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15 February 2016


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Having spent time in the PNG bush albeit only three years, I to understand the 'intangible knowledge' that was shared by my wantoks. I think the world could be a far better place if we had the wherewithal to share that knowledge and understanding.

I liked your post Phil especially noted the 'intangible knowledge' bit.

I am proud to have been in PNG 5 years before I-Day and allowed to remain for another 25 thereafter.

Sadly you say how nobody wants to listen to you and I can tell you it's even worse up here in the northern hemisphere where even PNG's whereabouts are a mystery to the majority.

I can almost see my friends and relatives switching into – 'sleep mode' if I as much mention anything to do with those thirty years of my life. Even my youngest daughter, who lives here with me, was rudely told to stop talking about her life in PNG to another lady.

Yet for all the sophistication of UK life I have to temper my feeling of being somehow superior because of having had that other life, which gave me that intangible knowledge, compared to the average mere mortals who surround me. I thank God and Canberra for the opportunity.

Just an example of coping: I ring my doctor for an appointment and often get asked, “Are you Ok to see such and such a doctor?” Ol man!!, after most of my life on an island with no doctor ever for its 20000 citizens I am happy to be seen by any one of the medics at my surgery.

Likewise with opticians or dentists – hell we didn't have one for 500 kilometres from the island. Didn't even have barbers..still cut my own; though miss the little triangular shape thingamajig from Hong Kong which helped trim it after a bit of dexterous scissoring.

I arrived a wet behind the ears city guy in 1970 and left in 2000 having been: kiap, trader, lay-preacher, parish manager, cattleman, agriculturalist, Assembly Member, Councillor, banker, post-master, airlines agent, croc-skin buyer, rubber-buyer, marine-products buyer and father of 7. That's a bloody long CV.

Even if I haven't got any moss it means atleast I do have some of that intangible knowledge.

Sori nogut mi gusai tumas!

People in the village and rural areas have a peculiar way of dealing with outsiders, even today.

If they sense that you are in the area to just get what you what and leave quickly, they will only give you the superficial and trivial of what you want to hear or record.

But if they see and feel that you are really genuine and can build rapport with them, and are willing to spend a bit more time with them, they will tell you more...knowledge, leads to other sources of information, what really tickles, etc etc...

My kiap was also my rugby coach. He was the last Aussie kiap at our station. We lowered the Aussie Flag and handed it over to him. As the PNG flag was being hoisted, my kiap gave it a firm salute. Much tears were shed. Always remember as it happened yesterday. Thank you guys.

Em tasol wantok. You've effectively explained and 'pinged' the issue that sticks in our craw.

The issue is the lack of understanding. Without the practical experience, Canberra decision makers these days aren't even aware of what they lack.

How many written 'snow jobs' have I received in a steady and predictable continuum of:

1. Thanks but we really do know what we're doing,
2. Thanks but you should trust us,
3. No thanks, we're on top of everything, and finally and effectively,
4. Pull your head in!

Meanwhile our relations with our nearest neighbour and good friend are constantly being either ignored, swept under the mat or allowed to atrophy.

I'd imagine anyone who has also tried to provide some helpful suggestions about our relations with PNG would have received exactly the same reactive brick wall from those who might either feel professionally threatened or feel their highly paid employment was at stake.

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