PNGAA 68th ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – 28 April 2019, President’s Report – ANDREA WILLIAMS
THE PNGAA fills an important role for Australians and Papua New Guineans, whose life has been significantly touched by PNG. Our network of volunteers and the social support it offers are unique and, at this 68th Annual General Meeting, I feel very privileged that we have been part of keeping our Australian/PNG history alive.
Taking you back to December 2017 and early 2018, the exhilaration of finding Australia’s first submarine, AE1, near the Duke of York Islands, announced on 21 December 2017, was followed with the grim news that a seemingly dormant volcano on Kadover Island near the mouth of the Sepik River, erupted in early January with the loss of many lives. Seven weeks later a series of violent earthquakes began, predominantly in the Hela Province, which sadly killed hundreds of people and created enormous devastation. And then, late in 2018, PNG was on show when it hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.
In early 2018 the PNGAA was in the midst of negotiations and fundraising for the ‘Helpim Wantok’ project. This project, a collaboration between PNGAA, the Sydney Wantok Association and UTS Sydney, resulted in 320 chairs and 160 tables—a full container—being shipped to the University of PNG. Our members pitched in with donations, which were aided by the Sydney and Melbourne lunches, silent auction and raffles, as well as sales from a very generous donation to PNGAA of 187 copies of the book, The Volcano’s Wife: The Great Untold Story, by Amalia Cowley and Pamela Virtue.
On 27 May 2018 visitors to Roseville RSL greatly enjoyed the panel talk ‘Tales of PNG: the Experiences of Two Women’. A full house heard Barbara Jennings speak about earlier life in PNG and Pat Johnson, supported by Ross Johnson, did a presentation on ‘How WWII and the release of detainees from Ramale POW camp near Rabaul impacted on a child of the times’. The talks were fascinating and members enjoyed a friendly, casual lunch afterwards. Sara Turner-Carroll has hit on a successful theme with these annual events!
The Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Group had the annual commemoration in Canberra at the Australian War Memorial’s Last Post Ceremony on 30 June 2018, followed by a dinner, and I thank John Reeves and Ian Sayers, OAM, ED, for their assistance with these. The PNGAA/Rabaul & Montevideo Maru book, When the War Came: New Guinea Islands 1942, continues to attract sales and we are grateful to Trish Kilkeary for her role in sending them out.
The complete education program, including John Schindler’s fifteen-minute short version of the DVD, Some Came Home, is available for teachers online on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial website, (www.memorial.org.au). It is truly an outstanding resource with lesson plans, background notes, worksheets and resources available—and I ask members to speak to their local secondary schools and encourage its use for Years 9 & 10. With thanks to Patrick Bourke for his commitment to this program and organising participation at the National History Teachers’ Association Annual Conference in Canberra in October 2018, where the PNGAA/Rabaul & Montevideo Maru Group took an exhibitor’s stand and Karen McPherson presented. Kylie Adams-Collier was regularly interviewed and frequented music festivals through the year, spreading the story. Sales of her CD, Little Stone, contributed much-appreciated funds to the PNGAA.
The pages of Una Voce come alive with stories, cameos on some of our members, book reviews, gatherings, committee round ups, news and sport reports and vales. Belinda Macartney highlighted in the December Una Voce that PNGAA has many roles— including networking across the states. Belinda’s naturally creative fair has thoughtfully considered content, structure and presentation with each Una Voce and, together with an editorial team developed by Belinda, has ensured a feast for the senses. After three years as editor, Belinda is stepping down and we thank her, deeply and sincerely, for the tremendous effort that has gone into each issue. We are fortunate that Vicki Long from Melbourne is taking on the role of editor; Vicki is here today so please introduce yourselves.
Our Brisbane members enjoyed a casual gathering at the Ship Inn, in Brisbane, in July 2018 coordinated by Kieran Nelson and Belinda Macartney. Inspired by those attending, Belinda suggested that a ‘Young PNGAA’ group be formed. If you know anyone who would like to join other young people in Brisbane for a casual gathering, please contact Belinda. A gathering was also had in Cairns in July, with thanks to Chris Warrillow for his endeavours there.
Linda Cavanaugh Manning, Robyne Petricevic and Murray Day arranged for two wonderful luncheons in Perth in April and November 2018. Daryl Binning spoke on ‘Kokoda: Track or Trail’—a talk that was thoroughly enjoyed by those attending.
PNGAA Victorian Events Coordinator, Yana di Pietro, assisted by Chris Warrillow, networks with the PNG Victorian group, as well as organising three lunches each year. At the Christmas lunch, PNGAA member, John Quinn, gave an update to Victorian members on ‘The fast growing influence of China in PNG—is Australia aware and, more importantly, does Australia care?’ The lunch also highlighted the work of two artists.
The PNGAA South Australian lunch, usually held in October, was deferred to April, today!
The two annual luncheons in Sydney were friendly gatherings and, like all our lunch gatherings, wonderfully successful.
Early last year Jane Turner, of Canberra Broomsticks & Bobbins Quilters’ Group, organised for a quilt to be donated to PNGAA to help with fundraising at the Christmas lunch—a generous gesture and hugely appreciated. If you are ‘out of town’ and thinking of a visit to one of the cities, why not plan to attend a lunch? The Una Voce label and packing days are also very enjoyable casual gatherings and I thank Murrough and Joy Benson for co-ordinating these, including the delicious morning tea.
On 14 August 2018, Gima Kilamanu-Naime from PNG’s Central Province, in Adelaide on a post-graduate Australian Award Scholarship, represented the PNGAA at the prestigious Prince Alfred College. The college wanted to engage their junior school boys in a different culture, extending the interest of their students. Jan Kleinig assisted in finding Gima who spoke generally about PNG, and also discussed culture, language, food and offered some Q&A time. It was a hugely successful day.
It also highlighted an area where PNGAA members could contribute further.
In August 2018 many in the PNG/Australian community were deeply shocked by the sudden death of Gideon Kakabin, following a four-week residency at the Australian War Memorial. Known for his passion for PNG culture, history and education, his historical knowledge was unsurpassed and he was an inspiration to generations of both Papua New Guineans and Australians, as he interviewed, recorded, documented and shared it all. One of the PNGAA’s goals is to ‘strengthen the civil relationship between the peoples of Australia and PNG’ so the Management Committee was proud to get behind the fundraising needed for the medical and repatriation expenses which, due to Gideon’s high esteem, was achieved in eight days with support from both PNGAA and Facebook members. Steven Gagau travelled to Canberra and spent two weeks assisting Gideon’s family liaise with the hospital, the AWM and the PNG High Commission to ensure Gideon travelled home as quickly as possible. Steven showed strong leadership at a challenging and sensitive time for the PNG and Australian community. The dignity and strength of Gideon’s family and the East New Britain community at this very sad time reflected enormous humility. The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) at QAGOMA commenced on 24 November 2018, highlighting two PNG displays—the Bougainville Women’s Wealth Project and a magnificent display of East New Britain shell money. Gideon Kakabin had led the eight PNG artists who created the special display of Tutana, large shell money wheels used as banks, which greet all visitors at the GOMA entrance. Due to the assistance in facilitating the late Gideon Kakabin’s final voyage home and to his resting place, PNGAA was greatly privileged to be recognised in the special Minamai ceremony, which was a highlight of the launch (see December 2018 Una Voce).
The Book Expo on 7 October 2018 in Sydney was a phenomenal event, sadly unsupported on a blustery and rainy day, but thoroughly enjoyed by those who attended. Sara Turner was supported by Trish Kilkeary and their creativity, ideas and initiatives—striving for activities to entice our members and prospective members—were thoughtful and impressive. The format included book stalls and speakers, ensuring ongoing interest and activity throughout the day. PNGAA member Mark Lynch gave a fascinating insight into his journey with a local writers’ group in his area, Judith Hollinshed travelled from Victoria, Bob Shaw from the Blue Mountains and Alan Pierce generously donated gift vouchers to encourage young writers in both the adolescent section and the children’s section. The PNGAA greatly appreciated those authors who supported the PNGAA with this event and were willing to chat with attendees about their writing journeys. With thanks, too, for background support from Murrough Benson, Roger Carroll and Lisa Turner.
The PNGAA tote bags were launched at the Book Expo. They are a strong, structured, hessian bag, useful to carry so much, and great value at just $15.
PNGAA members continue to ‘do their bit’ to assist the people-to-people relationship between the two countries. Sydney Wantok Association President and PNGAA Committee members organised many successful events including a fashion show and 43rd Independence celebrations. Pat and Laurie Le Fevre have donated their remaining books, Cloudlands Memoirs, to the PNGAA to assist with fundraising and to present to appropriate libraries/schools. Dick McCarthy has a project recording the efforts of Australian foresters in PNG between 1922 and 1975. Len Mitchell initiated a 50th anniversary gathering for the 1968 ASOPA cohort who started their new careers in PNG that year. Community collaboration is what will build our network.
There is a real need for presence, engagement and participation from all members. Individual members make many events possible. If you are involved in an activity connecting with PNG or know of someone doing something ‘good’, please let PNGAA know so we can acknowledge achievements of members and offer support where possible.
PNGAA was approached in mid-December 2018 by the Country Womens’ Association, NSW, explaining that their ‘country of focus’ for 2019 is Papua New Guinea. A full-day seminar and dinner in Dubbo was planned for early February 2019 and they were keen to have support in both planning the speakers and events on the day, and to produce a booklet which would tell their members about Papua New Guinea. Having just completed the Sydney Christmas lunch, and despite Christmas approaching, Sara and I swung into gear contacting PNGAA members in Dubbo, using our network to contact the Sydney Wantok Association and the PNG Womens’ Association NSW to assist with cultural input and speakers for the day, as well as members and friends who could assist in collating appropriate information for a booklet. This was an enormous task in a short period and over a holiday period however both Sara and I were so proud of our PNGAA Committee, our members and friends for jumping in, giving formidable presentations, and ensuring that Papua New Guinea was well represented and, we think, the CWA NSW’s most engaging country. Guests were welcomed with kundu and singing, fascinatingly honest and amusing speeches led to serious comments about PNG’s challenges, and the day was enjoyed by all. This connection continues as PNGAA co-ordinates speakers in different NSW regions for CWA throughout this year. We are greatly appreciative of the support and cooperation of our members in this.
PNGAA is increasingly the ‘go to’ organisation for both Australians and Papua New Guineans who want to know something about PNG. This takes up valuable administration time of our committee for many who are not members.
The PNGAA Management Committee has not had an official president these past two years, however, the role has been capably shared amongst the following committee members: Sara Turner, Doug Wood, Steven Gagau and Steve Burns. Every member of the committee and extended committee deserves enormous thanks for their ongoing hard work. Committee members need to be able to work autonomously and as part of a team. It has been a privilege to work with this wonderful group of people.
Murrough Benson, Doug Wood and Roy Ranney are an ace executive team endlessly working for the Association. Doug Wood, PNGAA Treasurer, and his firm, Foster Rafan, has given great support to the PNGAA for five years; this has been hugely appreciated. Four committee members are stepping back from the committee—Belinda Macartney, Doug Wood, Russell Wade and Steve Burns. We wish to express our tremendous thanks for supporting PNGAA so well, continuing to build this valuable association as it negotiates its path to the future. The PNGAA Collection continues to grow. As mentioned earlier, PNGAA events in several states are strongly supported—showing the strong thread that binds us all. Sara Turner thoughtfully plans several events a year and is very ably supported by Victorian Events Co-ordinator, Yana di Pietro, who also does a great job on PNGAA social media. Chris Warrillow is an inspiring, active and knowledgeable committee member who exemplifies that all members can contribute to this association by what they do within their own networks. Phil Ainsworth and Steven Gagau provide links with affiliated associations that strengthen all our associations as well as energetically supporting everyday activities. The Management Committee continues to draw on members to actively assist. Bev Melrose took on the much appreciated role of writing to our new members. Others who assist are Trish Kilkeary, Kieran Nelson, Ross Johnson, Paul Munro, Nick Booth, Lyn Arden and Nigel Wong.
The PNGAA needs dedicated assistance with the website and if you can assist please contact Roy Ranney.
We warmly welcome the incoming team with Max Uechtritz as president, Vicki Long—editor, Chris Pearsall— secretary, Murrough Benson moving into the treasurer’s role and committee members Roy Ranney, Sara Turner, Yana di Pietro, Phil Ainsworth, Chris Warrillow, Steven Gagau and Andrea Williams.
General business at the last AGM discussed the possible change of name of the journal, highlighting the many changes in communication since this was discussed in 2007. With various projects happening, there was unfinalised discussion and this will be pursued this year.
I often remind myself: If this association hadn’t existed, the work of so many Australians in PNG, in taking PNG to Independence and beyond, aside from their involvement in the two world wars, would not be recognised. The PNGAA and its members deserve to be proud.
But where does Australia recognise taking PNG to a peaceful Independence? Shouldn’t Australians be proud of all those men and women who contributed to developing PNG? Most countries would be proud of this achievement, ensuring its rightful place in the education of all Australians … and ensuring that Australia and PNG remain priorities to each other. Despite the Australian Government being the largest aid donor to PNG, and numerous Australian businesses working closely with PNG, Australia has nowhere that publicly recognises this enormous part of its history and, as younger generations grow without understanding PNG’s history in our society, the lives and work of many Australians who called PNG home will vanish.
PNGAA’s concept of an Australian Community Centre for Pacifc Nations, an educational, cultural and tourism hub, is urgently needed. To achieve this PNGAA needs a groundswell of support from members and considerable fundraising. Please let the committee know what you can do to help. ◆