Colony was so close and yet so r/eastern heal

RELIEF has characterised the research communitys reaction to Innovation Minister Kim Carrs surprise dumping of journal rankings.

He echoes his mothers thought, in her lovely memoir Pathways to Independence, that no one then imagined Australia was constructing a colony. "In those days," he writes, "the word colony brought to mind the British, German or French model of colonial Africa, where the motives of the occupying power included controlling and exploiting the assets of the colony for its own purposes". Instead, he continues, , Australians in PNG believed "we had a sacred trust to fulfil, not a right to create an Australian colony".

Ross Garnaut, who has retained strong connections with PNG since working there in the mid-1970s, writes in the foreword that the Wau-Bulolo goldfields were the key forerunner to the great resource projects that have brought modern infrastructure to isolated parts of the country.

IN this era of globalisation, and now of the little Aussie dollar evolving into one of the world&039;s hardest currencies, Machu Picchu in the Andes and Alaskan cruises have become for holidays what Bali was to the previous generation, and seaside towns such as Ballina were before that.

Underscoring their point that this was not "a poor mans field", the Australian officials introduced a long list of regulations, including a minimum wage and provisions to be given labourers, such as two blankets if working above 610m and three above 1500m. A miner needed at least 16 ounces of gold a week to break even. At todays price, that would come to $20,800.

Among them was Mick Leahy, from Toowoomba, the most forceful of the brothers who a few years later would discover, trekking with Jim Taylor in the most exciting expeditions probably ever led by Australians, that more than one million Highlanders were living, unknown to the outside world, in the islands interior, which reaches twice as high as Mt Kosciuszko.

It was New Guinea, the northern part of the eastern half of the island, formerly a German colony, which was from 1914 governed by Australia militarily, and from 1921 under a League of Nations mandate.

The annual report for German New Guinea said of these two trips: "A gold-prospecting expedition . . . to the upper Markham River by three experienced Australian prospectors who have been very successful in Papua did not produce results. These men came back and later took up hunting for birds of paradise.

How strange that the British, or a handy portion of them anyway, know so much about their colonial years in, say, Kenyas White Highlands or the Indian Raj, and the French about Algeria, where their greatest 20th-century writer, Albert Camus, grew up, or about Vietnam, all considerably more remote from their homelands than PNG is from Australia. Yet Australians know little about what their countrymen boldly achieved, or where they iled spectacularly, in this extraordinarily close, beautiful andexotic land of PNG.

A surprisingly large number of Australians lived in the colony, or had mily members who worked there. Those memories are largely benign, bordering on roseate. But they tend to be confined to the anecdotal and the personal. The best and most accessible broader account of Australias involvement in PNG, during its rule from 1906 to 1975 and before, came in the ABCs superb 1981 radio series Taim Bilong Masta, produced by Tim Bowden with a commentary by historian Hank Nelson.

Who might have guessed which country it was that between 1931 and 1938 eclipsed the rest of the world in its volume of air freight, carrying half as much as the next five put together, the US, Canada, Germany, France and Britain?

Arriving as a 22-year-old fresh from his engineering studies at the University of NSW , Cleland was deployed to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands, which was soon to become an affluent coffee town, with a "permanent spring" climate and huge range of horticultural options.

The larger context of the dizzy spiralling of the Pacific Islands — at least in the eyes of Europeans — from "noble savage" utopia to dystopia, is chronicled grippingly in Fatal Impact: The Invasion of the South Pacific 1767-1840 (1966) by the great Australian writer Alan Moorehead.

Bob Cleland picks up the picture in 1953, when he arrived as a junior patrol officer (in pidgin, "kiap" derived from the German kapitan). His ther, Donald, was administrator of all of PNG from 1951 to 1966. After the war the territories were governed as one, although the UN rolled over the separate League of Nations mandate for the northern part, New Guinea.

And that remains PNGs story, swinging from one to the other. At independence in 1975, an especially eirenic period, it was lauded for pursuing a promising "third way" between capitalism and communism. But this, too, was to prove a lse step. The routine business of delivering serveastern health recruitmentices, maintaining roads and bridges, and of creating jobs, is what Papua New Guineans most crave today, not paradise or hell.

Clelands first assignment was thus to complete the construction of a road through the dramatic Kassam Pass, heading east from Goroka down towards the Markham valley and Lae. Crucial preparation had already been completed by Downs: persuading villagers along the route to grow extra crops of sweet potato, the staple necessary to feed the road workers. Buying sweet potato and transporting it to the labour camps alongside the road in a Land Rover, which had taken over from the pack horse, was now a big part of Clelands early career in PNG.

The remarkable photos in Waterhouses book show most importantly the people, black and white and Chinese, but also the progression from bush camps to massive dredges, and of course the planes and airstrips that remain PNGs most important communications arteries, with the capital, Port Moresby, still not linked to any other major centre by road.

It says a lot for the extraordinarily powerful PNG loyalty to mily and land that despite this ilure of governments there to deliver basic services, we dont hear about floods of boatpeople seeking asylum.

These goldfields financially underwrote the Australian administration of New Guinea during the 30s, during which the government HQ shifted from Rabaul in the northeastern islands, from which the plantation-focused Germans had governed their colony, to the mainland, then largely unexplored and wrongly believed to be, at its heart, uninhabitable and thus uninhabited.

Cleland helped host the shooting in the Highlands of a film starring Chips Rafferty. He describes sharing "smok brus" (bush tobacco) in a village with an old man whose news roll-up Rafferty lit. By way of a thank you and as a sign of what a good bloke he thought Rafferty was, the old man stretched out and gently cupped Raffertys genital area in his hand: the customary man-to-man greeting common among men in the Asaro Valley.

The first Australian casualties in that war were suffered in seizing Rabaul: six dead and four wounded. The administrators retained German laws and customs there until the colonys te was determined, with prime minister Billy Hughes arguing at the Versailles Peace Conference for Australian annexation and instead receiving a League of Nations mandate.

In other words New Guinea — still only marginally contacted by the outside world, greater involvement delayed by fear of cannibalism and rampant malaria — would have to fend financially for itself.

But it was too late. The Great War was upon them all.

The legacy of this Australian administration, before the Japanese invaded, was so much less than it might have been, Waterhouse writes, especially its ilure to educate people.

Until strips began to be cut for the goldfields in the late 1920s, the only aircraft in Papua or New Guinea were seaplanes.

Such lingering nostalgia for the good old German days was inevitable, for under Australian rule a pattern of colonial penury was soon set, with Joseph Cook telling parliament in handing down his 1921 budget as treasurer that, in accepting the mandate, "Australia has entered upon additional responsibility, but no stone will be left unturned to prevent further financial burdens being entailed thereby".

The road was suced by rock and river gravel carried up from the steep creek beds by women, who traditionally did all the carrying and still do. A common sight in Highlands towns such as Mt Hagen is the "big man" strolling ahead while three or four wives follow in single file, each carrying, say, a slab of South Pacific lager on their heads.

The southern part, named Papua, was a more conventional colony, passed over to Australia in 1906 after 18 years of British rule.

In ct, they almost certainly did find gold and successfully concealed it from the authorities and from potential competitors, especially their prospecting mates in Papua.

Nelson writes that daring pilots, flying aircraft ranging from plywood biplanes, to giant Junkers G31s, lifted everything from race horses and lse teeth to massive dredging machinery over towering ranges, often to hair-raising aerodromes.

He said: "You must have natives here to help you, and money to pay them, money to carry you there, and on when you get there. A man cannot carry a swag in this climate over that country."

Nor has Australias role there entirely ended. Unlike those African colonies of European powers, we are neighbours for life. But we remain disappointed, puzzled and, much worse, largely ignorant and uninterested. Its a start to learn how much a part of our own story, our own national adventure, is so intimately linked with that of our former colony and closest neighbour. Q

He saw the resulting film in Sydney in 1957. It was titled Walk into Paradise. The American distributors renamed it Walk into Hell.

SERBIA last night sent Bosnian Serb ex-army chief Ratko Mladic to a court in The Hague where he ces genocide and war crimes charges.

He describes staying at Obihaka with pioneering coffee planter Joe Searson, who following the Japanese invasion had brilliantly led a party of mainly American missionaries from the coast into safety in the Highlands.

In 1921 he became acting district officer for Morobe, the large region spreading beyond the great Markham valley. He soon unearthed the huge potential for goldmining there and was sacked two years later for helping a pair of prospectors buy stores from Burns Philp in Rabaul.

Not a Poor Mans Country, the story of the New Guinea goldfields to 1942, when the Japanese invaded, is written by Michael Waterhouse, a former senior Treasury official whose grandther Les was a director of one of the key companies of those years, Bulolo Gold Dredging, which was for a time one of the most capitalised companies in the Sydney Stock Exchange. Waterhouses early training as an anthropology student has also come in handy.

Unsurprisingly, his warnings didnt stop them. On September 3, 1926, the steamship Montoro arrived at the beautiful archipelago of Saua with 40 miners and 300 to 400 labourers.

The day started with the ceremonial raising of the Australian flag, even in the remote Highlands. If a police bugler were there, he would sound reveille as the other police presented arms. Cleland writes: "I always honoured this little ceremony by standing to solemn attention; it was a moving reminder of my nationality, heritage and responsibility."

In 1914, the acting German governor, who was also, handily, a mining engineer, finally confirmed the discovery of "enormous quantities of precious metal" in the region.

To this day, politicians have thrived in PNG, as elsewhere in the islands, by tricking voters that they can maintain their ancient cultures while also enjoying all the material benefits of modern technologies and of modern life generally. Inevitably, without responsible leadership and decent government services, one of these gives more ground than the other and, often enough, both have struggled.

Among the few pioneers with ambition for this largely unsought and unloved colony was Cecil Levien, born in 1874, who attended Melbourne Grammar School but then, finding it difficult to settle in any work, tried goldmining in Western Australia, rming in NSW and the army after training at Duntroon.

"It is probably mainly due to the ilure of the expedition by these three prospectors that there has been no influx of Australian gold miners: these three men were in contact with almost all the alluvial diggers in Papua and any new rush was dependent on the success of their expedition."

But the administrator, Evan Wisdom, a former Kalgoorlie prospector, warned those rushing north, in the phrase Waterhouse uses for his books title, that New Guinea is "not a poor mans field".

Downs explained his priority immediately: "Roads are prerequisites to all future development", and he was determined to build them down to the port of Lae and west, deeper into the Highlands, first to Mt Hagen.

As the search for gColony was so close and yet so r/eastern healold shifted steadily upstream, tracing the "colours" to the hoped-for mother lodes, areas designated "uncontrolled" were re-badged as "penetrated" (visited but friendly relations not yet established) or "under partial influence".

Cleland writes of the difference the "Pax Australiana" was starting to make to lives in the Highlands. He began to preside over court day in a typical government "raunhaus", or community centre, built as a round house, about 12m in diameter with a conical thatched roof where villagers also learned from extension officers about new crops such as coffee, or about improving their health. They became potent tools for education, in the broadest sense, in these intelligent and energetic rming communities.

Two new books fill in some of the crucial historical setting, underlining the rapidity but also the geographic and sectoral narrowness of development in earlier years in PNG, while highlighting the roles of extraordinary Australians in that process, mostly for the better but inevitably also sometimes for the worse.

This proved a good move. Rabaul, perhaps the worlds most achingly beautiful tropical town, was perched on the edge of a massive volcano that is largely under water and was to suffer a fierce, deadly eruption in 1938 before finally being destroyed in 1994.

His next assignment was to grapple with the telecommunications system, the high-frequency voice radio transmitters-receivers that operated on a set schedule, and was thus known as "the sked". This was used by all the agencies in the country that were engaged in the development task: kiaps, police, churches, businesses, airlines, plantations.

Goldfields humour was edgy. In October 1936, patients at the Wau hospital were gratified by the number of callers about their health. Then they discovered why: a bookie in town was offering bulous odds on the double: the Melbourne Cup winner and the name of someone in Wau who had died by Cup day.

By 1926, though, Australian newss were running headlines such as: "Gold Fever. New Guinea Infected."

Searson married locally, and I know well the Searsons half-Highlander son Bill, who became head of PNGs mining department, where he supervised the opening of the great Porgera goldmine originally discovered by his ther.

THE federal government may be able to provide subsidised services over the NBN without betraying its charter to remain wholesale only.

Both of these books are overdue. Each focuses on a pivotal element of the PNG story: the first days of mining in what is again today a booming resources province, and the building of the Highlands Highway from the port of Lae up into the Highlands, one of the worlds most exciting and romantic roads.

In 1912, gold prospectors Matt Crowe, Jim Preston and Shark-Eye Park gained German administration approval to sail from Papua up to the Markham River, at whose mouth PNGs second city of Lae now stands. They were permitted to return the following year, this time, they claimed, to shoot birds of paradise. They stayed for almost seven months.

He quickly returned as the most visionary entrepreneur for the incipient gold industry, struggling at first to arouse sufficient Australian backing for the infrastructure it needed.

Colony was so close and yet so r/eastern heal,But as the world shrinks and a remote Inca settlement becomes a routine tourism photo opportunity, the neighbourhood all but disappears.

Architect Glenn Murcutt, growing up there, describes the thrill of watching the mail plane dropping bags, including food parcels, over their remote home every three weeks.

Clelands boss was the renowned pioneer kiap and coastwatcher during World War II, Ian Downs. No deference for the administrators son from him. Downs warned that for many, "youll have to work twice as hard to be accepted".

The first patrol went into the territory of the Kukukuku people, who today number about 70,000, in 1930. Waterhouse ably recounts the claims of their ferocity and treachery, which continue to this day. He also reconstructs sympathetically the lives of the labourers indentured from parts of PNG r away, and how in places from which men kept renewing contracts, the division of labour changed, with women undertaking what used to be mens work.

Most Australians know surprisingly little about our nearest neighbour, (or even about New Zealand, but thats a matter for another day). PNG scarcely features in the 12 years of Australian school education and is little studied at universities. Even the eccentric corps of anthropologists, for whom PNG provided glorious field opportunities, has dwindled.

I recall vividly an encounter with the ther of Paias Wingti when he was prime minister of PNG, who was eager to regale me in pidgin with stories of his colourful youth. He especially enjoyed an excursion he took with "Masta Mick" Leahy from his home area near Mt Hagen into the then even more remote Southern Highlands. "Mipela sutim planti man indai pinis," he told me with relish, roaring with laughter. "We shot plenty of men dead."

German hopes lingered for a couple of decades. When the German consul in Sydney visited New Guinea in 1936, he was greeted at Lutheran mission stations by swastika flags and by a band of New Guineans playing The Horst Wessel Song, leading him to report that "all hope naturally for a speedy return of the colony to Germany".

Waterhouse writes that the goldfields that funded the mandated colony were "thus central to Australias most challenging colonial experience as it sought to administer a wild and inhospitable country, the majority of whose people had never previously seen white men and were less than enthusiastic about their presence. Goldmining, with its high demand for labour, had led to the opening of many new areas of the country for recruitment, drawing young men straight from their traditional villages into an economic system that was beyond their comprehension", and that did much to challenge those traditions.

THE national economy ces its biggest contraction since the 1990s recession after delivering the worst trading performance on record.

Australia has five immediate neighbours: New Zealand, New Caledonia, East Timor, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Endless print features and television documentaries continue to this day to labour the "paradise lost" theme, just as almost every business conference on China seems to celebrate tediously the rising dragon. PNG is widely viewed as the epitome of that Pacific dystopia.

His first priority was to learn pidgin, or Tok Pisin, the lingua franca that is lsely assumed to be a primitive form of English. The grammar of Tok Pisin is unique and the language has sucked in vocabulary from German, Malay, Chinese and some of PNGs 812 tribal languages as well as from English. But 20 years after first contact few villagers spoke Tok Pisin, which the kiaps tended to speak to the police or "luluais" or other Papua New Guineans given official status, for translation into those local languages.

It is only from PNG, though, that Australia can be reached in a tinny. And frequently is, chiefly by Papua New Guineans seeking succour from Australias superior health system. Thats understandable since, 35 years after independence from Australia, the country is wallowing at 137th of 169 countries on the UNs latest Human Development Index, below every other country in the Asia-Pacific region except for Nepal at 138.

Goroka was an exciting place to live, Cleland says, with about 200 expatriates, mostly young: "Everyone lived there because they wanted to."

After the turn of the 20th century, Australians with some post-gold rush experience in mining "down south" began to kick the tyres in PNG, as reports spread of "colours" observed in rivers and creeks flowing to the coast in northern Papua and the New Guinea mainland.

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