The kiap reunion 2013: Chips Mackellar
It was the biggest Kiap Reunion ever. Held on 10 November 2013 at the Kawana Waters Motel at Mooloolaba on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, a total of 307 kiaps, wives and descendants attended, not counting those who arrived late and did not report in to the reception desk. We were honoured by a visit from our PNGAA President, Andrea Williams, who came with a movie team which is producing a DVD sponsored by PNGAA, on the life and times of the kiaps. They conducted a series of interviews with some of the kiaps attending the reunion.
As with previous kiap reunions, kiaps and their families came from near and far. Nearby from Southern Queensland 146; with 78 from NSW; 48 from Victoria, and 13 from ACT, four each from South Australia, Tasmania and Far North Queensland and three from the Northern Territory. Also, Chris Makin and Peter Salmon, both recently returned from working in PNG, came together with Graham Pople. Roger and Judy Fairhall came from Hong Kong, where they migrated to be close to their daughter and grand-children who now live there. Dan Claasen came from Kenya. He went there to work for the United Nations, then retired there, and has lived there ever since. And would you believe from up there near the Arctic Circle came Ves Karnups from where he is now Associate Professor in Economics at the University of Latvia. We are particularly honoured that these kiaps came from so far to be with us for this reunion.
Despite our advanced years, some of us are still easily recognised. Bob Cleland is easily recognizable because he looks just like his father, Sir Donald. Bob Hoad is still tall and skinny like he always was, and so is Ross Johnson. They are easy to spot. But the sad truth is that some of us have changed so dramatically with the passing years that if we passed each other in the street we might never recognise each other today. Fortunately, recognition at the reunion was made easy because we all wore name tags.
There was much discussion at the reunion about the Police Overseas Service Medal (pictured), which was awarded to kiaps this year. Most said that they were happy to receive the medal, although some kiaps said they thought we should have been awarded our own medal, and some said they didn’t want any medal at all. Those of us who have accepted the medal are indebted to the many people who lobbied hard for us to get it. Foremost amongst these is Chris Viner-Smith who started the ball rolling way back in 2002 by writing letters to various ministers including the then Prime Minister John Howard, suggesting the need to honour the past service of kiaps with an appropriate medal. The initial response was disappointing, but persistence and perseverance have their just rewards. With thousands of phone calls, letters and emails, Chris continued to lobby those in the corridors of power, including in 2008, the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Chris was assisted by other kiaps including Mike Douglas who lobbied his MP Scott Morrison, the current Minister for Immigration. And so it happened that on 16 November 2009 Scott Morrison, in the presence of several kiaps in the public gallery, rose in Parliament to propose that the eligibility criteria for grant of the Police Overseas Service Medal be changed to accommodate kiaps, on the basis that, whatever our other duties may have been from time to time, we were all officers of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. The message had finally got through.
But there was a problem. The Australian Honours and Awards System is the prerogative of the Queen. It was the Queen who established the Police Overseas Service Medal by Letters Patent in 1991, and only the Queen could alter the criteria to include kiaps. Not to worry though you see, because Scott Morrison was able to convince Jason Clare, the then Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice of the justness of our cause, and Jason Clare took the matter to the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and Julia Gillard agreed to seek the Queen’s assent to alter the criteria. And so it came to pass that, by Letters Patent of 6 June 2013, Her Majesty the Queen altered the criteria for the award of the Police Overseas Service Medal to include “patrol officers in the Territory of Papua New Guinea.” And that is how we got our medal.
Our sincere thanks go to Chris Viner-Smith and all those other kiaps who supported his medal campaign; to the Hon. Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration, for bringing the matter to the notice of Parliament; to the Hon. Jason Clare for taking the matter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard; to Julia Gillard for referring the matter to the Queen; and to Her Majesty the Queen who made the decision to grant us our medal. Our thanks also go to the Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus whose officers arranged the distribution of the medals to us.
For those of us who have not yet received the medal, its photo here is the front view, depicting the globe of the world overlaid by a sprig of wattle. The reverse side carries the kiap’s name surrounded in roundel by the words “Police Overseas Service Medal.”
As with past reunions at Kawana Waters, this year the emphasis was on informality. No speeches, no guests of honour, no set seating plan, and no start or finish time. People just arrived for lunch on Sunday and circulated to meet and greet old friends. Some stayed for dinner that night, and some reassembled for breakfast the next day at Belisimo restaurant on the waterfront at Mooloolaba. Unfortunately, Belisimo suffered a power outage before most people could order their breakfast, and many wandered off to have breakfast at the many other restaurants on the waterfront, never to return. Some stayed at Belisimo until the power came on again, but by then we were few in number. The reunion fittingly came to an end at 11 am on Monday 11 November (Remembrance Day 2013). That is, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the moment the Great War ended was the exact same moment 95 years later that this great reunion ended, when the last survivors, Rod and Virginia Donovan, Bob Hoad, and Bob and Heather Fayle, said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. It was a poignant finale to a remarkable reunion. As Roger Fairhall, who came from Hong Kong to be with us, said “I have attended the Kawana Waters reunions for some years and wouldn’t miss them now for the friendship and camaraderie they provide.” I think this encapsulates the essence of these reunions.
Our thanks go to Bob and Heather Fayle, and to Denys and Helen Faithful for organising the reunion, with particular thanks to Peter Salmon who keeps our ex-kiap website alive, keeps us in touch with each other, and helped with the mail-out of invitations. Our thanks also go to those who came from far away, that is, from inter-state and from overseas, to be with us, to renew friendships and to catch up with each other’s experiences. It was indeed, a wonderful and a memorable reunion.
And finally, our thanks also go to our gracious PNGAA President Andrea Williams and her management team who by Una Voce, website and DVD are preserving our stories so that the legends of the kiaps will live on, long after we are gone. Many thanks to all of you.
Bob Falye and Andrea Williams