“The kiaps gave exemplary service to the people of TPNG for 75 years,” says ex kiap Norm Richardson. “They went where others feared to tread and did so without unnecessary bloodshed or disruption of the life of the people, frequently to the detriment of their own health and well being. The country was changed from a state of constant fear and predation, village upon village, to one of free travel, cooperation across language groups and peace between long standing tribal combatants.”
They are eloquent words, and they are all true. Now another ex-kiap, Chris Viner-Smith, author of the book ‘Australia's Forgotten Frontier’, is preparing a submission to the Federal Government seeking recognition of the outstanding contribution that District Services personnel made to the development of Papua New Guinea.
I believe a good case can be made for recognition and, while I cannot speak for the Papua New Guinea Association, I believe it should strongly support these representations. Kiaps had a unique pioneering and leadership role in PNG's evolution to nationhood and I don’t believe for a moment that others of us, and we also played our parts, would begrudge official acknowledgement of the special nature of the kiap’s role.
Chris Viner-Smith already has the support of the Australian Police Association, the Australian Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association, ACT MP Annette Ellis and ACT Senator Garry Humphries. He says he has “partial support from the PNGAA who say they cannot give full support as they represent all expats not only kiaps.”
Norm Richardson has pointed out that, in 1942, the 2/12, 2/31 and other battalions could not have carried out their defence of Australia on the Kokoda Track without the active participation of patrol officers. In addition, coastwatchers were, in the main, kiaps.
Robert Cruickshank, an ex-kiap who also served as a member of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, says his “duties as a Patrol Officer were far more onerous, and at times more dangerous, than most of my military service".
At the first meeting of the new PNGAA executive committee this coming Sunday, I will move that the Association give its wholehearted support to this initiative. It’s an excellent proposal, and it deserves to succeed.