My kiap medal conundrum: Graham Taylor

Reading the commentary about medals for Kiaps afflicts me with conflicting points of view especially given that as an immediate post WW2 Kiap I might be qualified to receive one.

My first point is that I am not seeking special recognition for the job I did as a Kiap. I undertook it voluntarily and cheerfully and while I carry physical scars inflicted by unfriendly Ramu tribesmen my life and times as a Kiap will forever remain the most rewarding aspect of my life. I am profoundly grateful, therefore, for the opportunity to serve. I do not seek hero status and I do not seek a medal as a further reward. It will not alter my ever-present memories of the past.

But then I remind myself of my long list of fellow Kiaps who lost their lives, were wounded or whose health was irreparably damaged and those whose families—the likes of Harris, Szarka and Emmanuel to name just three—suffered so grievously.

Its then I begin to wonder whether for all of us—the living and the dead—there may well be justifiable cause to award such a medal. Not for its value as a trinket, but as a visual reminder of a noble cause well and truly served. It could be argued that there are three compelling issues.

The first is that Australians should be reminded of the contributions we Kiaps made towards the development of Papua and New Guinea and its evolution as a sovereign self-governing democracy. With the ravages of time and the passing of those of us involved there is reason to believe that much will be forgotten. I see this already in my own family. Might the publicity generated by such an award help Australians retain important memories of we Kiaps as footsoldiers of a colonial past of which all Australians are justly proud?

The second is the vexatious question of entitlement: the view that others who also served in the field should also be recognised. This begs probing questions placing relative values on the courage, dedication, isolation, privation, physical hardship and personal dangers in the lives of Kiaps. Predictably it prompts comparisons as to how many didimans, liklik doktas, meri nurses and sikul teachers (for example) faced equally life threatening privations in the pursuit of their duties.

The third is that it could also be argued that wider entitlement would surely dilute the special meritorious and personal nature of a Kiap Medal. Might this prompt a need for a Colonial Service Medal for other Australians who served in less hazardous professional fields?

For many, given its evidence of individual recognition, a Kiap Medal might seem a poor reward for service so unselfishly given. While it may fall short of adequate recompense I certainly have difficulty in identifying an alternative individually targeted gesture which would achieve the same intended purpose of recognising the personal contributions of Kiaps.


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