Obituaries Feed

Eulogy in honour of the late Sir Mek

Mekere Morauta & James Marape
The late Sir Mekere Morauta and prime minister James Marape

| Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea | Edited

I delivered this short eulogy in honour of Rt Hon Sir Mekere Morauta at his funeral service on Friday. It is short and succinct. No amount of words can adequately describe this huge persona - JM

WAIGANI - I stand today sadly to offer tribute to this great man who selflessly gave his life in service to Papua New Guinea.

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Marj Walker, respected Sogeri teacher, dies at 84

Marj Walker
Marj Walker and students pose outside the Sogeri High School Museum


NOOSA - Marjorie (Marj) Walker, a highly respected teacher at Sogeri national high school, died at Mount Waverley in Victoria on 31 December aged 84.

Marj was the head of expressive arts at Sogeri from 1972-85 and made a number of return visits to Papua New Guinea over the years including one in 2013 to meet former students.

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Vin Smith, one of the best, dies at 90

Vin & Rita Smith with Bob Cleland  Rabaul  October 2010
Vin and Rita Smith with Bob Cleland,  Rabaul,  October 2010


SYDNEY - Ernest Vincent (Vin) Smith, who saw notable service in Papua New Guinea as a kiap before independence and a senior public servant after, has died on the Gold Coast aged 90.

In two separate stints totalling 39 years, Vin served PNG with distinction and was admired for his coolness under pressure and great good humour.

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Loss of an outstanding leader: Sir Mek dies at 74

Sir Mekere Morauta
Sir Mekere Morauta - "Your People Mourn"


NOOSA – The Rt Hon Mekere Morauta KCMG (popularly known as Sir Mek), Papua New Guinea’s prime minister from 1999-2002 and regarded as one of its greatest constitutional and economic reformers, has died from cancer in Brisbane aged 74.

His wife, Lady Roslyn Morauta, released a brief statement saying, “It is with the deepest sadness that Roslyn and James Morauta announce that their much loved husband and father, Sir Mekere Morauta KCMG, died peacefully in Brisbane on Saturday 19 December”.

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Death of General Michael Jeffery at 83

Marlena and Michael Jeffery
Marlena and Michael Jeffery

| President, Papua New Guinea Association of Australia

SYDNEY –A great Australian, former governor-general, Major-General Michael Jeffery AC GCL CVO MC, died on Friday at the age of 83.

General Jeffery had a close association with Papua New Guinea as the last Australian commanding officer of 2 PIR and as co-patron of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia (PNGAA) since 2003.

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Commodore Sam Bateman's 'heart for the PNG Navy'

Commodore sam-bateman
Commodore Sam Bateman - a leading maritime strategist and friend of Papua New Guinea

| President, Australian Naval Institute | Edited

SYDNEY - On 18 October 2020 Commodore Sam Bateman AM, RAN passed away aged 82. He was one of the leading maritime strategists of his generation and has left a significant legacy.

During two stints in Papua New Guinea between 1967 and 1975, Sam was senior officer of the PNG Patrol Boat Squadron, where he knew Colonel Reg Renagi, and was later Naval Officer in Charge, Port Moresby, and Director of Maritime Operations in PNG.

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For God, country or what? Kumaniel’s war

Nepe Kumaniel and familyDaughter Nancy (PNG meri blouse & fedora) & Nepe with family members, 14 August 2015. Nepe is survived by 5 children, 19 grandchildren, 29 greatgrandchildren and 1 great-greatgrandchild (left of Nancy)


FIFE, SCOTLAND - The Oral History Project of Papua New Guinea’s National Museum & Art Gallery and the Military Heritage Project are essentially a national search for common identity and, dare I say, a national consciousness, in a country where divisive diversity is the norm.

The former participates in this search through a blending of different stories while the latter does so through the preservation of the materiality of World War II.

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An adventurous and rich life – John Philip Fowke

John Fowke
John Fowke


BRISBANE - My father was a big man, a tall man, a loud man, a funny man. A man with many moods, many strengths, and the usual amount of weaknesses.

He asked me to officiate at his funeral party, and so that means here I am, struggling to express my thoughts about a life lived, a rich, adventurous life.

As I collated my thoughts in the days following his death, I was struck by how many people loved and respected my father, but also how many different people he was to others.

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Nahau Rooney: A life of achievement & controversy

Nahau Rooney
Nahau Rooney - worked to catalyse the constitutional promises of equality, participation and a focus on rural development

| DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA - Trailblazing, hardworking, audacious, always vivacious and at times controversial – some of the descriptions offered of Papua New Guinea and Manus pioneering woman in politics, Nahau Rooney, who passed away on Tuesday 15 September, aged 75.

Nahau Rooney was one of only three women elected at PNG’s first post-Independence elections in 1977 to its 109-member national parliament, where she served as the regional member for the province of Manus.

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John Fowke, rough-hewn sage, dies at 81

John Fowke - astute critic and interpreter of the Papua New Guinean condition


NOOSA – John Fowke, an erstwhile contributor to PNG Attitude and forceful critic of what he (sometimes unfairly) perceived as humbug and banality, has died in Brisbane aged 81.

Fowke went to Papua New Guinea as a Cadet Patrol Officer aged 21 in April 1958.

In 1962 he changed career direction when he was appointed a Cooperatives Officer, working in the Goroka region.

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The suffering and death of Francis Nii

The late Francis Nii - showed us what was meant to be an authentic human being


KUNDIAWA - A giant has fallen, his sufferings and distress he has lived. He is gone to his Father’s House where there are many mansions.

It was Sunday 2 August that I visited Francis Nii for the last time at around 11.30 am.

I saw him in so much pain and with complications such that his survival looked grim.

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A more pleasant fellow not to be found

Liz and Chenz at a reunion in 2011
Liz and Chenz at an ASOPA class  reunion in 2011


NOOSA – When the message circled the globe a few times and finally landed in my inbox it brought the gloomy news that Barry Whitby Vincent had died last Sunday. He would have been close to 80.

My immediate thought was of a young man with a friendly grin. A more pleasant fellow than Chenz not to be found.

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Francis Nii, eminent literary figure, dies in Kundiawa


NOOSA – Francis Sina Nii, the author, publisher, mentor and literary innovator, whose promising career as a banker was cut short in a vehicle accident that rendered him a paraplegic but who became a towering figure in Papua New Guinea literature, died yesterday afternoon at the age of 57.

Francis had been in ill health for some months but surviving crises was not new to him as he had fought many battles in his three decades in his bed in the critical care ward of Kundiawa General Hospital.

From this unlikely location he wrote articles, and a novel, often with no technical assistance other than a mobile phone.

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The white man's ghost

Laurie Meintjes and family  1988
Laurie Meintjes and family, 1988


Laurie died on 15 July 2019 at his home in Cooranbong NSW. He was a kiap, teacher, writer and poet. This article, taken from his memoir ‘Pretzel Legs’, was published in PNG Attitude on 25 January 2011. There are copies of ‘Pretzel Legs’ available on e-bay, for example here

COORANBONG – He said he had never seen a White man's ghost and I told him he was lucky; that a White man's ghost is very bad business. His eyes widened.

It all began earlier that morning when I emerged from the hauskiap and saw the clay figurine glaring up at me through cowrie-shell eyes from the bottom step. Someone was meddling with my karma.

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Trainer of kiaps Tim Terrell dies at 90

Tim Terrell and two local kiaps on the first course at Finschhafen Training Centre
Tim Terrell and two local kiaps on the first course at Finschhafen Training Centre, 1960


TUMBY BAY - Former kiap Tim Terrell AM died in Canberra last Tuesday at the age of 90.

His passing is significant in the history of Papua New Guinea because he established the first training centre for local kiaps at Gagidu near Finschhafen in 1959-60, assisted by another kiap, Peter Foldi.

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Good people we lost: Our 2019 obituaries

BurkePNGAttitude's obituaries column does not purport to be comprehensive, but we always publish what is submitted as a permanent record of people, very often people known to us personally, who mostly had close links with Papua New Guinea. In this feature we have reduced the length of the tributes but provide a link to the original along with the writer's name - KJ


Clarrie Burke - teacher, academic, humanitarian / by the late Murray Bladwell

Continue reading "Good people we lost: Our 2019 obituaries" »

The day that Libby died

Ingrid at 65
Keith, Ingrid and Libby - we shared many good times and, with Libby coming from a family of restaurateurs, many good lunches


NOOSA - Ingrid’s mum Libby died early this afternoon.

Libby was 94, a venerable age, and had been in pretty good health until a fall,  two broken vertebrae and great pain compromised that about three weeks ago.

She was born in Prague in 1925, where her parents owned restaurants and lived a reasonably comfortable life until the Communists took over Czechoslovakia after World War II.

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Death of veteran actor Albert Toro

Albert Toro with Elizabeth Tsitseka in the film ‘Tukana-Husait I Asua’
A recent photo of Albert Toro with Elizabeth Tsitseka, who played Lucy's mother in the film ‘Tukana - Husait I Asua’


DEVARE, BOUGAINVILLE - I was in the garden planting aibika last Wednesday when my sister approached and asked if I had heard the news.

When told me that Bougainvillean actor Albert Toro MBE had died, I was shocked and stared at her in disbelief.

My heart sank as I reflected on what Albert had contributed to Bougainville and Papua New Guinea and how he had mentored some of us. The tears fell from my eyes.

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RIP Murray Bladwell: Man of Simbu

The Brisbane Gang
The Brisbane Gang - Murray Bladwell at left with hands on Francis Nii's shoulders. These writers and their supporters ensured the PNG writers' appearance at the Brisbane Writers Festival was a roaring success


The funeral of Murray Bladwell, our dear colleague and a great friend of Papua New Guinea, will be held this coming Friday at 11am at Centenary Memorial Gardens, 353 Wacol Station Road, Sumner in Brisbane

KUNDIAWA - Death is part of the life cycle mankind must go through, but the passing of both a friend and a good person is an especially painful loss.

When I read Keith Jackson’s obituary about the passing of Murray Bladwell, shared by Robert Parer on his Facebook page, my heart stopped beating for some seconds.

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My mate, Murray Bladwell, dies in Brisbane

Murray & Keith
How it always was - and how it always should be


NOOSA – Murray Bladwell, one of the loveliest men I have known, and our relationship had been close for 56 years, died in Brisbane this morning after a short illness.

At this moment in the cycle of grief, when a close friend has died suddenly, the mind struggles to sort the terrible reality from the expectation that such a staunch and solid figure will always be around.

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ECG scientist James Wagiebu dies at 61

James Tawila Wagiebu
James Tawila Wagiebu - a pioneering medical technician whose death leaves a big gap in PNG's health service


PORT MORESBY - Hela has lost one of its most dedicated, committed and humble public servants with the death of James Tawila Wagiebu (1958–2019), the most qualified Papua New Guinean echocardiographer.

And, with his death, echocardiography services in PNG have come to a temporary halt as an urgent search for a replacement continues.

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Russell Kranz, evangelist & artist, dies at 94

Peter and Russell Kranz
Peter and Russell Kranz


NOOSA – Pastor Russell Kranz, who died yesterday at the age of 94, was a church leader, composer, choirmaster, talented watercolour artist - and a good man

His legacy is one of love and achievement.

He is also the father of PNG Attitude contributor, Peter Kranz, whose words have so often stirred and delighted readers of this blog.

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Kiap, broadcaster, author: Graham Taylor dies at 90

Graham Andrea 2015
Graham Taylor with then PNG Association president Andrea Williams in 2015


ADELAIDE – Kiap and broadcaster Graham Taylor died on Sunday at the age of 90 after being afflicted with prostate cancer for more than 20 years.

Graham was a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea in the early post-war period, transferring to the ABC to produce its ‘native people’s program’ and establish 9RB Rabaul before continuing his career in Australia where he reached a senior level in the organisation as general manager for South Australia.

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Howard Richards: Barngarla man rediscovered his own culture

Barngarla Elders 2007
Barngarla elders in 2007 - Eileen Crombie (Antakarinja advisor), Lorraine Dare, Howard Richards, Linda Dare, Harry Dare and Eric Paige


TUMBY BAY - They’re burying Howard Richards on Thursday. Howard was a Barngarla man from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

He was part of the stolen generation, taken away from his family as a child to grow up in a boy’s home in Adelaide.

I worked with Howard and the Barngarla people on their native title claim for many years. Their lawyer, Philip Teitzel, died a few years ago.

Like Howard, many of the Barngarla had been taken away from their families as children and in the process lost their connections to their culture and their land. It’s a common story in Australia.

Working with Howard and the other Barngarla men and women on the native title claim was a learning experience for us all. Together we scoured old government records, anthropological works and old newspapers to re-discover Barngarla culture.

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William Adrian (Bill) McGrath – kiap & bibliophile – dies at 86


PORT MORESBY - Bill McGrath, who died on Tuesday after a long illness, went to Papua New Guinea on 16 April 1953 as a 20 year old cadet patrol officer - 66 years ago.

He later transferred to the Royal PNG Constabulary as a police officer before moving to the Lands Department under the renowned Ivan Champion where he was involved with the purchase of land for the Rouna hydro-electric scheme.

He also worked with Champion at the Land Titles Commission and was a consultant and adviser on land matters throughout the Pacific islands.

After leaving the public service he returned to PNG from time to time to advise mineral and petroleum exploration companies on land matters.

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Eric Tapakau – skilful communicator who loved Bougainville

Eric Tapakau
Eric Tapakau was deeply committed to the betterment of Bougainville and its people 

DENIKA SEETO | Communications Manager, Bougainville Copper Ltd

BUKA - Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) lost both a dear friend and esteemed colleague with the untimely passing of Eric Tapakau on 19 May after a brief illness.

Eric, 44, was a highly regarded member of our Bougainville team having joined the company in September 2017 as media and communications adviser.

As a testament to his capabilities and leadership, he was quickly promoted to a senior project officer position just four months later.

One of Eric’s great qualities was his natural affinity with people and his ability to effectively engage with those at all levels of the community. He was deeply committed to the betterment of Bougainville and its people and had earned widespread respect.

Those who knew him best, including former work colleagues and school friends, recall how people loved being in Eric’s company. He was warm and welcoming and, also possessed a quick wit and wicked sense of humour.

ET, as he was affectionately known, was able to lighten the mood of any room no matter the situation and it was often hard to keep a straight face when he was around. 

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Dikana ‘Ten Gun’ Boge – great team man who never let you down

Dikana Boge
Dikana Boge - a great team man always firing on all barrels


BRISBANE - One of my most treasured possessions is a photo of the 1976 Kumuls and there, sitting next to me in the row at the front, is Dikana ‘Ten Gun’ Boge.

Dikana was five-eight and I was halfback, and we had also played in those positions for the Papua New Guinea Southern Zone representative rugby league team when we won the inter-zone championship that year. Although I say it myself, I think we were a great combination.

Dikana was fierce, fearless but almost always smiling.

When we last met in Hanuabada almost 14 months ago, it was an emotional reunion.

The ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program had decided that I should do one last TV program on Papua New Guinea and while we were in Port Moresby, Dadi Toka Junior arranged for us to catch up.

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Doug Robbins dies - ex kiap & contributor to PNG Attitude

Doug Robbins
Doug Robbins - wherever he was, in Papua New Guinea, in his home town of Springwood or in PNG Attitude, a great contributor


NOOSA – I have been deeply saddened to learn of the death of Doug Robbins, a former patrol officer and, in recent years, a prolific contributor to PNG Attitude.

Doug died in Springwood in south-east Queensland on 8 May, his last article for the blog being published just last month.

Much of Doug’s writing was about the Northern (Oro) Province and the experiences of he and his wife Annette there in the 1970s.

What I did not fully appreciate was how Doug and Annette  had remained committed to that part of Papua New Guinea right up until his death.

Doug wrote on his Linked In page, “Since 2009 I have worked in a volunteer capacity with Gangai Kokona together with his associates in Port Moresby and his extremely efficient teams in the villages.

"Specifically this involves pursuing Gangai's passion for eco-enterprise for the people of PNG. I know Gangai's family and people from over 40 years ago.”

And Gangai has written: “Doug shares my passion for the protection of nature and all its providence, however his wealth of experience in outback eco-tourism surpasses anyone I have met.

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How prime minister Bob Hawke became a PNG chief

Somare and Hawke
Grand Chief Michael Somare and Chief Bob Hawke in 2009 - became good friends establishing PNG's trade union movement and fighting for better public service wages


NOOSA – In 1966 I was transferred from my remote bush school in the highlands to Port Moresby to edit the school magazines.

At this time the headquarters of government in Papua New Guinea was an untidy collection of wartime army huts in the harbourside suburb of Konedobu.

In one of these was located the Education Department’s publications unit, of which I was a member, and right next door was the colonial Administration’s industrial relations office.

This office was one of Bob Hawke's bases during his PNG union days.

At the time he was the man responsible for wage arbitration in the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

It was an influential role and a stepping stone to the leadership of the ACTU, Australia’s peak union body, of which he was to become president in 1969 and from where he achieved high public profile and, eventually, the prime ministership.

Continue reading "How prime minister Bob Hawke became a PNG chief" »

John Neitz, respected senior educator in colonial PNG, dies at 84

John Neitz in PNG
John Neitz spent 16 years as an educator in PNG, rising to the rank of superintendent

KEITH JACKSON | From Jason Nitz

SOUTHPORT, QLD - John Desmond Neitz was born on 22 June 1934 at Torwood in Brisbane and spent his childhood in the Currumbin valley on dairy farms operated on a ‘share’ basis by his parents.

He was educated at The Beeches State School, Currumbin State School, Southport State High School and Brisbane State High School.

After high school, John entered the teachers’ training college at Kelvin Grove in Brisbane and, in 1954-55, undertook a physical education diploma course at Queensland University.

He was posted to Kragra, near Chinchilla in Queensland, and in 1957 to Palm Island off the Queensland coast near Townsville. Here he befriended triple certificate nurse Dell Jackson, but she moved to Melbourne and John decided to pursue his career in Papua New Guinea.

But Dell was not to disappear and, on 16 December 1961, John was to marry her at St James Anglican Cathedral, Townsville.

In the 16 years between 1958 and 1974, John was first a teacher and then an administrator in the PNG Education Department.

He taught at Yangoru, Pagwi and Brandi Junior High School in the Sepik District, Malabunga Junior High near Rabaul and Milfordhaven Primary School in Lae. This was followed by various postings as an inspector of schools, district education officer and later to the high rank  of superintendent.

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Angra Bill Standish & Simbu: We remember our good friend

Bill memorial
A memorial for Bill Standish will be held in Canberra this coming Monday. Instead of flowers, the family wishes that donations be made to Médecins Sans Frontières at


KUNDIAWA - It was no ordinary hauskrai. Under the mango tree at the Riverside Hotel it was special.

Special because there was much laughter, and fun, and also solemn moments. Young and old came from far off places in Simbu – many of them I knew, others I had never met. They were all friends of Bill Standish.

Angra Bill’s brothers and sisters. His namesake and his wife Sue’s namesake from Mindima village came. We all came together to celebrate the life of a great mate, a teacher, a mentor, a brother, a father and a namesake.

Bill Standish’s good friend Steven Gari came with his family from Asaro in the Eastern Highlands Province. They brought with them a big pig for the celebration.

Others came with vegetables, bananas, avocados, bread, frozen meat and more - everybody brought something for the barbecue. There was lots of food.

We displayed a blue trampoline as a sign of a true hauskrai. But unlike the usual crying house in Papua New Guinea that can go on for many days, this hauskrai only lasted just four hours.

Grown men broke down before they uttered a word and others who assembled could not hold back their tears.

We live in a society where emotions are never far from breaking point, especially at gatherings like this where we mourn the departure of loved ones.

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The death of Dr Bill Standish is a great loss to Simbu

Bill Standish
Bill Standish


KUNDIAWA - I have been emailed by my friends at the Australian National University that the academic, Dr Bill Standish, died in bed two days ago.

He was a great friend of Simbu and Papua New Guinea and this is a great loss to me and many good people in Simbu who knew him closely.

He had been involved in Simbu for nearly 50 years and we are putting up a hauskrai at my home or at the Riverside Motel in Kundiawa.

Bill had written so much on the Simbu, particularly on its elections and politics, since 1972.

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Anne Nealibo Dickson-Waiko – pioneering gender academic

Dr Anne Nealibo Dickson-Waiko 2
Dr Anne Nealibo Dickson-Waiko

CATHY KEIMELO | Gender in PNG Research Program

PORT MORESBY – As a teacher, advocate, mentor and silent achiever, the late Dr Anne Nealibo Dickson-Waiko (1950-2018) will be remembered for her contributions to the advancement of women in Papua New Guinea.

Hailing from Wagawaga in the Milne Bay Province, Anne was born on 15 May 1950, the fourth child of five children to Osineru and Doreen Dickson.

From humble beginnings as a six-year-old school girl at Kwato Mission, Anne continued at Port Moresby High School and later attained a Diploma in Secondary Teaching at Goroka Teachers College.

From 1971 to 1973 she taught at Kilakila High School, during this time marrying John Kaniku, also a teacher, and had two sons.

Juggling motherhood and work, in 1974 Anne joined the University of Papua New Guinea as a professional assistant in social science at the Teaching Methods Centre. Concurrently, she studied part time for a Bachelor of Arts, graduating with first class honours.

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Former PNG national court judge Jeffrey Miles dies at 84

Jeffrey Miles
Former ACT Chief Justice Jeffrey Miles (Rohan Thomson)

RICHARD REFSHAUGE | Canberra Times | Extract

You can link to the full obituary here

CANBERRA - A common stereotype of a judge is of a distant authoritarian who imposes severe prison sentences, often accompanied by a tongue-lashing.

While the Honourable Jeffrey Miles AO, the Australian Capital Territory’s second chief justice, who died on 11 February aged 84, could and did impose long sentences when deserved, his love of nature, his commitment to social justice and his devotion to his family showed that this eminent citizen and jurist was more human - and humane - than the stereotype.

He made a really substantial contribution to his family, his friends and to the Australian community.

Continue reading "Former PNG national court judge Jeffrey Miles dies at 84" »

Graham Pople dies in Cairns – one of PNG’s first elected MPs

First suits
New MPs John Pasquarelli, Simogun Pita, Sinake Giregire and Graham Pople show off their new suits - tailored free of charge to wear in parliament - soon after their election to PNG's first House of Assembly in 1964


TOWNSVILLE – My long friendship and onetime political partnership with Graham Pople MBE has ended. My old buddy died in Cairns earlier this month.

He was 83 and had been ill for some time.

Graham and I were amongst Papua New Guinea’s first parliamentarians democratically elected on a common roll.

PNG’s first election, involving the entire adult population of the then Australian territory, was held in February-March 1964, 55 years ago.

Graham Pople, Keith Tetley, Keith Levy, Barry Holloway and I were five white men elected to what were described as parliament’s ‘open seats’ (that is, open to all comers, black, white or brindle).

The House of Assembly was a 100-member chamber which, apart from open seats, had ‘special seats’ reserved for expatriates and ‘official seats’ reserved for white bureaucrats appointed by the Australian Administration.

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Death of 'the missionary with a compassionate heart'

Fr Adrian Meaney
Fr Adrian Meaney MSC

STEVEN GAGAU with Keith Jackson

SYDNEY - It is with great sadness that I share the news that Rev Fr Adrian Meaney MSC passed away aged 85 around 11:00pm on Thursday night last week.

Adrian was ordained together with his brother Basil in Brisbane on 29 June 1961.

He spent many years in the Northern Territory, especially in Alice Springs, and also many years in Papua New Guinea, especially in Bereina and Port Moresby, including work for the Papal visit in 1995 for the beatification of Peter To Rot.

Known as "the missionary with a compassionate heart,” his principal focus in more recent years was the MSC Mission Office in Sydney, which he founded to help the poor in developing countries with potable water, medicine for TB and HIV patients as well as scholarships for children.

Adrian visited and worked in 60 countries. Among the many other activities, he directed a 10-day retreat and workshop for parish and prayer leaders of the Marshall Islands in 2008.

Continue reading "Death of 'the missionary with a compassionate heart'" »

Gus Bottrill OAM dies at 94 – a splendid man in war & in peace

Bottrill & Michael
Gus Bottrill receives his OAM from Dr Ken Michael, Governor of Western Australia, in 2008


NOOSA - When Angus Matheson ‘Gus’ Bottrill was awarded the OAM in September 2008, the citation read “for service to the indigenous community, particularly through research and assistance with land title claims”.

It could have gone much further because as a soldier, kiap, court officer and advocate for the rights of indigenous people, he was a man of high values and exceptional dedication to his fellow humans.

Gus Bottrill has died in Perth at the grand age of 94. I knew him only in Rabaul in 1970, when he was a kiap engaged fully in the civil unrest at the time – a stocky man of avuncular demeanour and unflappable disposition.

Those times, which ended in the murder of a district commissioner, unsettled us all. For Bottrill, they would also have offended his sense of propriety about how human relationships should be conducted.

World War II broke out in 1939 and, as a student at Christian Brothers College in 1941, along with his mates Terry Murray and Ted Fitzgerald, Bottrill joined the air cadets. When they all turned 18 in 1942, his mates joined the RAAF and were killed as air crew gunners in Europe.

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Jon Bartlett, patrol officer 1963-81 – a life of family, friends & fun

Jon Bartlett
Jon Bartlett - a good life

COLIN MIDDLETON | Edited extracts

NEWCASTLE NSW - Jon Bartlett was a country boy from Wagga, whose family antecedents were Irish and Chinese.

Asked why he spelt his name without the ‘h’ of ‘John’, he said he liked swimming and was an admirer of Jon Henricks, the Australian Olympic and world swimming champion and changed the spelling of his name to match.

Jon was a self-effacing and caring family man of considered thought. He loved music, food, cooking, beer, fun and laughter. He had a keen sense of humour and had an infectious laugh.

After school, Jon worked for a time with the Dalgety wool company in Wagga. He enjoyed his time with them in the saleyards which taught him many things about stock and especially working dogs.

Jon joined the Papua New Guinea Administration in the last permanent patrol officer intake of 1963 – probably completing the one month ASOPA course before a month-long orientation in Port Moresby before his initial posting to the Kainantu Sub District.

Continue reading "Jon Bartlett, patrol officer 1963-81 – a life of family, friends & fun" »

Death of Clarrie Burke - teacher, academic and humanitarian

Dr Clarrie Burke - a  prominent educator and a tireless activist for human rights


BRISBANE - Clarrie Burke, known to many former educators and senior public servants in Papua New Guinea during the 1960s and 1970s, died in Brisbane on Sunday.  He had incurable cancer.

Clarrie was born in Port Moresby, his family evacuated to Australia shortly after the Japanese invasion of PNG in 1942.

The family settled in Brisbane but later moved back to Samarai. Clarrie and his brother Eddie completed their primary and secondary education as boarders in Brisbane and Toowoomba.

In 1957, Clarrie worked as a clerk at the District Education Office in Port Moresby and the following year he took up a two-year education cadetship at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney to train as a primary teacher.

His postings as a teacher were to Lae and then Port Moresby as headmaster of the well-known and highly regarded Hohola Demonstration school.

Clarrie later was appointed principal of the Education In-Service College which had the formidable task of upgrading teachers’ credentials and identifying high level training for senior PNG administrators in the lead-up to independence.

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Sr Francois Wridgeway MFIC dies – an amazing missionary sister

Sr Francois with her stamp albums
Sister Francois with her stamp albums - she knew exactly how many stamps she had and the location of each and every one


BRISBANE - I am sad to share the news that Sr Francois Wridgeway MFIC died at St Vincent's Hospital in Brisbane at 3 am last Saturday.

She had not been well at all and was in hospital for some time.

Sr Francois was with the pioneer Franciscan Sisters who first came to Aitape in 1949, being based at Sissano where they had a clinic.

The only doctor in the large Sepik District, the popular Dr John McInerney, was based at Wewak and owned a small Auster plane. He would call at Sissano occasionally to give a helping hand. Tragically, in March 1953, he crashed into the sea taking off from Vanimo and died.

Two kiaps who were with him, Assistant District Officers George Wearne and Ian Skinner, survived. Overloading was a principal contributing factor and crash inspectors also found a hornet's nest blocking the pitot tube so there was no indicated airspeed.

Anyone who spent time at Aitape, Lumi, Fatima or Sissano would know Sr Francois, who was an amazing missionary Franciscan sister.

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One of PNG’s great achievers, Sir Henry To Robert, has died

Sir Henry was governor of PNG's reserve bank when the kina and toea were introduced as the new nation's currency


BUKA - I am saddened to hear of the passing of one of the East New Britain great sons, Sir Henry To Robert.

I first met Sir Henry more than sixty years ago when we were contemporaries at Saint Brendan’s College Yeppoon, Queensland, Australia. We were the first Papua New Guinean students at the school.

I still remember the day that we boarded the Quantas flight from Lae to Rockhampton. It was a journey that inevitably forged a friendship that would last a lifetime.

Sir Henry’s passing is a great loss to the people of East New Britain Province and Papua New Guinea. Sir Henry has had the distinction of being the first Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea for 20 years (1973 – 1993). He was also one of the longest serving governors of the Commonwealth.

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Death of Leo Hannett - a Bougainville leader of the middle way

Leo Hannett
Leo Hannett - politician, administrator, thinker & a true son of Bougainville


BUKA - My friend and colleague Leo Hannett, who died on Friday 15 June, was a man of passion tempered by common sense.

He had remarkable ability to bridge the gap between educated leaders and leaders at the village level. He was a leader gifted in finding the middle way through situations where people were deeply divided. He used his very many gifts in many ways that brought great benefits, especially to the people of Bougainville.

I first knew Leo in 1963, when he and I entered the same class at the Catholic major seminary in Madang.  We spent five years together, to the end of 1967, studying to be catholic priests.

Leo decided to leave the seminary  to be more involved in active politics. He  studied at UPNG and at the University of Hawai’i, where he developed his abilities as a commentator on pre-independence PNG politics.

Like me, I am sure that Leo was shaped in many ways by our joint experience of seminary education. Our training there included human rights and social justice and we had access to what was, by the standards of the day, a very good library.

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Moses Tau: Out of the cage to live a life of joy & giving


NOOSA – The sudden death last week of one of Papua New Guinea’s best known entertainers has both saddened the nation and raised the hot issue of how PNG treats its gay community.

Moses Tau died soon after collapsing at Port Moresby’s Lamana Hotel, triggering an overwhelming response as thousands of messages of condolence inundated the social media.

The Post-Courier newspaper noted perceptively that Tau had “made a place for the gay community in PNG by forcing this place through his music and performances”.

Government minister Justin Tkatchenko wrote on his Facebook page describing the singer as “vibrant and a true showman”.

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Sir Reginald Barnewall, aviator & businessman, dies at 93

Sir Reginald and Lady Maureen Barnewall in 2008ROB PARER

BRISBANE - Sir Reginald Barnewall, a descendant of Anglo-Norman knights and the founder of Polynesian Airlines, has died at the age of 93.

Sir Reginald, pictured here with his wife Maureen in 2008, served in Papua New Guinea during World War II as a lieutenant with the Royal Australian Engineers and Z Special Unit AIF. He lived at Mt Tamborine in Queensland.

He was in Aitape with the Army engineers in 1944 and after the war flew around many parts of PNG with Mandated Airlines. He had first met the Parer family, pioneering PNG aviators, in the 1930s.

Sir Reginald had been well and attended recent Anzac ceremonies in Brisbane.

Son of a wealthy Victorian grazier, he founded Goulburn Valley Air Services (later Southern Airlines Ltd) in 1954.The airline serviced Victoria and Tasmania including King and Flinders islands.

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‘Aliko and Ambai’: In loving memory of Lilly Samuel, 1990-2017

Lilly Samuel
Lilly Samuel - "I recall the first time I met you.... You gave me a bright smile"


CANBERRA - If you haven’t already watched the film, ‘Aliko and Ambai’, I strongly suggest you do.

It was first screened in November last year, produced by the Centre for Social and Creative Media at the University of Goroka as the product of a PACMAS innovation grant.

It is a true Papua New Guinean film and it has everyday PNG in it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

You’ll appreciate the beautiful footage of our country and realise how easy it is to make friends there.

You’ll see images of contemporary PNG.

The drunkards singing until daybreak (so disturbing, no respect for neighbours).

The husband who assaults (‘quite normal, it’s a family problem’).

The young girls who don’t do well in school (‘what a waste of school fees’).

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Mary Lou Uechtritz: Rabaul, the frangipani town, loses a flower

Mum Beehives
Mary Lou at the Beehives in Rabaul with harbour and volcanoes in the background


SYDNEY - Mary Louise Uechtritz passed away on Holy Thursday at Brigidine House, Randwick in Sydney. She was surrounded by children and grandchildren, her room festooned with Papua New Guinean memorabilia, flag and flowers. Frangipani flowers.

It was at the Frangipani Ball in 1951 that the romance between Mary Lou Harris and her future husband Alfred Max Parkinson Uechtritz blossomed.

The frangipani had been introduced to Papua New Guinea by Alf’s anthropologist-botanist grandfather Richard Parkinson in the 1880s.

It became a symbol of resilience for the town after poking stubbornly through the volcanic ash and re-flowering after the historic double eruption devastation of 1937.

The other great symbols of Rabaul are the Beehives, or Dawapia Rocks - two rocky volcanic outcrops in one of the world’s most spectacular harbours.

Mum (Mary Lou) and Dad (Alf) occasionally picnicked and plotted their life together on the Beehives and one such visit produced the accompanying photo of the bride-to-be – an emblematic image of their romance and 56 years of wedded bliss.

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Death of Chris Owen – esteemed maker of films about PNG

Chris Owen (Andrew Pike)
Chris Owen (Andrew Pike)

Chris Owen - the veteran filmmaker best known for his PNG documentaries - died this month. PROFESSOR DON NILES provided this citation at a Lifetime Achievement Award made to the film maker last year

CANBERRA - For his films on Papua New Guinea over more than three and a half decades, Chris Owen has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Society for Visual Anthropology.

This took place at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) held recently in Washington, DC.

The Society for Visual Anthropology was founded in 1984 as a section of the AAA to promote the use of images for the description, analysis, communication, and interpretation of human behaviour.

Its Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals whose body of work is recognized for its exemplary impact on the field of anthropology. Chris is only the ninth person to receive such an honour.

Chris Owen’s award acknowledges his outstanding films on PNG traditional and contemporary culture. Ceremonies were held on 29 November and 1 December.

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Kokoda author & film historian Neil McDonald dies aged 77

Neil McDonaldNEWS EDITOR | Books + Publishing

MELBOURNE – Neil McDonald, the author of two popular books on the Kokoda Track in wartime, has died in Sydney at the age of 77.

Mr McDonald published several books including 200 Shots, a pictorial account of Australians fighting on the Kokoda Track and Kokoda Front Line: The Amazing Story of Legendary Australian War Cameraman Damien Parer.

His most recent book, Valiant for Truth: The Life of Chester Wilmot, War Correspondent, was shortlisted for the 2017 NIB Waverley Military History Prize and the 2017 Prime Minister’s Award for Australian History, where judges commended the book for shedding] new light on the career and experiences of one of Australia’s most renowned war correspondents.

“All of us at NewSouth Publishing were saddened to learn of the death of our author Neil McDonald in Sydney last weekend,” said publisher Phillipa McGuinness. Coincidentally, it was the same day that journalist Paul Kelly, in the pages of The Australian, praised Neil McDonald’s biography of Chester Wilmot that we were so proud to publish in 2016.”