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25 August 2013


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A similar group of Australian Aboriginals toured schools in the early 1990s.

The group came to Markham Valley Secondary School, and the public in Markham were invited to attend and share with the students, staff and visitors their cultural experiences.

People now, who were students at that time, still sing the songs and stamp-dance the aboriginal 'singsing', retell the stories to children, and even sound the didgeridoo vocally.

Ignorant as we are in the rural areas, cultural exchanges promote learning about other ways of life through the exposure of cultural dances, items, and stories. They broaden our knowledge and hasten the universal process of formal education.

The experience at Brandi in the early 70's can be identified with easily by those at Markham Valley in the 90's of their respective visits by the Aboriginals.

The tourists will probably also treasure such happy 'bung wantaim' experiences. They are all enriching and memorable: so wanton of repetition - lest we forget.

After 1975 a lot of returning expatriates, especially kiaps,were hired by various government departments in Australia working with Aboriginal people, myself included.

The assumption was that if you had worked in PNG you could work with Aboriginal people.

I'm not sure about other people but I quickly realised that this was a wildly wrong.

I remember constructing in my mind a polarity chart with Europeans and Papua New Guineans at one end and Aborigines at the extreme other end.

I was working with people who were still tribalised and who still went about naked in the bush away from the settlements, so maybe I saw the extremities a bit more.

Barbara's article is an interesting reflection of these differences.

I showed some of the desert nomads slides of PNG and gave them a couple of stone adzes (which ended up as sacred objects in a possum dreaming initiation ceremony).

When I asked whether they would like to visit PNG they shied away and told me about the cannibals and headhunters up there.

They were fascinated by pictures of PNG policemen however. Their experiences with the police were universally bad and the idea that people with black skins could be policemen intrigued them.

A Badtjala friend from Fraser Island who worked in Aboriginal affairs in the 1970-80s told me about the ex-PNG expatriates in his department. They called them BINGs - Been in New Guinea!

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