PNG 39th Anniversary Independence Day: Keiran Nelson
There is a large PNG population of several thousand living in Queensland with the largest communities living in Cairns and Brisbane, and both cities enjoy getting together on a regular basis as well as celebrating special occasions.
Members of the PNG community in Brisbane are very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in functions many times throughout the year through monthly mumu style lunches in local parks and other special events by various cultural groups fundraising for much needed projects at home. They have also been very strong supporters of PNG Hunters rugby league team who have done very well in their first year playing in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup Competition.
Most of the activities are coordinated and hosted by PNG Federation Qld Inc., who have taken over many of the community activities formerly undertaken by the PNG Consulate in Brisbane. Most of the cultural groups from the various Provinces are affiliated with PNGFQI who assist with fundraising, and also raise funds for Independence Day Celebrations.
Preceding the September Independence Day celebrations were two events, which are worth mentioning due to the involvement of the NGVR and PNGVR Ex-Members Association. A memorial service was held at the Kokoda Memorial on the Gold Coast on 8 August during which plaques were dedicated to NGVR, ANGAU, and PIR (Papuan and New Guinea Infantry Battalions) and Association President Phil Ainsworth laid a wreath.
A major event was also held at the NGVR and PNGVR Military Museum in Brisbane on 6 September commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Bitapaka and loss of submarine AE1 at the beginning of WW1 in September 1914, with the dedication of a plaque unveiled by Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey. The dedication was followed by an open day at the museum with a full day of entertainment including traditional PNG dancers.
This year PNG Independence Day was celebrated with three major events beginning with the Pre Party at Transcontinental Hotel in George St Brisbane on Friday night 12 September that included several live performers and dancing into the early hours of Saturday morning. I was unable to attend this function as on the same evening my wife and I had been invited to attend the cocktail reception hosted by the PNG Consul General Maggie Moihe on board the YWAM Medical Ship MV Ammari currently being prepared for service in remote areas of PNG. Youth With A Mission, who are all volunteers, currently have a ship providing medical services in the country but the new one will increase the capacity and level of service quite significantly.
The focus of PNG Independence celebrations was the Cultural Day at Beenleigh on Sunday 14 September featuring ten traditional PNG dance groups and performers in the full day program. This always creates feelings of nostalgia among the spectators who have not seen a singsing for a long time. Jumping castle and other children’s activities were a welcome addition for young families and almost fifty stalls provided the opportunity for people to purchase PNG food, clothing and artefacts.
During the following week, several of us from Queensland travelled to Sydney for the PNG Symposium hosted by the PNGAA. Both the Wednesday night dinner and the Thursday symposium were enormous successes with the speakers presenting a range of topics on our involvement in PNG over the last 100 years from when Australia was handed the responsibility of administering the former German colony to the present day where several programs are currently enhancing the lives of people in the country.
The third and final event in the Brisbane celebrations was the PNG Independence Gala Ball held at the Mercure Hotel at North Quay, Brisbane, on Saturday night 20 September. Those attending took the opportunity to dress up for the occasion and enjoyed a night of fine food, entertainment by PNG recording artists Bianca Noka and Samantha Clark, and a night on the dance floor to music provided by DJ Smooth.
PNG Federation Qld Inc. have a dedicated committee under President Tim Wai organising and hosting Independence Day Celebrations each year and can be congratulated on the success of all three events this year. Next year we celebrate 40 years of Independence and planning will begin early for bigger and better PNG Independence Day Celebrations for his remarkable milestone.