Through Governor Noah Kool, a member of the national parliament of Papua New Guinea, the people of Simbu initiated an approach to Noosa mayor Tony Wellington seeking his council’s endorsement of a joint community initiative, designated as Projek Wantok (Project Friendship). The mayor has advised that he will be writing to Governor Kool to accept the invitation. We reproduce an edited version of the governor’s letter….
LAST year, a group of Papua New Guinean writers – including the eminent Simbu author Mr Francis Nii – visited your lovely shire and had the pleasure of meeting both you and the Queensland parliamentarian, Hon Glen Elmes MP.
I received reports of this encounter and of the group’s successful and pleasurable visit to Noosa Shire, and I also heard about the character of your council and its commitment to the environment, to the arts and to the overall well-being of the community.
Here in Simbu (sometimes rendered as Chimbu), in the very centre of PNG’s highlands, we are a province of 400,000 people who have a reputation for dynamism, resilience and a positive attitude towards blending the benefits of the modern world with the values of our traditional lives.
From what I know of your shire, I understand that there may be a real compatibility between our regions, particularly in terms of environmental protection as a community value, tourism as a benefit to commerce, education as a road to the future and literature and the arts as cultural assets.
Accordingly, I want to propose to you that the Province of Simbu and the Shire of Noosa establish Projek Wantok (Project Friendship) which would work to encourage young people and community leaders in our respective regions to engage with each other.
It is not intended that this project would impose financial obligations either on your shire council or my provincial government.
The benefits of such a relationship would be manifested in encouraging contacts between individuals, organisations, churches and schools which would extend the hand of friendship across our cultures, promote the Papua New Guinea-Australia relationship and provide the peoples of Simbu and Noosa with a strong connection to a different culture.
An effective ‘wantok’ relationship would require us both to establish a small committee comprising a convenor, an elected member of our respective governments and representatives with connections to education, business, literature and the arts, the environment, the churches and women’s rights. I would envisage no more than seven people in all.
The mandate of these committees would be to initiate collaborative activities in the areas I have mentioned – environment, tourism, education, the arts, the church and women’s rights - and to promote these activities within our respective jurisdictions, reporting each year to our governments on activities and achievements.
I do believe that, with your support, this initiative of the Simbu people provides a workable collaborative model.