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My father the cadet officer, and the rush to independence

Chief Inspector Joseph Muso Sigimet (retired) as a cadet, 1973RAYMOND SIGIMET

As told to me by my father, Chief Inspector Joseph Muso Sigimet (retired)

AFTER completing Form 4 (equivalent to Grade 10) at the Marist Brothers run St Xavier’s High School on Kairuru Island, East Sepik, in 1971, my father Joseph Muso Sigimet was accepted for teacher training at Kaindi Teachers College, near Wewak, the following year.

He was reluctant to take up the offer and decided to remain at Urip village near Dagua Catholic Mission.

This caused much ire and annoyance in his parents who said they had struggled to pay his school fees and he must look for a job instead of lazing around and doing nothing.

In mid-1972, while listening to Radio Wewak, he heard a Toksave from the Commanding Officer of Boram Corrective Institution that there would be a recruitment drive for high school leavers.

Interested persons were requested to report to Boram with their Form 4 certificate.

The announcement sparked Joseph’s interest. He left for Wewak, dropping off at Dagua market and walking all the way to Boram. After his certificate was sighted by the Commanding Officer, he was told to go back and await further notices on the radio.

In less than a month, sometime in June, he heard on Radio Wewak that he and other successful applicants were to report to Boram.

When he got to Boram, he was requested to sign an Application for Entry into Corrective Institutions - Personal Particulars.

He was taken on at Boram as a new recruit, working there until early January 1973.

At that time, he left for the Bomana Staff Training Centre near Port Moresby for six months training with the rank of Assistant Correctional Officer.

There, he was one of four Form 4 trainees who passed the Cadet Officer Psychological Test for handling senior roles.

Peter Debesa from Dagua, East Sepik, was the Deputy Commander of the Bomana Correctional Service Staff Training Centre. The Correctional Service Commissioner was John Purcell, an Australian.

The Correctional Service Officer Cadet training was supposed to be for three years but, because of the urgent need to get indigenous Papua New Guineans into the public service, the training was shortened to six months.

After six months officer cadet training at Bomana, Joseph with the other officer cadets went to Erap DPI station in Lae for a three months animal husbandry course as part of gaol management training. At that time, many gaols in the then territory had farms.

It was at Erap where he heard news of the declaration of self-government by Chief Minister Michael Somare. The animal husbandry training ended in December 1973.

When he returned to Bomana, he was informed that he with the other 12 cadet officers had been selected for a three months middle management course in Australia.

In February 1974, the group left for Sydney via Brisbane on a Trans Australian Airways jet out of Port Moresby. They were met at Sydney’s Mascot Airport by their course director, Dr Peter MacLaren, a New Zealander.

“Do not think for one minute that I am new to your people,” Dr MacLaren reassured them. “Do not see me as a foreigner. I once worked in Madang as an anthropologist. I know your every custom and your way of life.”

They received their settling-in allowance of $200 for each member, which was a lot of money at that time. The money was for rental, meals, stationery, bus fares and living costs.

In his first days at Sydney, my father was at a hotel in Neutral Bay. He later moved to a guest house owned by a Russian immigrant family in Neutral Bay.

For the theory part of their training, he with the other members of the group found themselves at the International Training Institute (formerly ASOPA) at Middle Head.

To travel to ITI, he got on a bus at Neutral Bay and travelled to Neutral Bay Junction. He changed buses at Neutral Bay Junction and travelled to Mosman Junction. He changed buses again for the final leg of the trip to Middle Head.

The three month (February-May) middle management course at the International Training Institute was specifically designed for the Correctional Service. Some of the subjects were law, psychology, management, drugs and the court system.

During lectures, he recalled a course lecturer saying: “At the moment, the country is not facing any problems with marijuana but in future you will face a lot of problems.”

Joseph at a Hunter Valley vineyard during the middle management course, 1974While at ITI, some members of the group took part in a local suburban rugby league competition. They also visited a number of famous landmarks, gaols and rehabilitation centres including Long Bay, Silverwater, Parramatta, Goulburn and Newcastle Rehabilitation Centre.

They also visited a winery at Newcastle (see picture), Parliament House in Canberra, the Australian National Museum and the Australian Mint.

After returning from Australia, he was given six weeks leave to visit his parents. He graduated after returning from leave with the rank of Correctional Officer Grade 1 and was posted to Buimo Gaol in Lae in September 1974 to take up the position of Deputy Gaol Commander. He was made Gaol Commander in 1975.

After Buimo, Joseph went on to serve at Kavieng, Lakiemata, Beon, Vanimo, Laiagam, Giligili and Keravat gaols, mostly in senior management roles as Gaol Commander or Deputy Gaol Commander.

For his commitment and service to Correctional Service, he was awarded two independence medals, the first in 1975 and the second in the early 1990s.

He served from 1973 to 1993, reaching the rank of Chief Inspector within the service.

I don’t recall ever meeting Joseph, but I was Deputy Principal of the International Training Institute, also lecturing in communications, at the time he was there - KJ


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Raymond Sigimet

Thanks Robin, I appreciate your comment. He had a fine career indeed, though he had his own reasons for ending it after just 20 or so years in the service.

`Robin Lillicrapp

Your Dad enjoyed a fine career, Raymond.

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