Official Australian recognition of Kiaps’ services

On 5 November 2008, Chris Viner-Smith submitted a paper to the Australian Government seeking formal recognition of the services of Kiaps (patrol officers) in the development of the independent state of Papua New Guinea, which came to full political independence on 16 September 1975.

Mr Viner-Smith sought “recognition under the Australian honours and awards system for service to their country in peacekeeping and warlike conditions”.

The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, while not signing off the final proposal, provided support for Mr Viner-Smith’s initiative in these terms: “The PNGAA supports the initiative of Chris Viner-Smith to seek formal Commonwealth Government recognition of former District Services personnel [‘Kiaps’] for their exemplary service to the people of the Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea over a period of 75 years culminating with National Independence.”

We publish the submission in its original form here for the information of readers and as a matter of historical interest.

The document is still winding its way through Canberra’s corridors, although Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner, has observed that the work of former Patrol Officers in preparing Papua New Guinea for nationhood deserves a “higher level of consciousness” in Australia. “The story of Patrol Officers is certainly an extraordinary one,” Senator Faulkner has written,” and one that deserves a higher level of consciousness than that which exists in contemporary Australian society.”

For my part, as President of the PNGAA, I believe Kiaps should be given official recognition for the exacting work they did that made possible the pacification and unity of Papua New Guinea and its peaceful transition to Independence.

It was a tough job, which they did willingly and without thought for reward and their own well-being. Their deeds were epic and should be recognised by all Australians. Patrol Officers were commissioned Police Officers and were given the responsibility to bring under Australian law vast tracts of Papua New Guinea inhabited by warring tribes. To their lasting credit, they did this with minimal loss of life.

After World War 2, Australia ruled PNG as an external Territory. By the time Independence was granted in 1975, the entire country had been brought under a system of governance and laws developed by Australia and largely implemented and administered by District Services officers. This was an important and magnificent part of Australia’s history.

Keith Jackson

Click here for the document in PDF format


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