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Writing for children award announcement puts minds at rest

Crocodile Prize Awards - Iriani Wanma accepts award from Buk bilong Pikinini (Ben Jackson behind)KEITH JACKSON

“WHERE’S the children’s story contest,” was a question pitched at me in a number of emails after we announced the 2015 Crocodile Prize awards in November.

Well, truth be told, we were awaiting advice from the previous sponsor, Buk bilong Pikinini, to confirm whether they’d continue this year. It was advice that never came.

So we were absolutely delighted when late last week the Paga Hill Development Company offered to fill the gap.

As the company’s CEO, Gudmundur Fridriksson, said: “It’s an award which will result in more locally written material being made available to children of all ages in PNG. The love of language and joy of reading at an early age is a wonderful and powerful gift.”

Absolutely true – and we hope Papua New Guinea’s writers take this as their cue to begin drafting their stories for children up to the age of about 12.

Last year, Iriani Wanmi (pictured above receiving her prize) won the first Award for Writing for Children with an entry she described as “an educational story about friendship and transformation.”

“I love children and their sense of curiosity, adventure and imagination,” she said. ”I knew some children liked insects and decided to do the story from the point of view of insects with human qualities to make it interesting for children.” (You can read Iriani’s winning story here)

And so the Paga Hill Development Company Award for Writing for Children is officially underway.

Papua New Guinea writers are asked to submit a fictional or factual story of up to 1,000 words on a theme of interest to children up to age 12, and using language the children find accessible. (You can find the entry form here)

As usual there is one prize, and it’s a good one – K5,000 in cash along with guaranteed publication in the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2015 and a trophy.

In addition, because this year awards event is being held in Kundiawa, we’ll throw in free travel and accommodation if you live elsewhere in PNG.

And, while you’re thinking about all that, take a look at this short article by Suzanne Lieurance on the top 10 mistakes made by new children's writers.

I look forward publishing the first entry soon - and hope we may get enough before the 30 June deadline to produce a special book of PNG stories for children. Go to it!


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Dr Kristian Lasslett

My initial delight at hearing that the children's writing award would continue this year - could there be a more worthy initiative - was scuppered almost immediately at hearing of the source of funding.

I have no doubt the award steering committee acted in good faith in accepting this offer from Gudmundur Fridriksson on behalf of the Paga Hill Development Company (PHDC), but I would have serious reservations about accepting money from a company steered by an individual - Gudmundur Fridriksson – whose companies have been censured in 4 x Public Accounts Committee reports, 2 x Auditor General's Office reports, and 1 x Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Finance.

Most seriously PHDC and Mr Fridriksson have overseen the forced eviction of 3000 residents from Paga Hill. The Public Accounts Committee under the respected Chairmanship of John Hickey allege that the land was acquired by PHDC through 'corrupt dealings' - and despite not paying rent or completing improvement covenants, the Lands Department has failed to follow the Committee's recommendation that the lease over Paga Hill be forfeited.

This has allowed PHDC to implement a number of eviction exercises, the first eviction exercise in May 2012 led to a dozen homes being demolished under a barrage of police gunfire - I have photos of children left homeless, studying to candlelight. I have photos of a more recent eviction exercise at Paga Hill, that left the children's preschool a smouldering wreck, along with the local church. No one has claimed responsibility for this act of terrorism on the Paga Hill community, the community leaders are pursuing contempt of court charges – whoever committed this criminal act had no legal authority.

Equally concerning is the past documented behaviour of PHDC shareholders and executives, in the connected company, CCS Anvil (previously Anvil Project Services), part-owned and run by Gudmundur Fridriksson. According to the Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee they were illegally awarded contracts at the Public Curator's Office, where they evidently employed their position to illicitly acquire millions from deceased estates. The Australian succinctly summarises the audit findings: ‘A PNG Public Accounts Committee report tabled in parliament found Anvil had unlawfully withheld $1,966,677 kina in monies it received from realisation of assets of deceased estates.’

For a summary see:

My own summary may be found here:

And an oral summary here:

I could go further back and relay the serious allegations levelled at Fridriksson by the respected ABC reporter Sean Dorney - he claimed Fridriksson acquired a government book contract to produce Destination PNG at 5 x the market rate, delivered a deeply substandard product, and then ensured payment of K2.5 million by offering a Finance Department official a percentage of the contract, the official was later dismissed.

I trust that this comes as news to the steering committee, I would be happy to share all the original audit documentation and inquiry transcripts with the committee and other investigative report, and put them in touch with organisations who may be able to help fund this prize, without the considerable baggage attached to the current sponsor.

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