IT WAS MY LABOUR OF LOVE, two years of dreaming and plotting to track down Dr Barry Kirby, and pretty nail-biting in the end, for me as a new freelancer, as to whether his story would ever actually find a publisher.
I’d like to pick up a couple of important themes identified in the feedback from PNG Attitude readers.
First, the issue of village birth attendants is a really interesting and live debate in the medical/development sphere.
The question is this: Do you recognise the reality that many isolated and poor communities will never get a functional health service, therefore invest in educating and equipping village birth attendants on the basis that something is better than nothing?
So a real Catch 22, and a big issue in many parts of the world.
I'd point out though that Barry Kirby's project has a strong emphasis on providing better training, equipment, support and pay to the midwives working in his clinics.
When his aircraft gets into action, it will be a last-ditch emergency scenario. Still it's a service we in Australia take for granted.
(The Flying Doctor landed somewhere back of Burke to pick up my grey-nomad mother after she 'had a bit of a turn', my father shooing the kangaroos of the road for take-off. They've still never seen a bill - though Dad is now a regular and grateful donor.)
On the important matter raised by Barbara Short, Barry Kirby is keenly aware that the bottom line in saving women will be tackling 'the male issue'.
Unfortunately due to space constraints this was not an area I could explore in my story. But Barry is working on a number of fronts to try to tackle this.
For example, he's scripting radio plays based on the real-life stories he collected and is paying local actors to perform and record them for broadcast.
The plays try to encourage men to rethink their part in the birth process, their obligations and responsibilities to their wives and daughters, and to generally improve behaviour of men toward women.
They are part parable, part soap opera. Radio is often a really effective medium in such contexts so this aspect will be interesting to monitor.
Also Barry is wanting to draw men into the birth process by adding something to the baby bundles which is just for them - maybe a fishing line or such - some useful incentive for them to support their wives in getting to the clinic.
But this whole area of tackling male behaviour and culture is a complex and long-haul area where many have feared to tread.
The final article as a result of my last research trip is due to be published in Griffith Review's next volume (themed Women & Power) later this month, with a contribution by me on the women's campaign and the push for women's seats in the last election.
But that'll be all on Papua New Guinea from me for a while due to illness, which will stop me travelling to PNG and anywhere else.
(Though expect to see some rather intimate reporting on the issue of PNG and the curse of MDR TB at some point in the future.)
Thanks again to Keith for continuing to provide PNG Attitude, this wonderful conduit to sharing PNG stories - his own labour of love.