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75 posts from March 2019

1970s patrol notebook: Strip maps and mocka juice

Robbins - Goropu Mtns (Suckling) from Safia Anglican Mission
Goropu Mountains (Mt Suckling) as seen from Safia Anglican Mission


SPRINGBROOK, QLD – It had taken me 30 hours hard walking and backtracking over four days to get from Safia to Pongani. Now the flight back along the same route was over in 30 minutes.

It had been my first patrol to Safia in the Middle Musa of Northern District: inland from lowland villages and over the Didana Range skirting the 100 square miles of Agaiambo Swamp between the mountains and Dyke Acland Bay.

I’d been constantly recording features along the bush tracks, including detours (thus the backtracking), to establish a route for a bulldozer to clear a road from Pongani to the Musa Gorge.

The result was a detailed 17-sheet strip map based on my walking speed of about six kilometres an hour, which I’d calculated along the 610 metres of Tufi airstrip.

Continue reading "1970s patrol notebook: Strip maps and mocka juice" »

The necessary undoing of the colonial kiap mythology

Kiaps and appointed village officials (luluais and tultuls)
Kiaps and appointed village officials (luluais and tultuls), 1950s


ADELAIDE - The kiaps I worked with were a very eclectic bunch indeed. They came from diverse backgrounds and, to the best of my recollection, none of them engaged in shouting or bullying behaviour.

That said, it seems vanishingly improbable that there were not instances of red-faced shouting and bullying. From time to time we all fail to have our finest hour.

I have previously written about the mythology of the kiap, which gave them a certain glamour, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of the broader population.

This mythology conferred a power and prestige upon kiaps that allowed a few hundred widely dispersed men with perilously few resources to exert effective control over millions of people.

As independence approached, Papua New Guinea’s educated elite wanted and needed an alternative narrative to that which had grown up around kiaps.

Continue reading "The necessary undoing of the colonial kiap mythology" »

The kiaps did not just ‘disappear’ at PNG independence

Bill Brown and policemen
Fuyuge interpreter Koga,  kiap Bill Brown and Corporal Gogoga of the RPNGC on patrol near Woitape, January 1952


MELBOURNE - I had stayed on in Papua New Guinea after independence but at the end of 1981 decided to leave despite an offer to sign on for a further three years.

The view that the kiap system ceased at independence is not correct. It continued during those six years, but with subtle changes.

Around the time of independence there were two points of view about our service: that of the radical minority at the University of PNG, who saw little or no good in it; and that of the rural majority who were not listened to.

But, as I said, the change was gradual and the rural people soon gained the idea that it was business as usual.

Before my time in PNG, the department that included the kiaps had changed its name from ‘Native Affairs’ to ‘District Administration’.

I was originally employed with the time-honoured title of Cadet Patrol Officer but shortly after this was changed to Assistant Patrol Officer, which aligned with the designation of national officers who were being trained as junior kiaps.

Continue reading "The kiaps did not just ‘disappear’ at PNG independence" »

Amea’s story: Building a village school out of nothing

Amea Basel
Amea Basel - worked with fellow villagers to build the self-sufficient OKA school


Having wisdom and understanding is better than having silver or gold. It is good to have nice things, but there are very few things in life that can never be taken away, and education is one of them (Proverbs 16:16)

PORT MORESBY - The journey that changed my view of life started when I joined Youth With a Mission PNG (YWAM PNG) as a general volunteer on their third outreach for 2019 to the Gulf and Western Provinces of Papua New Guinea.

The journey was an eye-opener for me, a Papua New Guinean who has spent most of my life in the city and in other more developed provinces than Gulf and Western.

During the second week of outreach I was at Korovake Village in the Baimuru District when I met Amea Basel, a tremendous young Gulf Province woman.

Her story changed my life.

It got me thinking, ‘what am I doing for my country?’

Continue reading "Amea’s story: Building a village school out of nothing" »

With 0% of women in parliament, why not try something new


TUMBY BAY - The Papua New Guinea government seems to have been long in thrall to large resource extraction projects but consistently fails to translate the profits it receives from them into tangible social benefits, such as improved education and health systems.

It also diverts considerable sums of taxpayers’ money into these sorts of projects, including buying shares and in the development of targeted infrastructure designed to attract even more projects and developers.

On top of this, it forgoes considerable revenue by offering the developers tax holidays and concessions that could otherwise be used for social improvements.

Although the government argues otherwise, citing among other things tourism as a driver, Port Moresby now abounds with high class accommodation designed specifically for the convenience of these developers.

This obsession with resource exploitation has resulted in massive environmental damage and the criminal neglect of the nation’s most vulnerable people.

Continue reading "With 0% of women in parliament, why not try something new" »

Recalling gentleman Jim Humphreys & his applied mathematics

Jim's new maths made a short appearance in the School Paper when KJ was editing it. "It took months to get the article to Jim's satisfaction," Keith recalls. "But it still confused everyone."


MELBOURNE – I feel sure that Jim Humphreys would be horrified that anyone would recall his impact on more than a few Papua New Guinean and expatriate primary school teachers during the late 1960s.

For the most part, Jim was a private, reserved and self-contained chap, not given to Friday nights and weekends in pubs or clubs or parties.

Outside of working hours, he kept much to himself. He was, indeed, something of an enigma.

That said, he was, for a short few years, a valued colleague and mentor.

Jim achieved prominence in the PNG primary education sphere when he was anointed by Education Director, Ken McKinnon, to champion the implementation of the ‘new maths’ through the application of TEMLAB: the Territory Mathematics Laboratory.

Physically, TEMLAB was a boxed set of lesson plans and teaching apparatus comprising attribute blocks: a collection of wooden pieces in various shapes, sizes, colours and thickness which were designed (if I remember correctly) to provide a logical underpinning to the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Continue reading "Recalling gentleman Jim Humphreys & his applied mathematics" »

As China barges in, Australia admits to failings in the Pacific

China OzANDREW BEATTY | Agence France-Presse | Extracts

SYDNEY - Australia has admitted it had not focused enough attention on its Pacific backyard but vows to make "long overdue" amends amid growing Chinese influence in the region.

"I think we would have to accept some criticism," Australia's minister for international development and the Pacific, Anne Ruston, told AFP on Friday.

"We have perhaps not put as much attention and effort into our own region as we should of."

In recent months, Ruston has been at the sharp end of trying to fix that - jetting to-and-fro between Australia and far-flung Pacific Islands, as part of prime minister Scott Morrison's "step-up" in the region.

Continue reading "As China barges in, Australia admits to failings in the Pacific" »

Australian multiculturalism: Is there a salient lesson for PNG?

Sing-sing-papua-new-guinea (Pinterest)
A united and multicultural PNG will require eliminating top level corruption and a fair approach to sharing resources


TUMBY BAY - I first became aware of the idea of multiculturalism in the late 1970s when South Vietnamese boat people began to arrive in Australia.

At that time, and probably because of Australia’s ill-fated involvement in the Vietnam War, the government under Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser actually welcomed boat people and refugees.

Those that arrived on our shores brought horrific stories of the perils of their escape from Vietnam, including pillaging and rape by pirates on the high seas. Many Australian hearts went out to these people and they were given much assistance to relocate here.

In South Australia many of them settled on the northern Adelaide Plains where they engaged in market gardening alongside the Italian and Greek migrants who had come here after the horrors of World War II.

Today South Australia’s governor, Hieu Van Le, is Vietnamese as are many professional people like doctors and lawyers. Vietnamese Australians act and sound just like any other Australian and through intermarriage have greatly enhanced the national gene pool.

The arrival of Vietnamese refugees probably heralded the start of Australia’s embrace of multiculturalism. Over subsequent years people from many different parts of the world came here to live and we developed into a happy polyglot society.

There are still hangovers from the old days of the White Australia Policy but thankfully its adherents are in the minority.

Continue reading "Australian multiculturalism: Is there a salient lesson for PNG?" »

Corruption, the Desolation of our Souls


Corruption, like a cancer, is eating our nation,
Dwindling our coffers and desolating our souls,
Forcing obsolescence on great moral pillars,
Spinning our country towards destruction.

The root cause of this plague --- insane greed,
Insatiable leaders of our resource rich land,
With inflated egos and bloated ambition,
Believing they need all for themselves to feed.

They had a moral choice to a moral deal,
To avert our nation from venality and greed,
To stem the tide of rampant damage.
To live in adherence to a moral ideal.

By integrity, they could build an ethical base,
Through morality, they could remake the nation.

Is the vaunted national electrification project in jeopardy?

Deal announcement (ABC)
In jeopardy because of contract 'back-dooring' - the national electrification project recently announced at APEC by a five-nation partnership


PORT MORESBY – Papua New Guinea’s multinational electrification partnership could be in jeopardy after the O’Neill government awarded contracts to companies from China without open tendering, according to Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch.

Pruaitch said the government’s approval of the Ramu 2 hydroelectric project has led the Americans to reconsider their involvement in the five-nation partnership which was announced at last year’s APEC summit.

“The US government and American corporations are believers in fair play and the US government reaction is not surprising,” Pruaitch said.

But, in a stinging gibe at Australia, he said the Australian government would still want the project as it “is happy to encourage third parties from Australia to enter ‘secretive sweetheart’ deals.”

Continue reading "Is the vaunted national electrification project in jeopardy?" »

A 'crazy' blueprint for a sustained literary project in PNG

Rashmii Amoah Bell - literary innovator


“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic,
If we want to play against men, we’re nuts
And if we dream of equal opportunity, delusional.
When we stand for something, we’re unhinged.
When we’re too good there’s something wrong with us.
And if we get angry, we’re hysterical or irrational or just being crazy.
So if they want to call you crazy? Fine. Show them what crazy can do.”
(Tennis icon Serena Williams as narrator in ‘Dream Crazier’, Nike commercial ad)

BRISBANE – Each month Philip Fitzpatrick releases figures on book sales to all authors with titles under his Pukpuk Publications imprint.

And each month ‘My Walk to Equality’, first published to coincide with International Women’s Day two years ago, registers a few more sales.

Social media coverage has been instrumental in marketing the book and keeping it in front of readers. On a recent Saturday morning an email from individual in Canada informed me excitedly that her copy had just arrived in the post.

The modest royalties received from the sale of these books remain with Pukpuk Publications and are used to support the publication and distribution of titles by other PNG authors.

The walk to equality is a continuing journey.

Continue reading "A 'crazy' blueprint for a sustained literary project in PNG" »

Red-faced bullies who always shout? Not our cuddly kiaps

Forster - Census patrol  1970s
Census patrol, Pilitu section, Goilala district, 1974


NORTHUMBRIA, UK - During the period immediately before national independence in 1975, there was a popular view of kiaps among Papua New Guinea's extraordinarily vocal academic community.

To them, the kiaps (mainly expatriate bush administrators appointed by the Australian government) were red faced bullies who routinely shouted so hard they looked like they were about to mess their pants.

I think you’ll agree that this photograph, taken on a routine census patrol in the Pilitu section of the Goilala district in late 1974, contradicts such a jaundiced opinion.

Continue reading "Red-faced bullies who always shout? Not our cuddly kiaps" »

Mekamui realigns with Momis as B’ville referendum nears

Pipiro presents Momis
Commander Moses Pipiro presents President John Momis with shell money as a symbol of unity


BUKA - The integration of the Mekamui faction within the mainstream of Bougainville politics remains a priority of the Autonomous Bougainville Government as it prepares for the referendum on independence in October this year.

In a small but significant ceremony recently, President John Momis and his cabinet held a ceremony of unity with the Mekamui who are from the Panguna area of central Bougainville.

Mekamui Defence Force Commander Moses Pipiro is encouraging the faction to realign with the ABG.

“From the outset I must pay tribute to our President Momis for his leadership in the last 40 years,” Mr Pipiro said.

“President Momis’ leadership has set the layout for Bougainville in our journey to self-determination as we prepare a future for all the people of Bougainville.

Continue reading "Mekamui realigns with Momis as B’ville referendum nears" »

Back at my desk again, about to rejoin the fray.....

KJ March 2019
Keith - today


NOOSA - It's been quite a week. But I'm at home in one piece, though it doesn't feel like that right now.

Seven days ago I lay on a hospital gurney, flat on a decrepit back, trying to take in anaesthetist Jack Huang's mandatory briefing about the risks I faced at his hands. 

I was at ease with those risks. I'd built them into my decision to have this surgery, the fifth on my spine and third in three years.

Told by the previous surgeon he wouldn't undertake a further operation because "it could well leave you much worse off," this day was something of a last chance saloon.

For me, not being 'much worse off' meant declining mobility and increasing pain. This  day's procedure was a bet against invalidity.

I'd done my research, took some months to consider a decision and found my man - Brisbane maestro Dr Gert Tollesson - to slice open the lower back like a fillet and find every bit of intrusive bone, displaced disc, problematic nerve ending and strand of scar tissue so as to forge a clear pathway for constrained and impeded nerves, giving them a clear run and doing the same for me.

Nearly four hours later, I emerged into morphine-addled stupor in intensive care, many tubes poking out of many orifices. The grand theatre of surgery was over and the ugly process of recovery had begun.

And so it continues but in a place we all yearn for at times of great stress - at home amongst family and friends.

And PNG Attitude, my companion over so many years, resumes. Thanks for sticking with me.

Now to get this old cart back on the road. 





Governance, ethics & leadership in PNG – a personal perspective

Ila Geno
Ila Geno

ILA GENO | DevPolicy Blog

PORT MORESBY - I want to establish from the outset the foundation of experiences from which I am speaking on the important subjects of governance, ethics and leadership in Papua New Guinea.

This paper revolves around personal and practical experiences acquired over the years in my various capacities: firstly as a public servant and secondly as a private citizen, and it is a privilege to share them with you.

I would like to tell you a story from my childhood, growing up in a village from the late ‘40s to the ‘50s.

I can recall one of many lessons in compliance I received from my father.

Continue reading "Governance, ethics & leadership in PNG – a personal perspective" »

After fall of Cardinal Pell, what’s now for PNG church?

ChurchSCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country

LAE - It was bound to come to light sooner than later. Over the last 20 years, the Catholic Church has been under intense pressure to admit to cases of sexual abuse within its ranks.

Admitting is one thing. But investigating and bringing criminal proceedings against the offending priests and other members of the clergy is another matter altogether.

It is something the Catholic Church has shied away from for many decades.

Last week people around the world read in horror as the Vatican treasurer, the third highest ranking Catholic clergyman from the Pope, Cardinal George Pell, was found guilty of sexually assaulting two boys when he was an archbishop.

Continue reading "After fall of Cardinal Pell, what’s now for PNG church?" »

Vincent Eri – should his novel grace PNG’s literature contest?

Vincent Eri
Vincent Eri


TUMBY BAY - Vincent Eri wrote and published the first novel by a Papua New Guinean. It was called ‘The Crocodile’ and is the book after which Papua New Guinea’s national literature competition is named.

The novel was the only book Eri ever wrote. Despite being a ground-breaking author, he was never an enthusiastic one.

He was an educator officer, had visited Australia a couple of times and had attended a conference in Tehran.

In 1966 he was sent to a writers’ conference in Malaysia as a representative of Papua New Guinea.

In recalling this conference he described how he said to himself, “If I am supposed to go to a writers’ conference I better write something first.”

The ‘something’ he wrote was about life in his home village of Moveave in Gulf Province.

He had a vague idea that this piece could be expanded and might become the first chapter in a novel but, being busy with his work and rather lazy, he never took the idea any further.

Continue reading "Vincent Eri – should his novel grace PNG’s literature contest?" »

The publisher is in hospital for spinal surgery and  PNG Attitude is likely to be intermittent for several days. But you never know, I may still be able to sit upright long enough to plough through the paperwork. In any event, I urge contributors to continue to submit and readers to continue to comment. Your knowledge, thoughts and memories are precious, and  PNG Attitude will get round to publishing them - KJ

A Kiap’s Chronicle: 23 – Anti-mining tensions escalate at Barapina


023 map 4KJ new


THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – My senior officer, Assistant Director Tom Aitchison, was back in Port Moresby from Bougainville and Patrol Officer John Dagge and I had negotiated with landowners for CRA to install two new drills at Kokorei.

I was catching up on Sub-District affairs, working from the office in Kieta, as well as spending at least two or three days each week at Barapina with Dagge and his small detachment of police.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 23 – Anti-mining tensions escalate at Barapina" »

Failure to honour agreement causing tremors on Bougainville


BUKA - The dates for Bougainville’s referendum on its political future cannot be set without processes agreed by both the Papua New Guinea Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) says the man responsible for conducting the vote.

Chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission and former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, pictured here with President John Momis, said there must be a certainty of funding and constitutional regulations must be in place before further progress is made.

The referendum had been scheduled for 15 June but now it is unlikely this date will be achieved.

Mr Ahern he is conscious of the position of both governments and urged them to work together to achieve the referendum.

“What is needed is a pragmatic and intellectual approach that will meet the expectations of the people as well as acting within the legal aspects of the Bougainville Peace Agreement,” he said.

“The two governments must work together for a better future for Bougainville and work out the issues that pertain to the overall process.”

Continue reading "Failure to honour agreement causing tremors on Bougainville" »

History has a lesson for leaders who engage in corruption

The assassination of William McKinley
The assassination of William McKinley


WABAG - Leaders must not shout ‘prosperity’ and secretly involve themselves in corrupt deals as a result of which their constituents suffer from want of basic services.

Leaders need to exercise caution and conduct public affairs in a transparent manner, especially in this this land of a thousand tribes.

Elected leaders must be aware when they are putting a lot of strain on the lives of the ordinary people.

What do people think when their loved ones die from curable diseases because there is no medicine, or when the cost of living becomes unbearable in urban areas.

Continue reading "History has a lesson for leaders who engage in corruption" »

Thuggish city rangers trusted as wardens of our women

City-rangers (EMTV)
City rangers in Port Moresby - ill-equipped to deal with people honestly and ethically, especially women (EMTV)


PORT MORESBY - There is a band of men scavenging in Port Moresby from outlying areas that the National Capital District Commission (NCDC) has seen fit to mobilise, giving them the mandate to sieve betel nut vendors and chewers.

This week the NCDC announced 200 bus stop wardens or city rangers will help keep law and order and protect our womenfolk who transit at the bus stops.

City residents received the announcement with sadness since they know these men to be thugs and brutes.

Although the idea is noble, these thugs will carry screwdrivers, machetes, clubs and iron rods to bruise and chop anybody stalking women or selling or spitting betel juice on footpaths, bus stops, and walls.

Continue reading "Thuggish city rangers trusted as wardens of our women" »

‘In Like Flynn’ - movie of Errol Flynn in PNG just doesn’t do it


TUMBY BAY - I’ve just watched a terrible film that purports to represent the early adult life in Papua New Guinea of famous Tasmanian actor, Errol Flynn.

Flynn went to PNG at age 18, seeking his fortune as a planter and gold miner. He spent five years on and off in the country before embarking on an acting career.

In 1929, using the proceeds of his Papua New Guinean gold mining, he bought a yacht in Sydney called Sirocco and, after getting her seaworthy, sailed it back to PNG accompanied by three friends.

In his own words Sirocco was “forty feet at the water line, cutter rigged, she was never intended to sail outside the smooth waters of the harbour”. She was over 50 years old when Flynn bought her.

The voyage took seven months and ended in tragedy when Sirocco was wrecked on a reef off Port Moresby and one of the men drowned.

When he was a famous actor and rich, Flynn had another yacht built and called it Sirocco. Clearly he had a great regard for the little cutter.

Flynn was a talented writer and the voyage on the original Sirocco is detailed in his 1937 book ‘Beam Ends’.

Continue reading "‘In Like Flynn’ - movie of Errol Flynn in PNG just doesn’t do it" »

BCL supports the improvement of teachers in Bougainville

Staff and Students in Uniforms (BCL)
Staff and students at St Therese Sipatako Primary School

ERIC TAPAKAU | Bougainville Copper Ltd

BUKA - More than 400 primary school teachers are now equipped to bring the transformative benefits of a standards-based curriculum to Panguna and Kieta District classrooms in central Bougainville.

Bougainville Copper was delighted to support the Bougainville government’s education department in providing a week of intensive training for 380 teachers at Tupukas, Arawa and St Therese Sipatako primary schools.

The company contributed K80,000 as part of its broader community investment program. Chairman Sir Mel Togolo said the move to standards-based training was about putting in place the best possible structures to support the learning and development of our children.

“The training is essential to building the necessary capacity among our teachers to bring to life standards-based education in their classrooms,” Sir Mel said.

Continue reading "BCL supports the improvement of teachers in Bougainville" »