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21 July 2014

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Good idea, Paul. The PNGns are football mad. They also need a Rugby Pukpuks team in the Super Rugby comp.

Leaving aside those who go to PNG and gain or take home no lasting impressions, it took a certain kind of person to want to leave the comforts of home and endure the delights of the PNG outstation.

That sort of person generally only relates to others of their persuasion and those from the cultures they lived in. You only have to look at who leaves comments on the Attitude after all.

It is therefore any wonder that, in the past, these sort of people were irrevocably changed in personality, cultural experience and not to mention disease and injury.

Having then returned to their previous culture and society, it was no surprise when they found out no one wanted to know about what they had learnt and experienced as this was far beyond the normal experience or knowledge.

The point about intercultural exchanges in today’s Australian society is that they still mostly focus on the differences rather than the similarities.

If PNG were to have an ARL team in the Australian comp for example as does NZ and dare I say Melbourne, it might start to crack the current impervious cultural divide and so provide immeasurable benefits to both nations.

Perhaps even, dare I say, a PNG AFL team might sheet home the message to Victorians that they do have other cultures residing vaguely somewhere near them. That’s a tall order I’ll admit.

During a recent tour through fascinating ancient Roman ruins and wonderful Italian cultural masterpieces, our bus load of Australians still revelled in hearing the latest local football scores after each weekly round had been played at home.

‘Yawn!’

When I returned to Australia in 1974, after 5 years in PNG, I soon discovered that very few people much cared about what I had seen and done as a kiap.

What people grasped was that I had worked somewhere "exotic", which involved darked skin people with hardly any clothes, some of whom lived "wild" in the jungle and used bows and arrows.

As this was quite beyond their knowledge or experience, the subject soon turned to the footy or politics or something that otherwise mattered to them.

I learned that, like a war veteran, I could only really talk with those who had shared my experiences in some way. Strangely, when late in my post PNG career I worked with veterans, I found that they seemed to relate very strongly to some aspects of my experience.

In truth, PNG hardly impinged upon the national consciousness at all in 1974 and nothing much has changed since.

These days, round Anzac Day, people will allow themselves to get slightly misty eyed about the Kokoda campaign and the wonderful "Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels" but that sentiment soon fades away again.

Like Phil, I find it both puzzling and rather sad that many Australians seem quite unaware that a nation of approaching 7 million people, with whom we have strong historic and current links, is actually on our proverbial doorstep.

Perhaps PNG is in a sort of "phantom zone", only perceptible to those with arcane knowledge of the distant past?

Thanks for these comments. I agree with them. The Aussies who worked in PNG who came home and wrote books about their exploits now often bore me. The country of PNG has moved on at a rapid pace. There are more interesting things to learn by tagging along with them, even though you might live back in Australia.

I'm really enjoying being part of the Sepik mob on Facebook and am at the moment even talking to the Sepik triathlon competitor, Casmer Kamangip,a Wewak boy, from Brandi Secondary School, who is now in Glasgow, and giving the Sepiks a little bit of understanding about Scotland. I can go onto his Facebook page and chat away about what is happening to him over in Scotland then tell his wantoks what he is up to on the Facebook Forum. Wow!

Well, my ancestors came from Glasgow in the 1850s and I visited the place in the 1960s. The world is becoming a much smaller place and it is wonderful that PNG has been able to send so many representatives over to the Commonwealth Games. It will be a great experience for them. I can see some great friendships will develop between them and people from other countries.

They have just had this great Melanesian Festival in Moresby. There needs to be some sort of Festival that links Australian with PNG. I don't know how we could do it but bringing down those Bougainville dancers to Canberra last year must have helped. But they passed through Sydney and we didn't see them dance here.

The PNGAA is going to hold this conference at the Parliament House, Sydney and the Art Galleries and Museums are also getting interested in PNG. Somewhere they are going to show all these wonderful old PNG films. There are also a number of PNG students studying in Sydney, so hopefully the people of Sydney will start to become a bit more interested in PNG people and what is going on in PNG.

It is good that your son in following in your footsteps. It is up to the younger generations of Australians to form some good relationships with PNG people. In my case it is the opposite, I'm forming good relationships via Facebook with the children of my former students! Ha! Me no lapun!

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