Fighting for a Voice: The Inside Story of PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize, Philip Fitzpatrick, Pukpuk Publications, 2016, 374 pages, ISBN: 978-1533616906, Available from Amazon Books (US&UK), Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, US13.33, £7.40, €8.47, AU$18.00, K42.20 plus postage
FOR most Australians, Papua New Guinea is a mysterious place somewhere north of Cape York and roughly between Bali in Indonesia and the resorts in Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. As a place it sits at the bottom of their consciousness.
Papua New Guineans, on the other hand, know a lot about Australia. Many of their goods and media come from there and the big companies exploiting their resources are often Australian.
There are, however, a small band of Australians who worked or served in Papua New Guinea before independence in 1975. For these people it sits permanently and warmly in their memory and consciousness.
Many of these people belong to organisations like the Papua New Guinea Association. They follow events in Papua New Guinea through a range of publications and on social media. In the latter case one of the most influential and informed is the Keith Jackson and Friends: PNG Attitude blog.
For them and for many Papua New Guineans it is an enduring mystery why the two nations, so physically close together and with a shared history, don’t have a much stronger relationship.
That relationship as reflected on Keith’s blog is the focus of this short history. It details the attempts by Australians and Papua New Guineans to broaden and expand the relationship.
It is still a work in progress but the story of PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize points to what is possible when the right people get together to make things happen.
When I was asked to write the history I pondered the best approach, should it be an academic treatise looking at the phenomenon of social media in PNG and Australia and PNG Attitude’s place in that context, or should it be a rollicking yarn about the unusual characters who have inhabited its cyber pages over the years, or should it be something else?
I eventually decided on something else and that was to simply let those characters tell their own story.
As a result just about everyone and their dog gets a mention in the book and to top it off I have included the life stories of many of the most consistent contributors and commentators in a lengthy appendix.
The book begins in 2006 and traces the history of the blog and the prize right through until early this year.
It is an open-ended history, of course, because both PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize continue on. What the future holds is anyone’s guess.
I hope I have done the whole enterprise justice; I will be interested to see what readers think.