An occasional series about some of the people administering this year’s Crocodile Prize
I WENT to Papua New Guinea in 1967 as a kiap. The early years were exciting and I was involved in first-contact patrols and work in restricted areas where cannibalism was still practiced.
When I was transferred to a quiet backwater, boredom set in quickly and I headed for Port Moresby to work as a publications officer, a stint which included involvement with a commission of enquiry into land matters.
I left PNG in 1973 and managed to convince the South Australian Museum that I could work with Aboriginal people in Central Australia doing anthropological and archaeological research.
While I was in PNG, I had started a degree in literature; not so much because it would be useful in any way but more to create some order to my compulsive and erratic reading.
When I had finished a double major in literature, I tackled politics in an attempt to make sense of my government job.
These studies and my involvement in Aboriginal affairs began a slow lean towards the political left. Most people become more conservative as they grow older but I reckon I have managed to avoid that trap.
Along the way I also became a vegetarian. I also avoid stepping on ants when I’m out walking.
In 1994 I continued the anthropological subterfuge and set myself up as an independent consultant. This inevitably led me back to PNG to work in the petroleum and mining exploration sectors.
The intermittent nature of this work allowed me to pursue what I decided was my real interest in life, writing.
I surprised myself in 2005 by having my first attempt at a book published, Bamahuta: Leaving Papua.
The combination of an interest in PNG and writing led me to help Keith Jackson set up the Crocodile Prize for Literature in 2010.
These days I am technically retired but still scribbling and doing the occasional social mapping job in PNG and Australia.
I live in a little wooden house a few hundred yards from the beach in Hervey Bay in Queensland with my wife, Sue, dog McGee and a couple of opinionated chooks.