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17 June 2015


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Thank you all for your comments. I'm now used to the regular lively world of discussion on Facebook Forums.

I hope more of the ex-Kiaps will stop "navel gazing" and "living in the past" and try to "keep up" with PNG today! Live in the real world!

You started something...started a process... started the movement of change of stone age tribes to the modern "western' world.

Today the descendants of those men and women you first met have to carry on your work. They would be very interested to hear your stories and see your old photographs. They will invite you back to see what they are now doing. This is not all bad. There are many good things taking place and there are many good men and women doing a wonderful job in PNG today.

I think Paul is right about baited hook analysis and note that we ex-kiaps fell for it too. But at least Phil got our ageing fingers working even if we haven't left our chairs.

One point I note is, interestingly, Phil change of pronouns from his original post to that in his reply to our views on it.
Initially it was third person 'they' and now it is the first person 'we'.

'We was set up.' Well done Phil.

What got me going Paul were those posts from Gary Luhrs and others, including Martin Kaalund, on the exkiap site.

I don't know Gary but I met Martin a long time ago in Oodnadatta.

I don't know whether you read them but they really annoyed me. It seemed to me that their attitudes ran counter to everything that people like Chris Viner-Smith were trying to achieve.

And, no, I'm not game to post the article on the exkiap website, mainly because I don't want to engage in a pointless debate.

Phil, there's a view going around that you are often throwing out a baited hook and waiting for a predictable response. If I remember correctly, this view may well have emanated from something you said to us previously.

While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that tactic per se, the problem is that your prognostications may well be taken as gospel by those who either weren't there or have since come on the scene well after after the day of the Kiap finished.

No one is or should say that there weren't any mistakes made. Nobody is perfect. The problem is that as soon as you start judging certain actions with the benefit of hindsight, a lack of any real understanding of the circumstances and an inability to understand how an anachronistic view could well sway those who are desperately seeking answers to the problems they are now being confronted with in the wrong direction. It's so easy to blame others for what you are not prepared to accept responsibility for.

During a recent tour of India the Indian guide made the a statement that British had brought corruption to India! I asked him: 'Who wrote that book?'

The fact is, without Kiaps and all the other field staff or someone like them, PNG would not have arrived at where she was able to be granted Independence in 1975. Given that the process could have been better managed and undertaken by those in Canberra who had no real idea what they were dealing with. Some may say today; 'What's new?'.

I don't remember anyone at the recent gatherings of former PNG field staff ever being in their cups and I think you owe us all some form of acknowledgement that if you had attended the ones I've gone to, your assertions are off the mark.

That said, I agree it's healthy to take a look at things with an even handed approach and I think your books are well worth reading.

Perhaps I was not diligent enough in what I wrote in distinguishing the entire ex-kiap group from what I believe is a smaller but significant cliché or fraternity with the attributes I describe.

That said, I still believe that as a group we need to be able to reflect upon our experiences and admit to any shortcomings that existed then and now.

And, of course, we need to celebrate our successes and, perhaps, rue what PNG has done with them.

It concerns me greatly that criticism of kiaps seems to attract strident and vociferous denial rather than reasoned discussion. I think it is extremely important to the future of our heritage that our roles are analysed in a dispassionate way. I think we need to decide why our contribution to PNG is worth remembering.

I also can't help thinking that some of the red-neck stridency that is exhibited by the vocal minority I have tried to describe is deliberate and designed to be provocative. This may seem like good fun but it doesn't augur well for our memory.

Another thing that I've noticed, and this will probably get me into trouble as well, is that a lot of this noise comes from the younger kiaps, those who served as contract officers and, later as 'instant' kiaps.

Most of those kiaps from the immediate post-war period (whose numbers are rapidly diminishing) seem to have a much more considered view about their time in PNG.

Maybe that's because they've reached a more reflective age. Maybe us younger ones are simply trying to hang onto our youth.

And it is also worth remembering that we didn't screw up PNG. The Papua New Guineans did that all by themselves.

The shame of that are the good men and women who were trampled in the process. They are the people I really feel for.

Geez Phil - Sometimes I never know how to interpret your articles on this topic when written in such a vein.

Not sure whether you are merely trying to be provocative to stimulate further debate or it is a some love/hate relationship you might have with your former occupation as a kiap.

Why do not you post this article on the ex kiap site, go on I dare you!

Like other respondents to Phil's interesting piece, I think that he is being unduly harsh on ex-kiaps as a group.

Certainly, there were and are racists, drunks and malcontents in our ranks.

However, in my experience, most kiaps did their jobs diligently and developed a very genuine desire to improve the circumstances of the people for whom they had responsibilities.

Also, most grew very fond of PNG and its peoples, frustrating and unpredictable as they were and, it seems, remain.

If it were otherwise then the infrastructure that Papua New Guineans now recognise as being let go to ruin by a combination of incompetence, negligence and indifference, would not have been constructed in the first place.

It is great pity that (so far as I am aware) no-one has thus far produced a definitive history of PNG in the style of, say, Manning Clark's epic history of Australia.

Such a work would inevitably have to deal with the role of kiaps as explorers, bringers of the rule of law and promoters of development and "civilisation", at least as we Australians understood the latter term.

In this way, our collective legacy, including the good, the bad and the just plain ugly, might be preserved for posterity.

It is my hope that a young PNG academic might take up this great task, not just in pursuit of a doctorate but as a means of providing his fellow citizens with a chance to read about and understand how PNG came to be what it is today.

Whether there is someone willing and able to undertake such a task, I do not know.

In the meantime, the works of Phil himself and people like James Sinclair, Lloyd Hurrell et al, will remain as enduring records of the kiap era.

Thus our legacy, incompletely described as it is, will outlast us all.

Phil - God forbid that 'one day their memory and legacy will be forgotten'. Thanks to chroniclers like you, Paul Oates and so many others, the fine work of you and your brother kiaps will not be forgotten entirely.

I'd be wary, too, of over-generalising. Your notion that former kiaps are a bunch of recognition-seeking, whingeing, boozy larrikins is at odds with my own experience and views - although, as a former chalkie, my associations with former kiaps are much fewer than yours and I may, perhaps, be guilty of retaining a somewhat romanticised view.

Like kiaps, we chalkies are not an amorphous mob with a shared view of the world. We represent a substantial range of the sociopolitical spectrum with views commensurate with that range - including those that some of us find abhorrent.

We chalkies have our reunions too. And yes, the conversations are lubricated by various liquors and often include some unfavourable commentary on the state of affairs in PNG today, and especially the state of the education system which we worked so hard to build.

But that commentary is but a very tiny portion of our discourse. As is probably (hopefully?) the case when former kiaps congregate, our conversations also celebrate the camaraderie, the challenges and the accomplishments of our service in PNG. As we should. We chalkies, like kiaps, have much to be proud of.

Phil - I am a proud teetotal ex-kiap. Even though a Pommie wowser, I would love to journey to Oz for the annual ex-kiap get together.

I have excellent credentials as was once one of the few teetotal Welsh Guardsmen in the fifties.

Liked how you hedged your bets or was it diplomatic pc to say you 'suppose' PNG Governments have squandered the resources and wealth of their new nation.

Even after 40 years of nationhood weekly we still read of not hundreds, not thousands but millions being corruptly used by the elites of PNG.

The PM himself has no normal PNG sense of shame as he uses every legal trick in his repertoire to avoid his arrest.

He, like all PMs before him on being elected, spouted of their intention to be tough on corruption.

Yet several years after the loggers charter or SABL laws being found to have allowed to spawn many disgusting land deals like Lavongai where over 80% of the island are alienated at no cost to the SABL owners for 99 years; he has not taken prompt action to implement the SABL Inquiry demands for abolishing over 40 of them.

The poverty of the rural areas I feel are a direct legacy of the misrule of Somare and other political conspirators in government over many years in bed with foreign interests.

There is now emerging evidence of the land deals especially in Queensland by such folk who siphoned off hundreds of millions into second or third homes there. Sadly, for me there is no 'suppose' Phil.

I also question your racism is innate theory. There are far too many opposite arguments for that to be true. I like the story of a mother asking her little infant school child, “Isn't Richie black?” “I don't know I'll have to ask him tomorrow!” replied the innocent youngster.

Then you equate racism with Islamic evil emails you receive. Firstly you fall into the trap we read and hear about too often in the UK media too - Islam is not a race but a religion.

But am more worried how anyone today can ignore the mayhem in most Islamic nations perpetrated against minorities and other Muslim groups who are not the mainstream or dominant denomination.

The numbers of people slaughtered annually, often most barbarically, in the name of Islam certainly gives me concern not just as an ex-kiap but citizen of our sad World.

I am ageing and find that contrary to your suggestion in the essay, it is the young who think little about the future while us silver or bald headed folk wonder too much about the future.

Don't most 30+ years soon come to acknowledge that Dad or Mum seems to be growing wiser as they themselves grow older.

I cannot leave the topic without a few references kiaps have garnered over years.

Firstly then Governor-General Viscount Slim: "Your young chaps in New Guinea have gone out where I would never have gone without a battalion and they have done on their own by sheer force of character what I could only do with troops. I don't think there has been anything like it in the modern world"

Minister Clare, during an earlier parliamentary debate of the Bill, which enabled the award of medals for service, said, "The kiaps were an extraordinary group of young Australians who performed a remarkable service for the people of PNG. They were some of our nation's finest."

Finally Chris Viner-Smith, himself an ex-kiap has calculated of the 2,000 kiaps, official records show 23 died on duty, although he believes it could really be as high as 40.

I remained in PNG am married there and stayed for a further 27 years after my short uneventful career prior to Independence and am proud to have been a very tiny part of the Australian management of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea that with little bloodshed formed the widely geographically scattered multitude of tribes into their rightful place as the largest Melanesian nation.

A legacy squandered ? Or an enduring legacy ?
Phil Fitzpatrick writes :- The constant knocking of post-independent Papua New Guinea, I am also assured, stems from a sense of frustration that all the sweat and tears spent in developing the nation was ultimately pointless because successive Papua New Guinean governments have squandered the legacy.
Perhaps we all hope that we leave some lasting achievements behind us. It would be nice to believe that some of the good works we did had an effect that endured beyond our own lifetime, or at least endured after our own career had ended. Kiaps may have overseen the building of roads and bridges and airstrips, developed district and sub-district administration. Missionaries may have built churches or schools or clinics. Kiaps and missionaries may have brought peace to warring clans.
None of us like it when our genuine efforts seem later to have been in vain. It may well be that the good things we achieve are swept away by events beyond our control. I am reminded of the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelly: - (Incidentially brought to my attention in many years ago High School by a teacher named Jimmy Fitzpatrick !)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Perhaps many a Kiap or Missionary has returned to their former place of work to find that:
“Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of broken bridge, school grounds laid bare,
The overgrown bush spreads far away.”

At times we have to be satisfied with what we have accomplished in the here and now.
On a positive note, the less tangible achievements, which perhaps included the kiaps reputation for honesty, integrity, hard work, courage in taking initiative, etc., etc.. may have a more long-lasting effect than the physical or organizational infrastructures developed by the kiaps. Who knows? Maybe the intangible achievements are a more enduring legacy?

I guess it is not wise to generalize when discussing this topic. But I'm sure there are some former kiaps who have "kept up" with PNG since they left.

Often they were in PNG for many years and played an important role in the development of many different parts of PNG in the "old days" but have been able to continue to help in the development of the country over the past 40 years.

The teachers, though, often just went up to TPNG for a couple of years, for a bit of variety in their lives, then came back to Australia "for the children's education".

In my case I was single and didn't have to return "for the children" so stayed for 13 years and only returned "to look after Mum".

I enjoyed my years with PNG Attitude, catching up with what had happened in PNG during the period after I left.

For the last two years I've been back in the Sepik, embedded with my former students and their children, the intelligentsia of the Sepik, on a private Facebook Forum.

Wow, Facebook is amazing and this Forum has played an interesting role in starting good discussions on the big development questions of the time.

Here I can have a microscopic look at the lives of my former students and read their private thoughts. They accept me for what I am, an expatriate Sepik, still interested and concerned for the Sepik region.

We haven't got an ex-chalkies groups, they are too scattered,with many from the USA and the UK. But I have found a dozen or so expats to join me on this Sepik Forum and we are all part of the "wider Sepik family".

At the moment Trevor Freestone is fascinating them with his 1960s photos taken along the border with Irian Jaya and up the May River.

John Pasquarelli is still accepted as a Sepik expert, even today and I often give them history lessons on people and happenings during the past 100 years in the Sepik which they really appreciate.

Not many people in Australia understand PNG today but I know being embedded on this Forum and keeping up with what is happening in the Loop, Post Courier and National each day has given me a good understanding of the present situation in PNG.

They are a young developing country with all the growing pains but there are many fine people there doing their best to make it into a great little country.

There are still "Stone Age" communities in the isolated areas, while there are very well educated, relatively wealthy people, who live a modern western life-style. Between these two extremes you have the majority of the PNGians.

We do have some ex-kiaps contributing to this Forum and their information on what happened in the past is very much appreciated. I'm sure their legacy will not be forgotten.

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