Sharing Histories: Kiap tribute event
National Archives of Australia, 20 November 2010
Speech by Major-General Michael Jeffery
Speech by His Excellency, Charles Lepani, High Commissioner to Australia
On being a kiap: Jim Sinclair
Speech by Paul Oates
A career kiap’s wife, Nancy Johnston
Kiaps killed on duty: Jim Sinclair
Discussion in the PNGAA Forum
More than 2000 Australians served as patrol officers (Kiaps) in Papua New Guinea before the nation’s independence in 1975. Ex-Kiaps and others with an interest in Papua New Guinea shared their memories and experiences at a tribute event at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra on Saturday 20 November 2010. This special tribute highlighted and celebrated the role Kiaps played in Papua New Guinea. It also addressed questions on how this chapter of our shared heritage can be preserved.
Ross Gibbs, Director-General, National Archives of Australia welcomed everyone. This was followed by three keynote addresses: by Senator Kate Lundy, on behalf of The Hon. Brendan O’Connor, MP, Minister for Privacy and Freedom of Information; by Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, AO (Mil), CVO, MC (Ret’d), former Governor-General of Australia and Patron of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia; and by His Excellency Mr Charles Lepani, Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to Australia.
A panel featuring Jim Sinclair, Nancy Johnston, Paul Oates and Elenora Auki discussed various aspects of the roles of Kiaps.
Jim Sinclair recalled prominent early Kiaps, some known as Government Agents and Patrol Officers, before poignantly reflecting on how the first term of life as a Kiap shaped what you did for the rest of your life. Nancy Johnston spoke about life as a Kiap’s wife. Paul Oates thanked the National Archives for their efforts in paying tribute to Kiaps. He noted that “those who came later remembered those who went earlier”. Paul, in closing, left the audience with the inspirational message that Kiaps “planted a seedling which grew strong and tall. Kiaps lit a fire … which is still burning”. Elenora, now living in Australia, provided a different perspective. To her, every Tuesday was ‘Government Day’. Her father, a village chief, would remind everyone to “clean the cemetery, clean the village, clean the road … that pigs must be fenced and no children were to run wild”.
During the breaks, those present enjoyed catching up with friends. They also had the opportunity to peruse information stalls on the preservation, research and copying of photographic collections and displays relating to Kiaps.
As part of the Sharing Histories: Kiap Tribute Event, Kiaps were asked to write down their stories on sheets/booklets provided, and send to the National Archives of Australia.
Following afternoon tea, a PNG Cultural Group performance transported the audience with the sights and sounds of PNG – plenty of shell and plant ‘bilas’ (decoration), the beating of kundus, and the rich singing well known to so many.
It was an event enjoyed and appreciated by all who attended.