True stories Feed

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.

Continue reading "Remote business never easy in PNG" »

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" »

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.

Continue reading "Students fleeing China refused passage" »

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’.

Continue reading "Addressing racism’s toxicity" »

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.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: Foreigners divided our island" »

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.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: Living at ground level" »

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.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: The sleeping giant" »

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.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: Polygamy a destructive force" »

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’.

Continue reading "Best of 2019: Travelling with donkeys" »

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.

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.

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.”

Continue reading "Warning: You’re being dumbed down" »

Remembering the boy on the postage stamp

Papua stampGRAHAM KING

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

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

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

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

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.

Continue reading "Croton’s street mechanics: Relief for POM’s struggling motorists" »

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.

Continue reading "How I reconciled the break-up of my marriage & was better for it" »

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.

Continue reading "Volunteers role in PNG’s development is often overlooked" »

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.

Continue reading "1970s patrol notebook: Strip maps and mocka juice" »

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.

Continue reading "History has a lesson for leaders who engage in corruption" »

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.

Continue reading "Then along came a guria to break the monotony of the day" »

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.

Continue reading "Our daily bread: How scarcity drives the Mosbi mob mentality:" »

'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.

Continue reading "Tales from old Oro – new roads, uncharted seas & wild rivers" »

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.

Continue reading "The picture of a grieving mum that told a million stories" »

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!

Continue reading "The leaving of PNG & the re-establishment of career" »

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.

Continue reading "Kiap’s notebook - births, deaths, marriages & anniversaries" »

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.

Continue reading "Travelling with donkeys through the backblocks of PNG" »

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.

Continue reading "A journey through the mountains not for the faint of heart" »

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.

Continue reading "Are we in for a repeat of the Y2K bug hysteria?" »