THE publisher of PNG Attitude and friend of Simbu and Papua New Guinea, Keith Jackson AM, and his family, are making a special trip to Kundiawa in early March.
Keith will be accompanied by his wife, Councillor Ingrid Jackson, son Ben Jackson, his partner Becky Finzel and their three-year old daughter Leilani.
Members of the Simbu Writers Association are well prepared for this visit and are urging the Simbu Provincial Government to officially receive them.
Keith and Ingrid will be travelling from Brisbane to Port Moresby where they will meet members of the PNG Attitude family.
In the early morning of 1 March, the SWA team will catch up with the family in Goroka and escort them along the highlands highway - enjoying the potholes - to Kundiawa where they will stay for three days before departing on 4 March.
The family’s Simbu visit is not just an ordinary holiday. It is special and revered in that Keith Jackson, as a young Australian just out of college, started his career and lifelong commitment to Papua New Guinea here in Simbu.
After attending the Australian School of Pacific Administration in 1962-63 and completing his teacher training course for PNG, Keith arrived in the then Australian territory in November 1963 at the age of 18, initially practice teaching at Mandi Primary T School near Wewak.
In December, Keith was posted to Goroka to work in the Education Office during school holidays and then, in January 1964, he was assigned as head teacher of Kundiawa Primary A School, at the time located in the Chimbu Club.
In what he calls “a lifetime highlight”, Keith participated in PNG’s first ever election for the House of Assembly in February 1964, spending three weeks collecting votes in a patrol through East and West Elimbari.
In 1966, he was transferred to Gagl Primary T School in Kerowagi District as head teacher.
Apart from the classroom, the young, energetic and adventurous Jackson scaled Wilhelm’s peak, explored (and on one occasion got lost in) Yongomugl’s caves and took on other activities including establishing a central highlands (Kundiawa, Kerowagi, Chuave, Minj) cricket competition; becoming a freelance correspondent for the ABC, Pacific Islands Monthly and South Pacific Post, establishing the Kundiawa News, and travelling extensively around the highlands on his small red motorbike.
At one stage he shared a house with Terry Shelley, then a cooperatives officer and now the owner of Nowek Ltd based in Goroka.
Di Siune, I think an Endulka from Kond, was Keith’s loyal companion or mankimasta.
In October 1966, Keith was transferred to Education Department headquarters at Konedobu as editor of school publications including the School Papers and My School Broadcasts Paper.
In 1967, he was recruited by the ABC, when it ran broadcasting in PNG, to produce radio programs for schools and teachers. Over the next two years, while still with the ABC, Keith took up part time studies in economics, sociology and political science at the recently-opened University of PNG.
In 1970, he joined the government broadcasting service and was appointed as station manager Radio Rabaul and then Radio Bougainville. After three years in Kieta, he was transferred to the newly-established National Broadcasting Commission in Port Moresby as Head of Research and then Director of Policy and Planning.
By 1975 Keith had resumed his part-time studies at UPNG, graduating as a Bachelor of Arts majoring in economics and political science just before independence.
In May 1976, Keith left to work in broadcasting services in Australia and overseas. In 1977, the PNG government awarded him the Independence Medal.
Currently Keith publishes the PNG Attitude blog and was co-founder of the highly successful PNG national literature competition, the Crocodile Prize, out of which the Simbu Writers Association developed.
Ingrid Jackson is a councillor and firebrand local politician in Noosa Shire Council. Their son Ben is a communication specialist at the Pacific Leadership and Governance precinct based in Port Moresby.
To this day, Simbu still remains embedded in Keith’s heart and this trip to Kundiawa is monumental to the Jackson family because it was the Simbu people who introduced a young inexperienced man to the true culture of PNG and who looked out for him.
He is their son and he is our brother.
It is fitting that the Simbu Provincial Government and Administration should receive Keith and his family in honour of the services rendered to the Simbu people and at the same time tie a knot so that the relationship between the Jackson family and Simbu will continue personally and politically with the Noosa Shire, a beautiful place 100 km north of Brisbane, as a sister region.
They can make things happen and, while they are in Kundiawa, it is an opportunity for two places that value the environment, education, tourism and literature to establish a strong relationship.
It is an opportunity that the Simbu Provincial Government must not let slip by. It must take the bull by the horns.