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The importance of place

Tumby Bay
Tumby Bay - a fine place to be born and  to die - but cast my ashes to the winds, writes the much travelled Phil Fitzpatrick


TUMBY BAY - It is not so long ago that people were born in one place and remained there for their whole lives.

This can still happen, as we know, but many people now pass through multiple places over the course of a lifetime.

In places like Papua New Guinea it is still common for people to spend their lives in one area, just as it is in rural regions of Australia.

Continue reading "The importance of place" »

Fr Jerry Bus & the Enga

Sir Albert Kipalan (with spade) on the spot where Fr Jerry Bus settled at Kopen
Sir Albert Kipalan (with spade) on the spot where Fr Jerry Bus settled at Kopen


PORT MORESBY – In 1948, there was a sudden rush by Christian denominations to establish mission stations after the colonial Administration lifted restrictions of movement to unpacified areas of what is now Enga Province.

Prior to that there had already been rivalry between Lutheran and Catholic missionaries to win new converts around Mt Hagen.

Continue reading "Fr Jerry Bus & the Enga" »

Where did the kiaps go

John Gordon-Kirkby's old patrol box
John Gordon-Kirkby's old patrol box


PORT MORESBY - Many kiaps [patrol officers] and other expatriates left Papua New Guinea in the years immediately before and after independence in September 1975.

Imagine the memories they took with them and may still have in their minds today?

One of the last kiaps to leave the highlands Enga District [now a province] was John Gordon-Kirkby who liked to eat sweet potatoes roasted in an open fire.

Continue reading "Where did the kiaps go" »

Generosity is what counts

The handover
Ordinary Simbu people and some business people have donated money to the bushfire appeal, saying this is one way of repaying Australia for all she has done for them


KUNDIAWA - In a critical economic situation like now in Papua New Guinea, when even a single kina matters a lot to many families, the generosity shown by the Simbu people toward the Simbu for Australia bushfire fundraising appeal is amazing.

Simbus from all walks of life poured their hearts out for the fundraising effort to help the people of Australia affected by devastating bushfires.

Continue reading "Generosity is what counts" »

Freda’s trip of a lifetime

Freda Duma
Freda Duma and her mum - on their way to Texas for life-saving heart surgery


SYDNEY – Friday was the end of a long journey in our quest to help a young Kokoda schoolgirl, Freda Duma, have a lifesaving heart-operation in Texas, USA.

A chance sighting of one of our Facebook posts by Dr Amyna Sultan at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby, and the coincidence of having an American specialist working with her at the time, led to an agreement to perform the operation free of charge in Texas.

Continue reading "Freda’s trip of a lifetime" »

Success through endless struggle

Roselyn Sakias
Roselyn Sakias and her girls


ENGA - Roselyn Sakias, originally from Enga, had a dream to become high school teacher. Life was rough and Roselyn faced a lot of challenges getting educated.

Many times it seemed her dream would just be that – a dream. But she completed Grade 12 at Pause secondary school in 2008 and was selected to attend the University of Goroka. That was a big step forward.

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My eulogy for Murray

Murray Bladwell provided practical help for Simbu and other projects
Murray Bladwell provided practical support for projects in Simbu and many other places


The funeral of our great friend and PNG Attitude colleague Murray Bladwell is being held in Brisbane as this tribute is published. I was asked by his family to offer a brief eulogy focusing on his relationship with Simbu….

NOOSA - The death of a friend chips away at us. When we lose a friend, we lose something of ourselves. And I miss this man of kindness, substance, practicality - and really bad puns.

Murray and I met in the Papua New Guinea highlands in early December 1963, a week or so after the assassination of John F Kennedy. Murray was 22; I was 18. Both of us were fresh out of teacher training.

Continue reading "My eulogy for Murray" »

Jamie Maxton-Graham: A tribute

Jamie Maxton Graham
Jamie Maxton-Graham in Mexico in 2008 - he persuaded Daniel Kumbon to adopt a healthy lifestyle


WABAG – When we met for the first time far from home, the late Jamie Maxton Graham encouraged me to give up Coca-Cola.

It was in Mexico City in August 2008, and it’s not often you come across a national minister who talks on a personal level about health and other important life issues.

Continue reading "Jamie Maxton-Graham: A tribute" »

My long awaited meeting with Sean Dorney

Pauline and Sean Dorney in Brisbane
Pauline and Sean Dorney in Brisbane: "You can’t separate one from the other" (Scott Waide)

| My Land, My Country

LAE - A year ago, I remarked to my small news team how good it would be if the universe gave me one opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the great Sean Dorney, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s longest serving PNG correspondent.

I grew up watching Sean on ABC television. My parents talked about him when he was deported.

Continue reading "My long awaited meeting with Sean Dorney" »

After 50 years, a forgotten friend

John Gordon Kirby  Melbourne 2019
John Gordon-Kirby, Melbourne 2019 - a reuniting with Daniel Kumbon after nearly 50 years


PORT MORESBY - How am I supposed to react when suddenly finding a friend after losing contact for many years?

When John Gordon-Kirby recently commented on an article I had published in PNG Attitude back in 2016, my impulse was to contact him immediately.

It was strange. His comment was about people I mentioned in the article but said nothing about me.

Continue reading "After 50 years, a forgotten friend" »

Did Wi’s good judgement survive?

Robert Forster
Robert Forster as a young man in the PNG highlands, about 1970


NORTHUMBRIA – The photograph  that appears just below was taken nearly half a century ago, in 1971, and the man standing is Wi Kupa.

He was a bigman, the leader of the group of Kuman people whose lived at Kabalku on the north side of the old Highlands Highway near Kerowil in the Western Highlands.

Continue reading "Did Wi’s good judgement survive?" »

Never give up: a retrospection

Justin Kundalin with his wife Manila and son Justin Jr
Justin, with his wife Manila and son Justin Jr, after being ordained into the gospel ministry at Kembubu Adventist Secondary School. He will graduate on Sunday 24 November


SONOMA - Originally from Wabag in Enga Province, I was accepted to study theology at Sonoma Adventist College in Rabaul.

I made my plans to study for the three-year diploma in pastoral ministry, but in my first year had to withdraw due to difficult personal circumstances.

It was a challenging and painful decision, and I was on the verge of giving up everything, but last year I reapplied and was accepted to complete my studies. I will graduating this coming Sunday 24 November.

Continue reading "Never give up: a retrospection" »

There's always hope in the storm

Alphonse Mek
Alphonse Mek - "One thing I know from my life is that struggle and hardship can shape you as a person"


SONOMA – I’m Alphonse Mek, originally from Enga and later from Jiwaka and Western Highlands provinces.

I come from a background of struggle.

My father, Pok Kyngal, died when I was about six years old. Just before he died he took me in his loving harms and cried as I watched. This memory is fresh in me.

Continue reading "There's always hope in the storm" »

I meet such a wonderful Aussie MP

Hildyard Paia
Labor Party MP Katrine Hildyard advised Shila Paia on how she could take her innovative SoilChild project in Papua New Guinea to the next level 


ADELAIDE - In Papua New Guinea, members of parliament are not readily accessible to voters.

Their offices are not located in the electorates. They’re in Port Moresby. Most people in an electorate will get to see their MPs only during elections.

And even in Port Moresby, it can be hard to get through the bureaucracy and security to see your MP. There may be half a dozen personnel to navigate.

Continue reading "I meet such a wonderful Aussie MP" »

The finding of Major Donn Young, aviator

Major Donn Young
Major Donn Young - who died with Major Bill Benn in 1943 when their bomber crashed in the Owen Stanleys


VIENNA, USA - A World War II Army Air Corps aviator has been buried at Arlington this week with full military honours — thanks to the dogged efforts of a Philadelphia businessman who made multiple treks to the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

The remains of Major Donn Young were originally found more than 20 years ago by Fred Hagen, a Philadelphia construction company owner who originally went looking for the remains and aircraft of his great-uncle, Major Bill Benn in 1995.

Continue reading "The finding of Major Donn Young, aviator" »

Everything’s coming up Rose’s

Peter & Rose
Rose & Peter Kranz wedding ceremony in Port Moresby's Botanical Gardens


MORRISET, NSW - Seasoned PNG Attitude readers may remember us, Rose and Peter Kranz.

We met in Papua New Guinea and in 2007 were married in Simbu bilas in Port Moresby’s botanical gardens.

Not long after we moved to Australia and all was going well until Rose was diagnosed with ovarian cancer some five years ago.

Continue reading "Everything’s coming up Rose’s" »

Remembering the boy on the postage stamp

Papua stampGRAHAM KING

IPSWICH - On arrival in Papua New Guinea in January 1980, I was posted to Laloki Plant Quarantine and Horticultural Research Station as horticulturalist with the then Department of Primary Industry.

It was about 20km from Tabari Place in Boroko which at that time was the main shopping centre for Port Moresby residents. Burns Philp, Steamships and Carpenters all had supermarkets there. 

Recently, on a recent business trip to Port Moresby, I decided to drive to Laloki to see if my old house was still there. It was and a few of my old workers were there to greet me.

Continue reading "Remembering the boy on the postage stamp" »

Robin Murphy OAM, the bridge builder

Robin Murphy
Robin Murphy - the  Queensland construction entrepreneur began designing bridges in PNG in 1963

KEITH JACKSON with thanks to Rob Parer

Link here to a video of Robin’s early days in PNG from 1963-69.

This second video, titled ‘Overcoming the odds’, tells the story of the building of four Oro bridges in 2014-16.

BRISBANE – The founder of Brisbane-based Canstruct Pty Ltd, Robin Murphy OAM, started his career in Papua New Guinea in late 1963 a week before me.

He had recently graduated as an engineer and soon found himself designing and, not long after, building bridges.

Continue reading "Robin Murphy OAM, the bridge builder" »

The prison officer’s last parade

Nara - funeral paradeALEXANDER NARA

PORT MORESBY - It is now getting on for three years since that funeral one wet January afternoon in 2017.

Time was the thief he always suspected her to be; taking his friends, taking his wife; then taking him.

Sorrow crept at the corners of his mouth, dragging them down, but he held back the tears as the white hearse purred its way slowly up the narrow road leading to the Bomana prison gates.

Continue reading "The prison officer’s last parade" »

Coming true: My dream to be an accountant

Anita Simon
Anita Simon - "I confidently sat on my desk, thought deeply and replied, 'I want to be a professionally trained accountant'”


SONOMA - I am from the Mul Baiyer District of the Western Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea.

Baiyer is a fertile place, abundant with food. My parents are original inhabitants. They’re subsistence farmers. I’m their third born, three brothers, one sister. The two elder brothers and my sister are unemployed.

It was exciting being a child in the village but my family migrated to Port Moresby in search of better opportunities. I completed my primary and high school in Port Moresby. In Grade 7, my class matron asked me about my future ambition for when I completed my studies.

Continue reading "Coming true: My dream to be an accountant" »

Meet Bryan Kramer, Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption tsar

Bryan Kramer (2)
Bryan Kramer

KATE LYONS | Guardian Australia

SYDNEY - At the end of May, as Papua New Guinea’s most recent political crisis came to a head, huge numbers of people across the country tuned in to watch Peter O’Neill resign as prime minister and the parliament elect a new leader.

Many were watching an online livestream and as the parliamentary debate continued questions from viewers began rolling in, many of them along the same theme: “Where is BK?”

BK, as Bryan Kramer is sometimes known, has become a star of PNG politics, despite being just a first-term MP for the electorate of Madang, on the north-east coast of the country.

He is an anti-corruption campaigner who was instrumental in bringing to light the UBS scandal that helped to bring down O’Neill’s leadership, and was a key leader in the opposition movement, pushing for O’Neill’s removal.

Continue reading "Meet Bryan Kramer, Papua New Guinea's anti-corruption tsar" »

Caroline Tiriman - the story of the runaway broadcaster

KEVIN McQUILLAN | Business Advantage PNG / Paradise, in-flight magazine of AirNiugini

PORT MORESBY - Caroline Tiriman was just 16 when her father helped her run away from her Rabaul home to Port Moresby, on a path that eventually led her to become one of the most recognised broadcasters in Melanesia.

Every morning at 11am at high school in Rabaul, Tiriman and her eighth-grade classmates would listen to the ABC news and current affairs program Ring for the Record.

“I didn’t know where it was coming from. And so I used to wonder how did these people get into that radio,” she says with a laugh.

The presenter was usually an Australian, but sometimes it was Papua New Guinean Pearson Vetuna, who later became her boss.

Continue reading "Caroline Tiriman - the story of the runaway broadcaster" »

The amazing story of PNG’s first professor of surgery

A Surgical LifeKEITH JACKSON with Rob Parer, Robert Brown and other sources

Now in Remission: A Surgical Life, by Ken Clezy, Wakefield Press, 472 pages, December 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1459643420. Paperback $36.99; Kindle Edition $8.43. Available from Amazon USA

LONDON - Ken Clezy AM OBE is a surgeon whose vocation has taken him many places, not all of them safe.

When three colleagues were shot dead at a Yemen mission hospital he escaped only because he had gone home for breakfast.

In Port Moresby, where he was the first professor of surgery at the University of Papua New Guinea, doctors and nurses still say, “Mr Clezy did it this way”.

He performed brain and spinal tumour surgery in PNG for many years and was a pioneer of non-operative management of the ruptured spleen in adults.

But his particular expertise was in the reconstructive surgery of deformities caused by leprosy.

Continue reading "The amazing story of PNG’s first professor of surgery" »

Return to the regiment: Lt Les Peterkin & the Governor-General

Lt Les Peterkin and Lt Col Paul SimadasLES PETERKIN

Les Peterkin, 85, lectured at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in the 1960s, teaching a generation of young education officers bound for Papua New Guinea in the finer and more brutal arts of physical education. I particularly recall his fiendish rope course, at which I failed. Les is also a noted ceramic artist and his Super 8 movies of PNG in the 1960s recently featured in PNG Attitude  - KJ

NEWCASTLE – Last Saturday I attended the 119th Regimental Dinner of the Sydney University Regiment hosted at Saint John’s College.

Let me explain. Four years ago, when I rejoined the Ceramic Collectors Society in Sydney, of which I had been president in the late 1970s, I met Paul Simadas, who has just finished his term as president.

Lt Colonel Paul Simadas is a professional soldier and was commanding officer of the Sydney University Regiment from 2000 to 2002.

Continue reading "Return to the regiment: Lt Les Peterkin & the Governor-General" »

Life with Foxcy: death, warfare & great misfortune

Peter Ipatas on Foxcy's shoulders  2006
Foxcy (far left) and fellow students bear Governor Sir Peter Ipatas at Laigam in 2006 


WABAG - The young boy thought his mother was sound asleep and tried to lie down beside her as he had always done, clinging to her warm body for comfort and safety.

He did not understand why some people gently lifted him and placed him some distance away to play games with other children.

He was too young to realise that the lifeless form he saw people sitting around and crying over was gone for good, never to be with her favourite, and last, child.

His mother had treated him with special care after she had lost a girl before he was born. She had four children - two boys and two girls - but Foxcy was her favourite.

Today Foxcy Yambai from Laiagam in Enga Province is 26 and he seems to have been born to suffer loss and misfortune all his life. First his mother and then, when he was in Grade 7 in 2004, his father, this latter tragedy severely disrupting his education.

Continue reading "Life with Foxcy: death, warfare & great misfortune" »

Unfinished journey: Francis Nii & the struggle for PNG literature

Francis Nii & the green hills of Simbu
Francis Nii in his wheelchair amidst the green hills of Simbu - a monumental contribution to the literature of Papua New Guinea from his bed at Kundiawa Hospital


PORT MORESBY - The twisted metal of a motor vehicle accident in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands nearly brought Francis Nii’s story to a dramatic end.

The crash, at the start of 1999, left him forever paralysed from the waist down and brought his promising career as an economist and financial adviser to a sudden halt.

Francis, now 56, speaks softly and chooses his words carefully, but behind this gentle nature is an immense inner-strength that has served him well in the most trying of circumstances.

“There were moments I saw death coming,” he says.

“But every time I looked at the faces of my three daughters, there was this immeasurable power and energy unleashed in me to fight to stay alive and see them grow to womanhood and live lives of their own.

Continue reading "Unfinished journey: Francis Nii & the struggle for PNG literature" »

‘Up your game’, journalism winner Ben Bohane tells Oz media

Australian photojournalist Ben Bohane  currently based in Port Vila  Vanuatu
Australian photojournalist Ben Bohane currently based in Port Vila,  Vanuatu (Johnny Blades)

NEWS DESK | Pacific Mornings | Radio Australia

Link here to listen here to Ben Bohane speaking with Tahlea Aualiitia on Pacific Mornings

MELBOURNE - Ben Bohane has been announced as the winner of the Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism.

The $10,000 grant was available to an Australian journalist wanting to do a project on a story that was under-reported in the Pacific.

Mr Bohane is an Australian photojournalist, author and TV producer who has been covering the Pacific for decades.

When accepting the grant Mr Bohane said that under-reporting in the Pacific with Australian media is a real issue.

"Honestly, our news editors are failing the Australian people by not prioritising more reporting from the Pacific," Mr Bohane said.

Continue reading "‘Up your game’, journalism winner Ben Bohane tells Oz media" »

Plea to Marape: New PM asked to reinstate sacked whistleblower

Brian Alois
Brian Alois - "a Papua New Guinean of integrity, a person of whom the country should be proud"


PORT MORESBY – “Dear Prime Minister,” wrote Martyn Namorong in an open letter on Monday. “Please reinstate Brian Alois or, even better, appoint him as the secretary for works so we taxpayers don't get ripped off.”

Now in case you don’t recall this matter, Alois was suspended by the Works Department last year after he blew the whistle on how the Papua New Guinea government was being cheated on inflated road contracts.

At the time, Alois was the Momase regional works manager and also president of the PNG Institute of Engineers.

Speaking as Institute president at a national planning summit, he had highlighted how the government was paying well in excess of what it should for road construction and maintenance projects.

In doing so, he mentioned a 300-metre stretch of road in the National Capital District which had cost K80 million to construct.

Continue reading "Plea to Marape: New PM asked to reinstate sacked whistleblower" »

Marape’s pledge of hope & reassurance to the people of PNG

James Marape bilas
James Marape in the traditional bilas (finery) of the Huli people


PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister James Marape is ready to fight crime and deep-rooted corruption in a country overburdened with billions of kina in foreign debt and poor delivery of basic services like health and education.

PNG’s eighth prime minister, Marape has been a member of parliament since 2011 and has held several important ministerial portfolios.

He did not mince his words in his maiden speech as he warned investors not to approach him, his ministers or public servants with bribes but to earn their money through honest hard work.

“Don’t offer inducements to me or any ministers or public servants,” he said.

Marape also warned public servants and politicians to earn their salary and not to ask for special favours from investors.

Continue reading "Marape’s pledge of hope & reassurance to the people of PNG" »

See who I met at Grand Papua Hotel - & some thoughts I had

Daniel and Keith
Daniel and Keith with copy of Survivor and traditional Enga caps


PORT MORESBY – We had quite a lunch at the Grand Papua on Friday.

By ‘we’ I mean Keith Jackson AM, who wrote the Foreword to my latest book ‘Survivor’, his lovely wife Cr Ingrid Jackson, a councillor in the shire of Noosa on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, and their son Ben, a communications specialist working with the Australian aid program in Papua New Guinea.

After we finished, the Jackson family met Hon Wera Mori, commerce minister and member for Chuave in Simbu, where Keith had come as an 18-year old to teach - and has remained a friend of PNG ever since.

Wera and Keith exchanged contact details and spoke for many minutes.

(As it happened Wera had been a student at a school at which Keith’s close friend Murray Bladwell had been principal and Keith was able to put them in touch after 50 years.)

Continue reading "See who I met at Grand Papua Hotel - & some thoughts I had" »

History as a fuzzy photograph in a box in the wardrobe

Young kiaps in their prime (right to left) Don Reid, Phil, Charlie Brillante, unknown, Mt Hagen 1968


TUMBY BAY - Over the last year or so, quite a few old kiaps have been setting out on that final journey to the patrol post in the sky.

And many of them have come from that last generation of contract officers to be recruited prior to independence.

This is quite unnerving for those of us of that generation who are still upright and breathing.

I’m getting a distinct feeling that part of Australia and Papua New Guinea’s joint history is rapidly falling away into the past.

Doug Robbins passed away earlier this month and I’ve just heard that Don Reid has followed him. I didn’t know Doug but Don was someone I encountered early on in my own kiap career.

I don’t know whether it was official policy or just how things worked out but when I was a cadet patrol officer I was teamed up with Don to learn the ropes.

I’m not sure whether he drew the short straw or simply felt sorry for me. In any event we became good friends and he taught me what I needed to know to survive.

Among other things he was great at detecting my bullshit.

Continue reading "History as a fuzzy photograph in a box in the wardrobe" »

How Susan graduated after a 34 year fight to get a degree

Susan Wangjil and her father on campus
Newly graduated Susan Wangjil with her father on the campus of the University of Papua New Guinea


PORT MORESBY - It was a great relief when Susan Wangjil finally graduated with a science degree after 34 years of continuous education.

Susan is from Alkena village in the Tambul District of the Western Highlands Province and she graduated as a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biology, from the University of Papua New Guinea on 26 April.

She had started Grade 1 at Alkena Lutheran Community school back in 1986, and in 1995 completed Grade 10 at Tambul High School. But she did not receive an offer to progress to the next level of education.

Susan had no choice but to return to her family where she stayed for a year and said to herself that completing Grade 10 should not be the end of her education.

So, in 1997, she decided to enrol at the Mount Hagen College of Distance Education to improve her Grade 10 marks. The following year, she was accepted into Nazarene School of Nursing at Kudjip in Jiwaka Province.

Continue reading "How Susan graduated after a 34 year fight to get a degree" »

Caroline Evari: ‘Choose to rise above every circumstance….’

Caroline Evari
Caroline Evari
Betty Wakia (2)
Betty Wakia


BETTY WAKIA: Why did you decide to call your recently published collection of poems, ‘Nanu Sina’?

CAROLINE EVARI: ‘Nanu Sina’ simply means ‘my words’. I chose this title because, as you read through the book, you will notice most of the poems are basically my own thoughts related to my personal experiences and observations.

BETTY: Can you tell us what sort of poems are in this book?

CAROLINE: The book is divided into four parts - Conflicts, Relationships, Hope and Family. In each, you will find poems that resonate with the theme. For example, under Conflict, you find poems that talk about war, doubt and fear and under Relationships there are poems about love and friendship.

BETTY: How did your environment and upbringing colour you’re writing?

CAROLINE: Both have had a huge impact on my writing. Growing up, I never openly shared my challenges with the people around me. Because most of the poems have been extracted from my Grades 11 and 12 school journals, they are basically my way of expressing my fear, disappointments, hopes and dreams for an envisioned future. My journal was a place for me to confide in, so I wrote and wrote without stopping because I found writing a way of relieving stress.

Continue reading "Caroline Evari: ‘Choose to rise above every circumstance….’" »

'Rise up': female police inspector’s battle cry to women

Julie Palakai - Blazing a trail for change (AFP)
Julie Palakai - "Dressed in crisp police blues and wielding a large silver sword, she proudly marches judges, superior officers and other dignitaries - almost always male - up and down guard of honour lines"

NEWS DESK – France 24 / AFP

KOKOPO - In a nation where sexual violence is endemic, women are still targeted and attacked for witchcraft, and female representation in parliament is non-existent, police chief Julie Palakai is blazing a trail for change

The 43-year-old inspector, a domestic abuse survivor and 18-year veteran of the force, is one of the most senior female police officers in Papua New Guinea -- and is calling on the nation's women to take a stand against sexism with her.

"Women must strive and rise up against any discrimination, abuse and sexual harassment in the workplace," she tells AFP.

"For young girls who are still struggling: Do not give up but strive for the best to achieve your goals and to find a better and happy life. Nothing is impossible," she insists.

Human Rights Watch named Papua New Guinea "one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman" in a report which estimated 70% of women would be raped or assaulted in their lifetime.

Continue reading "'Rise up': female police inspector’s battle cry to women" »

The PNG roots of Australia's most celebrated architect

8 month old Glenn Murcutt in PNG
Eight month old Glenn Murcutt in Salamaua with his liklik papa

LUKE SLATTERY | Australian Financial Review | Extract

You can link here to the complete article by Luke Slattery

SYDNEY - Glenn Murcutt surveys the treetops of his lush and layered rear garden and searches for words from his first language, a Papua New Guinean pidgin.

“Crocodile, if I remember correctly, is pock-pock,” says Australia’s most decorated architect, and a smile of unbridled delight bursts across his broad face.

“The word captures the sound of the croc’s air bubbles breaking the surface of the water. Chicken is cockaroo. And airplane,” he says as he clicks his fingers, “is balus.”

We have been talking, in the modest Mosman semi he renovated 13 years ago, about architecture and its challenges; about life, love and loss.

Earlier, when discussing architectural “ego” statements and look-at-me “buildings of the moment”, his voice had tightened, taking on a censorious edge.

A little later, recalling the death of his elder son, Nick, of cancer just when the 46-year-old’s career as an architect was flourishing, Murcutt’s voice had dropped and faltered as his lively blue-grey eyes filmed with tears.

Continue reading "The PNG roots of Australia's most celebrated architect" »

Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death

Markus Lohtmann
Army Chaplain Markus Lohrmann - "a very compassionate and caring person; a very loving person; a very Godly man"

BRIAN ALBRECHT | Cleveland Plain Dealer (USA)

BROADVIEW HEIGHTS, Ohio – Two years ago on an Easter afternoon, Marcia Luecke waded into the waters off a Pacific island beach where her father had died during World War II, and honoured the sacrifice of a man she never knew.

Luecke was only 18 months old when her father Markus Lohrmann, an Army chaplain, leaped into the waters off Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea on 6 March 1944.

Lohrmann had been aboard a small boat with other soldiers when the engine suddenly quit. They were unable to radio back to their base for help.

As the craft drifted, potentially toward Japanese-held waters, the chaplain offered to swim to their base on the island.

Two other men joined him, but when the soldiers reached the beach, the chaplain was not among them.

They swam back and found his body. Efforts to resuscitate Lohrmann on the beach failed.

Seventy-three years later his daughter stood on that very same beach, the highlight of a journey that included evading a crocodile, and a forced, emergency helicopter landing.

But it was important for her to be there.

“I was never able to be with him, so I wanted to at least be at the last place he was, where he was called to heaven,” she recently said.

Continue reading "Daughter’s Easter pilgrimage honoured father’s heroic death" »

The strength of a priest & the sadness of works abandoned

Father Abel Michenaud
Fr Abel Michenaud had seen his share of tragedy


NORTHUMBRIA - The man in the photo is Father Abel Michenaud. It might be obvious he was a Frenchman.

Fr Abel was as enthusiastic about his evening glass of rough vin rouge as he was about his ubiquitous cigarette.

He was born in time to be inducted, when in his teens, by Nazi invaders as a forced labourer in one of many notorious slave camps near Nantes

As a result, Abel came to Papua New Guinea as no stranger to tragedy. The daily trek to his work as a slave, flanked by armed Nazi guards, regularly involved avoiding fresh French corpses, the bodies of people who had been shot overnight.

He became a Roman Catholic priest and in 1973 was in charge of the remote Sacred Heart mission station at Kamulai in the Guari section of Goilala sub-district.

Continue reading "The strength of a priest & the sadness of works abandoned" »

Musings of a songwriter – never know what’s round the corner

Simon Jackson - "Song writing's a bit like living in PNG; not sure what's round the corner, if anything"


Simon Jackson is a software guru (day job) and a talented songwriter (night job), whose music has come under serious attention for its inspired melodies and moving lyrics. Simon was born in Port Moresby and did his early schooling there and in Rabaul and Bougainville before settling in Australia and then New Zealand. Here he writes of his most recent and highly praised album, ‘Two Thieves’….

AUCKLAND – I'm working on a new album - well two actually, although I'm also in two minds about the piano-based album I was planning, Livin' The Dream’.

I’m not sure why I'm backing off this but I'll probably get around to finishing it at some point.

That’s song writing. A bit like living in Papua New Guinea. Never sure what’s round the corner. If anything.

My recent 'Two Thieves' album is doing OK - mostly streaming on Spotify. It got a good review on 'Indie Band Guru' (below) which I was happy about.

'Two Thieves' is not going to make me rich but I'm pleased I did it. It feels like I achieved something, and I love the music. I probably should promote it more, but I'm busy writing.

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Sean Dorney lends his name to Pacific journalism award

Sean Dorney (Vanessa Gordon)
Sean Dorney (Vanessa Gordon)

SYDNEY - Veteran reporter Sean Dorney has given his name to a $10,000 journalism grant, to be awarded annually by Australia’s Walkley Foundation starting this year.

The Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism will support a major work of Australian journalism about an underreported issue or development in the region.

Walkley Foundation chief executive Louisa Graham announced the grant on Friday in the presence of Sean Dorney.

“Having recognised Sean’s outstanding contribution to journalism, we were very aware of his decades of inimitable work in the Pacific,” Ms Graham said.

“We’re delighted to be collaborating with Sean on this grant. It’s a practical and powerful way to empower a journalist and a media outlet to report on the Pacific, and to continue Sean’s impact and legacy in the industry he loves.”

Sean Dorney has had a 40-year career as an ABC journalist in Papua New Guinea and throughout the Pacific islands.

He retired from the ABC four years ago and is facing the challenge of living with motor neurone disease.

“It is essential that Australians know what is going on to our immediate north and east,” Mr Dorney said.

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My life’s journey with Dr Bill Standish

Sarah Garap
Sarah Garap - "It seemed as though he actually came to say goodbye"


Sarah Garap is a community development specialist and was one of the first women health inspectors in Papua New Guinea. She is an activist for women and human rights issues and is co-founder of two women's organisations in the Highlands - Kup Women for Peace and Meri I Kirap Sapotim

CANBERRA - A journey describes life in this broken world.

My journey with angra (brother) Bill Standish is a story of more than 20 years, beginning in 1994. I will write a tribute to him when my head is cleared from the shock of his passing.

For now, it’s this journey to the Australian National University on 1 March this year.

I have always stayed with Bill and Sue in all my trips to ANU – 1997, 2003, 2018, and 2019.

In March he picked me up at the airport when I arrived at 10 pm.

He gave me his old Vodaphone so I did not have to buy a new one.

He took me to ANU for my placement; to see admin and meet people.

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Legendary Clelands continue to support heritage & literature

Bob Cleland
Bob Cleland and his family contributed greatly to the development of Papua New Guinea


PORT MORESBY - The fingerprints of the Cleland family’s hard work remain throughout Papua New Guinea – from the administrative machinery in Port Moresby to the misty heights of the Daulo Pass.

The Cleland legacy goes back to the 1950s and the family’s story is one of love for Papua New Guinea and its people, and deep respect for its sovereignty and heritage.

Author and former kiap Bob Cleland says that at that time “a unique thing was happening.

“The traditional inhabitants and the newcomers were developing concurrently, side-by-side, with the same aims and aspirations.

“Government, private enterprise, Christian missions and village people were all pulling together in the same direction.”

Bob’s father, Sir Donald Cleland, was the distinguished Administrator of the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea from 1952-66 and played an important role as it prepared for Independence.

Under his direction, the first elected House of Assembly (the predecessor of the post-Independence parliament) was elected in 1964.

Sir Donald also worked to remove discriminatory barriers – restructuring the public service in order for Papua New Guineans to take a predominant role and ending the divisive liquor ban that applied only to Papua New Guineans.

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Sir Joseph Nombri & the emergence of the Chimbu elite

Sir Joseph Nombri
Sir Joseph Nombri


KUNDIAWA - After the Europeans came to Chimbu their laws were introduced among the people and any old ways that were unacceptable to the general principles of humanity were forbidden.

The common Chimbu traits of peace, love, friendship, giving and family were encouraged so travel and communication among the tribes became easier.

In the beginning tribal leaders were the first to embrace the new ideas. The leaders were made Luluai and Tultul and others became policemen, postal boys, translators and held other responsible positions serving the colonial administration all over the highlands and the coast.

Dinga leader Aina was known as an engineer supervising the building of airstrips and roads throughout Chimbu and the highlands.

Kumga chief Tumun, Golen chief Ninkama Bomai, Karimui leader Inuabe Egaiano and Kamare chief Launa were tribal leaders who became some of the first elected leaders to embrace the white men’s ways.

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It’s International Poetry Day, so we asked along Ray Sigimet

Raymond Sigimet
Ray Sigimet - "A simple poem or story with a simple message can inspire change"


DAGUA - I started writing poetry as a form of personal expression when I had my first piece published on PNG Attitude in September 2015.

It was a poem about my daughter who was born in 2011 and it expressed the awe and wonder she brought into my life.

My daughter exuded an inner strength and zest for life which inspired me.

She was also growing really fast and, when she started talking about going school, I realised that I had to leave something for her to enable her to find her strength and remember me later on in life.

This was when I started to jot down a few stanzas and lines.  

In my poems, I mostly write about things or issues that I read, hear or see happening in the country or region. I am always in awe of Papua New Guinea and try to capture in my poems its social changes and challenges.

My poems are mostly about life, politics and justice, land and development, family and home, spirituality, and self and identity.

I believe that humans have shared experiences that transcend time and space and when these are captured effectively in a simple poem or story with a simple message, the reader is able to relive those experiences, relate to the poetry and perhaps be inspired to create change.

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Late Terry Shelley receives one of Rotary's highest awards

Joe Shelley Wes Nicholls
Joe Shelley receives a humanitarian award on behalf of his late father, Terry, from Rotary director Wes Nicholls


BRISBANE – The late Terry Shelley was both a successful businessman in Papua New Guinea and a generous philanthropist.

He dedicated his working life to the welfare of the people of the Highlands and was always one of the first to contribute when PNG Attitude and other organisations initiated projects to benefit the ordinary folk of PNG.

Two years ago he worked with me on a massive undertaking to provide library books and related materials for dozens of schools in the Chimbu Province.

This was where Terry had started his career in the 1960s as a cooperatives officer and where he was a familiar figure for the rest of his life as an entrepreneur and benefactor.

A few weeks ago, Wes Nichols, the international director of the Rotary Club of Toowong in Brisbane, visited Goroka to present Terry’s son, Joe, representing his late father, with the Paul Harris Fellow award and medallion.

This prestigious award marked the Rotary Club’s recognition of a man who was a true humanitarian and an adopted son of Papua New Guinea.

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PNG & the unsolved mystery of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart posing by her plane in Long Beach  California  1930
Amelia Earhart posing by her plane in Long Beach, California, 1930


PORT MORESBY - While experts have done a tremendous job trying to determine what led to the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the world’s most celebrated female aviator, there are people in the Pacific Islands who have their own ideas about what happened after her last port of call in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

From 1937 until now, aviation investigators have failed to establish any leads in the search for Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan.

But the mystery continues to engage attention. Many people have invested much time and money in seeking to solve this enigma.

In the 1930s, Earhart was nothing short of a legend. She put herself into the history books as the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the United States and the first person to fly the hazardous route between Hawaii and California.

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Recalling gentleman Jim Humphreys & his applied mathematics

Jim's new maths made a short appearance in the School Paper when KJ was editing it. "It took months to get the article to Jim's satisfaction," Keith recalls. "But it still confused everyone."


MELBOURNE – I feel sure that Jim Humphreys would be horrified that anyone would recall his impact on more than a few Papua New Guinean and expatriate primary school teachers during the late 1960s.

For the most part, Jim was a private, reserved and self-contained chap, not given to Friday nights and weekends in pubs or clubs or parties.

Outside of working hours, he kept much to himself. He was, indeed, something of an enigma.

That said, he was, for a short few years, a valued colleague and mentor.

Jim achieved prominence in the PNG primary education sphere when he was anointed by Education Director, Ken McKinnon, to champion the implementation of the ‘new maths’ through the application of TEMLAB: the Territory Mathematics Laboratory.

Physically, TEMLAB was a boxed set of lesson plans and teaching apparatus comprising attribute blocks: a collection of wooden pieces in various shapes, sizes, colours and thickness which were designed (if I remember correctly) to provide a logical underpinning to the teaching and learning of mathematics.

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‘In Like Flynn’ - movie of Errol Flynn in PNG just doesn’t do it


TUMBY BAY - I’ve just watched a terrible film that purports to represent the early adult life in Papua New Guinea of famous Tasmanian actor, Errol Flynn.

Flynn went to PNG at age 18, seeking his fortune as a planter and gold miner. He spent five years on and off in the country before embarking on an acting career.

In 1929, using the proceeds of his Papua New Guinean gold mining, he bought a yacht in Sydney called Sirocco and, after getting her seaworthy, sailed it back to PNG accompanied by three friends.

In his own words Sirocco was “forty feet at the water line, cutter rigged, she was never intended to sail outside the smooth waters of the harbour”. She was over 50 years old when Flynn bought her.

The voyage took seven months and ended in tragedy when Sirocco was wrecked on a reef off Port Moresby and one of the men drowned.

When he was a famous actor and rich, Flynn had another yacht built and called it Sirocco. Clearly he had a great regard for the little cutter.

Flynn was a talented writer and the voyage on the original Sirocco is detailed in his 1937 book ‘Beam Ends’.

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Sean’s daughter walking Kokoda to clobber motor neurone disease



BRISBANE - In April I will be walking the Kokoda Trail to raise funds for a small, not-for-profit called the MND and Me Foundation. 

MND is Motor Neurone Disease, which, sadly, my father, Sean, was diagnosed with a few years ago. 

It is a struggle every day and, but for the exposure given to it by a few high profile sufferers (the late Stephen Hawking being one), it is one of the many diseases that is not very well known unless someone in your circle has been afflicted.

I will be walking the Trail with a group of family and friends, all of whom are fund raising in support of the MND and Me Foundation.

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