Purchase “Cloudlands Memoirs” by Laurie Le Fevre

This is a book that needed to be written. Most news coming out of PNG today is bad news – this book provides some much-needed balance. The author achieves this by using individual life stories to show how remarkably successful Papua New Guineans have been in various fields and by giving readers a thoughtful overview of some of the big issues facing the country today.

The author worked and travelled in PNG from 1961-71 and has undertaken various tasks for the PNG Government since then. In 2001 he was offered a two-year contract with Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML). Ok Tedi is 600m above sea level in the remote Star Mountains near the border with West Papua and not far from the town of Telefomin. Ninety-five percent of workers at OTML are Papua New Guinean. Tabubil, built to serve the mine, has become the largest town in the Western Province with excellent schools and medical facilities. But change is on the way for the 10,000 strong community, with mine closure only a few years off. The future of the town is under discussion. OTML has already provided ongoing funding for the development of infrastructure in Western Province for the next 40 years.

While acknowledging the environmental mistake, the book focuses on the benefits of the mining operation, particularly the improvements in health and lifestyle, and education and training. OTML has a vigorous apprenticeship scheme and sponsors higher education. Many young Papua New Guineans study and work far from their family’s roots – this has broadened their horizons and given them a vision for their own and their country’s future. Old-timers might be surprised to learn that today a handful of PNG professionals even hold executive positions in the resources sector in Australia; also that a female Papua New Guinean scientist employed by OTML has a PhD from Oxford.

There are chapters headed ‘The West Papua Diaspora’, ‘Tourism’, ‘The Telefol’ (which includes comments by early explorers and kiaps) and ‘Public Health’ (which includes consideration of the problem of HIV/AIDS). The author describes how, 50 years ago, Administration officers held out little hope of an economic future for the Telefol. Of the situation today he says that Telefomin is still isolated, but less so in a world where satellite phones reach every square metre of the planet; he adds that his e-mail address list includes as many Telefol as any other group of people.

The book is written with warmth and sensitivity. It will be of special interest to those who lived and worked in PNG in years gone by. It should also give the general reader an understanding of matters affecting PNG today – essential if we are to be the good neighbour we would like to be.

Prices are:

$15.00 each

Plus $7 each for postage within Australia, or
Plus $14 each for postage to New Zealand, or
Plus $16 each for postage to Asia Pacific region, or
Plus $22 each for postage to the Rest of the World.

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

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