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29 June 2017


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During my very brief spell (1970) teaching in Western Australia I recall one part of Social Studies syllabus was called:'Our Nearest Neighbour',

It was about Indonesia not that other land just a few miles north west of Bramble Cay.

I too have spoken at a few gatherings about life in PNG but because of my current stint as the historian for the (very) old Bendigo Football League a lot of the talks centre on sport.

I played for one mid-60s season for the Port Moresby Aussie Rules club. We wore the then South Melbourne Bloods colours: white guernseys with a scarlet V.

It's when I recount anecdotes about what it was like to play against PNGeans of varying statures that the lads stop trooping to the bar and actually stand still to listen.

Usually at question time I'm asked "how did you avoid treading on opponents' feet/ankles' when I've told the audiences large numbers of the local footballers played in bare feet.

"With great difficulty" is my general response but of course tangled feet clashes are integral to Aussie Rules, particularly when coming down from attempting a big speccie.

A high mark for those 'bum sniffers' from north of the Murray as old compatriot the late Henry Bodman used to put it.

The central Vic lads are also impressed when I recount that the PNGeans were very quick around the packs and around ball-ups. Just like the current crop of Tiwi Islanders, SA and WA indigenous players in many of the 18 AFL clubs.

So, Phil, I've found my Aussie audiences have zero interest in PNG politics, monetary problems (except for those who have rellos in Far Nth Qld where many massive PNG-owned mansions and complexes are sited) and anything to do with social and health problems.

They love hearing about PNG footy skills and speed.

Incidentally I left the Moresby Aussie Rules scene behind in the late sixties to write rugby league for the South Pacific Post/Post-Courier and broadcast live Papua v NG matches on 9PA Port Moresby-9RB Rabaul.

I also had a sports round-up program twice weekly (I think it was) on 9PA. Got paid a few toea by the local print media, but maybe minimal toea by the ABC. Nonetheless that beat getting flattened in Aussie Rules clashes for zero toea at the Boroko Sports Ground on a Saturday.

Back in 1968, five PNG highland men were dancing at a celebration in (the now) Oro Province. Leaves tied on at the rear of each man, floated up at each bounce of bobbing gait, all of which drew first amusement and then mimicking from local Orokaiva. As 'Attitude' readers already understand and will have guessed, injury to pride almost brought injury by retaliation. Humour may favour an 'at home' cohort.

Is there a cohort of humans which has fully concealed its mirth in meeting novelty?

And does a dose of folly get forgotten? Almost forty years after a (good-natured) request from a 'mission' headteacher, a (now-retired) local teacher readily recalled it was to fetch a 'thirteen inch ruler'. Laughter yes, but remembered too.

If inevitable ahead of actual contact, presumption of any audience can lead to lessening a likelihood, a potential imperilled. Pervasive perhaps, but humdrum affords no excuse for not sharing with an audience pertinent caring of value to which humankind warms.

I too have walked down this road locally. It's led me to try and get PNG and her people on the radar and while most people are generally interested, to engender any interest at government level is a steep uphill battle.

The Australian School Curriculum has nothing in it about PNG even though I sent an earnest submission to try and rectify this gaping travesty.

A joint submission from PNG Attitude was purposely ignored.

When I tried to have Melanesian as an alternative subject to learn at school levels along with Indonesian Bahasa, I was dismissed by the Commonwealth and State ministers and their departments.

When I offered to present info. sessions as suggested by the State Education department at the local state schools and high school I'm still waiting for any response. Perhaps that's the response?

Our contributions on this and other blogs and in magazine articles have been met with a thunderous silence.

There seems to be a complete disconnection between our two nations that the political levels of both countries are happy with.

PNG tourism has a great potential yet places like Bali, Phuket and Fiji continue to attract Australians at record levels.

Phil's conjecture raises a valid point. It's not for want of Keith's hard work keeping the 'The Attitude' going every day no matter what seems only to be ignored by those in government who presumably have too many 'other' considerations to be bothered by our relationship with our next door neighbour. That is, unless it suits them.

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