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24 April 2016


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Peter Turner

I hope that there are another 30 chapters of this stuff.

Fascinating to us 'insiders', especially to those that 'walked the walk and trudged the track' - leeches, rain, mud, saksak swamps, spiny vines, mosquito's, 'tin mit na rais', tropical ulcers, malaria, mountains and rivers that claimed quite a few lives and terrifyingly dangerous aeroplane rides - and were not just 'Petrol Officers'. The attrition rate was always high, and no wonder.

The Kiaps Honour Roll records reveal an extraordinary high number of casualties, including a number of families, lost in plane crashes. An inordinate number of early Kiaps died on their stations from disease or soon after evacuation.

An unknowable lost world to anyone else, that Bill brings back to life through personalities and events described not only with clarity but with insight.

I visit places I lived 45 (or even 25) years ago and nothing is the same. Nearly everyone I knew is dead. My tireless, patient 'tanim tok' at Koroba in 1971 is still kicking, but, only a few years older than me, Hetawi is ancient. (And how come my grandfather is looking back at me in the shaving mirror every morning?)

Everything changes.

The younger generation in PNG know nothing about pre Independence PNG and it is only well crafted, historically accurate and with plenty of human interest stories like these that they will ever get a 'taste' of how this Nation was built.

Cities and towns have grown exponentially and unremarked.

Both sides of the road from Mt Hagen town to Kagamuga are built up industrial, commercial and residential and soon to have a four-lane highway the same as from Moresby to Bomana (though the Okuk Highway between Hagen and Kundiawa is a goat track).

Much of the road out to Nadzab is the same (built up), but a lot of the old outstations are nearly all gone.

Road networks have proliferated, most rural airstrips are closed for many years. When the reason for them being there disappeared, so did they.

All those untreated timber, fibro and 'kapa' houses and buildings are gone to rust and dust, (or have burnt down) or been 're-occupied' by 'landowners' or anyone brazen enough to exert themselves. It is hard to recognize most outstations, either from development or through the jungle overgrowth.

And yet many other places are the picture of modernity, hustle and bustle, construction and development. The outstations may be disappearing but the 'development' along the main arteries in every province is very evident.

As I keep pointing out to 'disappointed with progress' and 'poor social indicators' mob, we don't have any fighter bombers parked out at Jackson's Airport, not one tank in the whole country, no armoured cars, no secret police or 'special forces' no political disappearances, and if it isn't exactly 'Westminster' it's not an awful long way behind Queensland (you trust that mob with safeguarding the Barrier Reef? They voted for 'Joh', Clive Palmer!)

I am always struck by how far the country has come and how little many people do not understand just how far it has advanced.

Bill Brown's chronicles are masterful in their ability to recreate and reveal 'the lost world' of where PNG came from, and establishes to the PNG audience the reality of those 'earlier times'.

Magnificent Bill. You should post these chronicles on the Ex Kiap website, but I am afraid that Gary Luhrs episodes of the 'Adventures of Patrol Officer 'Thrustbuttock' will still be accepted as the 'way it really was'.

Diane Bohlen

An amazing story and I guess there are many more like this that are still untold.

Arthur Williams

Bill, Thanks for another interesting yarn about those earlier days.

Really hope that future generations in Papua New Guinea can read about their places long before they were born. Fraternally.

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