriage and conversion carried a mandatory commitment to raise children as Catholics. Such was the power of the church in those days.

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Christmas’s Past: Christmas at Olsobip

Wherever 2015 - OlsobipGARRY LUHRS | 25 December 2015

EX KIAP WEBSITE - Christmas, and the entire festive season, is always a contentious time at the Gentlemen’s Club.

It is the cause of more disharmony than a federal election or a debate on the return of conscription and compulsory national service, or climate change. Goodwill and fellowship towards our fellow man, I don’t think so! What a load of humbug!

All of these problems started some years ago when the club’s committee, in its infinite wisdom, decided to invite member’s submissions for the club’s Christmas celebrations to cover such items as suitable dress codes for the festive season, Christmas luncheon menus, after luncheon entertainment and the like.

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Christmas’s Past: Reflection, celebration & commitment

Christmas in PNGBOMAI D WITNE | 25 December 2014

GOROKA - Christmas in Papua New Guinea is a time when many homes, streets, stores and churches are gaily decorated and Christmas songs dominate music on radio stations and in the shops.

Like in countries around the world, kids anticipate that Santa Claus will bring goodies.  My son saw someone dressed in red in one of the shops, reminded me of Father Christmas and asked what the great man would bring him this Christmas.

This is an expectation strengthened by my son’s kindergarten. The school asked parents to dress their children like Father Christmas and buy gifts for the school’s version of Santa Claus to distribute. Some churches do the same.

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Christmas’s Past: Merry Christmas PNG, with love from Emma

Emma Wakpi
Emma Wakpi

EMMA WAKPI | 25 December 2012

My Dearest Motherland -  I am writing this letter on the eve of Christmas to let you know how much I love and appreciate you. This time of the year reminds us of what we should be thankful for and of what love is really all about.

Often times we argue so much about what is wrong and right and how it’s supposed to be done nowadays but at the end of the day, you are family, you give me my identity and I find my comfort in your coarse gruffness which conceals a heart so fiercely loyal to me.

At times I pine for things other nations can offer their children and am ashamed to admit that in my youth I’ve oft rued the fact that destiny saw fit to make me a Papua New Guinean; but as I have grown and experienced what life has had to offer - as opportunities have allowed me to visit other countries and cultures; I have discovered that no one is perfect and even the most ideal of situations have their faults.

Looking back I realise the privilege of growing up as a Papua New Guinean and the unique traits that helped create my identity.

Continue reading "Christmas’s Past: Merry Christmas PNG, with love from Emma" »

Christmas’s Past: A bush Christmas

A bush ChristmasJANE BELFIELD | 25 December 2007

'Tis the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Little creatures are stirring -
From cockroach to mouse.

There are moths in the wardrobe
And fleas in the bed;
Angry ants in the breadbin;
Rabid rats in the shed.

There's a snake in the ivy
Outside the front door,
And redback and whitetail
Spiders galore.

Continue reading "Christmas’s Past: A bush Christmas" »

English proficiency is a necessity not a luxury in PNG


ADELAIDE - I recently read Bill Bryson’s ‘The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way’, which provides a very readable and amusing account of the development of the English language.

It is fair to say that the emergence of English as the foremost international language of business, science and culture is one of history’s more improbable occurrences.

After all, English as we now understand it did not really exist until around 1500 and was, at that time, spoken only by a quite small number of people living on an utterly unimportant island off the coast of Europe.

Through a series of unlikely events that small island emerged as the greatest imperial power in history. At the zenith of its power (around 1913), the British Empire encompassed about 23% of the world’s population and about quarter of the world’s land mass.

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Counting down at the traffic lights

Traffic-in-MoresbyBEN JACKSON | Sun-Earth-Sea Blog

PORT MORESBY - I feel the outline of the little red panic button hidden behind my steering wheel.

The lights are red at one of Port Moresby’s notorious intersections. It is a city with an unfortunate and unenviable reputation for carjackings.

My podcast continues playing but fades in to subconscious background noise. My focus is outside the car, scanning between the mirrors, the windscreen and little clock on the traffic lights.

The countdown to green begins. Green is important. It means movement, speed and the safety they bring.

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Those were the days my friend. They ended & this is where we are


TUMBY BAY - During my high school years I hung out with friends who were interested in art and literature. A few of those with longer and hairier arms also had an interest in sport but culture was the main thing. And the opposite sex was also of interest. Of course.

We were all going to dedicate our lives to pursuing the finer things in life. We also intended to be millionaires by the time we were 30.

It was only in later years that we came to realise that art and literature were not necessarily compatible with wealth.

When this reality dawned, most of us compromised our ambitions and opted for wealth over art and literature and set out to achieve financial success.

Now that I’m in my seventies I’ve got enough spare time to contemplate how this worked out.

Continue reading "Those were the days my friend. They ended & this is where we are" »

Why working hard is a prayer of thanksgiving

Dominic - facilitatorSCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE - I am not religious. But I do believe in the existence of a higher power and the importance of a higher purpose.

Last weekend, I was invited to speak to a group of youngsters from all over the country.  This is one of many engagements I have found myself attending for over six years.

Sometimes, I don’t understand why I end up in meetings like the one on Saturday. In fact I was struggling to understand why I was there.  I had a presentation ready but my thoughts were in a jumble.

Before me, retired Major General Jerry Singirok, spoke about leadership and how young people had to stand up to the challenge and believe in what is right.  It rang true to me in my confused state.

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History can be dangerous but historians can find paths to truth

A-lie-gets-halfway-around-the-worldCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Reader Martin Auld has expressed the view that history is written to legitimise those in power and he has concluded that history can be dangerous.

In arguing this, Martin is echoing the words of George Orwell in his novel '1984' where he wrote that “who controls the past controls the future”.

In the novel, the ruling regime was constantly revising history to meet its current needs, even to the extent of fabricating new ‘historic’ records to erase inconvenient truths or falsehoods and replace them with new ‘facts’ that met its political needs.

As Orwell foresaw, we now live in an era where distinguishing between truth and falsehood has become very difficult at times. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are but two examples of leaders who routinely lie to their constituencies.

Continue reading "History can be dangerous but historians can find paths to truth" »

A fable: Kerenga – the faithless chief of the southern end

The late cartoonist Bob Brown was as interested in ethics as the author of this fable, Jimmy Awagl


KUNDIAWA - The sun was about to walk out of sight over the horizon in the western sky as, accompanied by his comrades and cronies Kerenga the chief strolled towards the coffee shop.

As they entered, Kerenga looked into their eyes with a guilty smile. He’d come up with a brilliant idea to steal a valuable asset from a local farmer.

The fish farmer owned many fishponds which produced world class red emperors and earned big money.

Kerenga told his peers that they would confiscate property without the consent of the owner.

“Gentlemen, be bold and confident that we will serve our personal interest.”

“This could be a brilliant concept,” said the albino, “so what is your notion?”

“Gentlemen, the owner is busy constructing a new pond over the range. While he is there we will draw down his huge red emperors for ourselves,” Kerenga said, giving a brilliant smile.

By the next day, the arrangements and logistics were organised and the group set their course for the pond.

The owner believed no one would think of netting fish from an old pond covered with weeds and waterlilies. No-one but wily chief Kerenga, who knew all about the red emperors and their value.

Continue reading "A fable: Kerenga – the faithless chief of the southern end" »

Last week I was a teenager – but just look at me now


TUMBY BAY - About eighteen months ago a friend and I were talking about walking the Heysen Trail in South Australia.

It runs for a mere 1,200 kilometres from the bottom of Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide, through the Mount Lofty Ranges and on to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Range.

It’s not an arduous walk, nothing like the Kokoda Trail, just a bit longer. There is, however, some magnificent scenery along the way and, fortuitously, some great wineries.

Continue reading "Last week I was a teenager – but just look at me now" »

Papua New Guinea ‘Quo Vadis’? (Whither Thou Goest?)

Albert Einstein


GOLD COAST - The constant issue everyone seems to agree on these days is the demonstrable lack of real leaders who can enunciate both a clear vision and a set of achievable national objectives.

Whether it be at social get-togethers or standing in line waiting to pay for groceries, everyone seems to be agree on the same issue. While I don’t immerse myself in social media, I know that is discussing much the same thing (if one excludes ‘fake news’).

So if most people agree on the problem, why is it so difficult to devise an effective solution?

Therein lies the real issue. Collective inertia. While total collapse can be put off until some time in the future, we still enjoy our days in the sun.

Yet we all know that, at some irrevocable point ahead, the proverbial chickens will come home to roost.  At least, perhaps we hope, that might happen on someone else’s watch.

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In the shadow of the volcano

SES logoBEN JACKSON | Sun Earth Sea Blog

Our world is filled with a diversity of cultures, geographies and ideas. Sun Earth Sea is a new blog that celebrates exploration; the elements that make places and people unique; and values and characteristics that are ubiquitous. It is about creative expression, balanced living and respect for the earth. Sun Earth Sea shares the stories of locales that amaze, individuals that inspire and food that nourishes. Here is its introductory offering. Archive this link to stay in touch - BRFJ

RABAUL - The town where my sister was born is long gone.

It disappeared in a shroud of burning ash more than 20 years ago.

At that time, the inhabitants of Rabaul picked up what remained of their lives – in many cases, not much – and moved some 30 kilometres down the coast to start again.

Today, the new hub Kokopo seems like it has always been at the centre of activity.

The streets are lined with department stores, hardware houses, banks and supermarkets. Youngsters spill out on the streets each weekday after school to buy drinks and food. They walk along laughing and talking together.

This is the only life they’ve ever experienced, and it’s a good one, but many of the older generation long for the days in the shadow of the volcano.

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Phil’s latest novel examines whether freedom means happiness

Happiness-and-freedomPHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Freedom is the state of having free will and living without undue or unjust constraints. It is an idea closely related to the narrower concept of liberty.

Our leaders say that our presence in a democratic and sophisticated society provides us with freedom.

This is a perverse sort of logic because, in the developed world, the individual is tied to the state from the moment of their conception right through to the day that they die. That is hardly freedom.

The more democratic and sophisticated the society in which we live the less we are free. If you doubt this fact try not paying your taxes or registering your car for a couple of years.

Freedom is a concept that relies heavily on its relationship to other factors.

Conservatives believe that freedom is about a minimal level of outside influence, particularly from government and its laws and regulations.

For others freedom has a more utopian aspect, whereby everything unpleasant and undesired is eliminated from life.

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Great minds and small minds


PORT MORESBY - It is mental greatness that separates the great souls of history from the mediocre. Great mind accomplish great things.

The great minds in history like Mandela, Einstein and Newton engaged the power of their minds to change history, while small minds drifted with life’s vicissitudes.

I want to posit here the contrast between great minds and small minds. It’s an analysis that may help us develop our mind, change our life and become an agent of change in the world.

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A tale of two Kandeps - a wonderful Kandep; a painful Kandep

Kandep sunset
Kandep sunset - a town seemingly at peace with itself


The Kandep that continues to amaze

I was in beautiful Kandep a few days ago; lost in thought, unaware of what was happening in other parts of the district, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea or the world.

That night it seemed I was the only person in the small town as I walked around in the cool of the evening on paved roads. The town seemed deserted, it was quiet and at peace.

I liked being alone. I could hear the muffled voices of people preparing or sharing evening meals. I could see the flicker of torchlight through open doors and windows. A couple of stores had their own generators lighting the vicinity and the night.

The sun had just set in a wall of red and I thought for a moment that the mountains were alight.

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The new world & the old – where modernity can be a kerosene lamp


TUMBY BAY - My children were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

By the time they reached the truly cognitive stage of their lives, we had already swapped a Commodore 64 computer for an Amstrad that ran on floppy disks - and when I say ‘floppy’ I mean things as big as saucers that actually flopped when you picked them up.

My son and daughter were part of the first generation of children born into the digital age and they haven’t looked back since.

I can remember going to the local chippy and buying fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper but they’ve had no experience of anything like that. Chicken and chips come in little cardboard boxes that nowadays you order online.

Sometimes I feel sorry for them but they just laugh in their ignorance and call me an old fogey.

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Does your smart phone think it knows more than you?


TUMBY BAY - Have you noticed the new level of scrutiny that seems to accompany everything we do nowadays?

The days when you could safely potter away at something by yourself without causing offence to anyone seem to be well and truly over.

I’ve got neighbours who know exactly what I’ve been doing on any given day and at any given time of the week. Not only that but they’ve got video to prove it.

Talk about big brother – I’m surrounded by dozens of big brothers, big sisters, big aunts, big uncles and big nieces and nephews.

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Kiaps, national service, Vietnam & military adventurism


An Australian patrol officer with Biami people in the vicinity of Nomad patrol post, 1964

TUMBY BAY - In late 1964 Australia passed the National Service Act. The Act required selected 20-year old men to serve in the army for two years, followed by three years in the Army Reserve.

The Act was amended in 1965 to allow conscripts to serve overseas. The following year the prime minister announced that national servicemen would be sent to Vietnam, where a ferocious war was being fought, to serve with regular Australian army units.

Those eight years when conscription was in force were stressful and confusing for many young men of eligible age, including those in the Territory of Papua New Guinea who weren’t really sure whether they had to register or not.

Young Australian men who were living overseas didn’t have to register. Papua was an Australian territory so young men working there were technically not overseas while New Guinea was a United Nations trust territory and young men there were technically overseas.

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'All dressed up like a pox doctor's clerk' - a personal quest


SYDNEY - One of my favourite Australian novels is David Ireland’s ‘The Glass Canoe’. It is set in a mythical suburban West Sydney pub, The Mead, during the 1960s.

It featured the usual cast of misfits, characters and odd balls that seemed to frequent suburban hotels in that era.

The term ‘glass canoe’ referred to a schooner of beer. The regulars would escape the dismal reality of the outside world for the warmth and companionship of the public bar and, once inside, they would slip into a glass canoe and drift off into oblivion.

Naturally the novel contains a lot of swearing and frequent use of Australian slang. Most of the latter I could understand but there was one phrase that completely baffled me.

My quest to find its meaning puzzled me for a long time until the mystery ended in the convivial surroundings of the Boroko Sports Club in Port Moresby many years later.

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