As a pink Sydney dawn sneaks over the horizon heralding another brilliant summer’s morning, I prepare for a day trip to Brisbane to meet with as good a body of people as you would encounter in a very long march.
By way of couture, I will be wearing an approximation of yellow so appeasing the wishes of meeting convenor Colin Huggins. Colin [seen left in, er, yellow], despite his predilection in tints, has fallen into the role of Brisbane’s go-to man for matters relating to the PNG expat diaspora, and he does a fine job of work too.
Oddly, the origins of today’s pleasantry lie in failure. Some months ago, a small PNGAA group, established in Brisbane to discuss whether Queensland should form a branch of the Association, decided it should not. After contemplating this outcome for a short time, Colin decided it should be reviewed - only to have me pull the pin on my PNGAA presidency.
Undeterred Colin decided to proceed anyway, to provide Brisbane PNGAA members with a forum to discuss developments – and to discuss anything else they chose for that matter. Even though my own circumstances had changed, I decided to honour my commitment to attend as an observer. So it is that Colin assembled a group of nearly 20 people, all of whom are well known to me, and I look forward to seeing them again. In one case this will mean a gap of 33 years between drinks.
It is with this event in view that Loch Blatchford’s letter [see Recent Comments] calling for reconciliation in the PNGAA assumes great pertinence. I have corresponded separately with Loch (and with Colin who remarked to me in an email that what Loch wrote “makes the most sense of all”, which it does). I thought I should share the substance of my responses to Loch and Colin with PNG ATTITUDE readers.
In the normal course of human interaction, what Loch says makes absolute sense. In fact, what Loch proposes (that there should be room in the PNGAA for people who wish to pursue a range of different interests relating to PNG) is precisely the ‘broad church’ approach I adopted to my presidency of the organisation. I canvassed this approach before being elected and continued to pursue it until the day I resigned.
Unfortunately there’s a (mostly Sydney based) rump of PNGAA members, fairly small in number but long-standing in the organisation, who do not see the PNGAA in these terms. They see it as theirs, to be used for the purposes they proclaim and for no other. Anything else, and anyone who is not them, is fought against. This group is particularly and vehemently opposed to initiatives aimed at building the Australia-PNG relationship.
So, even when we boosted the quantum of PNGAA activity in areas in which these people were interested, like the expat story in PNG, they were not willing to make the trade off that would harmoniously allow the PNGAA to move into other areas such as those aimed at enabling the Association to work at building the Australia-PNG relationship.
When these people understand that the essence of social life is the ability to make trade offs and compromises, the PNGAA has a fighting chance of becoming a great organisation. If not…..
It’s a great day for lunch.