Research Feed

Remembering David Frodin: A giant of PNG botany

David Frodin in London  2018 (Tony Barrett)
David Frodin, 2018 (Tony Barrett). David died unexpectedly in London on 12 August 2019, unaware that bladder cancer had taken hold and metastasised


These are edited extracts of a comprehensive obituary by Dr Rodrigo Cámara-Leret & Dr Barry Conn in Blumea, the Journal of plant taxonomy and plant geography, no 65. 2020. Link here to read the full obituary - KJ

LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS – When Dr David Gamman Frodin died in London in 2019 at the age of 79, the scientific community lost a brilliant individual and a giant of Papua New Guinean botany.

David was born in Chicago, USA, in 1940 and his love for botany began in Vermont where he spent endless summer hours walking in the woods.

Continue reading "Remembering David Frodin: A giant of PNG botany" »

Report calls for laws against witchdoctors

Glasmeri (witch-finder) recanting her accusations (Anton Lutz)
A glasmeri witch-finder repudiates her previous accusations against an alleged 'sorcerer'(Anton Lutz)


‘Sorcery accusation-related violence in Papua New Guinea: The role of glasman/glasmeri as catalysts of accusation and violence’ by Miranda Forsyth, William Kipongi, Anton Lutz, Philip Gibbs, Fiona Hukula & Ibolya Losoncz, Issues Paper 36, National Research Institute of PNG. July 2021. Link here to the full research report

PORT MORESBY – A National Research Institute report says many incidents of sorcery-accusation violence in Papua New Guinea are triggered by glasman or, less commonly, female glasmeri.

A glasman or glasmeri (witch doctor) is a person skilled in interpreting and using supernatural forces, including the identification of people who are sorcerers.

Continue reading "Report calls for laws against witchdoctors" »

Increasing trust in Covid communication

Rohan Fox
Rohan Fox - "For many Papua New Guineans, sharing stories told by friends, family or local Christian leaders may be received as most trustworthy"

| DevPolicy Blog | Edited extracts

WAIGANI – In May this year 281 students in the School of Business and Public Policy at the University of Papua New Guinea were surveyed about their attitudes to Covid-19 vaccination.

Of this number, 46% had not decided whether they would like to be vaccinated. Just 6% said they would, while 48% were against vaccination.

Continue reading "Increasing trust in Covid communication" »

Science meets oral history at Orokolo Bay

Orokolo Bay
Orokolo Bay

| Monash University

MELBOURNE - In late 2015, I arrived for the second time at Orokolo Bay on Papua New Guinea’s south coast.

The bay is a long grey-black beach, densely forested with hibiscus and coconut trees. As we approached by dinghy from the east, clusters of houses could be glimpsed fleetingly among the bush.

Continue reading "Science meets oral history at Orokolo Bay" »

The threat to language & biological knowledge in PNG

Tree fern savanna in the Cromwell Mountains (RBG Kew)
Tree fern savanna in the Cromwell Mountains

| US National Academy of Sciences

Edited extracts from ‘Language and ethnobiological skills decline precipitously in Papua New Guinea, the world’s most linguistically diverse nation’. Link here to the complete research article

WASHINGTON DC - When evaluated against a common set of extinction-risk criteria, the world’s 7,000 or so extant languages are even more threatened than its biological diversity.

Orally transmitted cultural knowledge may be threatened by similar forces. The majority of languages have relatively few speakers and nearly half of the world’s languages are considered endangered.

Continue reading "The threat to language & biological knowledge in PNG" »

Australia’s first people had farming savvy

Archaeologists at an ancient banana farm, cultivated over 2,000 years ago on Mabuyag Island in the southern Torres Strait 


TUMBY BAY - There’s been a curious debate going on for several years among academics about whether Aboriginal people in Australia engaged in agriculture and therefore lived sedentary lives.

The debate was given impetus in 2014 when author Bruce Pascoe published a book, Dark Emu.

Continue reading "Australia’s first people had farming savvy" »

Beatrice Blackwood & her New Guinea exploits

Blackwood - Petats village  1929
Petats village. "Arriving at Buka Passage on September 25th, 1929, I started work a few days later on the island of Petats, one of the string of coral islets fringing the west coast of Buka. There are no white residents on this island, and it seemed in many ways suitable for my purpose"


NOOSA - Beatrice Mary Blackwood (1889–1975) was born into a wealthy family in England and attended Oxford University, gaining a degree in English and a distinction in Anthropology, a field in which she sought to excel and in which she continued to work at Oxford until a few days before her death.

Blackwood never married and conducted some exacting field trips. Her second, in 1929, was to Buka and Bougainville and she was the first woman anthropologist to travel to the region.

Continue reading "Beatrice Blackwood & her New Guinea exploits" »

‘Role model’ Dr Hukula leaves research institute

Dr Fiona Hukula at her farewell
Dr Fiona Hukula (centre) at her farewell

| PNG National Research Institute

PORT MORESBY - The Papua New Guinea National Research Institute (NRI) has farewelled Dr Fiona Hukula, long-serving researcher and advocate against gender-based violence,.

Dr Hukula joined the NRI in 1998 as a project officer and was a senior research fellow and program leader when she left the think tank earlier this month.

Continue reading "‘Role model’ Dr Hukula leaves research institute" »

PNG: Import less consumables & create jobs


PORT MORESBY – A discussion paper just released by the Papua New Guinea National Research Institute proposes that PNG create more jobs by discouraging imports of consumables, or goods for immediate consumption, and expanding exports.

Consumables are goods used by individuals and businesses that need to be replaced regularly because they are used up or wear out.

Continue reading "PNG: Import less consumables & create jobs" »

Scientists try to save bananas from climate change

Exotic red bananas (Sebastien Carpentier)
Exotic red bananas found only in PNG (Sebastien Carpentier)

| Australian Broadcasting Corporation

DARWIN - Scientists are racing to find and save the living ancestors of modern-day, cultivated bananas that grow in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea.

These wild bananas have genes capable of protecting one of the world's most popular fruits from climate change, pests and diseases.

Continue reading "Scientists try to save bananas from climate change" »

80% of settlement dwellers say Covid ‘a hoax’

Eugene Ezebilo
PNGRI deputy research director associate professor Eugene Ezebilo

|  PNG National Research Institute | Edited extracts

Link here to read the complete research paper

BOROKO – The paper, ‘Covid-19 pandemic as perceived by residents of informal-built areas segment of Port Moresby’, looks at the Covid-19 pandemic and the response by the Papua New Guinea government as perceived by settlement residents in the national capital.

The research covered settlements at Bush Wara, 8-Mile, Joyce Bay, Kipo, Mautana, Ogoniva, Ranuguri, Talai, Taurama and Vanagi.

Continue reading "80% of settlement dwellers say Covid ‘a hoax’" »

What is the process of drug development?

Niugini BioMed team
Dr Bomai Kerenga, chairman & CEO of the controversial Niugini Biomed and some of his research  team at a news conference on Friday

| PhD student, Auckland

AUCKLAND - Reading the news on Covid-19 drug production in PNG has prompted me to offer my take on it.

Those people who are familiar with drug research and development will agree with that screening for possible drug leads is just the start to developing a drug.

Continue reading "What is the process of drug development?" »

Marape's K10m spend on Covid 'research'

Dr William Pomat
Dr William Pomat - concerned his medical research institute was bypassed

| ABC Pacific Beat

MELBOURNE - The director of the PNG Institute of Medical Research, Dr William Pomat, says he was not consulted before the country's cabinet approved a K10-million grant to a private company for Covid-19 research.

Meanwhile, prime minister James Marape says there is nothing "illegal or improper" about the plan to spend millions of dollars on an unknown treatment.

Continue reading "Marape's K10m spend on Covid 'research'" »

Niugini BioMed: What is this madness?

| Twitter | Edited

PORT MORESBY - No funds should be awarded to these people (Niugini BioMed), no drugs should be procured, and no patients should be enrolled until their protocols have been scrutinised and vetted.

This should be done by the PNG Medical Research Advisory Committee and the PNG Institute of Medical Research.

Continue reading "Niugini BioMed: What is this madness?" »

The Melanesian expansion out of Africa

A Yaliman man from the Baliem Valley of West Papua

| Department of Archaeology and Anthropology

CAMBRIDGE, UK - A new study of human genomic diversity suggests there may have in fact been two successful dispersals out of Africa, and that a “trace” of the earlier of these two expansion events has lingered in the genetics of modern Papuans.

Three major genetic studies are published today in the same issue of Nature.

Continue reading "The Melanesian expansion out of Africa" »

Getting women into the Pacific’s parliaments

Dr Kerryn Baker

| ANU College of Asia & the Pacific | Edited extracts

CANBERRA - The Pacific Islands region has the lowest level of women’s representation in politics in the world. Three countries - Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Micronesia - have no female politicians.

Dr Kerryn Baker has researched women’s political representation in the Pacific for nearly a decade. During this time, her work has highlighted the importance and value of having more women in Pacific parliaments.

Continue reading "Getting women into the Pacific’s parliaments" »

PNG ‘heading in wrong direction’ says survey


NOOSA – A study of people’s attitudes towards government and other issues in Papua New Guinea has revealed an outcome that would surprise very few readers of PNG Attitude.

The research showed public mistrust and dissatisfaction with government at the national level as well as a sense that PNG is “heading in the wrong direction”.

Continue reading "PNG ‘heading in wrong direction’ says survey" »

What we ate thousands of years ago

Professor Glenn Summerhayes and colleagues at the Joes' Garden site in the Ivane Valley
Professor Glenn Summerhayes and colleagues at the 4,500 year-old 'Joes Garden' archaeological site in the Ivane Valley

| Heritage Daily | Edited

LUTON, UK - New research on what ancient Papuan New Guineans ate has ended decades of speculation on the tools use and staple foods in highlands areas several thousand years ago.

Findings from the ‘Joe’s Garden’ site in the Ivane Valley of the Owen Stanley Range end academic conjecture about what an unearthed mortar and other tools were used for.

Continue reading "What we ate thousands of years ago" »

5,000-year-old artifacts rewrite PNG history

Some of the stone tools and art from the Waim site (UNSW - Ben Shaw)
Some of the stone tools and art from the Waim site (UNSW - Ben Shaw)

| Ancient Origins | Edited

With thanks to Fr Garry Roche who brought this important research to our attention

DUBLIN - Scientists have unearthed ancient artifacts in the Papua New Guinea highlands that settle a longstanding archaeological argument regarding the emergence of complex culture in PNG.

About 10,000 years ago, the climate changed to better suit the planting of crops and the Neolithic revolution that brought about agriculture emerged in different parts of the world at different times.

Continue reading "5,000-year-old artifacts rewrite PNG history" »

3,000 years of pottery show who we are

Ancient Lapita pot
Ancient Lapita pot

| An entry in the Crocodile Prize

PORT MORESBY - Clay pots in many parts of Papua New Guinea are household items and people say they enjoy food cooked in clay pots.

In the Markham valley, the signature clay pot, or ‘gurr’ as we call it, is on the fire every day of the week.

Continue reading "3,000 years of pottery show who we are" »

Remarkable ‘Melanesians’ found in Malaysia jungle

Batek Melanesian people of Malaysia (Dr Patrick Pikacha)
The Batek people of the Malaysian hinterland  who bear a striking resemblance to the people of Melanesia (Dr Patrick Pikacha)


DUBLIN, IRELAND - Earlier this year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation published an article by Caroline Tiriman in Tok Pisin entitled, ‘Ol Melanesian Pipal blong Asia ['The Melanesian People of Asia'].

I was struck by the resemblance of the Batek people of Malaysia pictured in the article to the Melanesian people we know in Papua New Guinea and nearby countries in the Pacific.

Continue reading "Remarkable ‘Melanesians’ found in Malaysia jungle" »

Amelia Earhart: Latest of many searches gets underway

EV Nautilus at Apia  Samoa  5 August Ocean Exploration Trust)
EV Nautilus at Apia Samoa 5 August (Ocean Exploration Trust)

STATEMENT | The Maritime Executive

FORT LAUDERDALE, USA - Famed oceanographer Dr Robert Ballard and the crew of his foundation's research vessel, Nautilus, are in the midst of a search for the long-lost wreck of Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra airplane.

Earhart - the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic on a solo flight - disappeared in July 1937, along with her pilot, Fred Noonan.

They went missing during a flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island, a tiny outlying American territory in the Phoenix Islands group.

The flight was one of the last legs of an attempt at the longest distance round-the-world journey to date, an equatorial route of about 29,000 miles in length.

Continue reading "Amelia Earhart: Latest of many searches gets underway" »

Aussie researchers discover 'parachuting frog' in PNG

Litoria pterodactyla
Litoria pterodactyla or the 'parachuting frog' (Stephen Richards)

NEWS DESK | Xinhua News Agency

BEIJING - A team of Australian researchers has discovered a new species of parachuting frog, hidden away in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

The group of scientists from Griffith University and Queensland state museum also came across two other previously unknown frog species during their expedition around Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

There has an incredible diversity of frogs and a lot of those species have only been described for the last 10-20 years, senior curator at Queensland Museum Paul Oliver told Xinhua.

"The more you go back, the more you get to new areas, the more you find new species."

Continue reading "Aussie researchers discover 'parachuting frog' in PNG" »

A home in the clouds: Working to save the tree kangaroo

Critically endangered tree kangaroo (Jonathan Byers  TKCP)
Critically endangered  - Papua New Guinea's tree kangaroo (Jonathan Byers,  TKCP)

TREVOR HOLBROOK, JIM THOMAS & ANDREA EGAN | UNDP Ecosystems & Biodiversity | Edited extracts

WASHINGTON, USA - Sought after for subsistence-based hunting, as part of rural communities’ diets for centuries, the critically endangered tree kangaroos have been hunted almost to extinction, but now local communities and conservation groups are fighting together to save them.

Tree kangaroos are found only in the rainforests of Australia, West Papua, and Papua New Guinea. Looking like a cross between a kangaroo and a lemur, they have adapted to life in the trees, with shorter hind legs and stronger forelimbs for climbing.

Despite weighing up to 16kg, tree kangaroos are remarkably elusive, and often invisible high in the forest canopy.

Continue reading "A home in the clouds: Working to save the tree kangaroo" »

Political meddling & poor training spur corruption in PNG

CorruptionLUCY PAPACHRISTOU | Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

SARAJEVO - A newly-published discussion paper on corruption in Papua New Guinea’s public sector has found that low-level officials are often poorly informed about laws and regulations.

They are also under intense pressure to grant favours to businesses, politicians and clan affiliates, contributing to existing patterns of corrupt behaviour in the developing country.

The paper, ‘Governance and Corruption in PNG’s Public Service: Insights From Four Subnational Administrations’, was published this month by the Development Policy Centre, an aid and development policy think tank based out of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Its author, Dr Grant Walton, drew on interviews with 136 public servants across four provinces in PNG in an effort to fill the empirical data gap on why public officials may support or resist corruption and poor governance.

PNG tends to take a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to corruption,” Walton told OCCRP by phone.

Continue reading "Political meddling & poor training spur corruption in PNG" »

First public human rights report into PNG gas industry

Assoc Prof Nick Bainton
Associate Professor Nick Bainton

MEDIA UNIT | University of Queensland

BRISBANE - University of Queensland researcher Associate Professor Nick Bainton has co-written the first publicly available human rights impact assessment for a proposed gas project in Papua New Guinea.

You can download the full report here

Dr Bainton from the university’s sustainable minerals institute said the report’s publication demonstrates the slow evolution of the international community’s expectations of extractive industries.

“There is currently no legislative requirement for a company to produce a human rights impact assessment in PNG and, if they decide to, they are generally kept confidential once completed.

“The hope is that companies working in PNG’s extractive industries will build upon this example and continue to undertake impact assessments to help reduce human rights impacts,” he said.

Continue reading "First public human rights report into PNG gas industry" »

PNG in forefront of ancient Denisovan research

Neanderthals  Denisovans and our ancestors were mixing a long time ago
Denisovans (pictured) and our human ancestors were mixing 50,000 to 15,000 years ago - and some of our genetics can be traced back to these ancient humans.

CLARE WILSON | New Scientist

LONDON - Our species may have been interbreeding with Denisovans as recently as 15,000 years ago, according to a detailed analysis of the DNA of people living in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

We already know that, after Homo sapiens first migrated out of Africa, our species repeatedly interbred with a number of now-extinct hominin species, including the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

The signs are in our DNA today – all people of non-African descent carry some Neanderthal DNA, while some Asian people also have Denisovan DNA.

Not much is known about the mysterious Denisovans. Their only physical remnants discovered so far are a few teeth and fragments of bone unearthed in a cave in Siberia.

Continue reading "PNG in forefront of ancient Denisovan research" »

Archaeology unravels stories about ancient PNG-Australia trade

Motu trading ship  1903-1904 (The British Museum)
Motu trading ship 1903-1904 (The British Museum)

| The Conversation

MONASH UNIVERSITY, MELBOURNE - It has long been assumed that Indigenous Australia was isolated until Europeans arrived in 1788, except for trade with parts of present day Indonesia beginning at least 300 years ago.

But our recent archaeological research hints of at least an extra 2,100 years of connections across the Coral Sea with Papua New Guinea.

Over the past decade, we have conducted research in the Gulf of Papua with local Indigenous communities.

During the excavations, the most common archaeological evidence found in the old village sites was fragments of pottery, which preserve well in tropical environments compared to artefacts made of wood or bone.

Continue reading "Archaeology unravels stories about ancient PNG-Australia trade" »

New data offers insights into rural poverty & undernutrition

The Ramu River winds its way through the rich valley that bears its name

EMILY SCHMIDT | International Food Policy Research Institute

WASHINGTON DC - The dinghy ride up the Ramu River takes nine long hours, but my excitement mounted as we approached the small villages in the lowlands of northern Papua New Guinea.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by children paddling and playing in wooden dugout canoes, and women washing sago palm (an important staple food among lowland populations of PNG) for food preparation. 

When the rumble of the boat’s diesel motor finally cut out at the small sandbar that would serve as our boat dock for the next several days, we were surrounded by an incredible silence that whispered of the isolated lifestyle and resilience of the villagers.

We spent three months last year collecting detailed household survey data for a research project investigating how rural communities ensure food security when faced with natural disasters or other unplanned shocks to household food production.

Continue reading "New data offers insights into rural poverty & undernutrition" »

Empowered women increase crop yields & improve lifestyle

Family_UnitSTAFF WRITER | World Bank

PORT MORESBY – A World Bank study has found that when women in Papua New Guinea are empowered to make decisions in the sale of cocoa and coffee, their households ultimately benefit.

The ‘Household Allocation and Efficiency of Time in PNG’ report, part of a K360 million World Bank project, analysed how domestic responsibilities impact the ability of women to allocate their labour to cultivate, harvest and process cocoa and coffee in PNG.

The report, supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, said men and women do not share the same tasks within the household: men’s work being geared towards cocoa or coffee production and women more focused on other agricultural and off-farm activities as well as on domestic work.

Continue reading "Empowered women increase crop yields & improve lifestyle" »

Do you know the names any Papua New Guinean national kiaps?


Kiap and government-appointed leaders
A kiap and government-appointed leaders - in Tok Pisin, luluais and tultuls

TUMBY BAY – Between 1961 and 1975, more than 450 Papua New Guinean kiaps were in government service during the significant period in PNG history leading to independence.

Now a group of expatriate former kiaps is seeking to find details of these men.

Several years ago, Australian kiaps who had served in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea sought to have their service recognised in a meaningful way by the Australian government and, importantly, the Australian public.

After a long campaign this recognition came in the form of the Police Overseas Service Medal.

During the campaign an attempt was made to compile a list of all the Australian kiaps who had served in Papua New Guinea.

This proved a difficult task because of the inadequate records available and it was abandoned in favour of former kiaps identifying themselves.

Continue reading "Do you know the names any Papua New Guinean national kiaps?" »

Those colonial & kiap times: some coercion, but never repression

Tribal warfare between two clans in the 1960s
Tribal warfare between two highlands clans in the 1960s


ADELAIDE - I have no argument with the basic conclusion of Tobias Schworer's thesis, the summary of which was published recently in PNG Attitude.

I think he has correctly described the process by which Papua New Guinea was brought under the control of the Australian colonial administration.

That said, I think that the use of expressions like "repression that punishes groups still engaged in warfare" is, whether intended or not, an emotionally loaded way of describing the pacification process.

The word "repression" is more typically associated with injustice and inequity, not the lawful imposition of an orderly, fair and effective system of justice upon what were essentially anarchic, and sometimes exceptionally brutal, Melanesian social systems.

Continue reading "Those colonial & kiap times: some coercion, but never repression" »

Pacification in the Eastern Highlands in the 1940s – 1960s

Tobias Schwörer

TOBIAS SCHWÖRER | Summary of PhD Thesis

Ending War: Colonial processes of pacification and the elimination of warfare in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea by Tobias Schwörer. Summary of PhD thesis, 2016. University of Lucerne, Lucerne. See further information on the thesis and related papers here

LUCERNE - Pacification denotes a process whereby a state attends to extend its monopoly of violence onto politically  autonomous  groups  outside  its  sphere  of  control  and  thereby  curtails  any  further collective violence between those groups and armed resistance against the imposition of state control. 

It  is  a process  that  has  been occurring  throughout  history  in  situations  of  colonial conquest and  state expansion.

Despite the importance and prominence of these processes not only  for the state but even more so for the indigenous groups affected, there is remarkably little systematic analysis  and theoretical reflection  on the causal factors  that led members  of such  groups  to agree  to  lay  down their  weapons  and  refrain from  pursuing  further  acts  of collective violence.

Continue reading "Pacification in the Eastern Highlands in the 1940s – 1960s" »

Why are there are no women in PNG’s parliament?

Dr Kerryn Baker
Dr Kerryn Baker was told that money politics and the bribing of election officials greatly affected the chances of women candidates succeeding

STAFF WRITER | Pacific Women | Australian Aid

CANBERRA - Papua New Guinea has a history of extremely low rates of women in parliament. Only seven women have ever been elected in over 40 years and no women were elected to the 111 seat parliament in 2017.

To try to find out what is stopping women from winning elections, Kerryn Baker spoke with a group of unsuccessful candidates and examined the impact of the introduction of the limited preferential voting system on them.

Dr Baker is a research fellow in the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. In September 2017, she spent time with 26 women from all four of Papua New Guinea’s regions who had contested the 2017 national election.

In general, women contesting PNG elections have fewer financial resources than men running for election. The candidates identified this as a challenge, because well-resourced campaigns are often the most successful.

Continue reading "Why are there are no women in PNG’s parliament?" »

First humans to reach Australia island-hopped to PNG then walked

Pathways to Australia
Two possible routes used by the first humans to reach Australia identified by Joseph Birdsell in 1977. Research by the Australian National University shows the red northern route was more likely (Shimona Kealy, ANU)


SYDNEY - The first people to arrive in Australia are likely to have sailed east from Borneo to Sulawesi and island-hopped to New Guinea, according to research.

A study led by Australian National University PhD candidate Shimona Kealy and published in the Journal of Human Evolution has modelled the most likely route from south-east Asia to the Australian mainland based on which pathway would have required the least expenditure of energy and resources.

Kealy said she hoped the research would help answer the question of why archaeological sites in Australia — which show human occupation around 65,000 years ago — are so much older than sites that have been discovered in the countries that were long suspected to be en route.

Her modelling identified the least-cost route as going from Borneo to Sulawesi and through a series of smaller islands to Misool Island off the coast of West Papua. New Guinea was connected by land to Australia until about 10,000 years ago, meaning the first people could walk down through what is now Cape York to the rest of the continent.

Continue reading "First humans to reach Australia island-hopped to PNG then walked" »

45 years of cave exploration in the Nakanai Mountains

A large underground river in the Muruk system
A large underground river in the Muruk system of the Nakanai caves is fed by numerous surface sinkholes

THE CAIRNS INSTITUTE | James Cook University | Edited extracts

You can download here the 35 page publication, The Nakanai Mountain Ranges of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, by Jennifer Gabriel (Editor) et al, from which this extract is taken

CAIRNS - The Nakanai caves are part of a globally unique system of limestone caves. They are located within the Nakanai Range of East New Britain, amongst primary rainforest extending from the mountain summits to the southern coastline.

The Nakanai region comprises a limestone mountain range with an area covering approximately 4,000 square kilometres and cavers rely on aerial images to look for deep caverns to explore.

In the images, large surface sinkholes, characteristic of the rainforest-covered karst landscape, look like enormous black holes of varying sizes. Once identified, professional cavers venture into the depths of giant caves.

Continue reading "45 years of cave exploration in the Nakanai Mountains" »

Being an old kiap is good for you – so is reading PNG Attitude

Phil. early 1970s
Phil on patrol in the Star Mountains in the early 1970s - memories that keep us happier and healthier


TUMBY BAY - A lot of old kiaps, sometimes around 150, have a get-together on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland every two years. In between there’s a smaller gathering in Cairns.

I’ve never actually been to one of these events, mainly because I thought they would be about a bunch of old farts trying to relive the past while dribbling into their beer.

It turns out that my conclusion, like a lot of my assessments, was totally wrong.

The old buggers are actually doing themselves a lot of good and helping to improve their health and longevity.

I discovered this interesting fact recently while reading a book called ‘Brain Rules for Ageing Well’ by developmental molecular biologist, Dr John Medina.

According to Dr Medina, nostalgia has positive health benefits for the elderly.

Continue reading "Being an old kiap is good for you – so is reading PNG Attitude" »

Researching the morality of PNG’s ‘dark tourism’ initiatives

Mt Lamington explodes  5 February 1951
When Mt Lamington erupted in January 1951, it killed 3,700 people in Higaturu town, in 29 villages and at missions and schools more than 10 km away 

STAFF WRITER | Deakin Research

This piece is based on an article written by Dr Victoria Stead published in a special issue of ‘Anthropological Forum’ co-edited by Dr Stead with Professor Michèle Dominy (Bard College New York) on the theme ‘Moral Horizons of Land and Place’

MELBOURNE - Located on the slopes of volcanic Mount Lamington in Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province, the old Higaturu Station is a place marked by violence and memories.

It is less than an hour’s drive from the Provincial capital, Popondetta, on the way to Kokoda, which, depending on which way you are walking is either the beginning or the end of the Kokoda track.

That 96-kilometre track over the Owen Stanley Ranges is the focal point of a burgeoning but unevenly spread war tourism industry in the Province.

Between July-September 1943, at the height of World War II, 21 local men were executed in Higaturu for charges stemming from the ‘betrayal’ of eight to ten missionaries in August 1942 who were brutally murdered by occupying Japanese forces.

Continue reading "Researching the morality of PNG’s ‘dark tourism’ initiatives" »

Professor watches cell phones transform life throughout PNG

MEDIA UNIT | University of Rochester Papua-New-Guinea-cell-phones

ROCHESTER, USA - Robert Foster, a professor of anthropology at Rochester, has a longstanding interest in Papua New Guinea that started in 1984 with his doctoral research.

He later researched cultural attitudes toward Coca-Cola and, visiting again in 2010, he found PNG transformed by another product - cell phones.

“The coming of the cell phone in Papua New Guinea just couldn’t be ignored,” he said. “There was a moment when they were nowhere, then a moment when they were everywhere.”

Continue reading "Professor watches cell phones transform life throughout PNG" »

New study reveals dangers inherent in land registration

New oil palm planting and mill in Pomio District  ENBP
New oil palm planting and mill near Pomio in East New Britain


BOROKO - Customary land registration processes can easily be captured by local ‘big men’ and companies with disastrous consequences for local people.

This is the conclusion of a study on recent oil palm expansion in Papua New Guinea by academic Caroline Hambloch from the University of London.

Hambloch’s findings are based on three months field research in East and West New Britain and are presented in a paper titled ‘Land Formalisation Turned Land Rush’ presented at a World Bank conference in Washington earlier this year.

The paper demonstrates how land registration processes, rather than protecting customary land, can easily be used to disenfranchise local communities and alienate them from their land. This is because of an environment of weak governance and huge power and information imbalances.

Continue reading "New study reveals dangers inherent in land registration" »

On Lihir, a doctor pursues eradication of a disfiguring disease

Oriol Mitjà examines a young patient  Jeremiah
Oriol Mitjà examines a young patient, Jeremiah, who has an active infection which can be cured with a dose of azithromycin (Brian Cassey)

MARTIN ENSERINK | Science | Edited extracts

Read the complete article by Martin Eyserink here

LIHIR ISLAND—In a small village 15,000 kilometers from home, Oriol Mitjà jumped out of a white van one early May afternoon and started to look at people's legs.

"Any children with ulcers here?" he asked in Tok Pisin. "Can we see them?"

Soon, a young woman pushed a crying boy about five years old toward Mitjà. The boy was barefoot; he had a mop of blond curly hair, like most kids here, and was dressed only in dirty blue shorts.

A group of villagers, mostly women and children, had gathered to watch. "What's his name?" Mitjà asked as he sat down on a low wooden bench, pulled on disposable gloves, and gestured to the sobbing kid to come sit on his right leg. "Jeremiah," his mother said.

Continue reading "On Lihir, a doctor pursues eradication of a disfiguring disease" »

How the PNG tsunami 20 years ago was a big wake-up call

Sissano Lagoon
Sissano Lagoon devastated after the 1998 tsunami (Jose Borrero)

PROF DAVE TAPPIN | Geoblogy | British Geological Survey

KEYWORTH, UK - 20 years ago this week, on the evening of the 17 July 1998, 2,200 people died when a 15-metre high tsunami devastated an idyllic lagoon on the north coast of Papua New Guinea.

The event was to prove a benchmark in tsunami science as the tsunami was generated not by an earthquake but by a submarine landslide.

Most tsunamis are generated by earthquakes and, previously, submarine landslides were an under-appreciated mechanism in tsunami generation. This was because there had been no recent historical event to prove just how dangerous they could be.

Back in 1998, there had been few recent destructive earthquakes, they were to strike later.  Although earthquake mechanisms were generally well understood in tsunami generation, the mechanisms by which submarine landslides cause tsunamis, were not. In fact it was generally believed that submarine landslides could not generate destructive tsunamis.

PNG changed all this.

Continue reading "How the PNG tsunami 20 years ago was a big wake-up call" »

Companies pass judgement: things are worsening in PNG

Port Moresby waterfront
The Port Moresby waterfront looking east


Being Heard: The 2017 Survey of Businesses in Papua New Guinea by Paul Holden with Paul Barker and Steven Goie, Institute of National Affairs Discussion Paper 105, Port Moresby, April 2018. Download the report here

NOOSA – The overarching message in a fine piece of research of 287 companies by PNG’s Institute of National Affairs is that the business environment in PNG is deteriorating,

“PNG remains a challenging country in which to do business,” the Being Heard report concludes, and the shopping list for improvement it offers is long.

The report says the biggest change since the previous survey in 2012 concern the problems flowing from an overvalued kina and lack of foreign currency availability, which are cited as damaging investment and growth and as a major impediment to business operations.

Continue reading "Companies pass judgement: things are worsening in PNG" »

First PNG journalism PhD says 'government not present in Hela'

Dr Kevin Pamba
Dr Kevin Pamba

JEMIMAH SUKBAT | Loop PNG/Pacific Media Watch | Edited

MADANG - A staff member of Divine Word University, Dr Kevin Pamba, who has written for PNG Attitude (read one of his articles here) has become first Papua New Guinean journalist to be awarded a doctorate degree.

Dr Pamba’s thesis was on communicating with indigenous landowners around the LNG project in Hela Province, an area badly affected by the earthquake two weeks ago.

He said that among his research findings was that the government is "not present" in Hela, especially the Department of Petroleum and Energy.

In terms of communication with the landowners, getting the message across was barely working, he said.

Dr Pamba, from Ialibu in the Southern Highlands, completed his bachelors' degree in journalism at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "First PNG journalism PhD says 'government not present in Hela'" »

Misinterpreting PNG: rhetoric, exaggeration & inequality

Dr Paige West
Dr Paige West - two decades listening to myths promulgated by visitors to PNG

JOSIE KRITTER | The Catalyst | Edited

COLORADO, USA - Papua New Guinea is often seen as one of the world’s last unexplored frontiers and stereotyped as tribal, underdeveloped, and primitive, says Dr Paige West, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College in the USA.

Dr West has spent the last two decades working with the people of PNG and her goal is to shed light on a vibrant culture, the effects of decolonisation and their conservation efforts.

She said that Melanesian culture is widely misunderstood and tends to be seen through a Euro-American and Australian lens.

Dr West explained how much of the information filtering through to the world outside comes from “surfers, photographers, economists, and conservationists.” Over the years, she has interviewed and observed each group, along with the indigenous people, to capture a full understanding of where the misconceptions about the country come from.

Continue reading "Misinterpreting PNG: rhetoric, exaggeration & inequality" »

The origins of the people of the Pacific’s gateway, Vanuatu

Ancient skeleton at the Teouma site on Efate (ANU)
Ancient skeleton at the Teouma site on Efate, Vanuatu (ANU)

NEWSROOM | Science Daily

CANBERRA - Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have helped put together the most comprehensive study ever conducted into the origins of people in Vanuatu - regarded as a geographic gateway from Asia to the Remote Pacific.

The new research, published across two separate research papers, uses a combination of DNA analyses of ancient skeletons and modern samples, as well as archaeological evidence, to put together a complete timeline of migration to the island nation.

The results confirm that Vanuatu's first people were of the Lapita culture and arrived 3,000 years ago from South East Asia, followed by Papuan arrivals from the island of New Britain, in the Bismarck Archipelago just to the east of New Guinea and part of the nation of Papua New Guinea.

Dr Stuart Bedford of the ANU School of Culture History and Language said this was the first time researchers had been able to look at a full sequence of DNA samples from the Vanuatu islands.

"We've been able to track a complete genetic timeline at regular intervals starting with the first inhabitants right through to modern times," Dr Bedford said.

Continue reading "The origins of the people of the Pacific’s gateway, Vanuatu" »

Cavendish: The world's top banana could become extinct

The imminent death of the Cavendish banana (BBC)
The imminent death of the popular Cavendish banana

LUCY CRAYMER | Wall Street Journal

You can read the full article here

NEW YORK - In June, a team of European researchers travelled to Papua New Guinea on a mission of global significance. They came to search for the Giant Banana plant.

The scientists travelled through the jungles of the South Pacific nation, by car and on foot, accompanied by two armed guards.

They were tantalised by images circulating online, purportedly taken by locals, that depict a towering banana corm, several stories high, with leaves about five yards long.

The researchers found plenty of unusual banana varieties, but their quest to find the Giant, and to sample its bounty, proved fruitless.

Continue reading "Cavendish: The world's top banana could become extinct" »

South Australian Museum turns its back on PNG

Dr Barry Craig in the field in PNG
Dr Barry Craig in the field in PNG


NOOSA – Dr Barry Craig worked in the Telefomin area of Papua New Guinea and at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby before moving to the South Australian Museum as curator of foreign ethnology, where he’s been for the past 22 years.

Strange as it may seem, the South Australian Museum has on permanent display a significant collection of objects from Papua New Guinea. It’s a real treasure.

But now it turns out that Dr Craig’s position, along with one in archaeology, has been abolished.

This leaves the Pacific collections and the Pacific Cultures Gallery without an experienced and qualified researcher and interpreter.

Continue reading "South Australian Museum turns its back on PNG" »

Ancient skull belongs to victim of Aitape tsunami 6,000 years ago


Skull of a person who lived in PNG 6 000 years ago
6000 year old Aitape skull has connection to present day climate change

LONDON - Scientists studying a mysterious skull discovered in Papua New Guinea 88 years ago have said they believe it belonged to an early victim of a violent tsunami in the southwest Pacific 6,000 years ago.

The skull, named for the village of Aitape near where it was discovered, has been an item of longstanding archaeological interest because it is one of only a few rare skeletal remains to have been recovered from the area.

Australian geologist Paul Hossfeld found it in northern PNG, buried beneath the ground in 1929. Initial investigations concluded the skull belonged to Homo erectus—an extinct humanoid species that died out 143,000 years ago.

However, carbon dating since found the skull could be between 5,000 and 6,000 years old, opening new possibilities about what the skeletal fragment could tell us about our own world.

For the first time experts have uncovered what killed the unfortunate individual, using clues left in the earth around where the skull was found. "We have now been able to confirm what we have long suspected," James Goff at the University of New South Wales in Australia explained in a statement.

Continue reading "Ancient skull belongs to victim of Aitape tsunami 6,000 years ago" »