BY KEITH JACKSON
IT IS COMMON, as Father Time moves hesitantly towards the end of another year, that we humans set our ideals and aspirations for the year ahead and also reflect on the past 12 months.
In accordance with the latter, I thought I might try to recapitulate what, for me, have been some of the highlights for PNG Attitude over the course of 2011.
So here goes, in rough order of priority:
It always gives you a big buzz when an idea is transformed into a reality – and so it was with the Crocodile Prize national literary contest in 2011. Indeed, we did more than mount a successful competition (400 entries, 80 writers, four categories), we also produced an anthology of the best PNG writing in 2011 and a writers’ workshop to boot. A wonderful achievement in which we were assisted hugely by the Post-Courier newspaper and the Australian High Commission. And, as we move into 2012, with a newly formed group of sponsors and its own website, the Prize looks like being bigger and better.
Amanda Donigi and I had the same idea at the same time. If the creative writing resurgence in PNG was to be sustained, it needed a strong governance platform within the country to administer its activities. Hence, towards the end of 2011, the Society was incorporated, a steering committee (largely PNG domiciled) formed, and a constitution drafted.
When still a medical student, Martyn began The Namorong Report blog in 2009 with a point by point summary of one of his lectures. There was not much action on the blog until early 2011, when one of two posts, The land of the disenfranchised (28 February), was picked up by PNG Attitude. A wonderfully talented writer had emerged into public view. Martyn went on to win an inaugural Crocodile Prize award for the best essay and is now PNG’s most prolific blogger and one who has gained international recognition.
4. The great diversity of PNG Attitude contributors
The centrepiece of PNG Attitude was never intended to be its publisher and editor but its contributors. And to succeed, the blog had to maintain a steady input of reportage and creative writing from both PNG and Australia, and this writing had to focus in some way on the relationship between the two countries. This was an idea that managed to succeed and its continuing success depends on this unusual collaboration continuing.
5. Great commentary from knowledgeable commentators
We get our fair share of lunatics in the Recent Comments column, of course, but the feature remains a fantastic place for debate and revelation offered by our readers. The commentary is just as well read as the main articles provided each day and provides a wonderful interactive forum that adds great value to PNG Attitude.
The Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru left Rabaul in June 1942 with over 1,000 military and civilian prisoners in its hold. It was torpedoed on 1 July with the loss of all prisoners, most of whom were Australian. PNG Attitude and its publisher played a crucial role in establishing and fund raising for the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society. The memorial will be dedicated in Canberra on 1 July 2012, 70 years after the tragic sinking of the ship.
7. The constitutional crisis live blog
An important first for PNG Attitude in 2011 was a ‘live blog’ – a continuing coverage of PNG’s tupela wantaim constitutional and political crisis drawn from published news sources and reader input. Page views soared from the usual 1,000 a day to 4,000 and many new readers were introduced to the blog for the first time.
Politicians generally have a hard time accommodating the social media in their communications, probably because the black arts of spin and propaganda don’t wash too well on media like blogs and Twitter. It was good to see, therefore, PNG’s trade minister Charles Abel appearing occasionally on PNG Attitude with some well nuanced observations. Not so Australia’s Pacific Affairs secretary Richard Marles whose failure to address issues full on led to mockery from readers whereupon Richard retired to the dressing room.
9. PNG Attitude establishes a presence on Twitter and Facebook
We were hardly in the first rush of early adopters but we got there eventually and now have a presence right across the main social media platforms.
10. Keith Jackson visits POM for first time in 35 years
I’d been to other parts of Papua New Guinea in the years since I’d gon pinis after independence but never Port Moresby. A small event I know, but I made good the deficiency for the Crocodile Prize events of September.