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Adieu Harry, it was good. May ONGU travel with you

Abbot Roach
Harry (right) with former Sunshine Coast mayor Bob Abbot. Considering Harry's ubiquity and his reputation for having a finger in every pie, strangely this is the best pic we were able to find at short notice. Looks like ONGU operatives were at work


Harry Roach died this afternoon bringing to an end an illustrious career as a Papua New Guinea kiap, a Cooroy property salesman and a Noosa shire councillor. He was known wherever he went as a can-do man, a thoroughgoing professional, a solid citizen and an inveterate prankster. Life with Harry could be eye-popping, hair-raising and mind-blowing, but the saga of ONGU was perhaps his greatest accomplishment – a true tour de farce - KJ

AITAPE - There was very little to occupy the ever-enquiring minds of the people who lived and worked in the many and varied outstations of the Sepik District in the mid 1960's.

And so it was with those who filled the various government and private occupations on the small Aitape outstation at the time.

Continue reading "Adieu Harry, it was good. May ONGU travel with you" »

Pax Australiana & techniques of pacification

Forster - Roy edwards
Patrol Officer Roy Edwards and police with a group of manacled villagers, Kunimaipa section, Goilala Sub-District, late 1940s (photo previously unpublished)


NORTHUMBRIA, UK – Roy Edwards was an uncompromising kiap (patrol officer), not fond of paperwork and with his own way of bringing pacification to the warring tribes of Papua New Guinea.

He patrolled the Kunimaipa section of the Goilala region for months on end and was ultimately successful in erasing a traditional payback murder spiral that led to dozens of deaths each year.

The perpetuation of payback was an insurmountable obstacle to securing the wellbeing and progress of the villages.

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How Stewy Brown beat the Dog Act

I am what i am
'I Am What I Am' - Stewy Brown was a serial drunk and on the verge of deportation from  colonial PNG when Bob Parer asked the Policemaster to give him one last chance


BRISBANE – One of the unusual colonial laws of Papua New Guinea when it was an Australian territory was the so-called Dog Act.

Under the Dog Act a magistrate could order that people with an alcohol problem could have their name and photograph posted at all local hotels and clubs for a year.

During that time any premises that served that person alcohol would be fined.

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Involuntary voyagers await repatriation

Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni (Denyse Ealedona)
Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni now have to get the paperwork out of the way after 29 days lost at sea (Photo - Denyse Ealedona)

| Solomon Islands broadcasting Corporation

PORT MORESBY - Two Solomon Islands' men missing for 29 days until rescued off the coast of East New Britain 10 days ago are now in Port Moresby awaiting repatriation.

Mary Walenenea, second secretary with the Solomon Islands high commission in Papua New Guinea, said the men, Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni, are staying at the embassy.

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The wreckage they left behind

Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in South Australia. Phil Fitzpatrick found this country more to his liking than a city teeming with consultants


TUMBY BAY - After leaving Papua New Guinea I went to work for the South Australian Museum in a new unit responsible for Aboriginal heritage legislation.

There were less than a dozen of us and shortly after I arrived we were shifted from the museum to a warehouse with attached offices out in the suburbs.

It was a decidedly casual arrangement and on most days when I wasn’t doing fieldwork I turned up at the office in shorts and tee shirt.

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Fahim Dashty - pioneer of Afghan press freedom

Hand-compiling the Kabul Weekly newspaper (Martin Hadlow)
Hand-compiling the Kabul Weekly newspaper (Martin Hadlow)


SAMFORD VALLEY – Not long ago in PNG Attitude, this photograph was published alongside my article, ‘Taliban had time & are not so benign’.

It shows the Kabul Weekly newspaper being compiled by hand.

The newspaper was established by an extraordinary journalist, Fahim Dashty. And this is his story.

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The peerless, resilient Massey Ferguson

Tractor flambe
Paul Oates' Massey Ferguson after the fire


Phil Fitzpatrick recently paid tribute in these columns to the incomparable durability of the Massey Ferguson tractor.  In this piece, extracted from his memoir, ‘Phascogales and Other Tales’, former kiap Papua New Guinea kiap Paul Oates recalls his own experience with this wonderfully resilient machine. By the way, Paul's book available here from Amazon - KJ

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The saga of the mighty Fergie 135

Not ours at Kiunga, but an old Massey Ferguson 135 put out to pasture


TUMBY BAY - It was 1969 at Kiunga on the Fly River and we were unloading MV Pipi Gari, named after Steamship Trading Company’s first Papuan skipper.

It was the dry season and the river was very low, but the skipper had been able to steer the vessel across the rock bar eight kilometres downstream and motor to the station.

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A Baiyer court case: A good kiap reflects.

Weaponry PNG modern style
A Tagali warlord presents his Mac58 and M16 at a Hela gun surrender. Technology has made clan warfare much more lethal


WARRADALE - Among the boxes of stuff in my shed, I dug up a document I had kept because I wanted to prove I had not embellished a story.

The document was a carbon copy of a Local Court case I heard at Baiyer River in the Western Highlands nearly 50 years ago, on 10 December 1971.

Continue reading "A Baiyer court case: A good kiap reflects." »

The man who was told he wasn't Australian

Troy Lee
After a five-year legal battle against the Department of Home Affairs Troy Lee has his passport again. His life was wrecked by a callous act of bureaucratic stupidity 

| SBS News | If you have a similar story, contact Stefan:

BRISBANE - Almost five years ago Troyrone (Troy) Zen Lee did what thousands of Australians do every day: applied to renew his passport.

What he did not expect to be told in 2016 was that he was not Australian.

Born in pre-independence Papua New Guinea, Troy fell victim to the Department of Home Affairs' stubborn misinterpretation of the Citizenship Act.

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It was the Aussies who drove PNG to drink

Arthur Williams
Arthur Williams - "The American Bishop of Kavieng asked me to ring the Convent and invite two of the Sisters to join us to play Rummy"


CARDIFF - Phil Fitzpatrick often writes about subjects that capture what many of us ex-New Guinea types think about now we have more time on our hands having left behind the daily commute to work.

His Power, Hedonism & the Best Years of Our Lives’ was one such essay.

During the latter part of my 30 years in Papua New Guinea, I often felt that the life of expats who were off duty influenced the local people.

Continue reading "It was the Aussies who drove PNG to drink" »

Great NG airship expedition that never happened

Postcard printed in 1913 to pre-order of the Pf2, Mk1 and never-produced Mk20 stamps. Only known copy in existence


MORRISET – It is an historical oddity more like an absurdist Monty Python sketch than reality, but it is true.

In 1913, Germany, Britain and Holland, all colonial powers sharing New Guinea, began planning a joint expedition to the giant island.

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The day I gave the bad news to Kela Smith

Mal Kela Smith
Malcolm Kela Smith (PNGi). "Mal's response was furious and littered with profanities. Needless to say, my relationship with him ended acrimoniously"

| Ex Kiap Website | Edited

BARDON, QLD - The people who live along the Sepik River, who depend upon it for their livelihoods, are facing the fight of a lifetime.

The Chinese-owned Guangdong Rising through its subsidiary, PanAust, is seeking approval from the Papua New Guinea government to establish the Frieda River copper and gold mine.

Continue reading "The day I gave the bad news to Kela Smith" »

Annie’s story: Escape from abuse

Annie at Vision City -
Annie at Vision City - “Archie was only 12 and still needed me, but he gave me the courage to escape from my abusive husband”


PORT MORESBY – Archie Iso Kundal loves his mother very much but, as a small child, was frequently distressed to see his abusive father, Ismael, habitually beat her.

The two small boys would often see their mother lock herself in a room and cry while nursing her wounds.

So one day Archie told his mother to escape, return to her people at Kerema and not come back to Wabag until he and his brother Victor were old enough to defend her.

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The big yellow excavator

Buk Bilong Pikinini students
Students from the Buk Bilong Pikinini School worried that their home has been removed by the developer.

| Ples Singsing | Edited

I interviewed some of the students who went to Buk Bilong Pikinini School on the ATS hillside. This is one of their stories. The girl’s name has been changed - BW

PORT MORESBY - It was a bright sunny day and Mekeme was reading a book at the Buk Bilong Pikinini School on the hillside of the ATS settlement.

As she sat on the school veranda, she saw a big yellow excavator come slowly down the hill towards her house.

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Into the backblocks with the sorcerers

| New English Review | Edited extract

Link here to read more of Bill Corden’s writing

VANCOUVER – It’s 1993. My older brother, Ron, had ended up in a remote village in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

He was the manager of a town called Goroka. How he got there is a story that would take too long to tell, but suffice to say he's completely immersed in the culture.

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Musing on the death of Prince Philip

Brittania in Kieta Harbour  Prince Philip on board   April 1971 (Terence Spencer)
Brittania in Kieta Harbour with Prince Philip on board,   April 1971. It is anchored behind a freighter waiting to dock at Kieta wharf (right) (Terence Spencer)


NOOSA – Early on the morning of Wednesday 17 March 1971, the black-hulled royal yacht HMY Brittania slipped slowly into Kieta harbour through the narrow main channel abeam of Pok Pok Island.

On board was Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, visiting for a two night stay on Bougainville after a voyage through the Panama Canal and the Pacific islands and on to the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

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The dogs of Manus

Dogs of Manus (Stefan Armbruster  SBS News)
Dogs of Manus (Stefan Armbruster,  SBS News)

| Newsroom | Translated by Mohsen Kafi

AUCKLAND - This is a topic that has rarely been written about, simply because few people care about how dogs live.

The story dates to the time I was imprisoned on Manus Island. In 2013, the Australian government exiled me and almost 1,000 other refugees to Manus in the north of Papua New Guinea.

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Remembered: Michael Somare’s escape from Rabaul

Double outigger canoe (Mariners Museum  Virginia  USA)
A Philippines double outrigger canoe (Mariners Museum, Virginia, USA)


ALI ISLAND - I want to share with you all a special tribute to our late great Great Grand Chief Sir Michael T Somare with a short story from my home, Ali Island in the Aitape District of Sandaun Province.

During the childhood years of our Great Grand Chief at Rabaul during World War II, a late gentleman by the name of Makarius Menik from Jaltaleouw village on Ali Island, with some of his fellow comrades, sailed out of Rabaul to Murik in a traditional double outrigger canoe.

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Kerenga Kua & lip ti no swit

Kerenga Kua - spoke about an embarrassing experience with a cup of tea during his high school days


LAE - Kerenga Kua, Papua New Guinea’s petroleum and energy minister, has occupied senior political positions since he was first elected as the member for Sinasina-Yongamugl in Simbu Province in 2012.

My story, though, is about his student days at Aiyura National High School as told by the man himself in 2014.

Continue reading "Kerenga Kua & lip ti no swit" »

How a janitor helped me become a soldier

Graun Blong Mi - My Land | Edited

LAE – Many years ago, I was working as a cleaner at a power plant at Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea’s Western Province when I saw an advertisement for PNG Defence Force recruitment.

I’d wanted to join the Army since childhood, so I submitted a form and was called for an entry test at Murray Barracks in Port Moresby. I would need travel there by sea.

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The dog that took over my abode

Nebula and family
Nebula and her new family members. Nebula found an inconvenient place to give birth

| My Land, My People

LAE - Two years ago, my son’s dog-daughter, Nebula, ‘adopted’ me as her human parent.

She seemed to claim me even more after he left to join the army last year and I became full-time parent, or Nebula adopted me as full time parent, whatever.

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Living in the slums


| Sipikriva Girl Blog

FINSCHHAFEN - After ending my career as a resident doctor at Angau Memorial Provincial Hospital, Lae, it was time to pack up my bags and move temporarily to the big city.

In Lae, I had lived in accommodation provided by the hospital for resident doctors. I had initially lived in a bedsitter inside the hospital, and then I moved to Eriku in flats rented by the hospital.

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The patrol that went wrong – Part 2


PORT MORESBY – As somebody called “The white men are going to steal us and take us to Australia,” every trooper fled from the helicopter in every direction into the thick jungle.

Although barefoot, we did not care about rattan spikes or any other mishap that may be in our way.

We had to flee as fast as we could to get away from the helicopter.

Continue reading "The patrol that went wrong – Part 2" »

The patrol that went wrong – Part 1


PORT MORESBY - As a kid, the Busoo River in the Bukawa area of Morobe Province was the best place in the world to be.

In Wagangluhu village, on the banks of the Busoo, the river was our swimming pool, fishing ground and playground. This and the surrounding lush tropical rainforests provided my friends and me with countless adventures.

Continue reading "The patrol that went wrong – Part 1" »

The unwanted Christmas present

Phil on patrol  Star Mountains  early 1970s
Phil on patrol, Star Mountains, early 1970s

| Published in PNG Attitude, 24 December 2019

TUMBY BAY - In 1970 I received a Christmas present I didn’t really want.

At the time I was the officer-in-charge of Olsobip Patrol Post on the southern slopes of the Star Mountains in the Western District.

Earlier in the month I had returned from a 31 day patrol into the rugged and remote Murray Valley.

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Christmas at Olsobip

Olsobip Patrol Post, 1969 (PNGAA)

| Published in PNG Attitude, 24 December 2016

OLSOBIP - Christmas, and the entire festive season, is always a contentious time at the Gentlemen’s Club.

It is the cause of more disharmony than a federal election or a debate on the return of conscription and compulsory national service, or climate change.

Goodwill and fellowship towards our fellow man, I don’t think so! What a load of humbug!

Continue reading "Christmas at Olsobip" »

The gift of literacy & the story of Tony

Tony Heffernan
Tony Heffernan - "My father was terribly upset over the accident and never stopped blaming himself. My sister told me it was the only time she had ever seen Dad cry"


TUMBY BAY - Our first grandson was born while we were living in Hervey Bay in Queensland. His other grandparents, who belong to a small Lutheran congregation nearby in Maryborough, organised his christening there.

The Lutheran pastor was an American who had been a missionary in Papua New Guinea. I was still scooting back and forth from Australia to PNG doing social mapping, so we had a common interest.

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Bougainville's conman 'king' still on the run

Liam Fox meets Noah Musingku in 2010 (ABC News)
Liam Fox meets Noah Musingku in 2010 (ABC News)

| Australian Broadcasting Corporation

SYDNEY - Noah Musingku turns to an ancient PC that looks like it stopped working years ago, taps away on the keyboard seriously for a few seconds, then looks up and says: "You're a millionaire, Gorethy!"

"Your account has $2 million in it. Just send me your bank account details and we'll send the money to you," Musingku says.

Continue reading "Bougainville's conman 'king' still on the run" »

The Rabaul stickybeak incident

British square at Waterloo
British Square at the Battle Waterloo, 1815. A formation adopted in late 1969 by military strategists in Rabaul


WARWICK - At the end of the 1969 academic year at Queensland University I was ordered to return to TPNG* on posting to Bougainville. 

But when my flight landed at Rabaul en route to Kieta I was ordered off the plane and told I had been seconded to the Supreme Court as interpreter for the forthcoming trial of several Mataungan leaders.

The trial never eventuated while I was in Rabaul because of a rumour that the Tolais were going to besiege the courthouse.

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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.

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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.

Continue reading "The hell of a mess we created" »