Research Feed

3,000 years of pottery show who we are

Ancient Lapita pot
Ancient Lapita pot

PETER JOKISIE
| An entry in the Crocodile Prize

PORT MORESBY - Clay pots in many parts of Papua New Guinea are household items and people say they enjoy food cooked in clay pots.

In the Markham valley, the signature clay pot, or ‘gurr’ as we call it, is on the fire every day of the week.

Continue reading "3,000 years of pottery show who we are" »


Remarkable ‘Melanesians’ found in Malaysia jungle

Batek Melanesian people of Malaysia (Dr Patrick Pikacha)
The Batek people of the Malaysian hinterland  who bear a striking resemblance to the people of Melanesia (Dr Patrick Pikacha)

GARRY ROCHE

DUBLIN, IRELAND - Earlier this year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation published an article by Caroline Tiriman in Tok Pisin entitled, ‘Ol Melanesian Pipal blong Asia ['The Melanesian People of Asia'].

I was struck by the resemblance of the Batek people of Malaysia pictured in the article to the Melanesian people we know in Papua New Guinea and nearby countries in the Pacific.

Continue reading "Remarkable ‘Melanesians’ found in Malaysia jungle" »


Amelia Earhart: Latest of many searches gets underway

EV Nautilus at Apia  Samoa  5 August Ocean Exploration Trust)
EV Nautilus at Apia Samoa 5 August (Ocean Exploration Trust)

STATEMENT | The Maritime Executive

FORT LAUDERDALE, USA - Famed oceanographer Dr Robert Ballard and the crew of his foundation's research vessel, Nautilus, are in the midst of a search for the long-lost wreck of Amelia Earhart's Lockheed Electra airplane.

Earhart - the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic on a solo flight - disappeared in July 1937, along with her pilot, Fred Noonan.

They went missing during a flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island, a tiny outlying American territory in the Phoenix Islands group.

The flight was one of the last legs of an attempt at the longest distance round-the-world journey to date, an equatorial route of about 29,000 miles in length.

Continue reading "Amelia Earhart: Latest of many searches gets underway" »


Aussie researchers discover 'parachuting frog' in PNG

Litoria pterodactyla
Litoria pterodactyla or the 'parachuting frog' (Stephen Richards)

NEWS DESK | Xinhua News Agency

BEIJING - A team of Australian researchers has discovered a new species of parachuting frog, hidden away in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

The group of scientists from Griffith University and Queensland state museum also came across two other previously unknown frog species during their expedition around Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

There has an incredible diversity of frogs and a lot of those species have only been described for the last 10-20 years, senior curator at Queensland Museum Paul Oliver told Xinhua.

"The more you go back, the more you get to new areas, the more you find new species."

Continue reading "Aussie researchers discover 'parachuting frog' in PNG" »


A home in the clouds: Working to save the tree kangaroo

Critically endangered tree kangaroo (Jonathan Byers  TKCP)
Critically endangered  - Papua New Guinea's tree kangaroo (Jonathan Byers,  TKCP)

TREVOR HOLBROOK, JIM THOMAS & ANDREA EGAN | UNDP Ecosystems & Biodiversity | Edited extracts

WASHINGTON, USA - Sought after for subsistence-based hunting, as part of rural communities’ diets for centuries, the critically endangered tree kangaroos have been hunted almost to extinction, but now local communities and conservation groups are fighting together to save them.

Tree kangaroos are found only in the rainforests of Australia, West Papua, and Papua New Guinea. Looking like a cross between a kangaroo and a lemur, they have adapted to life in the trees, with shorter hind legs and stronger forelimbs for climbing.

Despite weighing up to 16kg, tree kangaroos are remarkably elusive, and often invisible high in the forest canopy.

Continue reading "A home in the clouds: Working to save the tree kangaroo" »


Political meddling & poor training spur corruption in PNG

CorruptionLUCY PAPACHRISTOU | Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

SARAJEVO - A newly-published discussion paper on corruption in Papua New Guinea’s public sector has found that low-level officials are often poorly informed about laws and regulations.

They are also under intense pressure to grant favours to businesses, politicians and clan affiliates, contributing to existing patterns of corrupt behaviour in the developing country.

The paper, ‘Governance and Corruption in PNG’s Public Service: Insights From Four Subnational Administrations’, was published this month by the Development Policy Centre, an aid and development policy think tank based out of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Its author, Dr Grant Walton, drew on interviews with 136 public servants across four provinces in PNG in an effort to fill the empirical data gap on why public officials may support or resist corruption and poor governance.

PNG tends to take a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to corruption,” Walton told OCCRP by phone.

Continue reading "Political meddling & poor training spur corruption in PNG" »


First public human rights report into PNG gas industry

Assoc Prof Nick Bainton
Associate Professor Nick Bainton

MEDIA UNIT | University of Queensland

BRISBANE - University of Queensland researcher Associate Professor Nick Bainton has co-written the first publicly available human rights impact assessment for a proposed gas project in Papua New Guinea.

You can download the full report here

Dr Bainton from the university’s sustainable minerals institute said the report’s publication demonstrates the slow evolution of the international community’s expectations of extractive industries.

“There is currently no legislative requirement for a company to produce a human rights impact assessment in PNG and, if they decide to, they are generally kept confidential once completed.

“The hope is that companies working in PNG’s extractive industries will build upon this example and continue to undertake impact assessments to help reduce human rights impacts,” he said.

Continue reading "First public human rights report into PNG gas industry" »


PNG in forefront of ancient Denisovan research

Neanderthals  Denisovans and our ancestors were mixing a long time ago
Denisovans (pictured) and our human ancestors were mixing 50,000 to 15,000 years ago - and some of our genetics can be traced back to these ancient humans.

CLARE WILSON | New Scientist

LONDON - Our species may have been interbreeding with Denisovans as recently as 15,000 years ago, according to a detailed analysis of the DNA of people living in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

We already know that, after Homo sapiens first migrated out of Africa, our species repeatedly interbred with a number of now-extinct hominin species, including the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

The signs are in our DNA today – all people of non-African descent carry some Neanderthal DNA, while some Asian people also have Denisovan DNA.

Not much is known about the mysterious Denisovans. Their only physical remnants discovered so far are a few teeth and fragments of bone unearthed in a cave in Siberia.

Continue reading "PNG in forefront of ancient Denisovan research" »


Archaeology unravels stories about ancient PNG-Australia trade

Motu trading ship  1903-1904 (The British Museum)
Motu trading ship 1903-1904 (The British Museum)

CHRIS URWIN, ALOIS KUASO, BRUNO DAVID, HENRY AURI ARIFEAE & ROBERT SKELLY
| The Conversation

MONASH UNIVERSITY, MELBOURNE - It has long been assumed that Indigenous Australia was isolated until Europeans arrived in 1788, except for trade with parts of present day Indonesia beginning at least 300 years ago.

But our recent archaeological research hints of at least an extra 2,100 years of connections across the Coral Sea with Papua New Guinea.

Over the past decade, we have conducted research in the Gulf of Papua with local Indigenous communities.

During the excavations, the most common archaeological evidence found in the old village sites was fragments of pottery, which preserve well in tropical environments compared to artefacts made of wood or bone.

Continue reading "Archaeology unravels stories about ancient PNG-Australia trade" »


New data offers insights into rural poverty & undernutrition

Ramu_River_from_air
The Ramu River winds its way through the rich valley that bears its name

EMILY SCHMIDT | International Food Policy Research Institute

WASHINGTON DC - The dinghy ride up the Ramu River takes nine long hours, but my excitement mounted as we approached the small villages in the lowlands of northern Papua New Guinea.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by children paddling and playing in wooden dugout canoes, and women washing sago palm (an important staple food among lowland populations of PNG) for food preparation. 

When the rumble of the boat’s diesel motor finally cut out at the small sandbar that would serve as our boat dock for the next several days, we were surrounded by an incredible silence that whispered of the isolated lifestyle and resilience of the villagers.

We spent three months last year collecting detailed household survey data for a research project investigating how rural communities ensure food security when faced with natural disasters or other unplanned shocks to household food production.

Continue reading "New data offers insights into rural poverty & undernutrition" »


Empowered women increase crop yields & improve lifestyle

Family_UnitSTAFF WRITER | World Bank

PORT MORESBY – A World Bank study has found that when women in Papua New Guinea are empowered to make decisions in the sale of cocoa and coffee, their households ultimately benefit.

The ‘Household Allocation and Efficiency of Time in PNG’ report, part of a K360 million World Bank project, analysed how domestic responsibilities impact the ability of women to allocate their labour to cultivate, harvest and process cocoa and coffee in PNG.

The report, supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, said men and women do not share the same tasks within the household: men’s work being geared towards cocoa or coffee production and women more focused on other agricultural and off-farm activities as well as on domestic work.

Continue reading "Empowered women increase crop yields & improve lifestyle" »


Do you know the names any Papua New Guinean national kiaps?

PHIL FITZPATRICK 

Kiap and government-appointed leaders
A kiap and government-appointed leaders - in Tok Pisin, luluais and tultuls

TUMBY BAY – Between 1961 and 1975, more than 450 Papua New Guinean kiaps were in government service during the significant period in PNG history leading to independence.

Now a group of expatriate former kiaps is seeking to find details of these men.

Several years ago, Australian kiaps who had served in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea sought to have their service recognised in a meaningful way by the Australian government and, importantly, the Australian public.

After a long campaign this recognition came in the form of the Police Overseas Service Medal.

During the campaign an attempt was made to compile a list of all the Australian kiaps who had served in Papua New Guinea.

This proved a difficult task because of the inadequate records available and it was abandoned in favour of former kiaps identifying themselves.

Continue reading "Do you know the names any Papua New Guinean national kiaps?" »


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

CHRIS OVERLAND

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.

Continue reading "Those colonial & kiap times: some coercion, but never repression" »


Pacification in the Eastern Highlands in the 1940s – 1960s

Tobias_Schwoerer
Tobias Schwörer

TOBIAS SCHWÖRER | Summary of PhD Thesis

Ending War: Colonial processes of pacification and the elimination of warfare in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea by Tobias Schwörer. Summary of PhD thesis, 2016. University of Lucerne, Lucerne. See further information on the thesis and related papers here

LUCERNE - Pacification denotes a process whereby a state attends to extend its monopoly of violence onto politically  autonomous  groups  outside  its  sphere  of  control  and  thereby  curtails  any  further collective violence between those groups and armed resistance against the imposition of state control. 

It  is  a process  that  has  been occurring  throughout  history  in  situations  of  colonial conquest and  state expansion.

Despite the importance and prominence of these processes not only  for the state but even more so for the indigenous groups affected, there is remarkably little systematic analysis  and theoretical reflection  on the causal factors  that led members  of such  groups  to agree  to  lay  down their  weapons  and  refrain from  pursuing  further  acts  of collective violence.

Continue reading "Pacification in the Eastern Highlands in the 1940s – 1960s" »


Why are there are no women in PNG’s parliament?

Dr Kerryn Baker
Dr Kerryn Baker was told that money politics and the bribing of election officials greatly affected the chances of women candidates succeeding

STAFF WRITER | Pacific Women | Australian Aid

CANBERRA - Papua New Guinea has a history of extremely low rates of women in parliament. Only seven women have ever been elected in over 40 years and no women were elected to the 111 seat parliament in 2017.

To try to find out what is stopping women from winning elections, Kerryn Baker spoke with a group of unsuccessful candidates and examined the impact of the introduction of the limited preferential voting system on them.

Dr Baker is a research fellow in the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. In September 2017, she spent time with 26 women from all four of Papua New Guinea’s regions who had contested the 2017 national election.

In general, women contesting PNG elections have fewer financial resources than men running for election. The candidates identified this as a challenge, because well-resourced campaigns are often the most successful.

Continue reading "Why are there are no women in PNG’s parliament?" »


First humans to reach Australia island-hopped to PNG then walked

Pathways to Australia
Two possible routes used by the first humans to reach Australia identified by Joseph Birdsell in 1977. Research by the Australian National University shows the red northern route was more likely (Shimona Kealy, ANU)

CALLA WAHLQUIST | The Guardian

SYDNEY - The first people to arrive in Australia are likely to have sailed east from Borneo to Sulawesi and island-hopped to New Guinea, according to research.

A study led by Australian National University PhD candidate Shimona Kealy and published in the Journal of Human Evolution has modelled the most likely route from south-east Asia to the Australian mainland based on which pathway would have required the least expenditure of energy and resources.

Kealy said she hoped the research would help answer the question of why archaeological sites in Australia — which show human occupation around 65,000 years ago — are so much older than sites that have been discovered in the countries that were long suspected to be en route.

Her modelling identified the least-cost route as going from Borneo to Sulawesi and through a series of smaller islands to Misool Island off the coast of West Papua. New Guinea was connected by land to Australia until about 10,000 years ago, meaning the first people could walk down through what is now Cape York to the rest of the continent.

Continue reading "First humans to reach Australia island-hopped to PNG then walked" »


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.

Continue reading "45 years of cave exploration in the Nakanai Mountains" »


Being an old kiap is good for you – so is reading PNG Attitude

Phil. early 1970s
Phil on patrol in the Star Mountains in the early 1970s - memories that keep us happier and healthier

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY - A lot of old kiaps, sometimes around 150, have a get-together on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland every two years. In between there’s a smaller gathering in Cairns.

I’ve never actually been to one of these events, mainly because I thought they would be about a bunch of old farts trying to relive the past while dribbling into their beer.

It turns out that my conclusion, like a lot of my assessments, was totally wrong.

The old buggers are actually doing themselves a lot of good and helping to improve their health and longevity.

I discovered this interesting fact recently while reading a book called ‘Brain Rules for Ageing Well’ by developmental molecular biologist, Dr John Medina.

According to Dr Medina, nostalgia has positive health benefits for the elderly.

Continue reading "Being an old kiap is good for you – so is reading PNG Attitude" »


Researching the morality of PNG’s ‘dark tourism’ initiatives

Mt Lamington explodes  5 February 1951
When Mt Lamington erupted in January 1951, it killed 3,700 people in Higaturu town, in 29 villages and at missions and schools more than 10 km away 

STAFF WRITER | Deakin Research

This piece is based on an article written by Dr Victoria Stead published in a special issue of ‘Anthropological Forum’ co-edited by Dr Stead with Professor Michèle Dominy (Bard College New York) on the theme ‘Moral Horizons of Land and Place’

MELBOURNE - Located on the slopes of volcanic Mount Lamington in Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province, the old Higaturu Station is a place marked by violence and memories.

It is less than an hour’s drive from the Provincial capital, Popondetta, on the way to Kokoda, which, depending on which way you are walking is either the beginning or the end of the Kokoda track.

That 96-kilometre track over the Owen Stanley Ranges is the focal point of a burgeoning but unevenly spread war tourism industry in the Province.

Between July-September 1943, at the height of World War II, 21 local men were executed in Higaturu for charges stemming from the ‘betrayal’ of eight to ten missionaries in August 1942 who were brutally murdered by occupying Japanese forces.

Continue reading "Researching the morality of PNG’s ‘dark tourism’ initiatives" »


Professor watches cell phones transform life throughout PNG

MEDIA UNIT | University of Rochester Papua-New-Guinea-cell-phones

ROCHESTER, USA - Robert Foster, a professor of anthropology at Rochester, has a longstanding interest in Papua New Guinea that started in 1984 with his doctoral research.

He later researched cultural attitudes toward Coca-Cola and, visiting again in 2010, he found PNG transformed by another product - cell phones.

“The coming of the cell phone in Papua New Guinea just couldn’t be ignored,” he said. “There was a moment when they were nowhere, then a moment when they were everywhere.”

Continue reading "Professor watches cell phones transform life throughout PNG" »


New study reveals dangers inherent in land registration

New oil palm planting and mill in Pomio District  ENBP
New oil palm planting and mill near Pomio in East New Britain

MEDIA DESK | Act Now

BOROKO - Customary land registration processes can easily be captured by local ‘big men’ and companies with disastrous consequences for local people.

This is the conclusion of a study on recent oil palm expansion in Papua New Guinea by academic Caroline Hambloch from the University of London.

Hambloch’s findings are based on three months field research in East and West New Britain and are presented in a paper titled ‘Land Formalisation Turned Land Rush’ presented at a World Bank conference in Washington earlier this year.

The paper demonstrates how land registration processes, rather than protecting customary land, can easily be used to disenfranchise local communities and alienate them from their land. This is because of an environment of weak governance and huge power and information imbalances.

Continue reading "New study reveals dangers inherent in land registration" »


On Lihir, a doctor pursues eradication of a disfiguring disease

Oriol Mitjà examines a young patient  Jeremiah
Oriol Mitjà examines a young patient, Jeremiah, who has an active infection which can be cured with a dose of azithromycin (Brian Cassey)

MARTIN ENSERINK | Science | Edited extracts

Read the complete article by Martin Eyserink here

LIHIR ISLAND—In a small village 15,000 kilometers from home, Oriol Mitjà jumped out of a white van one early May afternoon and started to look at people's legs.

"Any children with ulcers here?" he asked in Tok Pisin. "Can we see them?"

Soon, a young woman pushed a crying boy about five years old toward Mitjà. The boy was barefoot; he had a mop of blond curly hair, like most kids here, and was dressed only in dirty blue shorts.

A group of villagers, mostly women and children, had gathered to watch. "What's his name?" Mitjà asked as he sat down on a low wooden bench, pulled on disposable gloves, and gestured to the sobbing kid to come sit on his right leg. "Jeremiah," his mother said.

Continue reading "On Lihir, a doctor pursues eradication of a disfiguring disease" »


How the PNG tsunami 20 years ago was a big wake-up call

Sissano Lagoon
Sissano Lagoon devastated after the 1998 tsunami (Jose Borrero)

PROF DAVE TAPPIN | Geoblogy | British Geological Survey

KEYWORTH, UK - 20 years ago this week, on the evening of the 17 July 1998, 2,200 people died when a 15-metre high tsunami devastated an idyllic lagoon on the north coast of Papua New Guinea.

The event was to prove a benchmark in tsunami science as the tsunami was generated not by an earthquake but by a submarine landslide.

Most tsunamis are generated by earthquakes and, previously, submarine landslides were an under-appreciated mechanism in tsunami generation. This was because there had been no recent historical event to prove just how dangerous they could be.

Back in 1998, there had been few recent destructive earthquakes, they were to strike later.  Although earthquake mechanisms were generally well understood in tsunami generation, the mechanisms by which submarine landslides cause tsunamis, were not. In fact it was generally believed that submarine landslides could not generate destructive tsunamis.

PNG changed all this.

Continue reading "How the PNG tsunami 20 years ago was a big wake-up call" »


Companies pass judgement: things are worsening in PNG

Port Moresby waterfront
The Port Moresby waterfront looking east

KEITH JACKSON

Being Heard: The 2017 Survey of Businesses in Papua New Guinea by Paul Holden with Paul Barker and Steven Goie, Institute of National Affairs Discussion Paper 105, Port Moresby, April 2018. Download the report here

NOOSA – The overarching message in a fine piece of research of 287 companies by PNG’s Institute of National Affairs is that the business environment in PNG is deteriorating,

“PNG remains a challenging country in which to do business,” the Being Heard report concludes, and the shopping list for improvement it offers is long.

The report says the biggest change since the previous survey in 2012 concern the problems flowing from an overvalued kina and lack of foreign currency availability, which are cited as damaging investment and growth and as a major impediment to business operations.

Continue reading "Companies pass judgement: things are worsening in PNG" »


First PNG journalism PhD says 'government not present in Hela'

Dr Kevin Pamba
Dr Kevin Pamba

JEMIMAH SUKBAT | Loop PNG/Pacific Media Watch | Edited

MADANG - A staff member of Divine Word University, Dr Kevin Pamba, who has written for PNG Attitude (read one of his articles here) has become first Papua New Guinean journalist to be awarded a doctorate degree.

Dr Pamba’s thesis was on communicating with indigenous landowners around the LNG project in Hela Province, an area badly affected by the earthquake two weeks ago.

He said that among his research findings was that the government is "not present" in Hela, especially the Department of Petroleum and Energy.

In terms of communication with the landowners, getting the message across was barely working, he said.

Dr Pamba, from Ialibu in the Southern Highlands, completed his bachelors' degree in journalism at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "First PNG journalism PhD says 'government not present in Hela'" »


Misinterpreting PNG: rhetoric, exaggeration & inequality

Dr Paige West
Dr Paige West - two decades listening to myths promulgated by visitors to PNG

JOSIE KRITTER | The Catalyst | Edited

COLORADO, USA - Papua New Guinea is often seen as one of the world’s last unexplored frontiers and stereotyped as tribal, underdeveloped, and primitive, says Dr Paige West, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College in the USA.

Dr West has spent the last two decades working with the people of PNG and her goal is to shed light on a vibrant culture, the effects of decolonisation and their conservation efforts.

She said that Melanesian culture is widely misunderstood and tends to be seen through a Euro-American and Australian lens.

Dr West explained how much of the information filtering through to the world outside comes from “surfers, photographers, economists, and conservationists.” Over the years, she has interviewed and observed each group, along with the indigenous people, to capture a full understanding of where the misconceptions about the country come from.

Continue reading "Misinterpreting PNG: rhetoric, exaggeration & inequality" »


The origins of the people of the Pacific’s gateway, Vanuatu

Ancient skeleton at the Teouma site on Efate (ANU)
Ancient skeleton at the Teouma site on Efate, Vanuatu (ANU)

NEWSROOM | Science Daily

CANBERRA - Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have helped put together the most comprehensive study ever conducted into the origins of people in Vanuatu - regarded as a geographic gateway from Asia to the Remote Pacific.

The new research, published across two separate research papers, uses a combination of DNA analyses of ancient skeletons and modern samples, as well as archaeological evidence, to put together a complete timeline of migration to the island nation.

The results confirm that Vanuatu's first people were of the Lapita culture and arrived 3,000 years ago from South East Asia, followed by Papuan arrivals from the island of New Britain, in the Bismarck Archipelago just to the east of New Guinea and part of the nation of Papua New Guinea.

Dr Stuart Bedford of the ANU School of Culture History and Language said this was the first time researchers had been able to look at a full sequence of DNA samples from the Vanuatu islands.

"We've been able to track a complete genetic timeline at regular intervals starting with the first inhabitants right through to modern times," Dr Bedford said.

Continue reading "The origins of the people of the Pacific’s gateway, Vanuatu" »


Cavendish: The world's top banana could become extinct

The imminent death of the Cavendish banana (BBC)
The imminent death of the popular Cavendish banana

LUCY CRAYMER | Wall Street Journal

You can read the full article here

NEW YORK - In June, a team of European researchers travelled to Papua New Guinea on a mission of global significance. They came to search for the Giant Banana plant.

The scientists travelled through the jungles of the South Pacific nation, by car and on foot, accompanied by two armed guards.

They were tantalised by images circulating online, purportedly taken by locals, that depict a towering banana corm, several stories high, with leaves about five yards long.

The researchers found plenty of unusual banana varieties, but their quest to find the Giant, and to sample its bounty, proved fruitless.

Continue reading "Cavendish: The world's top banana could become extinct" »


South Australian Museum turns its back on PNG

Dr Barry Craig in the field in PNG
Dr Barry Craig in the field in PNG

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – Dr Barry Craig worked in the Telefomin area of Papua New Guinea and at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby before moving to the South Australian Museum as curator of foreign ethnology, where he’s been for the past 22 years.

Strange as it may seem, the South Australian Museum has on permanent display a significant collection of objects from Papua New Guinea. It’s a real treasure.

But now it turns out that Dr Craig’s position, along with one in archaeology, has been abolished.

This leaves the Pacific collections and the Pacific Cultures Gallery without an experienced and qualified researcher and interpreter.

Continue reading "South Australian Museum turns its back on PNG" »


Ancient skull belongs to victim of Aitape tsunami 6,000 years ago

CALLUM PATON | Newsweek

Skull of a person who lived in PNG 6 000 years ago
6000 year old Aitape skull has connection to present day climate change

LONDON - Scientists studying a mysterious skull discovered in Papua New Guinea 88 years ago have said they believe it belonged to an early victim of a violent tsunami in the southwest Pacific 6,000 years ago.

The skull, named for the village of Aitape near where it was discovered, has been an item of longstanding archaeological interest because it is one of only a few rare skeletal remains to have been recovered from the area.

Australian geologist Paul Hossfeld found it in northern PNG, buried beneath the ground in 1929. Initial investigations concluded the skull belonged to Homo erectus—an extinct humanoid species that died out 143,000 years ago.

However, carbon dating since found the skull could be between 5,000 and 6,000 years old, opening new possibilities about what the skeletal fragment could tell us about our own world.

For the first time experts have uncovered what killed the unfortunate individual, using clues left in the earth around where the skull was found. "We have now been able to confirm what we have long suspected," James Goff at the University of New South Wales in Australia explained in a statement.

Continue reading "Ancient skull belongs to victim of Aitape tsunami 6,000 years ago" »


42 years of independence marked in a 50,000 year old culture

Stone club head from the Nomad area
Stone club head from the Nomad area

KEITH JACKSON

Read more about this story in GenomeWeb here

NEW YORK – On the eve of Independence Day, a fascinating story about how genome researchers have been able to confirm the uniqueness and long history of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Reinforcing that PNG evolved independently from the rest of the world for much of the last 50,000 years, the research – reported in the journal Science - analysed genome profiles from almost 400 people in many different communities throughout the country.

"Using genetics, we were able to see that people on the island of New Guinea evolved independently from rest of the world for much of the last 50,000 years," said senior author Chris Tyler-Smith, a researcher at the Sanger Institute.

Another significant finding was that the split between highland and lowland populations occurred between 10,000 and20,000 years ago.

Continue reading "42 years of independence marked in a 50,000 year old culture" »


The story of a 10,000 year old PNG civilisation - & it’s free

10 000 years of cultivationFR GARRY ROCHE & ANU SOURCES

Ten Thousand Years of Cultivation at Kuk Swamp in the Highlands of PNG by Jack Golson et al, Terra Australis Series No 46, ANU Press, July 2017, ISBN: 9781760461157. Free download from ANU Press here

DUBLIN – It costs $75 for a print copy but ANU Press in Australia has generously made this important book on Papua New Guinea’s Kuk world heritage site available for free download.

While the book concentrates on the Kuk swamp area in the Western Highlands, there are frequent reference to pertinent research findings in other parts of PNG.

Kuk is a settlement 1600 metres up in the Western Highlands – specifically near Baisu in the upper Wahgi Valley, near Mount Hagen.

Continue reading "The story of a 10,000 year old PNG civilisation - & it’s free" »


Opinions about aid: public versus aid providers

Opinion of Australian aid volume
Volume of Australian aid

TERENCE WOOD & CAMILLA BURKOT | Dev Policy Blog | Edited extracts

Read the full article, together with all links, graphs and citations, here

CANBERRA - Have you ever wondered just how strange the Australian aid community is?

Do we development types think about development issues in the same way as the average Australian does, or are we outliers?

In recent years the Development Policy Centre has been studying the Australian public’s views about aid.

As part of this work, in collaboration with the Campaign for Australian Aid, we placed eight questions in the 2016 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, a large, representative survey of Australian adults.

Continue reading "Opinions about aid: public versus aid providers" »


Everywhere & nowhere: forensically analysing grand corruption

Kris LasslettKRISTIAN LASSLETT | The Tokaut Blog | Extract

You can link to Professor Lasslett’s complete article here

THE problem with corruption in PNG, at its most grand levels, is that it is everywhere and nowhere.

Its morbid symptoms are apparent for all to see, but the particular mechanisms through which the disease of corruption infects governments and markets, and disables the body of the nation, proves difficult to observe, owing to its secretive nature.

Yet in order to fight corruption effectively, we need to answer elementary questions relating to its core characteristics.

For example, what type of corrupt transactions are most common and damaging in PNG, who are the participants, what motivates them, how do they make their illicit gains, what do they spend it on, and which institutional structures permit these illegal activities to take place?

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Some ways in which PNG is investing in a higher tech future

Papuan taipan anti-venomJORDAN DEAN

PAPUA New Guinea is largely a consumer of innovation, imported technologies and knowledge products. In the interests of our economic future, we need to move up the value chain to be a producer of innovation.

Science, technology and innovation are key forces driving economic growth and development in today’s global economy. This is a challenge for us.

PNG’s comparative advantage lies in its natural assets: its people, natural resources and rich cultural heritage. We need to translate these into tangible products and services to create opportunities for development.

One such endeavor is the biofuel research and development project at Pacific Adventist University. The project was initially funded to support the installation of a processing and testing facility and later to complete the design and installation of the processing plant.

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New governance watchdog exposes O’Neill’s business networks

PGNGi-logoPACIFIC MEDIA WATCH

A NEW website, PNGi, seems set to revolutionise governance in Papua New Guinea by cracking open the secrets of the rich and powerful and exposing them to public view.

Using the latest digital technologies, PNGi aims to investigate, analyse and expose the often hidden and opaque systems standing behind the abuse of political and economic power.

Its two flagship resources are PNGi Portal and PNGi Central.

They have been established and are sustained by an informal network of academics, activists and journalists involved in researching and writing about current issues in Papua New Guinea.

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They thought this lizard was lost, but it was in New Ireland

Monitor lizard (Valter Weijola)STEPHANIE PAPPAS | Live Science

A MONITOR lizard lost to science in a 19th century shipwreck has been rediscovered on an island in Papua New Guinea.

The medium-size monitor, Varanus douarrha, was first identified by French naturalist René Lesson in 1823.

The scientific name was inspired by the pronunciation of the lizard's name in Siar, the language of the people of the lizard's home in New Ireland.

The specimen of the monitor lizard collected by Lesson went down in a shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope in 1824, so the lizard was never systematically studied.

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PNG historians record the other side of the WWII story

War wreckage at WagawagaERIC TLOZEK | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

A SMALL team of Papua New Guinean historians has visited one of the most crucial battle sites of World War II to record the stories of those who remember it.

The team, from the University of Papua New Guinea, spent three weeks in Milne Bay, the scene of a Japanese offensive in August of 1942.

The story of the brutal battle, in which Australian and United States troops inflicted the first decisive defeat of the Japanese on land of the war, is well documented by Australian historians.

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World's rarest & most ancient dog rediscovered in the wild

Pregnant female dog (NGHWDF)SCIENCE ALERT | New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation

AFTER decades of fearing that the New Guinea highland wild dog had gone extinct in its native habitat, researchers have finally confirmed the existence of a healthy, viable population, hidden in one of the most remote and inhospitable regions on earth.

According to DNA analysis, these are the most ancient and primitive canids in existence, and a recent expedition to New Guinea's remote central mountain spine has resulted in more than 100 photographs of at least 15 wild individuals, including males, females, and pups, thriving in isolation and far from human contact.

"The 2016 Expedition was able to locate, observe, gather documentation and biological samples, and confirm through DNA testing that at least some specimens still exist and thrive in the highlands of New Guinea."

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Obesity & its impact on deaths from lifestyle diseases in PNG

DiabetesNELSON HAMISH KAIRI

THE Papua New Guinea government must get serious about decreasing the number of deaths caused by lifestyle diseases, according to a researcher.

Scientist Andrew Pus conducted research on obesity in Port Moresby and his findings have been made public on the Scientific Research Publishing website.

Mr Pus is from the Western Highlands and holds a master’s degree in health sciences from the Graduate School of Bio-Medical and Health Sciences at Hiroshima University in Japan. His research spanned more than three years and was conducted as part of his graduate requirement.

Obesity accounts for an estimated 2.8 million deaths worldwide and is the fifth leading risk for death according to recent data from the World Health Organisation.

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Researchers identify main obstacles facing small business

Madang_Trade_StoreNATIONAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE

ITS high growth potential makes the small and medium sized enterprises (SME) sector of the Papua New Guinean economy of particular interest to the national government.

Last year, the government adopted a new SME policy and published a bold master plan to drive the development and growth of SMEs.

But before this objective can be realised, there are a number of constraining obstacles to SME business operations and expansion that need to be addressed.

The three main ones are the remote location of many businesses, the difficulty of leasing or buying land, and problems dealing with banks.

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Nine species of ‘walking shark’ at greater risk of extinction

A 'walking' sharkMICHAEL SLEZAK | The Guardian | Extracts

BIZARRE ‘walking sharks’ are at a greater risk of extinction than previously thought, with new information about their distribution leading researchers to expect greater efforts to protect them from human threats such as fishing and climate change.

Bamboo sharks include nine species of sharks that swim and ‘walk’ in shallow waters around northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia.

They are harmless to humans and are active only at night, when they start to ‘walk’ around shallow reefs, feeding on crustaceans – even sometimes walking out of the water.

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Addressing women’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS in PNG

Hiv-aids-warning-rabaulSR MANASSEH KELLY

Extract from ‘Women’s Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS: The Papua New Guinea Situation’, a master’s degree thesis for Flinders University by Sr Manasseh Ola Kelly. You can read the full paper here:  Download 'Women’s Vulnerability to HIV AIDS in PNG' by Manasseh Kelly

FROM my experience as a nursing sister for 16 years in Papua New Guinea, I have observed and witnessed that poverty is a fact for most young girls and they engage in sex so that they can put food on the table.

I asked one of the sex workers why she was involved in the sex trades in spite of high increase in HIV/AIDS in PNG in 2008. Her answer was (“are you willing to put money into my pocket and willing to meet my daily needs”).

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Mobiles OK but govt needs to address black spots, electrification

Mobiles telephony in PNGAPEC REPORT | Extracts

Case Study on the Role of Services Trade in Global Value Chains: Telecommunications in Papua New Guinea, APEC Policy Support Unit, September 2016. Read the full report here:  Download 'Telecommunications in Papua New Guinea'

THIS report by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) examines the effects of the deregulation of Papua New Guinea’s mobile telecommunications sector, a process which began in 2007.

The Papua New Guinean government’s decision in the lead up to 2007 to end the monopoly of state-owned telecommunications provider Telikom resulted in rapid increases in mobile coverage and subscriber numbers, and sharp decreases in costs to consumers.

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Kamare – an expedition to find one of Bougainville’s giant rats

Claws of the giant rat (Tyrone Lavery, Australian Museum)TYRONE LAVERY | Australian Museum

PART of the reason I am so fascinated by studying Melanesia’s mammals is that such precious little information is available from recent times.

To learn what is already known of this region’s spectacular fauna, you’re immediately forced to delve into accounts made by naturalists in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In the case of Bougainville, what has been documented of the island’s rats, bats and possums is largely thanks to Catholic missionary Father JB Poncelet and the Bougainvilleans he lived among at Buin on the southern end of the island.

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Wealthy Australia 'outsourced legal & moral obligations’ on Manus

ManusKEITH JACKSON

‘Money, Manipulation and Misunderstanding on Manus Island’ by Joanne Wallis and Steffen Dalsgaard in the Journal of Pacific History. Download 'Money, Manipulation & Misunderstanding on Manus'

A PAPER by two Australian academics says that the impact of the asylum seeker camp on Manus has “inextricably involved a manipulation of the democratic process and the rule of law”.

Wallis and Dalsgaard write that, even though the so-called “regional resettlement arrangement” has delivered substantial funding to Papua New Guinea and, probably as a result, improved PNG’s relationship with Australia, the burden of the policy “will continue to be borne by ordinary Papua New Guineans, who already face myriad challenges exercising their democratic rights and receiving the protection of the law.”

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Indigenous PNGns & Australians are most ancient civilisations

Melanesian_raftingHANNAH DEVLIN | The Guardian

CLAIMS that indigenous Australians and Papua New Guineans are the most ancient continuous civilisations on Earth have been backed by the first extensive study of their DNA, which dates their origins to more than 50,000 years ago.

Scientists were able to trace the remarkable journey made by intrepid ancient humans by sifting through clues left in the DNA of modern populations in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

The analysis shows that their ancestors were probably the first humans to cross an ocean, and reveals evidence of prehistoric liaisons with an unknown hominin cousin.

Prof Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist who led the work at the University of Copenhagen, said: “This story has been missing for a long time in science. Now we know their relatives are the guys who were the first real human explorers.

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No genuine government motivation to curb corruption, says survey

CorruptionTROY TAULE | PNG Loop

TRANSPARENCY International PNG (TIPNG) has released its latest publication on levels and consequences of corruption in Papua New Guinea and the response to this of state and society.

In presenting the findings of 53-page public opinion survey, TIPNG membership coordinator Yuambari Haihuie explained the report gathered data from 1,250 participants in the National Capital District and Central, East New Britain, Eastern Highlands and Morobe provinces.

“Ninety-nine percent of participants think corruption is a serious problem in PNG and 90% think it is getting worse,” said Mr Haihuie.

He went on to say that 81% of respondents thought that members of parliament are the cause of corruption while 25% believed everyone was to blame for the spread of corruption.

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Small-scale mining returns as Bougainville revenue earner

Tunnelling for gold ore at MoroniKEITH JACKSON

Download Small Scale Mining in Bougainville

A TEAM of four researchers - Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh, Anthony Regan, Dennis Kikira and Simon Kenema - has published an initial report on small scale mining in Bougainville.

The report focuses on issues such as mining methods, economic motivations, safety and health risks and the possibility that small scale mining might foster tensions in a   still fragile post-conflict Bougainville.

Prior to Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, the Australian administration approved development by a subsidiary of the multinational mining company Rio Tinto of one of the world’s largest copper mines at Panguna in central Bougainville.

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Pacific studies under threat at Australia’s premier university

Sir John CrawfordKEITH JACKSON

THE Australian National University is poised to make substantial cuts to research and education on the Asia-Pacific, and in particular Pacific Studies.

The targets for cuts include the Research School of Pacific Studies was established in the immediate post-World War II period to counter what scholar Raymond Firth referred to as Australia’s “immense ignorance of the Pacific”.

Australia’s post-war policy makers considered a deep understanding of the Pacific essential to the conduct of regional affairs.

The ANU quickly established itself as the leading institution for research and education concerning the Pacific, and played a key role in seeding and developing research and tertiary institutions throughout the region, including University of Papua New Guinea, PNG’s National Research Institute, University of the South Pacific and National University of Samoa.

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