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14 January 2013


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Very controversial topic. I see many off them acting the goat at the Royal Papua Yacht Club.

When they go back home, they won't drink at a mariners' club let alone walk down Queen Street in Sydney where no-one recognises them.

They will have beers at their local RSL Club. Em tasol!

What is not being discussed here is why people feel the need to have a sense of achievement and be recognised for that.

There are two critical international studies into human behaviour that are pertinent to this discussion: Maslow and Herzberg.

Whilst the principal purpose to which these are put is business management through understanding why people behave the way they do and how to get the best from them, they are also important in understanding why people volunteer and how to manage volunteers.

And this is important in Australia which is recognised as a nation that could not exist without volunteers.

Yes, there are those that travel overseas with Aid or community service organizations and get a living allowance to cover the necessities of food and shelter.

There are many that remain within Australia and provide for their own communities like the Rural Fire services or sporting and social clubs in each town in each state for no reward other than self-satisfaction.

And there are others who provide volunteer services on a much larger scale for ongoing causes like Red Cross or single events like the Sydney Olympics.

Frederick Herzberg considered that there were five factors that motivated performance:

Achievement – the person completed something worthwhile

Recognition – the person was recognised and acknowledged for what they were doing

Interest – the person wanted to do the assigned work

Responsibility – the person was given a level of responsibility for the assigned work

Opportunity – the person had an opportunity to advance to more complex work and higher levels of responsibility.

Similarly, Abraham Maslow recognised and created a Hierarchy of Needs:

Physiological – people need shelter, food and sleep

Safety – they need to be free from danger

Social – they need to have a sense of belonging

Esteem – they need to be recognised and have self-respect

Actualisation – they develop a sense of self-fulfilment on successful completion of the work.

Looking at both the studies, one can see a number of these at play in the simple exchange between the Expat and Ganjiki and the Expat should not be criticised for exhibiting normal human behavioural reactions.

He wants to know that his efforts are not wasted, both from the sense of achievement and actualisation – in other words, “I did something that was very important for the community, I’m proud of my part in its completion and they were very pleased with my efforts.”

There is nothing unusual about this but care needs to be taken the reactions remain within the normal range and not the “blowing of one’s own trumpet” exaggerated level of response.

These are, of course, generalisations and every worker and volunteer is different in which of the above responses is the principal driver whether it be in Australia, PNG or wherever.

Thanks Ganjiki - very thought provoking!

Looks can be deceiving. There is a world of difference between what we see in appearance and what we see in fact.

Your piece somehow reminds me of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In my opinion, there are a lot of people in our villages who belong at the highest end of this pyramid (self actualisation).

They don't need the unnecessary material wealth to be at peace with themselves.

We need to protect our ways (the simple things in life like the act of reciprocation in our villages) which harbour the sense of appreciation.

Still love the village lifestyle!

A few of the Aussies that I met and workd with came here as volunteers and then, in a year or two, they went on to manage million dollar projects like Tingim Laip, Anglicare, Poro Support Project and many more.

If the board appoints a qualified PNGian to the top post, the organisation will surely get a big cut or nil funding.

When you have a chance to look at the CV of these volunteers who are made directors overnight you will surely cry foul. Alas, that's what Down Under wants.

Of the more than 50 or so Aussies that I worked with in the HIV/AIDS program in 10 years only three were very genuine human beings that came to help PNG.

The rest came for the beaches in Madang or for some other reasons.

Peter Kranz, thanks for finding well-meaning reasons to stay. I was in Uni when you were at the Library there at UPNG.

Per my caveat, I dont judge all expats this way. It could well be a reality for the tiniest minority...but it's a reality i'd like to articulate.

Michael thanks. I don't knock back the West. I buy into the Constitutional Planning Committee's wise and prudent words cautioning us to be weary of what comes in from the West.

The CPC described it (Western influence) as a tidal wave. That to truly be ourselves in this very rapidly-progressing world, we need to take stock of what comes in, hold on the the good, make use of the remaining good things of our traditional culture, and reject the bad and unhelpful that comes from both outside and within.

An ideal PNG society can really be achieved if we are serious about working out these many issues.

Paul, I dread to think PNG has more opportunities for outsiders than for its own people. But that's a possible truth that may be hard to swallow...

Peter McGlynn, when PNG citizens go to work overseas, I'm sure the more dominant reason is the better package. And a perceived "better environment" than home.

Many well-meaning PNG citizens have strong desires to come home and be useful at home. I know are good number of them.

Interesting thread & comments. I have been following the case of the PNG youth and his unfortunate circumstances with interest.

The Australian government in my opinion should be providing any and all means to the convicted youth and his family to facilitate natural justice in our country, and in this case, need to allow the family to stay here until all avenues of appeal are exhausted. It seems only right and fair.

We can all cite individual cases of good and poor behaviour by our respective expats on both sides of the Torres Strait.

The good behaviour no doubt outnumbers the poor behaviour, but gains no media attention, and so mostly goes unnoticed.

My point here is that no country is made up of "all good" or "all bad" citizens, and these generalisations are all too common in assessing the character and behaviour of both of our countries.

Both PNG and Australia need to design and implement policies that treat each other with mutual respect, befitting the closeness of our mutual relationship.

In my opinion, PNG gets a lot of negative press here in Australia, mostly around community violence and political corruption, borne largely of ignorance and lack of meaningful citizen to citizen contact.

On social media sites in PNG, there is also a lot of negative talk about Australia and our colonial and domineering attitude.

Whilst there is some truth in both of these scenarios, it is never the whole story, all of the good people and their positive deeds on both sides of the pond usually get swamped by the negatives.

Great article Ganjiki. I'm sure its caused a few to do some 'navel gazing'.

While there is no doubt that opportunities in PNG may beckon some who see self-enhancement, it also might be fair to point out that these outsiders may not represent the full spectrum of the societies from whence they originate.

There are any number of reasons why people may decide to go to PNG however it suggested that a large reason why many stay is that they discover the satisfaction of being able to achieve positive results for the PNG people.

It is true that there are many volunteer organisations in countries like Australia provide unpaid services for their communities and yet, as it says in the Bible: ‘The poor will be with you always’.

In so called ‘western’ societies, the ability to achieve almost anything is retarded by the inevitable red tape and legislation requirements and stipulations.

These inhibiting factors, often enacted for the very best of reasons, can be self-defeating in practice when volunteers perform a dual role with government services or commercial organisations that exist to perform the same services.

Many organisations in Australia are now finding it almost impossible to recruit staff and overseas recruitment is becoming increasing evident.

Logically, the potential to achieve positive results is immeasurably enhanced when there is a larger array of more serious problems to overcome.

Perhaps PNG provides more opportunities to achieve more for other people?

To quote an ancient Roman philosopher; ‘When your neighbour’s house is on fire, it becomes your problem.’ Perhaps that's part of the problem.

Ganjiki - I got a job in PNG because I needed one, and PNG seemed as good a place as any at the time.

Once there I learnt a few things, as Mark Twain said about growing up to know his father ('he'd learnt a thing or two since I became 25').

I learnt about the hard life of local people, the destructive power of ignorance, the reality of real suffering, Australian complacency, the value of true friendship, and most of all about the nature of love.

So yes I'm an expat who went to PNG for all the wrong reasons, but found out the right ones.

Please don't judge us all by the few bad examples.

Big fish in small ponds always appear to be larger than in reality, probably the result of the refraction error on reflection.

Cheers Ganjiki. In all your articles you really do touch on silent but salient agendas.

I propose that a real question is: what do we as a developing (Melanesian) country really think that the developed (Western) world has to offer us?

We can pick and choose.

On the personal level it's already a cliche that becoming 'rich and famous' is usually an exercise into emptiness, no matter what world you come from.

I met the boy's mother in Newcastle last year. She was in utter despair - weeping at my feet.

What could the family do? They seemed to have no avenues open to them. They swore their son was innocent, caught up as a bystander in Australian gang violence.

Surely we should allow them the time and opportunity to mount an appeal?

Peter - I'd draw your attention to the case of the PNG youth sentenced to life for the alleged murder of an ADF member in Newcastle.

His family plead his innocence, but are about to be deported for overstaying their visas and cannot afford to pay for an appeal.

Australian justice?

Good article, very thought provoking. Thanks.

I'd like to turn the question around.

When PNG citizens come to Australia for work, are they doing so for their own benefit or for the good of Australia?

Do they adhere to the laws & customs of the host nation or do they import regional & tribal allegiances or abuse the system to apply for protection visas and permanent residency?

The answer can of course never be 100% yes or 100% no. The responses to these situations depend on the individual, and just like the expats in PNG, each one has individual motives.

The PNG people must set their own rules through effective government policies & plementation for the benefit of all PNG citizens.

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