IN NOVEMBER 1963, JUST A WEEK before President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, a young Australian woman school teacher arrived in what was the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
Val Rivers was to serve in Daru, Dregerhafen, Gagidu, Wabag, Kavieng and as head teacher of the demonstration school at Goroka Teachers College. She returned to Australia in 1971, eventually occupying the important posts of matriculation curriculum developer and chief examiner in South Australia.
Last year Val suggested to me that artefacts she had collected in PNG could be sold to fund a writing prize related to promoting a harmonious and peaceful country, in which people’s well-being is top of the social, political and economic agenda.
This idea has since emerged as the annual Rivers Harmony Prize, which will be awarded each year in November as the result of a national writing contest.
Because of the kina's recent devaluation, the prize has been incerased from K500 to K750, which will be awarded to the best story, poem, essay or play.
This year’s theme is ‘A good life for the people: Is there a Melanesian way?’.
The judges, one of whom is Val Rivers herself, are looking for works which offers ideas for how the Melanesian Way (the cultural values of PNG) could be applied to improve people’s lives and create a peaceful society.
PNG Attitude will publish the better entries in the contest – yesterday we began with Jeff Febi’s essay on how he found a new perspective by roaming through the seamy side of city life.
Here are the rules of the Rivers Write for Peace Prize:
1 – Write a story, poem, essay or play on the theme ‘A good life for the people: Is there a Melanesian way?’
2 – You must be a Papua New Guinean citizen to enter
3 – Generally entries should be of less than 2,000 words
4 – Entries must be emailed to the judges here or posted to Rivers Prize, PO Box 1688, Noosa Heads QLD 4567 Australia
5 – The closing date is Friday 1 November