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Conspiracy theories are in bloom

An-old-conspiracy-theory-known-as-agenda-21PHILIP FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - Did you know that Donald Trump was created in a top-secret biotech laboratory by the enemies of the USA with the goal of wreaking havoc on the nation?

Theorist Harland Dorrinson has conclusive evidence gleaned through an exhaustive search of secret government documents and is 100% certain that Trump was grown in a recombinant-DNA laboratory.

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Philistines have entered the gate

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison came naturally to philistinism. It was easier than dealing with real world complexity and reason


TUMBY BAY - A philistine is a person of narrow mind, populist morality, materialistic views and lack of interest in art and literature.

The term was coined by the 19th Century British poet, Matthew Arnold, adapting the word from the term ‘philister’ used by German university students to describe people who were unenlightened, uncultured and anti-intellectual.

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The strange sea lights of Madang

Foo fighters
Foo Fighter photographs are very rare. Two are seen here following RAF Lysander aircraft during World War II in Europe. There were reports from both sides of sighting these mysterious orbs


DAGUA – You may know the Tok Pisin term, ‘lait toktok’. Well, if you don’t, it’s used in Madang to describe a phenomenon similar to the ‘foo fighters’ aerial phenomenon observed in Europe and the Pacific during the World War II.

‘Lait toktok’ describes moving lights over the water; luminous objects or lights dancing over the horizon and appearing to move back and forth or remain stationary while emitting their strange glow.

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The real lords of the flies

Lords of the flies
The Tongan youths who remained united after being stranded for over a year on a desert island in 1966


NORTHUMBRIA UK - William Golding’s deeply pessimistic book ‘Lord of the Flies’ was thrust upon me in 1966 during a course in English Literature.

It was compulsory reading but I almost immediately rejected it.

After scanning reviews and flicking through its contents, I pushed it away unfinished because its bleakness about our human condition was too much to accept.

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The demise of regional broadcasting

Justin Kili 1972
Justin Kili as a young announcer in 1972 - "Who is the Queen of Papua New Guinea?"


YUNGABURRA - “And now let’s spin another disc from the Beatle boys” – those were the words I heard from NBC announcer Cathy Garoa when I first tuned in my new radio-cassette player in early 1980.

Where I lived in Papua New Guinea, there was no FM radio, no television, no Australian newspapers and the internet was not yet a thing.

So how did Papua New Guineans obtain their information?

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Lessons I have learned

Justin Kundalin
Justin Kundain - five lessons to share with friends


PORT MORESBY – It was the greatest moment for me. Last November I graduated with a diploma in pastoral ministry.

Having been brought up in a dysfunctional home where my parents eventually divorced, I had grown up without a moral anchor. To me the words ‘dad’ and ‘mammy’ were strange.

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Saga of the Olsobip lawnmower

Mowing the grass at Olsobip
Turning jungle into lawn at Olsobip


TUMBY BAY - When I arrived to take over the remote and tiny Olsobip Patrol Post in 1970 the place was a mess. Patrolling had obviously taken precedence over maintenance.

The government store, on its dangerously rotted stumps, leaked like a sieve. The aid post was in a similar condition and the sacsac roof on the school was slowly being carried away by cockroaches.

Continue reading "Saga of the Olsobip lawnmower" »

The soldiers that never were

Newspaper advertisement for kiaps  circa 1966
Newspaper advertisement for kiaps, 1966


TUMBY BAY - How often have you heard the admonition to always read the fine print before signing anything?

And how often have you had some sneaky little paragraph in the fine print pointed out that you never read excusing a manufacturer or insurer from honouring what you thought should have been an obligation on their part?

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The last hockey game

Graham King
Graham King in action on the hockey pitch


YUNGABURRA - I remember the date of my last hockey game as it was the same day as the more famous Live Aid concert - 13 July 1985.

My wife had gone to her village, Tubusereia, for the weekend and I was to play hockey and then go to a friend’s place to watch the concert live.

I also remember the date as it also relates to my favourite memory of Dr Jim Jacobi.  Recently there have been some photos and memories of Dr Jacobi on Facebook and I have my own story to tell.

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An unnecessary shot in the leg

Erico found himself looking down the barrel of a .38 pistol
Erico found himself looking down the barrel of a .38 pistol


NORTHUMBRIA - Back in 1972, Erico Aufe, a former government interpreter on Bereina station in the Kairuku Sub-District, refused to pay his local government tax.

This triggered a chain of events, some farcical, which highlighted the difference between the consensual approach to village administration favoured by the majority of kiaps and the less flexible tactics employed by most Australian police officers of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

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Taim bilong masta i spak

With my long-suffering manki masta Di Siune, Goroka, January 1964


NOOSA – This confinement to barracks, lock down, home isolation or whatever the authorities term it, occasions plenty of opportunity for reflection on past adventures.

The early 1960s was another era, Papua and New Guinea (as it was called) another place and, for a young man, the highlands a new frontier.

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Remote business never easy in PNG

Map of the Sepik region by Bill Brown


BRISBANE - In 1970 we sold our Vanimo stores and bulk fuel depot to Steamships Trading Company.

Mr Lee, the manager of Steamships Madang, had approached us to negotiate the transaction. He was such a fine person to deal with.

Then, 36 years later, Steamships, by now owned by the British multinational Swire Group of Hong Kong, also purchased our stores at Aitape.

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The hell of a mess we created


TUMBY BAY - As we lapuns drift gently into old age, the thoughts of many of us inevitably circle around concepts of mortality and the state of the world.

Such ponderings are part of an age old process that has been going on since humans first inhabited the planet.

As a species we tend to be naturally optimistic no matter what dire circumstances exist at the time.

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Students fleeing China refused passage

"We wait at Shanghai International airport without any hope"

| My Land, My Country

SHANGHAI - After a long day waiting for our flight to Manila to transit to Port Moresby, we were removed from the flight to Manila.

A total of 12 students were not allowed to board the flight.

Manila immigration could not give us access to at least transit to Papua New Guinea, our home country.

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Addressing racism’s toxicity

Giselle Wakatama and Archie
Giselle Wakatama and Archie - abused by some ugly Australians. Unfortunately we have too many of them amongst us


MORISSET - I was shocked to see a recent story on ABC Television about the racism experienced by one of their presenters in Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.

This was particularly disturbing as it is our neck of the woods. Hey that can’t be happening here!

To their credit, the local council took some action. You can find the story here, ‘Why I will never forget the day I was racially abused in front of my young son’.

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Best of 2019: Foreigners divided our island

Terrified Papuan tortured with a machete by an Indonesian soldier
Terrified Papuan tortured with a machete by an Indonesian soldier


WABAG - Just log into any Free West Papua website and you can view graphic videos, pictures and articles on the genocidal military operations against the Melanesian people who inhabit the western half of the island of New Guinea.

The images and stories are intimidating, cruel and chilling. You almost want to scream.

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Best of 2019: Curse of territoriality


ADELAIDE - As an enthusiastic amateur historian, I spend far too much time puzzling over why human history has worked out the way it has. Usually, the facts are not in dispute: it is their interpretation and meaning that creates problems.

Many historic events seem to defy an agreed explanation amongst historians because so many personal, cultural, social, economic, geographic and other factors have interacted to shape and drive those events in particular directions.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: Curse of territoriality" »

Best of 2019: Living at ground level


After Stan – a wild man of Papua New Guinea – died in Port Moresby in 2016, his son Luke unearthed one of his letters written to his family in Australia in December 2002. “My father made friends and enemies of prime ministers and was famously know in PNG as a man who would give the shirt off his back to anyone,” Luke says - KJ

POPONDETTA - Its 0630 hours Sunday here and we have overcast skies just starting to lift, the sun burning the mist off the ground and birds have been at it in the mango tree for the past three hours.

PNG music playing in all the houses up and down the street, each trying to play their stereos higher than their neighbours, kids starting to give mums heaps waiting for breakfast, the normal shit that goes on every morning with the exception that its Sunday.

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Best of 2019: Cpl Kasari & the red bicycle

Corporal Kasari inspecting police with kiap John McGregor at Olsobip  1968
Corporal Kasari inspecting police with kiap John McGregor, Olsobip,  1968


TUMBY BAY - Lance Corporal Kasari RN1297 RPNGC was something of a legend in the Western District in the late 1960s.

If you had some rough patrolling to do in the rugged mountains or tumbling rivers in the northern part of the district Corporal Kasari was the man to have at your side.

If it was a routine patrol and you needed someone to run the patrol post while you were away Corporal Kasari was always your first choice.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: Cpl Kasari & the red bicycle" »

Best of 2019: The sleeping giant

The tropical turquoise water of PNG (Ben Jackson)
The tropical turquoise water of PNG (Ben Jackson)


PORT MORESBY - The proclamation of Papua New Guinea as the “last paradise on earth” by the country’s prime minister had the ring of an early 20th century adventure novel and it is a tagline that perhaps appropriately reflects the country’s place as a frontier travel destination.

There are good reasons that the nation of just over eight million people has been long touted as having great potential for tourism. It has all the natural ingredients for an idyllic tropical beach getaway and much more.

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Best of 2019: Polygamy a destructive force


KUNDIAWA - Polygamy was relevant to traditional societies in Papua New Guinea, especially in the highlands, as part of a patrilineal tradition passed from generation to generation as a means of gaining wealth, prestige and social mobility.

It was also recognised that marrying multiple wives would also increase the labour force to ensure enough pigs were raised and enough gardens were established to maintain the status of the husband and the clan.

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Best of 2019: Travelling with donkeys


GOLD COAST – As a kiap [patrol officer] in the 1970s, I assisted the Lutheran Mission with one of the first herds of cattle introduced into the Menyamya Sub District.

The cattle drive started at the Bulolo roadhead, traversed the mountains between the Bulolo valley and Aseki Patrol Post before continuing along the Aseki-Menyamya ‘kiap road’.

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An old man’s dreaming

Mintabie will soon be without its opal miners - "a timely vindication of a great wrong perpetrated by greedy and ignorant people"


TUMBY BAY - In 1976 I was working for the South Australian Museum travelling in the far northwest visiting and recording sacred sites with Aboriginal elders.

On one such trip I was out with an old man called Mungatja Mick Wintinna. He was an Antakarinja man in his mid-nineties.

Earlier in the week I had piggy-backed him across some sand hills to the place where he had been born in the late 1880s.

Continue reading "An old man’s dreaming" »

Laiagam’s descent into HIV hell

Gai - election colleagues 2012
My colleagues involved in the 2012 national election - ambitious candidates made it an easy way to earn money


LAIAGAM – It was seven years ago, during the 2012 national election, that I first witnessed that a larger number of young people living in my community in Enga Province were HIV victims.

My home village is Niunk in the Lagaip-Porgera district. Nearby villages include Kanak, Wanepap, Komaip, Waiyap and Lakris.

My friends in those villages left high schools at that time in 2012 to get involved in the election. I was going to do the same but withdrew since in those days I was a drunkard and chasing women.

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The unique experience of a nation born

Brown MBE and Kaad OBE
Former district commissioners Bill Brown MBE and Fred Kaad OBE. Said Kaad to the wavering young kiap Fitzpatrick: "You’ll never have the chance to be part of something like that ever again"


TUMBY BAY - My father came from Waterford in the warm southeast of Ireland. He had three brothers and two sisters. His eldest brother John carried on the family tradition of being politically active.

It was from an insistent Uncle John that I learned very early on about the colonisation of Ireland by the British.

That experience left me with a repressed but abiding suspicion about the whole enterprise of empire.

Continue reading "The unique experience of a nation born" »

180 steps down to the beach

180 steps a
The footpath reconnected the present to the past by catering to children, women and the elderly who had not visited the beach for a very long time


BUKA - In many rural parts of Bougainville youth plays a vital part in communities through sports, cultural organisations, church groups and small development projects funded by non-government organisations.

This is a story of a small group of youths from Kohea village, in the Haku constituency of Buka Island, who succeeded through sheer hard work and dedication to complete a small development project in their community.

Continue reading "180 steps down to the beach" »

My dear brother, Sam Gawi Rake

Sam Gawi Rake
Sam Gawi Rake. The SMS read: “Pass the message around that Sam is dead….he was beheaded by cult worshipers…."


PORT MORESBY - Monday 2 April 2018 was a gruesome day for me. Early that morning the news of the death of my brother and best friend, Sam Gawi Rake, reached me.

I was in the students’ computer lab preparing my work when the message came in an SMS on my mobile phone from an unknown person.

“Pass the message around that Sam Gawi Rake is dead….he was beheaded by cult worshipers….his head is missing while his body is in morgue at the Modillion Hospital in Madang.”

Continue reading "My dear brother, Sam Gawi Rake" »

The best I could have done at the time

P2-WKD at Siwea 1977
GOF's Cessna 182 P2-WKD at Siwea airstrip, Morobe Province, 1977

| The Bucket Blog

TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND - Reflecting upon one’s own life from the vantage point of older age is sometimes rather like reading a tattered autobiographical account of someone else’s life.

Mine contains many examples of gross stupidity and incompetence, but it also, in an early chapter documents one single decision which would continue to shape my life to this day.

Continue reading "The best I could have done at the time" »

Warning: You’re being dumbed down


DUMBY (er, TUMBY) BAY - It’s easy to imagine that one day in the not too distant future everything will be digitised and automated.

Here is a blurb about the latest trend in toilets:

“It's a germophobes dream come true: Never having to touch a toilet handle again. With the latest Numi toilet from Kohler, you can simply ask it to ‘flush’ and it will comply. If you forget, it will flush itself anyway.

“The toilet also lets you choose the colour of ambient lighting and the music from its speakers. At night, the lid automatically opens as you approach and the seat warmer activates. It flushes and closes the lid as you leave.”

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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.

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The Territory typewriter mechanic: a man with key skills

Keith Jackson's Corona, a century old this year and still in working order


LOW HEAD, TAS - Everyone working in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, visited an office at some stage, if only to pick up their pay.

Some people actually worked in them. And at this time, before the advent of repetitive strain injury, RSI, which none of us had ever heard of, those who worked in offices would spend most of their time pounding keys on noisy old typewriters.

From time to time, at regular intervals that never seemed to be announced, these offices, all of them, would be disrupted for an hour or so by an unlikely visitor: the typewriter mechanic.

Imagine people’s relief at the arrival of this man. They could sit back, wring their fingers, relax and watch as his skilled hands went to work refurbishing their machines.

As someone who was daunted by these noisy old apparatuses and who never really conquered them or learnt anything other than to write correspondence by hand, I admired this man.

And it was “this man” because it was always a man and always the same man.

Continue reading "The Territory typewriter mechanic: a man with key skills" »

Progress may be inevitable but human dignity should prevail

Irai and family
Francis Irai and his family stand forlornly before their makeshift home at 9 Mile in Port Moresby located between a rock ledge and a busy road


PORT MORESBY - The fate of about 100 families residing in 64 units of National Housing Commission flats at Gordon in Port Moresby hangs in precarious balance as they face eviction from their homes of 20-30 years by a private property developer.

The matter is the subject of a bitter and protracted legal battle that has taken up the better part of the last 12 years and is still awaiting a final court decision.

But the political leadership of the National Capital District (NCD) must be lauded, and loudly, for standing up for the families who are agitated and distressed about the future.

Governor Powes Parkop and the MPs of Moresby South and North-East have made considerable efforts to address the adverse effects of physical developments on affected communities in and around the city.

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Croton’s street mechanics: Relief for POM’s struggling motorists

Street mechanic 2BUSA JEREMIAH WENOGO | PNG Informal Economist

PORT MORESBY - If you are a motorist who regularly drives around Port Moresby city chances are you’ve come across a band of youths plying their specialised trades along Croton Street.

At first they may raise suspicion among drivers and passers-by because of the way they’re dressed and how they conduct themselves.

However more careful observation reveals these youths are on to something.

They provide an affordable alternative automotive service to struggling vehicle owners who can’t afford vehicle servicing by recognised automotive workshops like Ela Motors and Boroko Motors.

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How I reconciled the break-up of my marriage & was better for it

Pawa Kenny Ambiasi
Pawa Ambiasi - "I did not cry because of a death in my family.  I cried for my kids and my wife"


PORT MORESBY – Somehow I survived 2013 and 2014, the worst years of my life. I proved to a world that believes broken marriages cannot be reconciled that I could reconcile and nurture my marriage.

This happened as I focused on the unseen world, the need to control my emotions and thoughts even though they were burning me alive.

My wife and I separated on 5 January 2013. Our relatives demanded it. My title as husband and father which I had worked at for six years was stripped off in a moment.

I was no longer husband and a father and I lived that life for the next two years.

The breakup happened on a Saturday. Many people had gathered at my village singsing ples, an area reserved for important gatherings. They came to witness my bride price ceremony. The people who contributed to the bride price plus my wife’s relatives made up the number.

In the process of exchanging the bride price, my wife’s relatives decided not to accept the combination of money and pigs I’d put up.

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Kiap days: Spitters, pokers & Bombay bloomer voyeurs


TUMBY BAY - As patrol officers we were also policemen, local court magistrates and often gaolers.

As such we saw the full gamut of the legal system as it operated in Papua New Guinea prior to independence.

And a funny gamut it often turned out to be.

I was in the Highlands in 1968 and the trade store movement was in full swing. Everyone and it seemed their dog was setting up trade stores by the side of the road.

A typical store was a one room affair, just a couple of metres square, with an opening at the front for customers. The store was clad in galvanised iron sheets with big padlocks on the door and the serving hatch.

Continue reading "Kiap days: Spitters, pokers & Bombay bloomer voyeurs" »

Barefoot, unstylish & with leeches: Notes of a kiap on patrol

Route of Bob Hoad's epic patrol (Map by Bill Brown)


PEREGIAN BEACH - Many years ago, I walked the Kokoda Trail, starting from my station at Tapini on an election patrol for the House of Assembly (I was the returning officer, amongst other things).

I crossed the mountains and followed the northern river called the Chirima. By the end of this I was as close to Port Moresby as I was to my station, so I continued to Kokoda and walked the next four days to Port Moresby.

In those days a walk from Kokoda to Port Moresby was considered to be four to five days.

The last two days into Kokoda were quite long. After starting at six, at about 10 I said to my porters, “Where should we stay tonight?” “In a cave,” they replied.

We were travelling light with a couple of ballot boxes and no tents. At about 2pm I asked, “Where is this cave?” They said, “We don’t know. “So how will we find it?” “Oh, someone left earlier this morning and said he would put a stick on the track with a red leaf on it.”

It sounded great, a stick on a thin track in the middle of the jungle with leaf attached.

Continue reading "Barefoot, unstylish & with leeches: Notes of a kiap on patrol" »

Religious pretensions no basis for good government

Sr Ellen White
Sister Ellen White - Seventh Day Adventist church founder and remembered as a prophet and oyster eater


MORRISET, NSW - So now there are three Seventh Day Adventists in important positions in Papua New Guinea.

There’s new prime minister James Marape, chief justice Gibbs Salika and the parliamentary speaker Job Pomat.

Well I won't criticise them for their religious beliefs. Oh hell, I'll have a go anyway. And I feel somewhat qualified to pass judgement.

My great-grandfather was the first ordained SDA pastor in the Pacific and Australia. And both my grandad and dad were SDA pastors. That’s three generations before I arrived.

Great-grandfather received a testimony from Sister Ellen White, founder of the church and widely regarded amongst adherents as a prophet from God.

My grandmother had afternoon tea with Sr White at Sunnyside in Avondale in the late 1890s. The house still stands this day and is near where I live.

So I grew up in the SDA, and believe me it is no less open to charges of hypocrisy and procrastination than any other church.

Continue reading "Religious pretensions no basis for good government" »

Volunteers role in PNG’s development is often overlooked

Forster pic
The bush sawmill at Binaru near Bundi where Robert Forster and his labour line lived. When he arrived there, Forster was only days out of the UK


NORTHUMBRIA - The often dramatic work undertaken by Australia’s bush administrators in pre-independence Papua New Guinea is comprehensively recorded.

But the collective contribution to the country's development by volunteer workers, some posted by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in London is often overlooked

In the 1960s, freshly recruited kiaps, the best known of PNG’s pre-independence expatriate field staff, were given training in Australia followed by a further month in PNG itself before being assigned to their posts.

However, apart from a couple of brief, perhaps three day, induction courses at central venues in the United Kingdom, some VSO’s were dropped in at the deep end almost as soon as they stepped off their plane in PNG.

Take the example of 18 year old Philip Pennefather from Northern Ireland, who landed in Madang in September 1968.

Almost before he could draw breath, he set off by foot on a tough bush journey to deliver over 100 heifers to stock an embryonic Catholic SVD beef production project almost 130 kilometres away on the other side of the formidable and unbridged Ramu River.

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Of cows, bulls, canon law & having a sense of humour

My cow diedGARRY ROCHE

DUBLIN - On one occasion while working in the diocese of Mt Hagen I was asked to give a talk on canon law (church law) to the priests in the neighbouring diocese of Mendi.

At that time many missionaries looked on canon law with suspicion, often seeing it as not being applicable to the very different cultural situations encountered in Papua New Guinea.

When I entered the large room where I was to give the talk, I noticed that, in addition to the overseas missionaries and local priests, there were some lay expatriate volunteers in the room.

While I was being introduced to the gathering I had the opportunity to look around at everyone in the room.

One local priest was wearing a tee-shirt with a slogan on it that immediately caught my eyes.

Continue reading "Of cows, bulls, canon law & having a sense of humour" »

Be patient, stand in line and just wait for your turn


MADANG - I’m sure it takes a lot of patience to stand in a long line. We stand in lines for one common thing and that is to get served. In other words, we stand in line to receive service.

In Papua New Guinea, you see that everywhere. You see the line in front of the commercial banks, police offices and the immigration office.

I believe it’s just part of life to stand in line. Even when you die, you stand in line to face your judgement. (I don’t know for sure about this but maybe it’s because I watch too many movies about life after death.)

Some people get offended when you tell them to wait in line. Mind you, these kind of people will find the easiest way to get to the front.

Continue reading "Be patient, stand in line and just wait for your turn" »

Two cows and a pig & the proportionality of status

A pig
The minister's pig: Was it gift enough or should it have been a horse?


VERONA - It is no secret that university governance in Papua New Guinea has been completely politicised.

Rules are not respected and there is no transparency or accountability.

Now it seems all this has been thrown out of the window, and traditional justice practices are being used to resolve university governance issues.

As a foreigner, even after having mastered the relevant anthropological literature, I found it hard to understand how wonderful customary justice principles based on restoration of social harmony, reciprocity and proportionality worked out in practice.

Continue reading "Two cows and a pig & the proportionality of status" »

A small disagreement over land and a dog

Ian Rowles with his Kabwum Trading Company Cessna 185, Lae, 1974. Soon after this photo was taken, Ian died in this aircraft in a bad weather crash (Richard Leahy)


GOLD COAST - In 1971, as a newly promoted Patrol Officer, I took a break from supervising the construction of a road between Yalumet and Derim airstrips in the Morobe District to spend a few days at the sub-district headquarters at Kabwum.

To my surprise the small town was buzzing with hundreds of prisoners – unmistakeable in their bright red laplaps featuring roughly printed broad black arrows.

“What the heck’s going on?” I asked one of the station staff.

Well, it turned out it all began over a dog. Or at least that’s what triggered the immediate problem of who was the true owner a section of land near Indagen airstrip, south east of Kabwum where Ian Rowles’ Kabwum Trading Company had a trade store and a Summer Institute of Linguistics family were translating the Bible into the local language.

Two local clans had a long-standing dispute over who owned the land, a common enough situation in Papua New Guinea and one that was usually extraordinarily difficult to determine.

Continue reading "A small disagreement over land and a dog" »

Kokomo sits in the old yar tree; but always with an eye for danger

Kokomos in a yar tree (Rocky Roe)GRAHAM KING

BIALLA - When my children were small and living in West New Britain they would sing the Papua New Guinean version of ‘Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree’ which was ‘Kokomo Sits in the Coconut Tree’.

They also sang another version which was ‘Kokomo sits on the ‘lectric wire, jumping up and down with his pants on fire’.

I have never seen Kokomos roosting on a coconut and, besides, coconuts are palms not trees.

But in West New Britain the Kokomos love to find a tall yar tree on which they spend the night.

In Bialla over 200 Kokomos (Blyths Hornbill) fly in every afternoon at dusk to roost in a tall yar tree (Casuarina equisetifolia) in the Area 7 Executive Housing complex.

Continue reading "Kokomo sits in the old yar tree; but always with an eye for danger" »

The kiap experience from the receiving end

Joe Herman - mixed experiences with the kiaps he came across


SEATTLE, USA - I had mixed experiences with kiaps. When I was small, fear lingered in my village. The adults told us to keep away from the kiaps.  The dominant feeling was that the kiaps would punish us, or even take us away.

These feelings were reinforced as we watched the road between Laiagam and Kandep built. Everyone was required to work on road construction and other government projects.

The police rounded up those who did not show up and beat them or threw them in gaol. This fear drove my movement and I always watched from the periphery of the centre of activities.

As I got older, I lived at Laiagam station, about 20 kilometres from my village, and witnessed some of the changes that were occurring.  In particular I remember interactions with individual kiaps.

I thought that kiap Mr Van Ruth at Laiagam was a borderline bully. At times he would set his dog on us and we ran in all directions. 

He had the late Paul Lare and three medical orderlies thrown in gaol for making loud noises while walking past his residence.  They were heading home after drinking at the local tavern.

Continue reading "The kiap experience from the receiving end" »

1970s patrol notebook: Strip maps and mocka juice

Robbins - Goropu Mtns (Suckling) from Safia Anglican Mission
Goropu Mountains (Mt Suckling) as seen from Safia Anglican Mission


SPRINGBROOK, QLD – It had taken me 30 hours hard walking and backtracking over four days to get from Safia to Pongani. Now the flight back along the same route was over in 30 minutes.

It had been my first patrol to Safia in the Middle Musa of Northern District: inland from lowland villages and over the Didana Range skirting the 100 square miles of Agaiambo Swamp between the mountains and Dyke Acland Bay.

I’d been constantly recording features along the bush tracks, including detours (thus the backtracking), to establish a route for a bulldozer to clear a road from Pongani to the Musa Gorge.

The result was a detailed 17-sheet strip map based on my walking speed of about six kilometres an hour, which I’d calculated along the 610 metres of Tufi airstrip.

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History has a lesson for leaders who engage in corruption

The assassination of William McKinley
The assassination of William McKinley


WABAG - Leaders must not shout ‘prosperity’ and secretly involve themselves in corrupt deals as a result of which their constituents suffer from want of basic services.

Leaders need to exercise caution and conduct public affairs in a transparent manner, especially in this this land of a thousand tribes.

Elected leaders must be aware when they are putting a lot of strain on the lives of the ordinary people.

What do people think when their loved ones die from curable diseases because there is no medicine, or when the cost of living becomes unbearable in urban areas.

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