Peter Comerford,
The Maliau Caves Adventure

This is a book for 11–14-year-olds, set in Papua New Guinea and is an exciting adventure set in some caves in New Ireland. The caves are an underground land lost in time known only through the retelling of stories and legends of local villagers.

The eel or maliau live in the rivers and caves in New Ireland. The heroes of the story are Sebastian and Ashton, their young sister Khloe and two students from the local high school, Silitia and Sipondia.

Published by Austin Macauley Publishers, London, 2023
ISBN: 978-1-3984913-0-4
86 pages; paperback and eBook
Available from Amazon Books Australia; paperback $17.12, eBook $6.37



Should We Fall to Ruin

This is an interesting read, especially for those who need more knowledge about the Fall of Rabaul. The author sets the scene well, though, with all the information available, he needed to be more specific in some areas. Unfortunately, he did not access Rabaul 1942 by Aplin, a work that details the escape from Rabaul in considerable detail.

Other than this omission, the book is well-researched and up to date with current information. It remains what could be described as popular war history, easy to read and would make an ideal gift for someone who knows nothing about the campaign in New Britain in World War II.

Unfortunately, in presenting the background to the event, the author describes events looking through an anti-colonial viewer rather than attempting to present the reader with an understanding that different cultural mores govern the participants’ actions. Attitudes not acceptable in the 21st century were normal in 1942. This is understandable, the author is a journalist, not a historian.

John Reeve
Published by Ultimo Press, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-7611500-6-7
336 pages, Paperback or eBook
Cost: RRP $34.99 or, eBook $12.99.

How to Rule Your Own Country; the weird and wonderful world of micronations

The authors of this book have described the 130 micronations that exist in the world today. More than a third of those are in Australia.

Micronations come into existence when one or more citizens of a local area, having failed to convince either local or national governments that their way was the only way, decide to secede and create their own ‘state’.

A familiar Australian example in Australia was the Principality of Hutt River established in West Australia in 1970 by a disaffected wheat grower, Leonard Casley. The principality existed until 2021 when the farm, which constituted the breakaway ‘state’ had to be sold to pay Australian taxes.

A much less familiar micronation, the Principality of Snake Hill, was centred on a house in Mudgee, NSW. After declaring independence in 2003 its head of state, Princess Paula, sent a letter to the government. The official response was ‘thank you very much for your letter’.

Papua New Guinea has its own micronation located at the southern end of Bougainville. This consists of the combined Kingdoms of Papaala and Me’ekamui. The head of state is King David Peii II (the Pentecostal Christian Noah Musingku) who is the principal of U-Vistract. The latter is a dubious investment scheme masquerading as an international bank.

Me’ekamui, previously a republic, was originally the domain of Francis Ono, the leader of a rebel group during the conflict that led eventually to a referendum and a vote for the independence of Bougainville.

The continuing existence of this micronation is a challenge for the leader of the autonomous region of Bougainvlle, Ishmael Toroama, as that part of PNG moves towards independence.

The book is an entertaining read and based on extensive research of this continuing desire of people to flout authority and to do their own thing.
John Egerton

Published by UNSW Press, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-7422377-3-2
320 pages; softback and eBook
Available from UNSW Press and booksellers
Cost: $34.99 RRP; eBook $12.99

Michael VEITCH
Australia’s Secret Army

The story of the Coastwatchers, the unsung heroes of Australia’s Armed Forces during World War II, this book written by Michael Veitch, was mentioned in PNG Kundu of December 2022. After reading the book I would like to add the following comments.

Written in the style readers of Veitch’s works are used to, this an easy read; the author managed to capture the heroism of the Coastwatchers he has picked as the core characters in the book. The book is popular war history and enlightens the reader about the actions of these brave men.

Veitch manages this credibly due to the emphasis on the glamorous locations, and characters and networks explicitly around Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands and the rescue of John F Kennedy. Little is mentioned about the actions of Figgis and others in New Britain and the progression from intelligence gathering to guerrilla warfare.

The book is the second written about the Coastwatchers in general, the first being The Coast Watchers by Patrick Lyndsay, published in 2010. After ten years, one would have expected new research would have come to light. However, Veitch has only been able to present the same information in a different form and emphasis.

Despite these shortcomings, the book was not written as an academic history of the Coastwatchers and is an excellent work of popular war history, enlightening the reader about the actions of a unique unit of the Australian Military Forces during World War II.
John Reeve

Published by Hachette Aust, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-7336484-7-2
352 pages, paperback


Ömie Art Exhibition in Sydney

Lina Hojéva Ajagi), Dahoru’e (Ömie
mountains), 2004, natural
pigments on bark cloth, Macleay
Collections, ET2018.47

An exhibition now at the Ian Potter Gallery, Chau Chak Wing Museum, University of Sydney, celebrates the unique and dynamic bark cloth art movement of the Ömie people of Papua New Guinea. 

The Ömie people live in villages to the south of Dahöre Huvaimo (Mount Lamington), in Northern (Oro) Province.

The villages are remote and their homes may be a three-day trek from the nearest road, which links the regional town of Kokoda to the provincial capital, Popondetta.

The forest in their territory provides bush foods, medicine, and other raw materials. Traditional forms of wealth include garden produce, pigs and mahudane (pigs’ tusks). However, in common with many other Papua New Guineans, they have been seeking a maja ‘i’e (new day), and access to the wider cash economy.

The marketing of Ömie  nioge (bark cloth) has met some of these aspirations. Through the generosity of Todd Barlin and the Macleay Collections, Chau Chak Wing Museum, now has one of the largest public collections of these bark cloths. Over 100 cloths in the collection represent a diversity of Ömie artists, and come mostly from the private collection of Pacific Arts collector/dealer David Baker, who died in 2009.

Baker contacted Ömie villagers in 2002, sparking a mutual interest in selling their distinctive bark cloth. The earliest cloth in the collection dates to this trip. During another visit in 2004, Baker was joined by author, Drusilla Modjeska and the cooperative, Ömie Nemiss Inc. (now Ömie Artists Inc.), was established.

The collection in the museum represents this early transitional period and  the development of cloths as contemporary art for walls, not only for local ceremonial and domestic use.

Entry to the exhibition is free and will remain open until November 2023.


Worked for Burns Philp in Popondetta and Port Moresby from 1980 through 1987

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