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Kiap Days: Astonishing yarns from a remarkable time

A Kiap's StoryKEITH JACKSON | Weekend Australian Review

A Kiap’s Story by Graham Taylor, Pukpuk Publications, 2014, ISBN 1502703459, 404 pages. Amazon Digital Services, hard copy $US14.19, Kindle version $US3.79. Link here to purchase

NOOSA - In late January 1985 no sooner had I rested my feet under my faux oak desk in my faux oak panelled office as the ABC’s controller of corporate relations than managing director Geoffrey Whitehead instructed me to take a plane to Canberra to meet deputy chairman, Dick Boyer who, I was told, was hell bent on writing a ‘philosophy’ for the national broadcaster.

I quickly learned to dread this enforced collaboration with the loquacious and pedantic Boyer and began to search for a willing substitute.

Graham Taylor, the ABC’s boss in South Australia, came highly recommended. “He can get on with anyone,” I was told.

The avuncular Taylor proved true to this appraisal and willingly took on the project. After much iteration the ‘philosophy’ eventually surfaced as a slender document entitled ‘The Role of a National Broadcaster in Contemporary Australia’ which immediately sank without an oil slick.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 24 – An unwelcome call to Canberra

Brown map BougainvilleBILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – It was early 1967 and John Dagge and I knew something must be in the wind when District Commissioner Wakeford advised he was sending Ken Hanrahan, the Assistant District Commissioner of Buka Sub-District, on “a familiarisation visit to Panguna before the Karato exercise.”

Karato, Mainoki and Daratui were the three areas of mineralisation that Conzinc Rio Australia (CRA) said it needed to test before deciding whether Panguna was the best site to mine.

Mainoki was eight hours’ hard walking from Panguna and Karato was even further into the hills. The people of both villages refused to allow the CRA teams onto their land.

Ken (KJP) Hanrahan (Footnote 1), based at Hutjena on Buka Passage, was responsible for the northern end of Bougainville and had nothing to do with Karato, which was in the Buin Sub-District.

John (JE) Wakeford had been in Bougainville for only five months, after being transferred from the Sepik in November 1966 to take over from District Commissioner Mollison who was considered too old. (Wakeford was actually the older of the two but he had shaved eight years off his age before joining the Territory Administration in 1946.) (2)

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Archival film from the early 1960s: Images of Kavieng & Rabaul


NEWCASTLE – This short video is derived from a great deal of film I shot in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and which has now been digitised by the Australian Archives and I have edited into segments of five minutes or so.

In 1963, I took a 50 minute flight from Rabaul to spend a weekend at Kavieng which is the capital and largest town of the Papua New Guinean province of New Ireland.

It is a beautiful, peaceful and picturesque island surrounded by clear tropical waters.

There are many coconut plantations on the island and while there I visited a huge plantation and was given a dance demonstration by students of Kavieng Secondary School.

It was an unusual dance which clearly derived many of its movements from military drills, possible a remnant of the German colonisation of this part of the world until 1914.

The video ends with images of Rabaul Harbour and its volcanoes.

From the archives: A weekend in Tubuseriea in the early 1960s


NEWCASTLE - On one occasion in the early 1960s, when visiting Port Moresby with student teachers from the Australian School of Pacific Administration, we heard of a feast and celebration taking place in the coastal village of Tubusereia.

The village is about 20 km by road south-east of Moresby and, on this particular weekend, my lecturer colleague Richard Pearse, some students and I we piled into a LandRover to pay a visit.

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In the case of land, the colonial administrators mostly got it right

Bill Brown on patrol in PNG
Respecters of the people's land - a young Bill Brown on patrol in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s


ADELAIDE – The Australian colonial administration in Papua New Guinea understood right from the outset of its rule that the concept of individual ownership of land didn't apply.

In part, this was based upon the British colonial experience elsewhere in the Pacific, like Fiji, where land was also a communally held and managed asset.

The Administration, as it was known, therefore pursued a policy of tightly controlling how land issues were managed and, in particular, demonstrated a strong general bias against acquiring land.

Given that a feature of the late European colonial era was the rapacious and violent seizure by colonists of traditional lands, it puzzled me that the Pacific colonies tended to be treated differently.

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A policeman’s memories of the post-independence kiap system

PNG police 1970s (Paul Oates)
Disciplined forces personnel circa 1970s: Constable Temba from Pindiu area; Pacific Islands Regiment soldier from Hube area; Corrective Services officer from Hube area; Constable Paulus from Madang area (Paul Oates)


DAGUA – In recent times there have been a number of articles and commentaries about kiaps and the Papua New Guinea kiap system in PNG Attitude.

So I decided to ask my liklik papa Mathew about his opinion and observations of kiaps as he worked as a policeman in the early years after PNG gained independence from Australia.

In 1976, Mathew Wasel Sigimet of Urip village, East Sepik, joined the Royal PNG Constabulary (No 6717) and served as a constable until early 1984 when he left the service.

He was deployed to Konedobu, Port Moresby, as a new recruit from Bomana Police College in early January 1976 not long after PNG’s independence.

He then spent six years part of the Sector Patrol Unit, a policing concept trialled in Port Moresby as an independence gift from Australia.

In 1982, Mathew was transferred to the Southern Highlands and served as a constable in Tari until early 1984 when he left the constabulary.

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My new book asks if PNG’s founders screwed up its future

Inspector Hari Metau 2
Inspector Hari Metau - Phil Fitzpatrick's splendid creation triggers a reflection on whether PNG's founders could have done more to protect the new nation from its present excesses


TUMBY BAY - What if Papua New Guinea’s forefathers had seen what was coming; could they have avoided what has happened to their nation?

I’m currently working on two novels. One is about a massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia in the 1860s; the other a kind of prequel to the Inspector Metau trilogy.

I’m using Inspector Hari Metau’s good mate and mentor, Sergeant Kasari, as the narrator of the prequel. In the book, he describes the story of how he became a policeman and met up with Hari.

The prequel begins in the mid-1960s and moves through to the present. It is addressed to a couple of young journalists who have come to Sergeant Kasari’s house in Kwikila to interview him for a newspaper article.

I’m having a lot of fun writing the novel and creating a whole new history for a bunch of characters who never actually existed; although to me they are just as real as anyone else.

The other interesting aspect of my writing is being able to reflect on those earlier times in Papua New Guinea when everyone was full of optimism for the future.

The experience of optimism is something the politicians and elites of Papua New Guinea have stolen from their fellow citizens. In its place they have created foreboding and a pervasive mood of depression.

I’m trying to maintain the humour of my earlier Metau novels but now and again I get serious because I think the material deserves it.

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Further adventures of a young patrol officer

Robbins - Musa Gorge downstream
Downstream from the Musa Gorge


SPRINGBROOK - This first story is fairly statistical but I have to do justice to the magnitude of the proposed Musa Dam hydro-electricity project.

This involved some of the biggest challenges that I ever had to face in Papua New Guinea.

To get an idea of its size, the estimated budget was $130 million, and that was prior to 1971. It would have been $1.4 billion in today’s money.

My first task on this project was to locate a road from Pongani on the north coast using a strip map I had earlier prepared on a long patrol and which subsequently was extensively referred to by Comworks engineers.

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Sir Joseph Nombri & the emergence of the Chimbu elite

Sir Joseph Nombri
Sir Joseph Nombri


KUNDIAWA - After the Europeans came to Chimbu their laws were introduced among the people and any old ways that were unacceptable to the general principles of humanity were forbidden.

The common Chimbu traits of peace, love, friendship, giving and family were encouraged so travel and communication among the tribes became easier.

In the beginning tribal leaders were the first to embrace the new ideas. The leaders were made Luluai and Tultul and others became policemen, postal boys, translators and held other responsible positions serving the colonial administration all over the highlands and the coast.

Dinga leader Aina was known as an engineer supervising the building of airstrips and roads throughout Chimbu and the highlands.

Kumga chief Tumun, Golen chief Ninkama Bomai, Karimui leader Inuabe Egaiano and Kamare chief Launa were tribal leaders who became some of the first elected leaders to embrace the white men’s ways.

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'Feelings of fear': Kiaps, police & the PNG people


TUMBY BAY - Joe Herman, in PNG Attitude, has joined a growing list of Papua New Guineans who have alluded to the feeling of fear induced by many Australian kiaps in the days before independence.

At the same time, some of those kiaps have expressed surprise that they or their cohorts created that perception or were ever regarded in this way.

Like me, I think that a lot of kiaps went out of their way not to convey any overt authoritarian or oppressive power imbalance in their day-to-day dealings with the people they administered.

As a group of administrators that were very thin on the ground and deeply embedded in often remote societies under their care, such arrogance was never an effective tool. Cooperation, more than anything else, was the key to their success.

They did, however, hold responsibility for administering, among other things, the rule of law, which had certain sanctions attached to it that had to be applied without fear or favour.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Papua New Guinea development: did we stuff it up?

Sharing a joke with children  Markham Valley  1974 (Vanessa-and-Denis)
Vanessa and Denis share a joke with children in the Markham Valley, 1974 - Australia left PNG the next year with a large stock of good will, much of which remains


CANBERRA - Port Moresby, sometime in 1977, a ‘going finish’ party at the home of a retiring senior Australian bureaucrat.

The mood was bright, a mixed crowd of men and women, expatriates of various points of origin and Papua New Guineans, mostly young.

A British aid worker I was talking with declared, “This is the last major colonial possession to go independent, and this time we are not going to stuff it up.”

The ‘we’ he referred to presumably included official aid donor countries, multilateral agencies from the UN, and the development banks — the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank — plus a host of NGOs providing technical assistance and volunteers.

Some 40 years later, with reports of incompetence and gross corruption in government, and violence on the streets of Port Moresby and other major PNG cities, it seems reasonable to ask, “did we stuff it up?”

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Tales from old Oro – new roads, uncharted seas & wild rivers

Robbins - Popondetta to Kokoda Road
Popondetta to Kokoda Road, Christmas 1969


SPRINGBROOK - My one-third of the 100km road-clearing work was the hilliest - from sea level up to a camp at a superb vantage point 1430 metres above sea level.

On Google Earth around 9º32’30” S / 148°39’46” E parts of "my road" (as District Commissioner David Marsh referred to it) can still be seen.

We spent our first five months in the Northern District (now Oro Province) at Popondetta. Drew Pingo who was on the same course as me had a young family and had already been posted to Kokoda, a reasonably civilised station with a road connection to Popondetta.

I was informed by other officers that the cream of the District’s outstations was Tufi but if I even hinted that I’d like to be posted there I would end up somewhere else like Ioma, supposedly a less desirable place.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 22 – Trapped amid landowners & bureaucrats

Brown 22 mapBILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – In late September 1966, CRA’s geologist Ken Phillips left for his New Zealand homeland, supposedly for a short holiday.

The gossip was that he was unwell and close to a stress-related breakdown. That may not have been true but if it was, I wasn’t very far behind.

Tom Aitchison, the assistant director of my department, had not replied to my letter in which I had told him in the strongest terms that I did not like the task I had been given and wanted out. I expected another officer to fly in unannounced to take over my job at any time.

Two senior kiaps, Phil Hardy and Bob Blaikie, who knew the people well, were based at either end of Bougainville just a 30-minute flight away.

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Bob Hoad’s Olsobip – the building of a nation

Hoad - Cessna dropping supplies; Gum Gorge in background
A Cessna drops supplies as the land for an airstrip and on which Olsobip will stand is cleared


TUMBY BAY - In 1964 Patrol Officers Bob Hoad and Warren Dutton and their seven-man police contingent were hard at work building an airfield and a patrol post at Olsobip.

This remote dot on the map is at the headwaters of the Fly River in the rugged foothills of the Star Mountains in what is now Papua New Guinea’s Western Province.

Working alongside Hoad and Dutton was an enthusiastic labour force of about 90 villagers drawn on a rotational basis from the small Faiwolmin population of about 1,500 thousand people in the surrounding mountains.

The Faiwolmin were delighted to have a patrol post in their area and just about every man woman and child was lending a hand.

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Reminiscences from a kiap’s scrapbook


1969 POs Kwikila
ASOPA patrol officers course No 2 of 1969 at Kwikila. Doug Robbins is seated at extreme right. Paul Oates is front row fourth from right (holding hat) 

SPRINGBROOK - What was being a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea all about?

I was one for a short time from 1969 to 1973, probably having been influenced in 1957 by our scholarship (Year 8) prescribed book ‘Danger Patrol’ by Leslie Rees.

A good account is also found in James Sinclair’s ‘Kiap’ (1981) and the Ex-Kiap website on the internet is also enlightening.

But my own PNG adventure generally matched Eric Feldt’s description in ‘The Coast Watchers’, written in 1946:

“The district officer (likewise, the patrol officer) was responsible for all forms of governmental activity in his district. He was thus, with all local authority in his hands, a power in his district.

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How Australian ignorance created a disastrous ‘bigman’ system


Phil Fitzpatrick at mic
Phil Fitzpatrick

TUMBY BAY - In 1958 a clash between the colonial Administration and Tolai dissidents in New Britain led to a review of the functions of the role of kiaps in Papua New Guinea.

The man tasked with the review, Professor David Derham, was an early version of the long line of consultants that Canberra has engaged to advise it on what to do in PNG.

Derham spent 37 days in the territory and did not seek the advice of kiaps in the field.

Nevertheless he seemed particularly offended by the kiap practice of informal mediation in local disputes and much preferred a formal system similar to the one used in Australia.

JK McCarthy, the director of the Department of Native Affairs, said in 1963, "The Derham Report, written by a man who had no practical experience of the country, and who undoubtedly was inspired by an equally ignorant person [the Minister for Territories], was accepted without question.

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Those old-style police were community leaders



Policeman against warfare (Forster)
A local policeman joins the front rank to show his enthusiasm to put a stop to inter-clan fighting, Minj, 1972 (Robert Forster)

NORTHUMBRIA, UK - This photograph was taken at Minj in the Western Highlands early in 1972 and supports Phil Fitzpatrick’s view that good ‘bush policemen’ made their own special contribution to the development of rural Papua New Guinea.

It also contradicts a post-independence view, put forward by a number of opinion formers, that before 1975 many PNG policemen were self-serving individuals more interested in feathering their own nest than promoting social stability at village level.

The photograph shows armed clan warriors, who have decided to give up more than three months constant confrontation with a neighbouring village, on their way to a peace-making ceremony.

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Remote colonial life: Waiting for the K boat & other inconveniences

Baimuru Patrol Post  1962 (John Fowke)
Baimuru Patrol Post, 1962 (John Fowke)


ADELAIDE - My first experience of Papua New Guinea was arriving at Jacksons Airport on a sweltering day in mid 1969.

Having survived the rather desultory attention of Customs, I joined a slightly bewildered group of young men who had gathered around a man carrying a sign indicating that he was there to collect us.

There followed a scramble to board a decrepit blue and white Bedford bus which proceeded to convey us along the dusty road between Moresby and our training camp at Kwikila.

This was where we would undergo the six weeks of training that constituted the introduction to our roles as newly-minted junior kiaps.

A later sojourn at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney was promised but never eventuated.

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Papua New Guinea’s two police forces; old & new, good & bad

The badge and uniform were changed in 1964
The badge and uniform that were changed in 1964


TUMBY BAY - In 1958 a number of dissident Tolai groups in New Britain banded together to refuse to pay their personal tax or line up for census checks.

The District Commissioner decided to force the issue and sent a large force of officers and armed police into the area.

The subsequent confrontation resulted in a melee during which two Tolai men were killed. Assistant District Officer Jack Emanuel fired the first two shots into the air but it was thought that the men had been hit by police .303 rifle bullets.

The upshot of this event was that the Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, ordered a review of the structure and functions of the Department of Native Affairs. This was the department run by the kiaps and which largely governed Papua New Guinea.

The separation and limitation of executive, police and magisterial powers held by officers of the department then became a ministerial objective.

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Waiting for the tide - the practicalities of living kiap style

Doug Robbins


“I asked a group of fishermen sitting in the shade of the inevitable coconut palms, at what time it would be high tide, so I could plan to get my boats over the reef flat. ‘We’re not sure,’ came the answer. ‘Then how do you know when you should take your boats out fishing?’ I asked. ‘Oh that’s easy,’ they replied with the penetrating logic one only imparts to a complete imbecile, ‘we just wait until the tide has come up high enough’.” (Soames Summerhays, Geo vol.8 no.2)

SPRINGBROOK, QUEENSLAND - While we were in Papua New Guinea there was the story of an anthropologist searching for evidence of clay pots at Wanigela who insisted on scratching around for fragments in old cooking fires.

Although the villagers could produce any number of good quality intact pots which were in daily use and for which they are renowned, these weren’t asked for, so they smashed some and buried the broken pieces in the ashes.

In late 1972, I was at Sairope, the last village of the Orokaiva people in the upper reaches of the Kumusi River on the western slopes of the mile-high plus Mount Lamington, an active volcano which last erupted in 1951, killing around 3,000 people.

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Patrolling into uncertain territory - Kudjeru and beyond

Terrain around Kudjeru
Terrain around Kudjeru - "There, on the other side of a small creek, was the village which appeared to be deserted"


GOLD COAST – This is the story of one of the few patrols I did into the area south of Wau over the ridges from the Waria River area to near the Papuan border.

Some years previously, a patrol had marked out a site for an airstrip near the Papuan border and the people there were keen to ensure construction was progressing.

The site had not been visited for some years and I checked old patrol reports to get some background on the area and its people.

In the early 1970s there were no villages between Wau and the village of Kudjeru where we could obtain carriers, so a permanent carrier line was required. Usually we paid carriers from one village to carry the patrol’s cargo to the next village.

This was a good system as the local people knew the area and tracks and didn’t have to leave their village for long periods. Carriers were paid by the hour and the traditional one shilling an hour had recently been increased due to pressure from the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly.

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Remembering the search for the missing RAAF Caribou

Iroquois on makeshift helipad
Iroquois helicopter on makeshift helipad near site of the downed Caribou (Ian Loftus)


GOLD COAST – It was August 1972 and I was returning from a patrol through the Yamap-Hotte-Musim census division between Wau/Bulolo and Salamaua.

We had left the forest behind and walked through the kunai for number of hours before arriving at Salamaua. Crikey it was hot!

I arrived at a Lutheran Mission guest house overlooking Salamaua and was given some cool lemon sherbet by the mission people who were holidaying there. I was dehydrated and couldn’t get enough of it.

Camping overnight in the Namasu store that night, we waited for a boat to take us to Lae. I tried to sleep among the bags of copra and hoped the rats that leapt between the bags all night wouldn’t bite me. There was also a pungent odour emitting from rancid coconuts that made it very pleasant to get going in the morning.

The coastal boat arrived on schedule and we boarded and set out for Lae. Arriving at Lae wharf, I telephoned the sub district office and the assistant district commissioner allocated a Toyota and driver to get us back to Wau the next day.

Driving through the Mumeng sub district, we noticed aircraft lights towards Bulolo and by the time we drove past the Bulolo road it looked like every aircraft in PNG was flying around Wau. The afternoon sky was lit up with flashing aircraft navigation lights.

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The new priest’s year in Karap and the Jimi Valley

Roche - Karap from the air
A 1980s view of Karap from the air gives an indication of the steep mountainsides. Lower left is the road to Tabibuga, upper right the road to Banz, middle left the road to Kol


DUBLIN, IRELAND- I had arrived in Papua New Guinea in October 1970, when it was known as the Territory of Papua New Guinea (it changed its name to just Papua New Guinea in 1972.)

Nine months later, in July 1971, I was sent to take charge of Karap, a parish in the Jimi Valley.

This area is now in Jiwaka Province but back then it was part of the Western Highlands District.

Things were on the move. A new road had been constructed from near Banz through Kwiona, Kauil and Karap to the government station at Tabibuga.

The drive from Banz to Karap normally took at least two hours, and from Karap to Tabiguba about an hour. Four-wheel drive vehicles were necessary.

At Karap there is now a road branching off to Kol in the Upper Jimi, but that road did not exist in the early 1970s.

The 'mansion' in which I lived was a cabin made from pit-sawn timber with a thatched kunai grass roof and a nearby shed was stacked with timber used for building the church and school classrooms.

My house was on a hilltop overlooking the road and there was a great view looking down the valley of the Tsau river.

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The curse of territoriality: Human instincts & their consequences


ADELAIDE - As an enthusiastic amateur historian, I spend far too much time puzzling over why human history has worked out the way it has. Usually, the facts are not in dispute: it is their interpretation and meaning that creates problems.

Many historic events seem to defy an agreed explanation amongst historians because so many personal, cultural, social, economic, geographic and other factors have interacted to shape and drive those events in particular directions.

Even worse, just when broad agreement is reached, it is often the case that new facts emerge that tend to confound or at least call into doubt the agreed interpretation of events. Just ask any paleontologist or archaeologist if you think this is not a problem.

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The killing of district commissioner Jack Emanuel

Jack Emanuel GC


Errol John (Jack) Emanuel was a district commissioner in East New Britain when he was murdered on 19 August 1971. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross for gallantry displayed between 1969 and 1971. At the time of Emanuel’s death, Andrew Phillips was news director at Radio Rabaul.

NEW YORK - I was posted to Rabaul following Keith Jackson’s transfer to Bougainville.

The unrest Keith has described continued, and it culminated in the stabbing murder of Jack Emanuel who’d been sent on special assignment to negotiate with the Mataungun Association.

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Best of our new years: Gorton was packin’ heat in Rabaul

2010 - John Gorton at Rabaul airport  1970 - he was packin' heat
John Gorton at Rabaul airport in 1970 - he was armed


SYDNEY - 1970 was a year of high drama in the Gazelle. There was anger and violence. The Mataungan Association had stepped up its struggle over land rights and was causing the Australian Administration much grief.

Then in July, prime minister John Gorton landed at Rabaul Airport for an official visit.

I was there as a journalist for Radio Rabaul, and stood amongst the chanting crowd as Gorton stepped on an airport trolley to try to give a speech. But the PA system failed.

Gough Whitlam later wrote: “[Gorton] was greeted by an audience of 10,000 who were as hostile as our 11,000 [on Whitlam's earlier visit] had been enthusiastic." Classic Whitlam.

Before Gorton disembarked, Tom Ellis, then head of the Department of the Administrator, gave him a handgun. Gorton secreted the pistol in his jacket pocket, a foolish if typically gung-ho act. It's likely lives would have been endangered had the Mataungans suspected the Australian prime minister was armed.

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Descendants protest museum's removal of Pacific treasures

Richard Parkinson
Richard Parkinson – descendants of the world-renowned anthropologist warn his ''gift of history'' will be marginalised

LINDA MORRIS | Sydney Morning Herald | Extracts

SYDNEY - The Australian Museum's decision to move a world-class collection offsite to make way for a touring exhibition has sparked protests from descendants of a distinguished Danish anthropologist.

After the Garden Palace fire of 1882 destroyed all but a handful of museum artefacts, the Australian Museum turned to Richard Parkinson, his wife Phebe and her sister, Emma Coe Forsayth, known as Queen Emma, to rebuild its collection.

Between them, the pioneers - who established plantations in the New Guinea islands in 1879 - provided more than 4,000 items from 1882 to 1884 alone, and continued donations until 1911, forming a core part of the 60,000 objects that are currently housed at the museum.

The objects would become records of times past that would astonish and inform future generations, the museum's then head of anthropology, Jim Specht, predicted.

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English proficiency is a necessity not a luxury in PNG


ADELAIDE - I recently read Bill Bryson’s ‘The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way’, which provides a very readable and amusing account of the development of the English language.

It is fair to say that the emergence of English as the foremost international language of business, science and culture is one of history’s more improbable occurrences.

After all, English as we now understand it did not really exist until around 1500 and was, at that time, spoken only by a quite small number of people living on an utterly unimportant island off the coast of Europe.

Through a series of unlikely events that small island emerged as the greatest imperial power in history. At the zenith of its power (around 1913), the British Empire encompassed about 23% of the world’s population and about quarter of the world’s land mass.

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Commemorating the death of Fr Karl Morschheuser SVD

Karl MorschheuserPHILIP KAI MORRE

KUNDIAWA - It was a hot day here in Kundiawa town and I was walking to the provincial government building when my eyes caught a poster about Fr Karl Morschheuser SVD.

The poster, hanging on a rope at the stationery shop on the other side of the road, read ‘Fr Karl Morschheuser. Memorial Mass at Mirane Catholic Church. Starts at 9 am, 16 December 2018. All welcome’.

It was the day we had been waiting for.

In the middle of a busy street crowded with people, the poster pushed me into a deep reminiscence of the life and tragic death of Fr Morschheuser on this day - Sunday 16 December -  in 1934.

This tall and handsome young German was the first martyr of the Papua New Guinea highlands - slain at Bedume in Upper Simbu over a dispute about a pig killed by another priest, Fr van Baar SVD.

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Mark Lynch's extraordinary life: 'My heart's still in PNG'

Mark LynchSCOTT BEVAN | Newcastle Herald

Photo - Mark Lynch talks with Scott Bevan (Jonathan Carroll)

NEWCASTLE - Sitting in Talulah bar and cafe at The Junction, Mark Lynch looks very much like a manager, which is what he was for many years. He wears a crisp business shirt, and his hair and beard are neatly trimmed.

Yet hanging from his chair is a beautiful indication of what has occupied much of his life. It is a string bag, or bilum, hand-made in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea in 1964.

“It would have been used for carrying spare bow strings,” Lynch explains.

More than 50 years since the bag was crafted, Lynch uses it to hold more than just bits and pieces. The bilum also allows Lynch to carry his love for Australia’s nearest, but barely known, neighbour.

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Tenacious Mathias Kin tells Chimbu story from the people's side


‘My Chimbu: a short history of Chimbu in the highlands of PNG’ by Mathias Kin, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018, 418 pages, ISBN: 978-1729711309. Available from Amazon, US$80 plus postage [availability may be limited]

TUMBY BAY - PNG Attitude readers may remember the vigorous debate that occurred when an extract from an early draft of Mathias Kin’s book was published.

The controversy related to allegations of extra-judicial killings carried out by officers of the Australian Administration during the exploratory and pacification years in colonial Chimbu from the 1930s (see, for example, ‘The truth about the Highlands frontier and the comments that follow).

I should point out that these events make up just a small part of what is a more comprehensive and expansionary account of the history of the Chimbu people that this book reveals.

It should also be noted that many of the views and opinions that emerged during the ‘killings’ debate have been taken into account by the author, and he explores them in detail in this final version.

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The cruel caning of Bot of Kambot

Eware VillageED BRUMBY

MELBOURNE – “I still find it hard to think of kiaps caning people. Teachers yes but not kiaps.”

So pondered Peter Salmon in his commentary on Tobias Schoerer’s article, ‘Kiaps repressed warfare, they did not repress the peoplepublished recently in PNG Attitude.

My initial response was one of mild annoyance: Why would someone think that kiaps, those doyens of authority, would not use a cane to assert said authority while teachers would?

Nevertheless, Peter’s assumption that teachers would use a cane is eminently understandable.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 21 – Coming to grips with Bougainville


Kiap 21 - Map


THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES, early 1966 - It took the Assistant District Commissioner at Kieta, Max (MJ) Denehy, more than an hour to drive from Aropa to Kieta town, and we were tossed and shaken about as we followed the water-filled wheel ruts winding through the plantation's coconut groves.

Ten kilometres further on, the flat coastal section of the road seemed to have been hewn from cliffs of volcanic rock that had flowed into the sea aeons ago. We picked up speed on the graded stretch that passed the Toboroi Plantation homestead where Mrs Francis Kroening and her married son Bruno resided.

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Thousands of antiquities returned to PNG after more than 100 years


Sir William MacGregor (1846-1919)
Sir William MacGregor (1846-1919) - "....very much had the people of Papua New Guinea in mind"

PORT MORESBY - Australia’s long, deep ties with Papua New Guinea were celebrated at last weekend’s APEC meeting in Port Moresby and included the largest return of traditional artefacts by an Australian museum.

The decades long project involved thousands of PNG objects being repatriated to the National Museum, with thousands more still to go.

Everyday disposable items from PNG make up the MacGregor collection at the Queensland Museum, assembled more than a century ago.

Kari Thomas from the PNG community in Brisbane is at the museum contributing to the ‘kambek’ [come back] book to help interpret one of Australia’s great collections of PNG artefacts.

Holding a plain woven, palm-leaf bag that is more than 100-years-old, she was overcome with emotion. “Sorry,” she said with a tear in her eye.

"Because I’ve been in Australia for a long, long time, when I see these things, it takes me back home.” 

Ms Thomas is from Hanuabada but in the decades since she came to Australia the palm leaf bags are now rarely made or used there.

This PNG collection consists of rare, fragile daily items sent to the museum by Sir William MacGregor, the colonial governor of Queensland colony of British New Guinea in the late 1800s.

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A candid history of the Unitech controversy - Part 1

Schram's triumphal return (PNG Blogs)
Dr Albert Schram returns in triumph to Unitech in 2014 after being kept out of the country by the PNG government on grounds never disclosed


LAE – The PNG University of Technology (Unitech) experience of a new expatriate vice-chancellor seeking to introduce needed reforms to an important institution lasted for six years.

It began in 2012 and ended earlier this year and is referred to either as a ‘crisis’ or just a ‘fight’ depending on which side the speaker stands.

My account seeks to portray the truth as one of those who fought to bring change for the betterment of the university. My discussion will be blunt because the face of truth should not be twisted to deviate from the essence of what occurred. Some people will feel disturbed but the truth will always remain the truth.

It’s 2012 and in early April the University Council attempts to terminate Dr Albert Schram, the newly-appointed vice-chancellor. Students and staff associations protest to prevent this occurring. An interim management team is installed to assist the vice-chancellor.

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Kiaps repressed warfare, they did not repress the people

Warwick-Anderson-and-Fore-people-Okapa (Thomas-Strong)
Australian historian Warwick Anderson amongst the Fore people of Okapa in the PNG highlands, also studied by Tobias Schwoerer


LUCERNE - I am rather pleased that my research has caught the attention of someone from PNG Attitude and that it decided to showcase this on its website.

I welcome this interest and hope that some readers will consider buying the book I am currently working on once it is published.

I am grateful to the comments from Chris Overland and Philip Fitzpatrick which made me aware of potential misunderstandings that can emerge from my use of the word ‘repression’.

I used ‘repression’ in the sense of the repression (or suppression) of warfare, not the repression (or oppression) of people.

In my thesis, and also noted by Chris, I show that Australian kiaps and New Guinea police used a wide variety of enforcing tactics to stop armed conflict.

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Those colonial & kiap times: some coercion, but never repression

Tribal warfare between two clans in the 1960s
Tribal warfare between two highlands clans in the 1960s


ADELAIDE - I have no argument with the basic conclusion of Tobias Schworer's thesis, the summary of which was published recently in PNG Attitude.

I think he has correctly described the process by which Papua New Guinea was brought under the control of the Australian colonial administration.

That said, I think that the use of expressions like "repression that punishes groups still engaged in warfare" is, whether intended or not, an emotionally loaded way of describing the pacification process.

The word "repression" is more typically associated with injustice and inequity, not the lawful imposition of an orderly, fair and effective system of justice upon what were essentially anarchic, and sometimes exceptionally brutal, Melanesian social systems.

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On patrol in colonial PNG: The attack at Numbaira

Bob Cleland
Bob Cleland in more recent times. "As the heavy rifle jolted into my shoulder I was instantly appalled I’d deliberately attempted to take a human life"


BRISBANE - I was on a routine census, health survey and general administration patrol in the Tiaora Division South of Kainantu in 1956.

Though the people were reputed to be surly and uncooperative, I found them tractable enough and the patrol proceeded smoothly.

Close to the southern extremity of the area I heard reports of tribal fighting even further south at a village called Numbaira. Two policemen I’d sent to have a look were warned off with alarming threats and derisive insults, so I decided I’d better take the whole patrol in to investigate.

The Numbaira lived on the headwaters of the mighty Purari River in the same valley system as the fearsome Kukukuku. They had a reputation as warriors who loved a fight and resented intruders. They had attacked a Government patrol some years earlier.

We were on the track well before dawn and climbed to the rim of the ridge surrounding a collection of hamlets in a small valley. It was steep, rugged limestone country. With binoculars I could see apparently normal early morning village life, with women and children bustling about their houses.

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Let us not repeat the mistakes we made on Bougainville

Singirok_Jerry - Gemini News
Ex PNGDF chief Singirok - "I was a seasoned soldier with a future, but a soft target for the government"


MADANG - As Bougainville is gearing up for a referendum in 2019 and as time passes - time being the biggest healer - I reflect on the journey we took from which there are very important lessons to learn.

Firstly we should never have had the Bougainville crisis. The government had no negotiating power against a multi-million corporate giant like Rio Tinto. Collectively we destroyed a province, communities and displaced and disintegrated hundreds of families.

Many mothers are now widowed and raising children without their fathers. Communities are split and deep emotions run through the minds of people affected directly or indirectly.

I was a seasoned soldier with a future in front of me, but I was a soft target for the government to bring more misery to an already broken community.

I was wounded badly at Panguna mine in 1994. I rescued women and children with troops under my command. My troops were human and vulnerable but had a duty, and under the circumstances did what they were supposed to do.

I revolted against a government who did not put people's welfare first. The government was too swift to end my career in 2000. But I made my mark as commander of the PNG Defence Force.

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Your fate is entirely in your hands, Somare tells Bougainvilleans

John Momis presentation to Michael Somare
Dr Momis presents a Bougainville badged replica canoe (a mona) to Sir Michael Somare as the father of the nation farewells the autonomous region


BUKA - Sir Michael Somare has told the people of Bougainville the decision to decide the fate of the autonomous region rests solely with them.

“On 6 June next year the people of Bougainville will be given the privilege to choose whether to remain a part of Papua New Guinea or become an independent nation,” Sir Michael said in a thanksgiving address to mark his farewell visit to the region.

“You have a very experienced leader and statesman in Dr John Momis who will lead you in the right direction and you must be grateful that he is the one leading you, so you must support him,” he said.

“Prior to PNG’s independence, your president and I travelled throughout the country to gauge the views of the people on our path to eventual statehood.”

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 20 - Bougainville landfall

The  Brown family  Michael  Pamela  David & Bill
The Brown family in 1966 - Michael, Pamela, David and Bill


At the author’s request, this chapter is presented out of sequence. The intermediate chapters (17-19) will be published soon

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – It was 1966, the family and I had just returned from six months’ leave in Australia and I had resumed duty at Maprik in the Sepik District.

It was then that incidents in Bougainville and a government report changed the course of my career.

The incidents related to opposition to the mining exploration activities of Conzinc Riotinto Australia. The report, on the same issue, related to the January 1966 visit to the site of a possible mine at Panguna by the Director of Lands, Surveys and Mines.

The Director, DS Grove (1), himself a former kiap, wrote that critical problems were not being addressed and that the Assistant District Commissioner at Kieta, Max (MJ) Denehy (2), was over-committed and had no experienced field staff to assist him.

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45 years of cave exploration in the Nakanai Mountains

A large underground river in the Muruk system
A large underground river in the Muruk system of the Nakanai caves is fed by numerous surface sinkholes

THE CAIRNS INSTITUTE | James Cook University | Edited extracts

You can download here the 35 page publication, The Nakanai Mountain Ranges of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, by Jennifer Gabriel (Editor) et al, from which this extract is taken

CAIRNS - The Nakanai caves are part of a globally unique system of limestone caves. They are located within the Nakanai Range of East New Britain, amongst primary rainforest extending from the mountain summits to the southern coastline.

The Nakanai region comprises a limestone mountain range with an area covering approximately 4,000 square kilometres and cavers rely on aerial images to look for deep caverns to explore.

In the images, large surface sinkholes, characteristic of the rainforest-covered karst landscape, look like enormous black holes of varying sizes. Once identified, professional cavers venture into the depths of giant caves.

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The essential Chips Mackellar

Chips Mackellar
Chips Mackellar - master storyteller, anecdotalist and, by definition, historian


TUMBY BAY - I’ve been reading the words of Malcolm ‘Chips’ Mackellar for many years now.

I first came across his writing in ‘Una Voce’, when it was just a journal dedicated to the interests of retired officers and superannuants who had served in the Territory of Papua New Guinea.

I rather enjoyed that old journal. It was produced on the smell of an oily rag and pretty rough and ready. It somehow mirrored the make do, jack of all trades, master of none TPNG culture.

Some of the reminiscences and stories in the journal were classics and Chips was there in the thick of it with his wry sense of humour, colourful descriptions and the ability to bend what some might regard as the truth right to the edge of breaking point.

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Separating fact from fiction - history is seldom pure & never simple

CAW Monckton
Early Papuan magistrate CAW Monckton - suave here but had a 'shoot and loot' approach to law enforcement


ADELAIDE - One of the perennial problems for historians is separating fact from fiction.

History is a notoriously murky subject, capable of being interpreted or reinterpreted because the facts change or new facts emerge or, sometimes, simply because we choose to perceive the facts differently.

This is why there can be so many histories of the same event or time or place in which different authors reach different conclusions about what happened.

Thus, Geoffrey Blainey and Manning Clark, both eminent historians, wrote very different histories of Australia. To this day, aspects of Australian history emphasised (or de-emphasised) by each of these great scholars are hotly contested in the so called 'history wars'.

I have recently read a splendid book called 'The English and Their History' by Robert Tombs, in which the author takes a very different and forensic view of English history to that usually reflected in classical scholarship.

Tombs’ exposes how myth, confusion, bias, misunderstanding, misreporting and omission have all contributed to what the English understand to be their collective history.

With this in mind, it is a bit frustrating for me to read that Papua New Guinea supposedly has “a longstanding tradition of military-style and heavy-handed policing, and some of my fellow countrymen assert direct links between this behaviour and that of some kiaps under the previous Australian colonial administration.”

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Kiaps attack 'slander' as PNGAA promotes fake hanging claim


"The last reported case of cannibalism in the Sepik was in 1964 when a group of men raided a neighbouring village for meat – as their ancestors had for thousands of years. All seven offenders were hanged by “kiaps” – Australian patrol officers who were the law of the land until PNG’s independence in 1975" – extract from an article in The New Daily republished in Una Voce

SYDNEY -  That slander, the third paragraph of ‘Cooking: The Curious Culinary Secrets of PNG’s Last Cannibalistic Tribe’ published in an online newspaper, The New Daily, on 9 March 2018, would probably have disappeared unnoticed if it had not been picked up and republished in the September 2018 edition of the Papua New Guinea Association’s magazine, Una Voce.

PNGAA's seeming imprimatur of an article that reflects adversely on the Territory of Papua New Guinea’s kiaps—District Commissioners, District Officers, Assistant District Officers and Patrol Officers—and on the Australian government's administration of what was then a United Nations trust territory is astounding when one considers the Association’s history, prestige and its membership.

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Truth telling and cultural amnesia in Australia

The Slaughterhouse Creek massacre of 1838
The Slaughterhouse Creek massacre of 1838

JUDITH WHITE | Culture Heist

TWEED HEADS -  Truth telling was the theme of this year’s Garma festival, held in northeast Arnhemland on the first weekend of August. It’s also a crucial element in the Statement from the Heart made by the indigenous National Constitutional Convention at Uluru last year but rejected by the Turnbull government.

Telling the truth should be a simple matter, shouldn’t it? Yet when it comes to the nation’s history, for those in positions of power it seems to be the hardest ask. No government has yet given it a place among the much-vaunted but ill-defined “Australian values”. Kevin Rudd said sorry for the stolen generation, but didn’t go so far as to address the issue of the British invasion.

Politicians of both major parties are at fault. They hold that the Australian electorate will not support recognition of indigenous history. I believe they are wrong. A simple constitutional change, recognising the millennia of prior occupation of the land and Aboriginal culture, would have majority support in all states when put to the vote. The main proposal of the Statement from the Heart – for a Makarrata (“coming together”) Commission to bring about agreement – does not require a vote, just leadership.

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