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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.

Continue reading "Laiagam’s descent into HIV hell" »

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.

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Warning: You’re being dumbed down


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

Here is a blurb about the latest trend in toilets:

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

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

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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.

Continue reading "Progress may be inevitable but human dignity should prevail" »

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Then along came a guria to break the monotony of the day

Kabwum airstrip (PNGAA)
The airstrip at Kabwum (PNGAA)


GOLD COAST - The Sub District Office at Kabwum was an extensive complex composed of steel girders and locally made concrete brick walls.

Every time a guria [earthquake] began the entire government staff would rapidly vacate the building accompanied with low level mutters of, “Oh, oh, stone house”.

During one guria, the Council adviser’s wife was caught in the shower and vacated the premises clad just in a towel and shower cap.

I will always remember the sensation of feeling the earthquake as it passed underneath me. Every molecule of soil and stone is in motion and the result is akin to floating; it seems there is nothing solid beneath you.

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Our daily bread: How scarcity drives the Mosbi mob mentality:

In Port Moresby dogs roam the streets freely eating garbage and scavenging whatever they can find to survive


PORT MORESBY – It was on a Saturday that the mob stormed into view, alleging that a dog bit a woman on the leg.

There were no witnesses and the incident was not reported to the owner of the dog.

The table mamas who erect stalls and sell betel nut along this stretch of the street did not witness a dog bite.

These table mamas report everything that happens in the neighbourhood to those returning from work because they tend their stalls 24/7 to make ends meet in this unforgiving city.

A heavily bandaged woman was carted in a wheelbarrow escorted by men, women and children to the unregulated hostel in the street where Kol stayed.

A grubby man representing the mob came straight up to Kol, pointing at his face. He knew Kol was not the owner of the dog but acted as if he was.

“Your dog bite off a piece on her calf muscle. We took her to the hospital and the doctor said that her leg will be amputated if not properly treated,” was the line.

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'Husat i dai pinis' - The case of the coffin in transit

Guari strip
Typical PNG bush airstrip at Guari in Central Province (Matt McLaughlin)


MELBOURNE - For all of us who were kiaps, life brought us a range of experiences, some serious, some tragic, some mundane and others that were extremely humorous.

I was always mindful that if I ever lost my sense of humour it was time to resign.

In this vein I recall an incident when I was a young Cadet Patrol Officer at Kabwum and was despatched on patrol.

I was flown to the remote airstrip at Indagen and, on completion of the patrol, collected by aircraft at a pre-arranged date and time from the same strip.

Came the day, I was back at the airstrip with my collection of patrol equipment, boxes, chair, table, lantern, the works, all neatly stacked on the hard-standing area.

After what seemed like hours, I heard an aircraft in the distance.  It circled and came into land.

Continue reading "'Husat i dai pinis' - The case of the coffin in transit" »

Tales from old Oro – new roads, uncharted seas & wild rivers

Robbins - Popondetta to Kokoda Road
Popondetta to Kokoda Road, Christmas 1969


SPRINGBROOK - My one-third of the 100km road-clearing work was the hilliest - from sea level up to a camp at a superb vantage point 1430 metres above sea level.

On Google Earth around 9º32’30” S / 148°39’46” E parts of "my road" (as District Commissioner David Marsh referred to it) can still be seen.

We spent our first five months in the Northern District (now Oro Province) at Popondetta. Drew Pingo who was on the same course as me had a young family and had already been posted to Kokoda, a reasonably civilised station with a road connection to Popondetta.

I was informed by other officers that the cream of the District’s outstations was Tufi but if I even hinted that I’d like to be posted there I would end up somewhere else like Ioma, supposedly a less desirable place.

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The picture of a grieving mum that told a million stories

Ezekiel's mum weeps over his body (Sally Lloyd)
Ezekiel's mum weeps over his body (Sally Lloyd)

SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE - A few days ago, I asked Sally Lloyd about the picture she posted on Facebook of a distraught mother weeping over the body of her baby who had died.  This is the story behind the picture.

They are from Fomabi Village near Nomad. It’s in Nomad LLG - I think... middle Fly in Western Province.

The child got sick with pneumonia, I believe, and Nomad Health Centre could not help them. The facility there has been very run down and ill equipped for a very long time. 

They then had to make the long walk to Mougulu health centre for many hours to get further help.

Unfortunately, the child died the following afternoon, and without any helpers with them the parents had to walk back to their village with the dead child.

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How to tell a man is not a wizard. One sniff will do

Gende warriors
Gende warriors celebrate at a singsing in 1970. In 1932, their fathers used detective work to understand what the first Europeans really were (Robert Forster)


NORTHUMBRIA – In 1969, when I was stationed in the foothills of the Bismarck Range in Papua New Guinea’s highlands, I often spent evenings talking with local people who responded by telling me their favourite stories.

Some were traditional – for example the adventures of a man with an amazingly long penis that he could release to scurry through undergrowth in search of suitably receptive women.

Another was an account of an execution by American soldiers of a villager from a neighbouring community who had offered his help to the Japanese army.

My favourite was their reaction to the first Europeans to move into their area – and exactly how they concluded that, while these strange visitors had the obvious advantage of many technical innovations, they fell well short of being supernatural and were human beings like themselves.

The punch line focused on faeces.

One reason for my interest in the punch line is its near perfect alignment with a phrase often used in Northumberland, where I came from and still live, to put down, or place in context, individuals who by birth, status, or inclination, believe themselves to be superior.

Continue reading "How to tell a man is not a wizard. One sniff will do" »

The leaving of PNG & the re-establishment of career

Frankston City Council chamber
The chamber at Frankston City Council where, after many attempts, Ross Wilkinson found a job in Australia


MELBOURNE - I learnt about culture shock very early on whilst on my first leave from colonial Papua New Guinea.

I trod a well-trodden path: invitations to address the local Rotary Club, the old school and so on.

While interest appeared to be there and the questions indicated some degree of attention, I was never sure what impact I made on the audience.

During my first leave I went back to catch up with my mates and play a couple of games with my former football club. 

After the match there was the usual party at someone’s house and the usual question, “So you work in New Guinea, what’s it like?”

If you didn’t talk about bare breasts, cannibals or the quality of SP beer within the first 30 seconds, eyes would glaze over and the conversation would quickly drift to the day’s footy or racing results.

I learnt to become outrageous!

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Kiap’s notebook - births, deaths, marriages & anniversaries

Robbins - At Ako
Doug Robbins at Ako with confiscated shotgun. The fighting sticks and club are from a fight over a coconut tree at Foru


SPRINGBROOK - Annette and I had been married for just two years when we went to Papua New Guinea in 1969.

During my induction course at Kwikila with 38 other patrol officers before we were assigned to unknown postings, Annette waited at home in Brisbane.

She arrived in PNG at the completion of our five weeks training and, after spending a night in Port Moresby, we flew to Popondetta five days after our second wedding anniversary.

Probably because I was the newest recruit at Popondetta, in the first few months I was given two burials to administer.

The first was still on the hospital operating table and I wondered if the relatives would blame the death on the white doctor and his knife.

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Travelling with donkeys through the backblocks of PNG


GOLD COAST – As a kiap 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’.

I knew Menyamya already had some cattle and I’d heard there were some horses as the Assistant District Commissioner and his No 2 used to ride them.

The mission agricultural officer happened to mention that he’d been told by didiman Al Leong about a large mob of donkeys that were going to waste at Mumeng station. The donkeys had been imported into Papua New Guinea to alleviate the need for carriers on patrol.

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Corporal Kasari & the Gogodala nurse’s red bicycle

Corporal Kasari inspecting police with kiap John McGregor at Olsobip
Corporal Kasari inspecting police with kiap John McGregor at 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.

Patrol Officer John McGregor summed up the good corporal in one of his patrol reports out of Olsobip in 1968:

“Very capable leader of the detachment, who set an excellent example for his subordinates by hard and energetic work. His knowledge of bush craft and initial contact work was very beneficial to the patrol. At this stage, recommendation for promotion to full corporal should be considered”.

I first encountered Kasari at Olsobip when I took over as Officer in Charge in 1969. Despite John’s recommendation he was still a Lance Corporal.

Continue reading "Corporal Kasari & the Gogodala nurse’s red bicycle" »

A journey through the mountains not for the faint of heart

ElderPISAI GUMAR | My Land, My Country Blog

LAE - It is not a walk for faint hearted humans this trail beginning at Torowa in the Upper Erap area of Nawaeb District in Morobe Province and into the interior to Kokosan and Damet villages. A journey of more than two days.

So I just walked, walked and walked. Up and down steep mountain slopes, around sheer cliffs, across fast flowing streams rushing towards the Erap River and crashing against huge boulders to eventually marry with the mighty Markham River.

I walked through green coffee gardens decorated by red berries, the aromatic perfume from newly blooming flowers filling my nostrils.

The aroma kept up my strength and kept my mind awake, although my ankles were exhausted. Toenails and the soles of my feet rubbed against the rocky pathways causing blisters and some bleeding. My feet trembled and, when krusako leaves trapped my legs, my body felt like it should fall down.

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Are we in for a repeat of the Y2K bug hysteria?


DAGUA - Twenty years ago, in the months leading up to the new millennium, Y2K bug hysteria gripped Papua New Guinea and the world.

Rumours sped around the world that money would be useless, planes would drop from the sky, nuclear warheads would be set off and that the Y2K bug could mark the end of Times.

There was a general sense of fear and apprehension as computer experts said that, when the date changed to the new millennium, computers with old hardware and programs would not recognise the calendar change and would register the new year not as 2000 but as 1900.

At the time, I was in my final year of secondary school at Kerevat in East New Britain.

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PNG’s cancer neglect & my guilt & grief at the death of a friend

Ruth Kaupa
Ruth Kaupa

FRANKIY KAPIN | My Land, My Country Blog | Edited extracts

LAE - I was woken up on the morning of Sunday 12 January by a phone call and a familiar voice.

At around 5am, 21-year old Ruth Kaupa had lost her battle to breast cancer at Angau hospital.

Ruth was surrounded by her immediate family, close relatives and friends holding hands as she slowly closed her eyes.

I met Ruth last year around June-July, interviewing her and her parents at their home at Kamkumung in Lae.

I am not a cancer specialist or some medical practitioner. I began reporting about cancer in PNG three years ago and over that period acquired some understanding of the problem and the treatment options available in PNG.

Some cancers are treatable.  But in PNG treatment is lacking due to inadequate facilities.

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Living at ground level, Part 2 – More musings from Stan

Stan Gallaher portrait
Stan Gallaher


POPONDETTA - This guy Eliza, my night security, is from the Southern Highlands and he is married to a very pretty young lady from there, all have legs like fence strainer posts.

His lady is very church-minded and her and a group of church people, three ladies and seven guys, most from the highlands, walked to Port Moresby a month ago, nothing new, people been doing it for years. They did the crossing in two and a half days, f---- amazing.

They left Kokoda station in the morning and walked all day and all night with a one hour stop, the next day they did the same thing and then took a short cut and connected to a logging road that comes close to the top of the Kokoda Gap, got on a logging truck into Port Moresby.

The same day they got to Port Moresby they put one of they guys on a plane back here so people knew they had arrived and to prove they had done it in two and a half days.

That’s a four day walk during daylight hours, 12 hours a day by an extremely fit man to the point where they took the short cut. To do it in the time they took and in the dark is worth recording. She came back a week later well worn out but very pleased with what she had done, can’t say I blame her.

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Living at ground level, Part 1 – Stan's 'PNG factor'

Stan Gallaher in the wheelhouse
Stan Gallaher in the wheelhouse


Stan – a wild man of Papua New Guinea – died in Port Moresby three years ago and his son Luke Gallaher thought we’d find one of his letters of interest. It was written to his family in Australia in December 2002 and offers an insight into life in Papua New Guinea on the ground floor – where money is tight and relationships direct.

“My father made friends and enemies of prime ministers and was Kostas Constantinou's golden boy at one stage,” Luke says, “and was famously know in PNG as a man who would give the shirt off his back to anyone. Some say he couldn't see colour in people.” After Stan’s death, Luke made sure he obtained Australian citizenship for three of his half-siblings who now live in Australia with Luke and his family. Here’s Stan’s story written in his own inimitable style….

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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My ‘beyond Kudjeru' patrol’: The final stretch

Kudjeru patrol mapPAUL OATES

GOLD COAST - I had sent two men on ahead to notify the people at the airstrip construction site that we were coming and to bring some food back for us.

By mid-afternoon I was starting to get a bit worried that my patrol might have been misdirected. We had only enough food for another night or so and I had used most of my own tinned food to help the carriers.

Then, at about 3pm, I heard voices ahead and we met three men with bilums of cucumbers and fresh food. I took a cucumber and sent the rest back to carriers.

I ate the cucumber whole, like I would an apple, and have never tasted anything more delicious. Fresh food, after three days of preserved and boiled food, was is marvellous.

We finally arrived at airstrip site just as it was getting dark. You could see why these people wanted an airstrip, they were so far away from anyone. Remote took on a new meaning.

There had been good preparation. The people had planted food gardens where they were going to clear and level the land. The villagers ate the food as gardens were cleared and levelled for the strip and its surrounds.

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Remote colonial life: Waiting for the K boat & other inconveniences

Baimuru Patrol Post  1962 (John Fowke)
Baimuru Patrol Post, 1962 (John Fowke)


ADELAIDE - My first experience of Papua New Guinea was arriving at Jacksons Airport on a sweltering day in mid 1969.

Having survived the rather desultory attention of Customs, I joined a slightly bewildered group of young men who had gathered around a man carrying a sign indicating that he was there to collect us.

There followed a scramble to board a decrepit blue and white Bedford bus which proceeded to convey us along the dusty road between Moresby and our training camp at Kwikila.

This was where we would undergo the six weeks of training that constituted the introduction to our roles as newly-minted junior kiaps.

A later sojourn at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney was promised but never eventuated.

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Of extreme weather, kindness & fear of sorcery

Extreme weather  Honiara
Honiara storm


CARDIFF, WALES - I live in a maisonette built by the local council in 1952 and have been tolerating four years of recurring intermittent leaks into my bedroom.

Then, at 2.20am on 28 December, a square metre section of the ceiling collapsed. I was in bed but luckily it missed me.

My landlord had three different builders look for the cause. The third one managed to solve the problem.

His reasoning reminded me of the cleverness behind the design of various traditional huts I had occupied during my life in Papua New Guinea. The builder looked at the roof and noticed it had been constructed at too wide an angle from the apex. Its slope was very gentle.

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We beat a retreat from PNG. There was a sort of welcome home

Paul Oates
Paul Oates - what to do with a used PNG kiap back in Australia?


GOLD COAST – I recall how, as a contract officer in the service of the Administration of the Territory of Papua New Guinea, I was prepared for my return to Australia.

I was given a short dissertation on how to apply to the Commonwealth Employment Service for unemployment benefits (‘the dole’.)

I was also to ensure that I applied to the Professional Employment Office to have my name registered for job opportunities.

While permanent officers were given a payout (commonly known as the ‘golden handshake’) and seconded officers returned to work in their previous departments, contract officers were expected to throw themselves on the labour market and start from scratch.

No training, briefings or preparation were offered for the culture shock of returning to a country that didn’t know and didn’t care about Papua New Guinea or anyone who had served ‘up there’. (I sympathised with Vietnam veterans on this aspect).

No investigation or screening was conducted to find out if we were medically fit or had contracted or suffered from any medical condition or injury whilst on duty in PNG.

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Waiting for the tide - the practicalities of living kiap style

Doug Robbins


“I asked a group of fishermen sitting in the shade of the inevitable coconut palms, at what time it would be high tide, so I could plan to get my boats over the reef flat. ‘We’re not sure,’ came the answer. ‘Then how do you know when you should take your boats out fishing?’ I asked. ‘Oh that’s easy,’ they replied with the penetrating logic one only imparts to a complete imbecile, ‘we just wait until the tide has come up high enough’.” (Soames Summerhays, Geo vol.8 no.2)

SPRINGBROOK, QUEENSLAND - While we were in Papua New Guinea there was the story of an anthropologist searching for evidence of clay pots at Wanigela who insisted on scratching around for fragments in old cooking fires.

Although the villagers could produce any number of good quality intact pots which were in daily use and for which they are renowned, these weren’t asked for, so they smashed some and buried the broken pieces in the ashes.

In late 1972, I was at Sairope, the last village of the Orokaiva people in the upper reaches of the Kumusi River on the western slopes of the mile-high plus Mount Lamington, an active volcano which last erupted in 1951, killing around 3,000 people.

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The ‘Even Wetter’ season arrives in Bialla

Rain on the way in Bialla
Rain bears down on Bialla - more than four metres a year is the usual


BIALLA - After almost 40 years in Papua New Guinea, the last 11 as general manager of Hargy Oil Palms in Bialla, West New Britain Province, I am still not used to the torrential rains we receive without fail every wet season.

Actually, torrential rain can fall in any month of the year here. It could be said that our two seasons are the Wet from May to October and the Even Wetter from December to April.

A couple of nights ago I woke up at three in the morning to the sound of silence.

The rain was not thundering down on the corrugated iron roof.  It was the first night since Christmas that the rain had not been pouring down all night.  And when the day dawned there were glimpses of blue sky and the sun was shining.

Here in Bialla we receive on average 4,455mm of rain every year. In 2018 we received 4,293mm with rainfall recorded on 220 days.

But one of our company’s plantations at Navo at the base of Mt Ulawun received a whopping 8,453mm.

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Patrolling into uncertain territory - Kudjeru and beyond

Terrain around Kudjeru
Terrain around Kudjeru - "There, on the other side of a small creek, was the village which appeared to be deserted"


GOLD COAST – This is the story of one of the few patrols I did into the area south of Wau over the ridges from the Waria River area to near the Papuan border.

Some years previously, a patrol had marked out a site for an airstrip near the Papuan border and the people there were keen to ensure construction was progressing.

The site had not been visited for some years and I checked old patrol reports to get some background on the area and its people.

In the early 1970s there were no villages between Wau and the village of Kudjeru where we could obtain carriers, so a permanent carrier line was required. Usually we paid carriers from one village to carry the patrol’s cargo to the next village.

This was a good system as the local people knew the area and tracks and didn’t have to leave their village for long periods. Carriers were paid by the hour and the traditional one shilling an hour had recently been increased due to pressure from the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly.

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Mauspas - This is not a good Christmas story

Stanley lata
Stanley Iata at his street stall

HOSEA KOS | Facebook | Edited

PORT MORESBY – He was a fine, energetic 28 year old young man. Stanley lata, mauspas – an illiterate deaf mute with no educational back ground.

But he sold stuff at a small stall in Waigani serving customers from Tisa Haus, Manasupe Haus, Telecom Haus and NID Haus.

On 9 November, for some reason, he was surrounded by city rangers and four police reservists who arrived where the mauspas was selling.

He was tied up with a fan belt around his neck, punched, kicked and bashed up like an hunting dog and then dragged into a white open backed vehicle where several more punches occurred.

Mauspas was taken to the National Capital Development Corporation depot where he was arrested.. While in custody he was hit by an iron pipe until he lost consciousness. When he woke, he was undressed and fully searched and robbed of his personal belongings and the day's takings.

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The single mother in PNG: Just how does she do it?

Brian and BriannaDOMINICA ARE

GOROKA – This past 4 September, I gave myself a huge pat on the back, congratulated myself and hugged my twins Brianna and Brian so tight they gasped for air.

I had made it. We had made it. We had survived their first year. A single mother and two small twins. Honestly, I couldn’t even believe it.

Time flies so damn fast when you’re having double fun.  I was full of glee and so proud of myself that I could hardly concentrate at work.

I almost burst with happiness as I dwelled on the struggles I rose above in that first year. The feeling was superb. I spoilt the children with cupcakes afterwards.

True, the journey was not all rosy; there were several setbacks. But we survived. Most importantly, my babies are happy and healthy and that’s all that matters.

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Counting down at the traffic lights

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflections on the role of women in PNG elections

New Ireland women
New Ireland women - vital to the well-being of the community; overlooked at election time


CARDIFF – In 1987 I campaigned for a provincial seat in New ireland after 17 years living in the electorate.

A candidate for an adjoining seat informed me, “You haven’t got a chance as you have done little campaigning!”

I explained to him that I might not have done much since the legal campaigning period began, but that I had lived, worked, socialised and worshipped with the people of my area for 17 years.

They knew all about me, including the bad things and also the good. I won.

I think the now long established way of diminishing the prospects of a woman winning is for clever party hacks to persuade a woman she should stand as 'you have a good chance!’

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On patrol in colonial PNG: The attack at Numbaira

Bob Cleland
Bob Cleland in more recent times. "As the heavy rifle jolted into my shoulder I was instantly appalled I’d deliberately attempted to take a human life"


BRISBANE - I was on a routine census, health survey and general administration patrol in the Tiaora Division South of Kainantu in 1956.

Though the people were reputed to be surly and uncooperative, I found them tractable enough and the patrol proceeded smoothly.

Close to the southern extremity of the area I heard reports of tribal fighting even further south at a village called Numbaira. Two policemen I’d sent to have a look were warned off with alarming threats and derisive insults, so I decided I’d better take the whole patrol in to investigate.

The Numbaira lived on the headwaters of the mighty Purari River in the same valley system as the fearsome Kukukuku. They had a reputation as warriors who loved a fight and resented intruders. They had attacked a Government patrol some years earlier.

We were on the track well before dawn and climbed to the rim of the ridge surrounding a collection of hamlets in a small valley. It was steep, rugged limestone country. With binoculars I could see apparently normal early morning village life, with women and children bustling about their houses.

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