President’s Report

Milestone birthdays are always an occasion to celebrate!  On behalf of all our members I’d like to wish two special ladies a very happy 100th birthday! Sr Berenice Twohill, 9 November, and Libby Cadden, 9 December. Libby drove herself to the PNGAA Christmas lunch last December – just amazing!  Earlier this year I mentioned that my father, Peter Coote, had been born in Samarai 90 years ago and recently I was delighted to discover that we had another 90-year old PNG/Aussie celebrating her birthday – our best wishes to Mrs Betty Finter who was born in Madang 90 years ago!

The History Teachers Association of Australia recently held their national conference at Sydney Grammar School with Karen McPherson presenting on behalf of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru group.  Additionally, Patrick Bourke spent considerable time identifying appropriate material for the Year 9/10 curriculum and making up presentation folders for delegates to be used on the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru booth. This included the lesson and worksheets, prepared by Patrick Bourke and Karen McPherson, and the related 15-minute DVD ‘Some Came Home’ produced by John Schindler for the Rabaul and Montevideo Project 150 – the educational package suitable for Years 9/10. If you have contact with a secondary school please consider asking if they would use it in their program!  I had one teacher ring me the day after she took a package home – after reading it she was ‘blown away’ with the outstanding quality of this valuable resource and looking forward to building it in to her lesson plan. It was wonderful to receive this feedback and I congratulate all involved for the dedication they have put in to ensure the teaching package can be handled in a minimum one or two lessons if need b

Pat Johnson and Jo Mills assisted Patrick Bourke on the booth during the conference and this was greatly appreciated. Often there are lengthy quiet periods in between bursts of opportunity for those on the booths… and we all know how precious time is!

Karen McPherson stepped in to present the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru story to delegates. Much time and thought went in to her presentation to ensure it was engaging, thought provoking and covered curriculum needs. It’s a wonderful reward to receive responses showing that attendees have been inspired!  Both Karen and Jo had travelled from Canberra to help, which was again much appreciated.

Whilst the presentation covered WWII in the history curriculum there are other opportunities for future conferences – especially the topic ‘Australia in the 20th Century’ and how much of it focuses on the role Australia played in PNG.

There has been much background work related to the proposed Australian Community Centre for Pacific Nations (ACCPN) including a meeting which Professor Ken McKinnon and I had with Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific. This was later followed up by a discussion with Gina Wilson in the PNG Branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Further discussion is needed.

Central to this vision for the proposed ACCPN is the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands. Educating more Australians to think about its nearest neighbours and providing opportunities for those neighbours to engage in activities together is important. The PNGAA’s vision is that the ACCPN would serve as a significant educational, cultural and research facility for Australia and the Pacific. It needs enormous support to be successful and I encourage everyone to write to their local member to engage that support.

On page 12 of this issue there is an article by John Quinn highlighting the red carpet treatment and trade agreements accorded PNG Prime Minister O’Neill in a recent visit to Peking, virtually unreported in Australia but picked up by SBS China News.  Why is it that we hear so little about Papua New Guinea in our daily news and yet PNG, our nearest neighbour, has eight million people and is welcomed so readily in other countries? Again I can only highlight the benefit of an Australian Community Centre for Pacific Nations to build upon and increase people to people relationships across the region.

I recently attended the opening of the extension to the PNGVR Museum at Wacol in Brisbane. This is a fascinating museum and anyone with an interest in PNG is encouraged to visit.  Another event I attended was at the Australian Museum in Sydney featuring the Asaro Mud Men from Komunive Village in the Eastern Highlands of PNG. It was a fascinating evening and wonderful to see the support they received. 

The Crocodile Prize, so ably supported by Keith Jackson, Phil Fitzpatrick, Bob Cleland, Ken McKinnon, the PNGAA and others added another dimension to its list of achievements recently. After attending the Brisbane Writers’ Festival for some years, Bob Cleland submitted a formal proposal for four Papua New Guinean writers to present at the 2016 Brisbane Writers’ Festival and this was accepted. It was an ideal event to launch these PNG writers on to the international scene! McKinnon – Paga Hill Development Company fellows Francis Nii, Daniel Kumbon and Martyn Namarong travelled from PNG and were joined by Brisbane resident, Rashmii Amoah Bell. Their eloquent discussion over a one-hour session in September was an enormous success.  With thanks to Ken and Sue McKinnon I was delighted to meet with Daniel and his wife Julie, along with Martyn and Ben Jackson when they came to Sydney.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more of this?  Again, a hub such as that envisaged for the Australian Community Centre for Pacific Nations could achieve so much!

The PNGAA has a number of events coming up. We are fortunate in having such an actively interested membership. The DVD ‘KIAP: Stories Behind the Medals’ will be shown at the Queensland State Library on Saturday 12 November. This will be followed by a fascinating Q&A with four Kiaps – Bob Cleland, Bob Fayle, David Hook and Vin Smith – and then some light refreshments. It will be a memorable afternoon so please come along and bring friends and family. There are also lunches coming up in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney!  These are great opportunities to get together and chat with PNG friends. Everyone is welcome and details are in this Una Voce and on the PNGAA website. To help the organisers, and to ensure a place, please RSVP as soon as possible!

Speaking of the website – I know we keep promising it but there is still a bit more to do to ensure it is what we want. There IS much happening to make it happen – several late-night skype sessions have been held between members in Sydney and Adelaide and the website designer to chew over any crinkles. It is a large and complex website contributing a valuable historic resource as well as being relevant for contemporary audiences.  I thank Roy Ranney, Eric Dinkin, Lynette Ardin, Nigel Wong, Ross Johnson and Nick Booth for their assistance along this journey.

In this issue you will find a nomination form for the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the PNGAA to be held Sunday 30 April 2017.  Please give this urgent attention! The future of the PNGAA needs a strong Management Committee of team players and we have been fortunate to have that, however more assistance is always welcome!  I cannot speak highly enough of the current PNGAA Management Committee and the close supporters on the sidelines.  It’s a fantastic team, so please step up to assist!

Role of President

The PNGAA has a constitutional requirement that the President has a four-year term as I stated in the 2016 President’s Report to the AGM. This enables fresh energy to come in to the association, revitalising it. After coming in as Acting President in December 2011 and then President at the 2013 AGM, I have been privileged to have held the role for five years.  I have enjoyed every moment, and can recommend getting to know so many members of this wonderful association as I have done, but there are some neglected parts of my life that I need to catch up on too. I hope we can inspire one of our members to step in at the 2017 Annual General Meeting and enjoy growing the relationship between Australia and PNG through this network of extraordinary members. Please give urgent consideration to your next President and complete the nomination form enclosed.

On behalf of the Management Committee I wish all our members a Merry Christmas – and I look forward to seeing many of you at the Christmas lunch in Sydney on 4 December!

Andrea Williams

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