AT THE Brisbane Writers Festival yesterday, before an audience of over 50 people including Papua New Guinea’s consul-general Maggie Moi-he, four of PNG’s top writers showed they were not only giants of the keyboard but splendid performers on the international stage.
As representatives of their country and interpreters of Melanesian literary expression, Francis Nii, Martyn Namorong, Rashmii Amoah Bell and Daniel Kumbon - with style, intellect and charisma - put in a superb performance at the first ever PNG presentation at an Australian literary festival.
The inside story of PNG Attitude's first 10 years, the Crocodile Prize and Pukpuk Publications.
How a non profit, voluntary enterprise got off the ground and grew into a formidable voice.
The dramas, the setbacks & the personalities. The story of a project that led to an historic
collaboration between Papua New Guineans and Australians who care.
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.
‘Fighting for a Voice: The Inside Story of PNG Attitude & the Crocodile Prize’, scheduled for publication within the next few weeks, is Phil Fitzpatrick's no-holds barred account of the first 10 years of this pioneering blog. The book of nearly 400 pages weaves into its story the fascinating and sometimes dramatic events of Papua New Guinea over the same period. To give you a taste, here’s an extract from Chapter 8, ‘Problems of transition, 2013’ - KJ
FOR the superstitious, the number thirteen is particularly ominous. Some hotels skip the number in sequencing their rooms, even floors. Linked with a Friday it is said to become highly dangerous.
Fear of the number thirteen has a name - triskaidekaphobia. For the Crocodile Prize, 2013 nearly proved disastrous. How Keith and I escaped catching triskaidekaphobia was a minor miracle.
The year began well enough. Keith noted that many of the articles written by people awarded writing fellowships were being picked up by other media. Pat Levo of the Post Courier was using them in his weekend literary section and Amanda Donigi was doing the same in her new women’s magazine, Stella. We were not concerned by the thought they were exploiting PNG Attitude as source of free copy; we were just happy to see some good writers getting further exposure.
PAPUA New Guinea will benefit from a privately-funded initiative by PNG Attitude to develop writers associations throughout the country.
A program of annual fellowships has been started to provide the basic management skills required to establish and maintain writers associations at a provincial level.
The McKinnon-Paga Hill Fellowship has been funded by separate gifts from PNG’s pre-independence director of education, Prof Ken McKinnon AO (pictured), and the Paga Hill Development Company.
The first three McKinnon-Paga Hill fellows have been identified and accepted their awards.
They are established authors Daniel Kumbon and Leonard Fong Roka, who have received full fellowships, and Francis Nii, who has received a part fellowship.
An occasional series of autobiographical memoirs by PNG Attitude's writers
AT KUNDIAWA provincial hospital on 9 August 1973, the morning dawn, as the Simbus say, had stagnated.
The small township was soaked with drizzle. The crystal white clouds had astutely sought refuge on the adjoining peaks of Dee Pek, Argol, Porol Scarp and Tokma.
Seen from the air, the junction of the Simbu and Wahgi Rivers (Murane and Uwai) seemed as if they were in the Antarctic. The four cornered Kundiawa town was soaked and submerged in a cold, hard, white landscape.
In the hospital labour ward, timid but stout Simbu mothers were strolling around anxiously in skirts, laplaps and a couple of grass skirts, awaiting what had turned out to be a marathon delivery.
I WAS born in Goglme in the Simbu, my birth father being Otto Kuman Omba. He died when I was a baby and my mum married another man, Peter Daka. I owe my life to this man.
Like John Kamasua I had a difficult childhood in Simbu. And I remember the days of Australian kiaps and the excitement of seeing the small planes land on our little airstrip.
As a baby, I was very sick and had scabies, a skin disease. Neighbours told my stepfather that he should leave me under the trees to die. But Peter Daka said, ''No - I will look after her. God has given her to me". And so he did.
Working as a carpenter (he built several churches in Simbu), he would carry me with him to work in his carpenter’s bag with the hammers and chisels. He fed me on coconut milk and tinpis wara. So I survived and was sent to relatives in Banz where I attended the Catholic Primary School.
I WAS born on 28 January 1946 in Ballinahown near Fermoy town in County Cork, Ireland; the third born son of Garrett Roche and Margaret O’Toole. I was named Garrett after my father.
I attended Grange National Primary School, a two-teacher country school, from 1951 to 1958. Between 1958 and 1963 I attended the secondary school run by the Christian Brothers in Fermoy town.
After completing the Leaving Certificate examination in 1963 I worked as a laboratory assistant at the nearby Agricultural Research Institute at Moore Park. However, in September of that year I left and joined the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) at Donamon, Roscommon, Ireland.
I CAN best tell my story by presenting it in sketches. Not that it is a glamorous or significant story, it’s been ordinary; yet, to me, quite spectacular!
My parents were illiterate and were unable to write any of my story, or even have photos of my early life. Now, of course, I do have photos of school, college, and university life.
The life I have now today really when I started school. But I had an earlier life which I can only recollect in patches.
My mother tells me I had a pretty typical childhood. I was born in the former Kundiawa General Hospital and a day later spent the night in Sikewake, near there.
Mother tells me I cried all night and nothing they did could make me go back to sleep. They thought I was going to die that night. And so I was introduced to life on planet earth.
POSSIBLY the largest two bodies of expatriates in Papua New Guinea prior to independence were the kiaps and the teachers.
They tended to be posted all over the country and often in the remotest areas. They had more contact with Papua New Guinean people at the grassroots level than any other group.
By the time PNG Attitude got going they were all either retired or on the cusp of retirement with time on their hands.
They were also at an age where many had become reflective, and a great deal of that reflection involved their time in Papua New Guinea.
I WAS born in late March 1981 at ANGAU Memorial General Hospital in Lae, Morobe Province.
Twenty-nine years later I returned as a bel mama to give birth to my second child; a beautiful, healthy girl with a crop of loosely curled hair, mixed African-Melanesian and as black as night.
The photographs I’ve seen of how ANGAU hospital was way back then and my own memories of my younger years clash with how it was for the birth of my child in 2010.
It’s an inconsistency that tells of an institution that continues to do what it can despite the abhorrent neglect of the government.
MY father arrived in Port Moresby in torn short pants with not a single penny in his pocket but full of hope and determination for what lay ahead of him.
He also came with a dream.
My father came from a line of great dreamers. It was said that both my paternal grandmother and grandfather foretold the time of their passing through their dreams.
My grandfather, I was told, was not particularly fond of the hornbill because it had some sort of connection to his death.
My paternal grandmother told her family that if she gave birth to a male child she would die. But if the baby died, she would live. As it turned out, she died a week after giving birth to my father.
IN 1950, when I was five years old, my family escaped the bleak prospects of post-war England and emigrated to Australia, setting up home in the distinctively parochial and conservative city of Townsville in north Queensland.
My father, a gifted pianist who had left school at 14, took a sales job with a chain of music retailers where he parlayed a highly successful career selling pianos, organs, sheet music and records.
Until my brother came along in 1953, my mother worked as a cook at the local migrant hostel to help make ends meet.
While both of my parents had left school at 14, they were avid readers and interested in the world of ideas so our dinnertime conversations and debates ranged across politics, current affairs and music and the arts. (Unlike me, my father was no fan of contemporary or country and western music, or sport.)
IN 1960 a government patrol post was established in Kandep.
The people were rounded up to clear land and build the new government station and the Kandep-Laiagam road.
My father arose early every morning to walk several kilometres to help build bush material houses for the patrol officer, his servants, policemen, teachers and health workers.
The people also worked on the road and the building of a new primary school and clinic.
The government had ordered that this be done and every man had to obey. Those who did not turn up were rounded up and beaten or put in jail.
From time to time I joined my mother, who went to barter bags of sweet potatoes for salt, cooking oil, bars of soap, beads and other goodies at the government station.
MY full name is Raymond Muso Sigimet. I am now in my mid-thirties and I grew up away from my province and village. Half of my life was spent in the New Guinea Islands.
I am the third born in my family of nine siblings. Five blood sisters, two blood brothers and one adopted brother. We were a crowded lot and very close when growing up.
We fought, argued, got punished, rebelled, forgave, and did all those stuff that families and siblings do. And we still do some of these things today.
On 15 March 2013, PNG Attitude began publishing autobiographical profiles of its leading contributors with ‘Arresting cannibals sure beat banking’ by Phil Fitzpatrick. The series eventually ended many months later with the publication of its fifteenth profile. Since then, the blog has benefited from the memoirs, views and knowledge of many new writers, who have joined the ‘old guard’ in keeping this forum topical and lively. Today we resume this occasional series with Chris Overland’s story….
I WAS born in a small Australian country town in 1951. My parents had been born and raised in the country and neither liked the city nor felt comfortable in it.
Dad had been in the RAAF during World War II, flying a full operational tour in Beaufort Bombers. He was based in Papua New Guinea, mainly at Vivigani on Goodenough Island.
He had several terrifying experiences, surviving three crash landings, but counted himself lucky because 20% of RAAF aircrew died in training or operations. The war changed him but did not break him.
A couple of months ago, Keith Jackson asked me to write a history of PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize.
After considering a number of possible scenarios and formats, I decided that the best way to do it was to let the blog and the prize tell their own story.
Right now the project has reached a point where I’m compiling a collection of what I think are the significant articles that have appeared on the blog and linking them with explanatory notes and some extra discourse.
SINCE its inception PNG Attitude had scoured a wide range of publications for material of interest to readers. Relevant articles were largely republished on the blog without comment.
Among all of those articles, two types tended to attract vigorous comment. The first were those from the tabloid presses that saw subjects like primitiveness, sorcery and cannibalism as attractive to its sensation-seeking readers.
The second was akin to this but decidedly more sinister. It came from missionaries, particularly those involved in fundamentalist causes.
DURING 2010 ‘Big Pat’ Levo, editor of the Post-Courier’s Independence Day supplement, asked several regular PNG Attitude contributors to provide articles for that year’s edition.
When he asked me to write something I cast around for a suitable subject. I thought the state of Papua New Guinean literature from those early days to the present might be a good topic, so I started doing a bit of research.
What I found was truly appalling. Papua New Guinean literature seemed to have died shortly after independence.
MY early December statement, PNG Attitude – A long journey & a short goodbye, had proven painful to write.
But your consequent comments were even more painful to read. To paraphrase the Song of Solomon, “They captured my heart / They held it hostage.”
I was moved by the kind and generous words. There were many of them; some written with an anguish that greatly discomfited me.
Raymond Sigimet - Thank you Keith, with your family, for selflessly giving and sharing 10 years of your life in fostering people to people dialogue through the PNG Attitude. Your blog inspired me to put pen to paper and I believe many others as well. Yu stap long longpela resis na yu win tru / na nau yu kamap long mak bilong yu / yu strongpela man stret / stori bilong yu bai stap longpela taim yet.
I’VE been thinking about the future of literature in Papua New Guinea for a while now.
It’s a frustrating thing to contemplate. As Ed Brumby has pointed out, there is a lack of inertia and an all-pervading ennui in Papua New Guinea that seems to permeate and frustrate not just literature but most worthwhile endeavours.
I’m not sure why this is so but I know that it’s been the case for as long as I can remember. We were even warned about it at ASOPA where we were trained before we set foot in the country.
For a while I thought it was a reaction to colonisation, or whatever it was that Australia practised in Papua New Guinea prior to independence – a kind of passive resistance as exemplified by Ghandi and others at being ruled over by outsiders with an overly developed sense of superiority and little understanding of other cultures.
I’VE refrained from commenting on the demise of PNG Attitude and Pukpuk Publishing until now for two reasons: to come to terms with how my daily routine will change and to observe the responses from PNG Attitude readers, Papua New Guinean readers especially.
I’ve been getting my PNG Attitude fix straight after breakfast for so long now it has become embedded in my early morning routine.
It was nostalgia that drove my early engagement with Attitude (and I suspect was a key factor in Keith’s decision to establish it in the first place).
In its infancy, Attitude provided me and other expats who served in PNG with a vicarious reconnection with friends and former colleagues. It was a forum for shared experiences and reflections on what happened back then and what might have been.
I CAN’T remember when I first started reading PNG Attitude.
I recall dipping into its predecessor, the ASOPA Files, occasionally but not too often because it seemed to be mainly run by old chalkies who were drinking mates and was of limited interest.
How it transmogrified into PNG Attitude I’m not quite sure.
Much of what has happened with PNG Attitude seems to have been serendipitous; that is unplanned, although upon reflection some it it has been anticipated and guided. Most good things develop that way for some reason.
From my own perspective there have been some significant events along the way.
AS I’ve gotten older and my short-term memory weakens I find it increasingly difficult to multitask, that is, do more than one thing at a time.
To combat this inevitable development I somewhat reluctantly adopted the need for a routine to manage it.
Routine doesn’t come easily because until recently I operated on the principle of spontaneity. I do things based on my gut feeling rather than logic. When I write I don’t worry about grammar, for instance. If it looks right and sounds right I’m happy. This attitude, I think, adds spice to life.
PNG ATTITUDE first appeared (under the masthead ASOPA People) in February 2006 and its mission soon evolved to be the creation of a dialogue between Papua New Guineans and Australians who were interested in the well-being of Australia’s former colony.
Over its 10 years of publication it has not only presented news, information and commentary but offered insights into the colonial period and PNG's history and heritage; all of this material preserved in the archives of the National Library of Australia.
The blog also has brought together people separated by distance and time, encouraged the emergence of many new PNG writers, provided funding for a host of worthy causes in PNG and, most eminent of all, innovated, incubated and driven forward the Crocodile Prize national literary contest in collaboration with author and ex-kiap Phil Fitzpatrick.
The Crocodile Prize has now evolved as a PNG entity and we will see what becomes of it.
We’ve achieved all this – and probably more – in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, critical only of institutions, authorities and individuals who have adopted untruth, incompetence, hypocrisy or corruption as their modus vivendi.
TONIGHT Ingrid and I depart these sun-drenched Queensland shores for Dubai, where we will meet up with MV Nautica for a long cruise along India’s coast across to my old Maldives stamping ground and on to Africa.
The five-week voyage will conclude with a few days in Cape Town from where an arduous string of flights will, 35 hours later, deposit us in Orange NSW for the wedding of Ingrid’s first son, Evan, a medical student.
This period away from my desk will, of course, have an impact on the production of PNG Attitude although, on previous sojourns afloat or in hospital or on long treks, I have somehow managed to produce the blog regularly and, as usual, my email remains open to you.
PARDON my indulgence, but we must surely mark this milestone – the 10,000th piece to be published by PNG Attitude since this blog kicked off in February 2006.
And I’ve grabbed the space.
Each of those 10,000 articles, essays, poems, stories, reviews and other writings has been duly archived both here (lower left hand column if you’re interested) and by the National Library of Australia.
Along the way, PNG Attitude has had some great successes and a few failures. Perhaps the highlight has been the achievement of the Crocodile Prize national literary contest, which has just concluded its fifth year.
AUGUST was a month when a big bunch of new readers came to the blog and decided there were a lot of pieces published that they liked.
Hal Holman’s inside story of the tumult behind the design of the Papua New Guinea national flag in the early 1970s was much approved by readers, attracting a record 635 likes.
(Coincidentally, Hal's big format memoir, The Phoenix Rises Eternal - including this story - has just been published in a limited edition.)
And my piece on the Paga Hill Development Company’s gift which will provide a special collection of Crocodile Prize kids’ books for PNG schools scored the second highest approval rating ever with 482 likes.
Raymond Sigimet is a new writer to PNG Attitude but his open letter to the Theo Zurenuoc, Dear Mister Speaker, with 187 likes made an excellent connection with readers.
And there were other stories that were not far behind. It’s a great feeling to kick goals like that for our readers.
AT the request of a group of four former kiaps, the honour roll of patrol officers and related district administration personnel who died in the course of their duties has been removed from PNG Attitude.
The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed its absence.
Paul Oates, Ross Wilkinson, Bill Brown MBE and Peter Turner ML BEM were concerned that some of the comments from readers were “sullying the real importance of the Roll” by including, for example, claims of paternity and disputes about historical incidents involving kiaps.
“Could we accord the Roll, and those who names have been entered on it, more dignity, respect and recognition?” asked one ex-kiap, and it was proposed that comments made subsequent to the Honour Roll be relocated to a new section of the blog.
EARLY next month Jimmy Drekore will leave Simbu’s misty mountains and jet down to Queensland to attend the annual Brisbane Writers Festival. Bob Cleland and I arranged the trip, which turns out to be very timely indeed.
In addition to meeting BWF organisers to determine whether linkages can be established between writers in the Land of the Unexpected and the Sunshine State, Jimmy will be sitting down with Bob, Phil Fitzpatrick and me to discuss the future of the Crocodile Prize and the extension of the successful Simbu Writers Association model to other parts of Papua New Guinea.
As regular readers of PNG Attitude will know, Phil and I have decided to take a step back from organising the Prize and its many related activities in a determined effort to get a PNG takeover going.
Having taken five years to establish a literary template that is seen to work effectively in PNG, and with it a good funding base, it is time to pass on total control of the administration to Papua New Guineans.
SO the time for entries came to a close in this year’s Crocodile Prize national literary contest and, after a flood of contributions arrived in June, there were 827 pieces of creative work on the table – 200 more than the previous record in 2014.
These came from 132 writers & illustrators, another record, representing 19 of the 22 provinces in Papua New Guinea.
You can download the profile of every author and illustrator here: download profiles (if you're not mentioned, it's because we haven't received your entry form).
Once again Simbu excelled itself with one in five of all entries coming from the highlands province, home to the only writers association in PNG and host of this year’s awards event in September.
IT seems there’s no such thing as a boring month in the Papua New Guinea – Australia relationship nor in PNG Attitude, one of whose tasks is to keep that relationship in the headlights.
May proved to be a particularly intriguing month because of an incident that developed in a most unexpected way – out of supporting papers to the Australian federal budget.
The budget papers let it be known that Australia had plans to locate a new diplomatic post in Bougainville. Whaaaat, cried PNG, how about asking us first!
READ a good book lately? Want to share it with someone?
Written a good book lately? Want to spread it around?
Thought about giving it away so other people can enjoy reading it?
Passing books on gratis is a long standing and underrated tradition.
I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime but my bookshelves only house a few hundred favourites.
Most of what I read nowadays, unless it’s spectacularly good, ends up in our local Red Cross opportunity shop, sometimes via a few odd relatives and friends.
THESE are the trophies that, in September, will travel from their place of manufacture in south-east Queensland to the Papua New Guinea highlands to be presented to the winners of this year’s Crocodile Prize.
Along with K5,000 prize money in each of the eight award categories, travel and accommodation to the event at Kundiawa and guaranteed publication in the 2015 Anthology, they represent the reward for outstanding talent and effort.
AND so we report another interesting month’s activity in PNG Attitude. Lots of entries to the Crocodile Prize (the total crept up to nearly 400)
March proved quite a buzz for Crocodile Prize Organisation chairman Jimmy Drekore, who was voted Digicel PNG Man of Honour at a major event in Port Moresby.
Later in the month Jimmy was in the news again when he was selected to attend the Brisbane Writers Festival later this year as the first step in building a relationship between writers’ organisations in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
RECENTLY a reader found cause to offer me some observations about PNG Attitude and this got me thinking about how far this blog has travelled and how the whole project has developed to get to this fourteenth year.
I was just a whippersnapper of 57 when it began.
Its deep beginning was in February 2002 as a conventional hard copy newsletter, under the masthead Vintage, published for former cadet education officers of the Class of 1962-63 of ASOPA, the Australian School of Pacific Administration.
Later in 2002, Vintage morphed into another newsletter called The Mail, which was to run for another nine years under the mastheads PNG Attitude and, briefly near the end, The Review.
The newsletter and the blog, which was launched in February 2006, were published side by side for more than five years.
Then, with the Crocodile Prize beginning to swallow great chunks of my time, the newsletter, which had developed into a sophisticated monthly review of PNG affairs, was discontinued.
As the newsletter and blog developed over those years there were, as you might imagine, huge changes.
IN January the 2015 Crocodile Prize national literary contest got going in earnest, with nearly 200 entries received during the month.
The Prize secured two new sponsors: SP Brewery made possible the just-established Illustration Award for and the Paga Hill Development Company spared the Writing for Children Award from extinction after the previous sponsor went missing.
The Crocodile Prize Organisation also welcomed senior academic and award-winning writer John Kaupa Kamasua to its ranks after the resignation of Steven Ilave Sr.
John is contemplating establishing a group like the Simbu Writers Association in Port Moresby. If this can be made to happen, it will represent a major contribution to the development of a sustainable indigenous literature in Papua New Guinea. We wish him well.
Now for the writing that stimulated the most comment and proved most popular in PNG Attitude during January.
PUBLISHING PNG Attitude – which I have done each day for nearly 10 years from locations as unlikely as the middle of a volcanic eruption in Rabaul in 2006 and a hospital bed after spinal surgery in 2012 - has its compensations.
Which is just as well, since I’m occasionally beset by concerns about the amount of time the blog and its cousin, the Crocodile Prize, suck from a schedule that never seems to ease no matter how many years pass me by.
I have just turned seventy, and who can ignore the Psalms which tell us we are actuarially entitled to “threescore years and ten” and then warn “if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
THIS coming Monday I’ll be emailing to the Australian Senate a submission, The delivery and effectiveness of Australian aid to Papua New Guinea, which is derived from the considerations of a panel of PNG Attitude readers.
If you’re interested in the paper, and I think it makes good reading, you can download it here.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee had asked if we were interested in making a submission and, in a first for PNG Attitude but well within the spirit of what is a well-entrenched collaborative spirit, we asked readers to provide input.
These views have now been assembled into a joint submission representing the panel of 14 who wished to make a contribution.
AS 2014 drew to a close and Crocodile Prize anthologies were distributed throughout Papua New Guinea, there were a number of reports of packages of books not making it through Boroko Post Office.
Some of these books were later spotted on sale in markets around Port Moresby.
“No matter,” said one correspondent, “at least the books are getting out there.”
But I wasn’t so relaxed. The schools and libraries for which they were intended meant each book would have been read many times over, not benefiting some grubby Port Moresby postal worker.
IN the first days of each month I undertake a chore I invented in September 2010 - highlighting the top 10 articles in PNG Attitude for the previous month as judged by the amount of reader feedback.
That first column more than four years ago (citing articles published in August 2010) disclosed that the greatest response was incited by Corney K Alone’s polemic, Education: oppression before enslavement.
It was a trenchant attack on outcome-based education in PNG and it stirred a hornet’s nest of comment, most people supporting the view that the innovation was a learning disaster.
It wasn’t long after that the PNG National Education Department abandoned the OBE concept.
JANUARY 2014 marked the eighth anniversary of PNG Attitude, which had travelled some distance since its tentative start on 26 February 2006 under the masthead, ASOPA People.
In its beginning, this blog was an internet version of a newsletter for former cadet education officers of the Australian School of Pacific Administration, which had trained kiaps, teachers and other professionals to work in Australia’s territories, especially Papua and the New Guinea mandate.
By February 2008, two years later, PNG Attitude was beginning to spread its wings to cover issues beyond those affecting ASOPA alumni, and by the next February it was well enmeshed in PNG affairs and the bylines of Paul Oates and Barbara Short featured regularly in its columns.
A final word on one of PNG Attitude’s big issues this month: the withdrawal of Australian support from the Crocodile Prize national literary contest.
It wasn’t just the money; it was the symbolic significance of the abandonment of involvement by the Australian High Commission without explanation or excuse.
We're deeply grateful to those entities and individuals whose backing of the Prize means it can exist; and also that a thousand anthologies of PNG writing can reach readers, schools and libraries across the country.
That’s where the Australian $3,000 was being spent – on books.
When organisations like the UK-based Commonwealth Foundation say of the Prize, as it did earlier this week, “Your pioneering work to encourage and publish Papua New Guinean writers is much admired", you really wonder what the Australian diplomats were thinking.
PUKPUK Publishing received an honourable mention in yesterday’s review of the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015 by Drusilla Modjeska in The Australian newspaper.
And it would be a fair question for readers to ask, ‘Well, what is this upstart? Where does it fit in?’
Like the Crocodile Prize and PNG Attitude, Pukpuk Publishing is a voluntary, not-for-profit project established to both strengthen the Papua New Guinea-Australia relationship and to ensure authors and poets writing about PNG can achieve publication for their work.
In the case of Pukpuk Publishing, its objective is to bring long-form works to publication and to take those books to market in a coherent way.
The entity is the brainchild of Phil Fitzpatrick and it spun out of his magnificent work to bring the Crocodile Prize Anthology to print, which it has done each year since 2011 - even in the fallow period of 2013.
IT’S uncommon for any one article, story or poem in PNG Attitude to receive more than 100 ‘likes’ from readers (first you have to be hooked into Facebook) but an article on the death of former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam did it last month.
During a visit to PNG as opposition leader in late December 1969, Whitlam suggested the then colony should gain independence sooner rather than later.
This meant that Whitlam was not the favourite man for a large number of expatriates who would rail against him at every turn. Some still do 45 years later.
In a small exhibit by the Rabaul Historical Society located in a corner of the Rabaul Hotel, there is a plaque that I came across containing a quote from a press article I wrote many years ago. It reads:
SEPTEMBER, as most readers know, sees the culmination of each year’s Crocodile Prize national literary awards in Papua New Guinea.
It also sees the start of planning for the next awards in what is a year-round process.
With the 2014 awards event successfully concluded, members of the Crocodile Prize Organisation, COG, were asked if they wished to continue into 2015. But there was a twist.
Members wanting to stay with COG were asked to make a commitment to personal activity that would advance the interests of the Crocodile Prize.
Our next step was to invite entrepreneur, writer and charity boss Jimmy Drekore to head the organisation.
DISABLED Papua New Guinean writer Francis Nii was assisted to regain his health last year by the donations of many PNG Attitude readers.
And Francis has now received a fully adjustable hospital bed gifted by the Rotary Club of Toowong in Brisbane and once again transported into the Highlands by the redoubtable Terry Shelley.
In addition to the bed for Francis, the Club – whose project was spearheaded by Murray Bladwell – has also provided an additional bed to Kundiawa General Hospital, which is Francis’s home.
“Unfortunately, we could not send the upmarket electrically controlled beds as Francis said the power supply to the hospital was unreliable,” said Murray.
In addition to the beds, the Rotary Club also provided mattresses and bed linen.
“Thank you so much my wantok, Murray,” said Francis. “I am so happy and so is my family.”