Local authored books will embrace Papua New Guinea

SHEENA PUAYIL | Tingting BIlong Mi Essay 2020 entry

Winners of the inaugural Crocodile Prize 2011

In the libraries of many higher institutions, as well as on the shelves and tables of numerous elementary, primary and secondary schools around the country, there is countless number of foreign books. This may mean that our government has overlooked the books which are being written in PNG’s own culture and context by PNG’s authors. Likely consequences of this are: our country might lose its cultural identity; the poor educational standard of the country might still persist; and lots of government’s money might be spent on foreign books. For these reasons, this particular paper will argue on the note that PNG government should buy PNG authored books. The argument will be presented with the points: firstly, PNG authored books preserve our culture and tradition; secondly, PNG authored books can improve our educational standards to a higher level; and finally, buying PNG authored books costs less than purchasing of foreign authored books. However, the main issue in this argument will be presented before the points of argument in this paper.

When we compare the number of books which are written by PNG authors with foreign authors, we would end up with the conclusion that PNG authored books are very limited than foreign authored books. Our government has been spending a lot on foreign books despite the fact that the people are born with a very extraordinary story-telling tradition. Based on the estimated data of the Michael Somare Library (MSL) in University of PNG (UPNG), there are 37,920 resources which include books, pamphlets, thesis, journals and others. However, from that 37,920, it was estimated that only around 100 are PNG authored books. This implies that we do not have a lot of books that are written by our own local authors. As a result, we might not be able to keep the stories and cultures of our nation alive through literature, and the country’s illiteracy rate and expenditure will still increase.

In many PNG authored books, the context that most stories are written in are derived from the livelihood of various societies in PNG. They express PNG’s cultures and traditions in the form of literature in which when readers read, they can tell the stories to others in their society. Through this way, many unique cultures and traditions that are slowly dying out can be able to be preserved and be sustained. For example, found in the book titled Man of Calibre, written by a PNG’s own author named Baka Barakove Bina, was the story written in the context of the Highlands region on what highlanders do when they try to identify innocent person in conflicts. When readers read the book, it will teach them the practices of the past which would give them the opportunity to evaluate their living. ‘‘Children need stories that they can understand in the context of their own lives as well as literature that expands their imagination, and also by reading local books readers develop a better appreciation of their people and their country (www.change.org)’’. Stories from the past could be told through the literature of PNG authors and when readers read and tell the stories to others, it can possibly save the country’s prehistory. This way of cultural preservation is essential than us reading about a foreign culture and letting it influence our way of living because, it is uglier when we try to become somebody else when we originally are not.

Moreover, PNG authored books are very easy to comprehend and understand than foreign authored books. Most PNG authored books are written in simple English form which they enable children, teenagers, adults and people from all walks of life to understand and interprets the messages in the stories easily without having many complications. This can improve people’s learning and literacy abilities and put people in a better position to be able to read and understand things that are far beyond their understanding. For example, elementary schools in the country are the foundation to children’s education level where simple English is appropriate at that level in order for children to grasp the ideas and knowledge of a complex English as they move from level to level.

However, there are no enough PNG authored books being available which is why when children read complex English books which are written by foreign authors, they find it hard to understand what they are reading. According to a comment raised by Philip Fitzpatrick in 2019 on why there is still a high level of illiteracy rate, he proposed the idea that many people are reading books but the reason why they do not comprehend well is because ‘‘they are not reading books by PNG writers’’ (PNG Attitude, 2019). Most books written by PNG authors are in simple English and this can possibly improve the level of people’s understanding. Recurring issues such as: many school drop-outs after grade 8, 10 and 12; children having no interest in education; and students having complications in understanding and interpreting English could only be reduced if PNG authored books are available to all readers across the country.

Finally, books which are being purchased from overseas’ are quite expensive than books which are bought locally. For instance, a book written by Ben Carson was being sold at forty-five Kina (K45) in UPNG’s book shop while a book titled Melanesian Philosophy, written by UPNG lecturers was being sold at ten Kina (K10). This shows that local books are cheaper than books which have been bought from overseas. As seen on a Facebook page Koroba Hela Province PNG (2019), Daniel Kumbon, a person who belong to a group of developing PNG writers that published their books as a result of the Crocodile Prize annual literary competition, has been selling his book titled ‘Survivor’ through Amazon for US$6.45 which is K21.50t. This is less than the Teacher’s resource books which are sold by foreign publishers at the cost of around K180. Our government might spend a lot on books which are written by foreign authors while our own local authors are struggling to get their books being published and being sold out.

In conclusion, PNG’s government has been spending and getting in a lot of foreign authored books without appreciating the country’s own literature by local writers. As the consequences of this, many people in today’s generation do not know their prehistory and the cultures and traditions from where they belong to. While people are trying their best to adhere to the complex nature of the English language that are being written in foreign authored books, literacy rate of the country remains very poor. Without careful assessment, our government continues to spend more on foreign authored books instead of supporting our local writers and the writing industry in PNG. For the sake of our culture, the development of our people’s knowledge and the budget of our government, there should be a reduction in our government’s spending on foreign authored books. The government should invest more on our own local writing and books industry. They should create publishing industries in various institutions like UPNG and University of Goroka to help local writers and students get their books out to the people. Additionally, the existing publishers like the Crocodile Publisher have to be fully funded by the government to help them reach out to PNG authors who can produce a literature that can improve the learning abilities of the people while saving the cultures and the budget of the beautiful island nation of PNG.


KorobaHela Province PNG.(2019).InFacebook. RetrievedJan 22, 2021, fromhttp:www.facebook.com

PNG Attitude.(2019, November 7). Let’s give PNG a reading culture. Retrieved from http://www.pngattitude.com


A time for advancement in PNG’s literary community

GENESIS NAKE | Tingting Bilong Mi Essay 2020 entry

The first Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011 was brought in to the country with the help of donations from PNG and Australian contributors through Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude blog.

I am sometimes, too much of a bookworm. I prefer time alone, with a good book over any day out with friends. Experiencing new feelings, exploring new places, becoming a different person is something I crave. And I know I am not the only one who craves this. I read a lot of Mystery, Romance, Young Adult and Crime novels and like everyone who wants to check out a new book, I spend a day at a second-hand store reading through blurbs of multiple books, searching for the right one, excited asking myself, ‘what adventures will these books take me on this this week, or this month?’

Knowing these books were written by authors all around the world is gratifying. It diversifies what I read as environments and situations are different for every author. What is obvious, pretty much to every book or novel enthusiasts in PNG is that, we find it difficult to locate PNG authored books on the shelves on most book shops. Which is rather unfortunate because we have a lot of great authors in PNG.

But PNG authors are not given a proper platform to get their books exposed. And I do not mean a small gathering promoting a book, I mean making sure the books get directly on to every bookshelf. If they were, bookshelves in schools, shops and homes would be littered with PNG authored books.

I believe this can change with the help of the government. The government can purchase books from our talented local authors and distribute in bulk around the country.

But how do we convince the government to step in and help?

Here are my main reasons as to why, I think the PNG Government should buy PNG authored books and ways it can improve the literature industry in PNG.

First of all, it would surely boost our local economy. Back in 2010, the media had published an article about a shipment of 20 containers containing books shipped from Australia to Port Moresby (The National 2010, accessed 19th February 2010 www.thenational.com.pg/book-flood-without-png-authors/). These books were going to be distributed to primary schools and teachers’ colleges around PNG which is good. From newspaper reports, around 539,000 books were shipped over at a cost of around K20 million, which is massive, inclusive of shipping and distribution costs.

The book purcahse was funded by Australia through its AusAID program in consultation with the Division of Education and distributed using respective agencies.

This all sounds good and beneficial for our education institutions, here, right?

However, would it not have been fair if some of that money was put aside to purchase books here in the country also? And purchase from local writers who have definitely published resource materials ready for use in schools?

PNG’s economy is mainly dependent on mineral resources, agriculture and farming, and small businesses. Supporting local authors puts money back into our community especially bookshops and this money will circulate. And even better, books purchased by the government can be sold online and shipped internationally too to be sold overseas thus bringing money into the country. These days, books in the form of e-books are sold online. What better way to take advantage of the online market and help our local authors get their work out there? The government should have an open mind when it comes to the economy.

Secondly, support should be shown to our local authors for it not only benefits country, but our English handicapped Nation. In the same article (The National 2010, accessed 19th February 2010 www.thenational.com.pg/book-flood-without-png-authors/), several local authors had expressed their disappointment over the government purchasing story and resource books, overseas, that have little relevance to the local culture and society.

These days PNG writers are writing books and having them published with no support. And the ones that do are the ones that manage to come across kind charities, or have pulled out bucks from their own pocket to get their books out there. These writers are not searching for free hand outs. They are not on the streets, begging, submitting to petty or major crimes for money. They are trying their best, utilizing a skill, at the same time giving service to many by improving people’s illiteracy and widening their knowledge.

Not only that, PNG authored books, both resourceful and just for literacy skill building, can help us relate. As the local author that penned the book may have included his former experiences. Experiences that the reader can understand and relate to much more easily.

Authors love what they do. If they did not, the would not be as patient when drafting up something new. The more support local our local authors get, the more likely, they are to stay and build a literary community that inspires interesting, imaginative, and thoughtful stories.

So, how is this beneficial to readers?

We are also inspired. The better, more varied, and more personal stories we read, the more things we have to think about with each other. But in the case that some, start to see no support, no income, no change, we slowly start to bury their gift. A priceless gift.

Lastly, we can share our neighbourhood culture with the world. According to a guest column (Writer’s Digest 2015, accessed 16th March 2015 www.writersdigest.com/.amp/write-better-fiction/the-top-10-elements-of-a-book-people-want-to-read), readable books are crafted on three distinct but intricately connected levels. The surface of structure, the level of style and voice and importantly the content level where the fictional world comes to life. This applies to books, as well as resource books.

The kind of content we have in our local authored books is unique and unheard of. People around the world read about the same things, just different situations, which at times is unamusing.

Books like Sibona, authored by ‘Emmanuel Peni’, or The Floating Island and The Case of the Missing Professor, both authored by ‘Philip Fitzpatrick’ are amazing books and I come directly from PNG.

Imagine the recognition our authors would get for their talent and creativity. We mentioned if the government assists local authors, they can have their books marketed overseas, through respective agencies. These books can range anywhere from story to resource books. Our community has some jaw-dropping stories to tell. But would it not be amazing if everyone else know that too?

The world needs stories about different people, living in different places, it is what allows them to make best use of their imagination. This can only happen if our books can make it to a proper platform. Books can transport us, without us having to leave home.

This argument, I am sure will not stop here. And I do think this is a problem. We all know how reluctant the government is with investing into anything. It is really difficult. It takes a long time. But I know we with the government, will be able strike up a solution, in the near future, if we keep on carrying out programs like this.

We have a code to support local business men and women, local sports, local infrastructure what about our local authors?

Investing in local bookshops is one possible SME idea. There is a lot more reasons why the government should buy PNG books. Maybe some I did not mention here, will be mentioned somewhere else, but we are all in the same battle, fighting for the same thing. For a more beneficial literacy community here in the country.




Only the government can ensure that PNG authored books are placed on our library shelves nationwide

DUNCAN GABI | Tingting Bilong Mi Essay entry 2020

According to the “A Manifesto for Literature in Papua New Guinea”, a petition drawn up by the PNG writers to present to Prime Minister Hon. James Marape, the manifesto states that “There are no major publishers in Papua New Guinea interested in publishing our work. If we want to publish our books, we have to pay for it ourselves. Our books are not available in schools. The students of Papua New Guinea cannot read books written by their own countrymen and women”.

A few books I read in the past were published by the Institute of PNG Studies, books like “My Mother Calls me Yaltep” by Sir Ignatius Kilage was first published by Institute of PNG Studies and later by Oxford University Press. Other books by PNG Authors like “Sana” by Sir Michael Somare and “My childhood in New Guinea” by Sir Paulius Matane were published outside of PNG.

It is true indeed that PNG has no major publishers; Institute of PNG Studies no longer publishes books by PNG authors. Modern PNG authors as stated in the manifesto have to pay for their books to be published. Local authors like Late Francis Nii, Jordan Dean and Rashmii Bell set up their own publications to help support local authors get their books published and put it out on the market to earn a little income.

The earliest PNG authored books I found in libraries when I was growing up was books by Kilage, Somare, Matane, Nora Vagi-Brash, and Josephine Abaijah. These books were bought by the Government through the department of education and distributed to schools around the country, and thus the young Papua New Guineans growing up had a chance to read books written by their fellow country men and women. That was decades ago.

Additionally, the Manifesto also stated that “Our books are not available in schools. The students of Papua New Guinea cannot read books written by their own countrymen and women”.

This is such a shame because there are no current books by current PNG authors on shelves in school or public libraries.

Many great Papua New Guinean authors in this age barely have a copy of their books in a library shelf in schools around the country. You will not find a copy of a book written by Daniel Kumbon, Francis Nii, Michael Dom, Emmanuel Peni, Caroline Evari, Rashmii Bell, etc in a school library in PNG.

Late Francis Nii talked about how he and others established the Simbu Writers Association in 2014 to encourage the present generation to write and be published. He said “schools don’t have the money to bulk buy books so I handed out copies of my novel”.

Publication and distribution are very expensive but for authors like Nii, it was not about making money but promoting and encouraging literature in PNG. Francis Nii wanted PNG authored book on shelves in libraries that is why he donated his books to schools.

Francis had a dream, to see PNG students and citizens enjoying PNG authored books, he was willing to make it happen, he was willing to donated as many books as he could. He wanted to ignite and sparks a child’s desire to read, to be able to relate to stories written by their own country men and women. He was willing to make that dream a reality. Francis, like many other self-made PNG authors, had not received the much-needed support to boost literacy but each in their own small way continues to support and fight for that dream, that one day shelves of homes, school and public libraries will be littered with PNG authored books.

Francis Nii in another article said “Recognize local authors. Make available their books. Stimulate opportunities for tangible benefits everyone – authors and readers alike. The PNG government and the National Library and Archives need to make a drastic policy shift”.

While many people would think PNG-authors are looking to make money by having the government purchase their books, that is not the primary motivation. From years of following PNG writers’ commentaries on literature published on PNG Attitude blog, I have come to see that making money is secondary motivation for their writing, the primary motivation for their writing is to build literature in PNG. They are happy just getting their work out there and whatever little they earn; they are satisfied with it. Selling books is not the only stream of income for these authors. They have a professional work life and paid jobs but in their spare time, they write and publish their books with aims of advancing literature. But Francis Nii also raises the point that the government must recognize local authors. They put in all their efforts to create masterpieces that need to be recognized, as well being recognized, they need to be rewarded with benefits.

Francis talked about tangible benefits for everyone, both authors and readers. He did not call for benefits for the authors alone, he called for the benefit of the readers well.

Francis made this call in 2019 and in 2021 we have an essay competition that got me saying PNG government should buy PNG authored books.

The government buying PNG authored books will not only be helping the authors but the readers as well. Francis Nii wanted PNG authored books in schools and public libraries. And only the government could do that, they have the power to fill up libraries with PNG books.

Daniel Kumbon while waiting for PM James Marape to receive their petition said “We are seeking recognition and support from the government to sustain home-grown literature and to get it into schools, universities and libraries”.

For literature to grow in PNG and for the literacy rates to skyrocket, the government should buy PNG authored books. The government through the Department of Education should buy books authored by Papua New Guineans and have them distributed in schools around the country. This would benefit both the authors and the citizens of this country. The authors can make money off their craft and Papua New Guineans can develop a reading culture by enjoying books written by Papua New Guineans.

The grim reality for our authors is that PNG has no market for writers, not many people are willing to buy locally authored books and support literature in PNG. There are only few in paperback that are circulation, most authors choose to sell their books online on sites like on Amazon.

I once shared on Facebook the Amazon link to Dominica Are’s book “Prized Possessions” published by Francis Nii Publications.  Someone commented asking about it, when I told her it is a book by a PNG author, she said she had never heard of the book or the author. She said to buy it on Amazon (I do not know if she did).

Local authors in this age are obscure, ask university students in PNG if they know any PNG authors in this age and 99 percent of them will say ‘no’.  And if no one knows you, they will not make an attempt to find your work and buy it. And even if they knew, they will not make an attempt to buy it, unless they get a good review from a friend or another known author.

That is why author and publisher Jordan Dean in an article said “Truth is you can’t earn a living through writing in PNG”.

Nii also expressing his frustration in an article by Ben Jackson said “The sad thing I found out later was that, while I struggled to write and get my story published, 30 copies of ‘Paradise in Peril’ were in the possession of the humanities department of Divine Word University in Madang. And the Theodist Stationery store in Port Moresby was selling copies”. He never received a dime from his hard work and sweat. Other people were printing and making money off his work.

For now, writing will just be a hobby or a part time job as no author in PNG can make serious money from writing and publishing books. Francis Nii said “Writing and publishing our own Papua New Guinean stories in the absence of government or donor agency support is a daunting and painful experience”. “We struggle to produce our own literature hoping that one day a good leader will rise up and see its importance” he continued.

Late Francis Nii held PNG literature close to his heart, though he was wheelchair ridden for the remaining years of his life, his hands were sturdy and he wrote. In times of despair and looking for a savior to bring PNG literature to maturity as it was still a child who never learned to walk according to Phil Fitzpatrick,

Francis Nii saw hope for PNG literature to grow through the then newly appointed Prime Minister of PNG Hon. James Marape. He said “We believe that day is now here. We believe the leader we have been hoping, praying and waiting for all these years is here today and he is James Marape”.

When I first read these words after signing the petition to PM James Marape by PNG writers, I thought I was reading Martin Luther King Jnr’s speech “I have a Dream”. Indeed, Francis Nii had a dream, to bring PNG literature to PNG as a whole and to the world, he did not just pray and dreamed, he worked towards achieving that dream.

He saw in James Marape the leader who would help him achieve that dream. He held onto that dream and that hope that James Marape would be the one to bring PNG literature up there until his last breath.

How can we make late Francis Nii and other PNG authors dream a reality?

We can start by having the government buy PNG authored books and distributing to schools across the country.

All quotations taken from Articles PNG Attitude Blog


By Lorna Saguba

Hey! Style mangi,
You come in your flashy car,
On my dusty, bumpy road,
You tok VOTE ME!
I build seal roads,
But all I see after election,
You drive the Japanese 5 door,
While I lek faia the red karanas.

Hey! Style mangi,
You fly come in style,
Landing on my Kunai airstrip,
You tok VOTE ME!
I build international airport,
But all I read after election,
You Virgin Blue go na Quantas kam,
While mosquitoes patrol the Kunai field.

Hey! Style mangi,
You 75 horse powering kam,
Steering into my peaceful bay,
You tok VOTE ME!
I build modern hospital,
But all I hear after election,
You go Singapore for malaria,
While mi drinkim lemon grass for cancer.

Hey! Style mangi,
You come in your fancy language,
Flashing me your bikmahn status
You tok VOTE ME!
I bring Wireless to haus lain,
But all I hear after election,
Your selfie postings on facebook,
While mi wire lus na tingting story.

Hey! Style mangi,
You act uncivilised so the world thinks I am unmodernised,
Singing your way through with mauswara promises
You stole my privileges,
Sell my inheritances,
Your greed fuelling the corrupt dealings,
While mi sweat under the moonlight spell.

PNG authors return to us our own cultural expressions with authenticity

Andy Ray | Tingting Bilong Mi 2020 Essay

Andy is a student in Mechanical Engineering at PNG University of Technology in Lae.

Books are written based upon the imagination, experience and observation of the author. There are different types of books written by people of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds, with a broad variety of reasons and intent.

Writing a book is one thing but getting the book to a shelf is another thing. There are some good Papua New Guinean writers with their magnificent writings swept under the rug getting not much recognition as they deserve. Why?

Those noble writers were writing about our rich culture and unique history for the world to know and admire but they are not getting as much attention and support as they should be getting. The PNG Government is been turning a blind eye on them. Therefore, in this piece of writing, the reason as to why the PNG Government should buy PNG authored books will be discussed.

First and foremost, the rich cultural heritage of Papua New Guinea needs to be cherished and amplified through Papua New Guinean literature. Bolkin (2015) stated that Papua New Guinea has a vault of knowledge and information that can be recorded for the world to know and admire. When people around the world read about our country and its rich cultural heritage, they will fall in love with our rich diverse cultures and unique way of life.

But our culture is being silenced and is dying slowly and soon we shall lose our identity. Bolkin (2015) added that the PNG Government has forgotten that people lived on the island of New Guinea for 50,000 years and the heritage should be cherished. The enormous creativity in the minds of Papua New Guinean writers telling of the rich originality of the PNG experience can be read around the world creating a platform for PNG authored books to make their way to book shelves in other countries bringing in revenue for the country (Kumbon,2019). Therefore, PNG government should buy PNG authored books.

Secondly, billions of kina has been spent on education over the years but there’s not much to show for it. Most students still speak poor English and our illiteracy rate remains one of the highest in the world. Educational standards can be positively impacted by promoting and supporting a home-grown literature, which in turn can preserve our traditions and cultures giving a sense of belonging and pride to our people, and also the story of our great nation can be told to the world (Kumbon,2019).

What’s the use of spending money on building schools if a majority of the population remains illiterate?

Our book shelves are filled with books written by western authors instead of PNG authored books. Those books written by Westerners were written to suit their lifestyle, culture and the way of life and so may not be applicable to our context. Therefore, most students find it difficult to understand simple concepts written in the context of students from other countries.

When more books are written by Papua New Guineans then students may understand and do better at learning. Therefore, the government should buy more PNG authored books and give them to elementary, primary and secondary schools so that they help the educated population of the country and at the same time help create market for PNG authored books on the other hand.

Thirdly, the books exist but the means of getting them to the shelves do not. Kumbon (2019), a local writer states that PNG’s writers are struggling to tell our nations story. He continued by saying that there are no major publishers in the country interested in publishing their work. If they want to publish a book, they have to pay for it and as a result most PNG-authored books would reach fewer than 100 people because they couldn’t supply more due to lack of funds and support.

In most cases, Papua New Guinean authors pay to have their books printed and then they ‘donate’ them so people can read them. They spend their own money to publish and print their books and instead of selling they donate the books. They are sacrificing their time, money and resources to amplify the unique and beautiful cultural heritage of PNG and yet they are not getting as much recognition as they deserve from the government. The key government agencies like the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and the Department of Education as well as the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture, the National Library and the National Cultural Commission are the ones to assist develop operational libraries and to purchase and distribute those PNG-authored books.

Right now, Papua New Guineans – when they do read – are mainly reading books written by outsiders. Kumbon (2019) says when Papua New Guineans read about their own country, their own people, their own stories and issues there will be a huge incentive and a massive source of national pride. However, most Papua New Guineans today read books written by outsiders because those books were made readily available and are cheap.

Sadly, books written by our fellow countrymen and countrywomen are not much read because of their scarcity or unavailability due to certain circumstances. Kanamon (2015) asks why, after all these years, would we bow down to western paradigm instilled in the books of foreign authors that lacks a reflection of PNG’s heritage. The PNG government should buy the PNG-authored books and distribute them around the schools in the country so the students will gain an insight of their cultural heritage.

All in all, the PNG government should invest more on buying PNG-authored books to promote our culture through literature so the future generations will know their history. Most of the kids and even young adults today don’t know their history and culture therefore the society today is facing a moral decay and soon PNG’s unique, vibrant culture will lose its essence. Therefore, the government must buy PNG-authored books to encourage more publications and to keep the story of PNG going, because a nation without a story is like a body without a soul.


Bolkin, S., Kanamon, R. (2015) This is ours: PNG literature re-emerges in the 21st century. Retrieved from www.pngattitude.com/2015/06/this-is-ours-png-literature-re-emerges-in-21st-century.html

Kumbon, D. (2019). How literature can deliver for the country. The National. Retrieved from www.thenational.com.pg/how-literature-can-deliver-for-the-country/

PNG’s birthers: unrecognised & unresourced

Village Birth Attendants Ruth Natia and Mandy Namis – “If they say it’s budgeted for women, it doesn’t reach us. It gets lost somewhere in transition”

My Land, My Country

LAE – I was working at Ngasuapum village along the Lae Nadzab highway in the Huon Gulf electorate that I came across the two hardworking women.

An old woman with grey hair was talking with another woman in her late fifties. Both caught my attention so, after my interviews were done, I called them and asked if I could ask them their stories.

The older lady was dressed in a green blouse and had a smiling face and soft voice. She told me her name was Mandy Namis. She was born in Ngasuapum on 24 October 1947 and has four children, 14 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Sister Mandy Namis told me her story:

As a small girl, I attended Dregerhafen Primary School and later went on to do nursing training at Port Moresby General Hospital.

After my training, I returned and worked at Angau Hospital for some years and later went back to Port Moresby General Hospital to do a one-year midwifery course. When I returned I worked at Angau Hospital from 1975-90 and later resigned.

After I resigned, I joined a Canadian NGO called PCI from 1990-96 and moved to Mutzing Station in the Markham Valley.

There I became a trainer of trainers for Village Birth Attendants (VBAs) and also supervised the VBAs when they delivered babies.

I was with PCI as a trainer. I trained women who were interested to become VBAs from the Markham District, Huon Gulf, Morobe, Salamaua and Wantoat.

The women were trained to help other women deliver babies safely by identifying high risks early.

High risk mothers are the ones who experience labour pains for more than eight hours, are anaemic, bleeding, sick, have delivered more than four children previously and have swollen feet.

If VBAs come across such mothers, they must refer them direct to ANGAU Hospital or to the health centre nearest to them.

I asked Sister Mandy if there were any challenges during her term as a trainer and  VBA:

There are many challenges. Women face difficulties with transportation to hospitals. The VBAs don’t get support from their community or the government. Nor do our local level governments assist.

The VBAs are not paid. They do their jobs voluntarily. I went to Soroptomist International and asked them to donate some supplies, and they assisted twice.

I once worked with the Provincial Council of Women in Lae, and liaised with the Department of Agriculture to conduct training for our women.

We conducted cooking, sewing, adult literacy and also cocoa, vanilla and floriculture training.

I am a Lutheran and one time went to our headquarters at Ampo and saw the Geamsao Guest House which at that time was open – only the roof and the walls.

So I told them: “Why don’t you make rooms and have some furniture inside to make this place comfortable?”

I really want to see the Home Affairs Department resurrected. At that time the Council of Women was coordinating programs for women and we worked well.

These days I see nothing for women. If they say it’s budgeted for women, it doesn’t reach us. It gets lost somewhere in transition. I sympathise for our women.

The other woman was Ruth Natia, also a village birth attendant at Ngasuapum. She is 58 and lives with her husband, who she said supports her role as a VBA.

Ruth completed Grade 6 in 1975 and stayed at home with her parents as a volunteer for her church group. She got married in 1982 and has one child.

She was one of the first VBAs trained by Sister Mandy at Mutzing, attending a two week training program in November 1994.

Ruth has delivered about 400 babies in the village already and still volunteers.

She emphasised the need for VBA supplies and to get a labour ward (haus karim):

Women come to us to give birth, but we don’t have supplies such as gloves, blades, plastics, buckets, dishes and cord clamps.

Most times we pay for these supplies with our own money.

We don’t get paid, but who else will help our women deliver babies.

I want our mandated leaders to look into our plight.

Can they at least allocate funding to build our haus karim.

Just a small building with two beds for women to deliver, a toilet and a shower room, a waiting room and a tank for water. That’s what we need.

Ruth has also assisted women from nearby communities of Wansa, Saksak, Tapuran, Munum and Watut. Many women come with complications such as twins, breach and high blood pressure.

Ruth is one of the many unsung heroines of modern Papua New Guinea.

She is a courageous woman and wants to train other young women in her village to become VBAs.

Every month she attends Wampar Health Centre reporting the birth date, village, parents name and delivery details of every child for the government’s population data.

My heart goes out to all our village birth attendants and the marasin meris(volunteer health workers) in our nation.

They deserve to be recognised for their part in the development of our country.


Cleaning up school funding could boost literature

10 February 2021


Teachers and pupils at a PNG rural school (globalgiving.org)

PORT MORESBY – I’ve been investigating the operation of the Tuition Fee Free (TFF) process in Papua New Guinea and whether it is doing the best it can for schools.

And also whether it might be better structured to do more to support education and, in doing that, to support the development of literature and literacy in PNG.

We should bear in mind that, despite TFF, schooling is not ‘free’ in PNG. School fees always apply, and often they are substantial.

At present the national TFF subsidy from the PNG government is divided in three ways:

40% is distributed to individual schools.

30% is handed over to each of the 79 or so PNG districts for school infrastructure development. (The district infrastructure fund is meant to augment this where there are major projects.)

30% is the school supplies and stationery component. It is given to a central company, understood to be Port Moresby-based Treid Pacific (PNG) Ltd to supply and distribute a standard set of stationery to nationwide.

There is at least one significant problem in all this. It is that school budgets are prepared based on the full stated amount of funding – the total 100% allocated.

But schools are not given the two 30% components, and many have developed a bad habit of preparing their budgets based on the full 100% when in fact they’re receiving only 40%.

So every year many schools budget to operate on much less funding than they are going to get. It is no surprise they run into money problems.

That said, trying to get confirmation and more detail of the way this system work is problematic.

The education office seems to think this information is a state secret, and minions down the line feel they too cannot divulge that the TFF is not payed outright at 100% to individual schools.

There is a small unit of the education department housed at the PNG Education Institute that manages the 30% percent stationery and school supplies fund but is of no help because it says it knows nothing about how the funds are spent.

Neither is it possible to confirm whether District Development Authorities are receiving the 30% they are supposed to receive for infrastructure.

I tried searching online for a report on this funding but there was nothing except for a small article in a 2014 PNG Education News.

This alluded to a saga in Morobe Province where Treid Pacific had been late in supplying stationery to schools.

This seems to be a common problem even in 2021 as schools have got used to buying their supplies when the ones from the central supplier either do not come or come very late.

This problem gets repeated year in and year out.

The type of stationery bought was listed in this PNG Education News, and includes a bible, or portions of it.

It is not clear whether the supplies/stationery and infrastructure practices are still in operation and whether they work more effectively.

There is a possibility (perhaps I can call it a presumption) that these two 30% components are going into sinkholes somewhere and that schools have to look after themselves.

I have read in PNG Attitude that it would be helpful for both schools and PNG authors if the government decided that some part of the 30% component for stationery was used to purchase PNG-authored books which could be distributed to schools.

This seems like a good idea to me and I would urge prime minister James Marape to review the stationery arrangement to determine if it is working effectively and to see if there is some scope to include appropriate PNG-authored books

In this way Mr Marape would not need to look for new funding to buy PNG-authored books.

And, if this could be achieved, the prime minister would be able to lay another important tile in the mosaic of ‘Take Back PNG’.

FootnoteLogo of Treid Pacific (PNG) Ltd

According to its website, Treid Pacific is a 100% PNG-owned company with about 80 staff and has been in operation for over 30 years. Based in Port Moresby, “the philosophy of the company is to partner the Department of Education in all areas contributing to quality education for all in PNG”.

Treid also operates a commercial printing division which has offset printing presses and related machinery and equipment. With these, Treid develops and prints PNG curricula, text books and other education resource materials.

Seems like a good opportunity exists there for collaboration with PNG authors – KJ

PM offers wise words. What’s next?

09 February 2021
The writers of PNG don’t know the word ‘quit’. Operating with little money they’re now running a youth writing contest, Tingting Bilong Mi


PORT MORESBY – The other day Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape offered the children – and adults – of our country some true words of wisdom.

What the prime minister extolled in his message, however, is followed today by very few parents and their children.

In the image accompanying the article, a kid is shown dragging some bags behind him as he looks for empty bottles and discarded cans.

Today, this boy is not there to look for his school fees but is part of a hand to mouth economy where, if he brings nothing home, a couple of mouths are not going to have anything to eat.

So for today’s PNG, the photo is misleading.

You only have to try to park or reverse a car in downtown Port Moreby to see the number of children who have never gone to school but are busy keeping traffic lookout for a few meagre toea.

Toea that may pay for an evening flour ball to eat.

We need better intervention in the way our people live – and hope that the Marape government can achieve this.

In rural areas, where books are non-existent inside or outside school, life is no better.

When a former Grade 12 graduate student says he is ‘wenting to the stua’, you know straight off he never read a book in all his school life.

Our people need to read books, and books about their own country and its history and prospects – not one-sided literature brought from overseas because it’s expendable.

Some time ago the eminent Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote that we too in Papua New Guinea have a story, a literature.

We certainly do. More than 800 languages, an impressive oral tradition mow slowly, agonisingly transitioning into what we hope will be a rich literature.

I hope James Marape can reflect on the value of his own education and the value of the books he was exposed to then to ensure that he leaves behind him the same legacy for our school children – and adult readers – today.

Our own stories by our own people in our own words.

Don’t privatise our customary land

Menya River (Brian Chapaitis)


PORT MORESBY – This article breaks down some of the myths used to justify the privatisation of customary land.

It makes clear that efforts to privatise land are not about development but about profits for corporations, financial institutions and already wealthy people.

Most of the world’s land is still overseen by communities under customary systems.

Billions of people rely on communally managed farmland, pasture, forests and savannahs for their livelihoods.

This collective management of resources is viewed in the colonial or capitalist economic model as an obstacle to individual wealth creation and private profit.

Countries like Papua New Guinea are encouraged by outsiders to convert customary land into private property, often with the promise of attracting investment and development.

The threats to customary land tenure come in various disguises.

Among the schemes and language are land mobilisation, land registration, Incorporated Land Groups (ILGs), unlocked customary land and land banks, agricultural leases, special economic zones and economic corridors – all  used to try to dismantle customary land tenure in PNG.

These schemes pose a threat to people and the environment.

Customary land provides a home for the majority of our population and is the basis for rural livelihoods and local economies.

Customary land also provides an essential social system and supports our customs and PNG ways.

Myth 1 – Privatising customary land is necessary to attract private investment

Investment in production, processing, and marketing can all improve the livelihoods of rural people without alienating their land

It is falsely argued that land must be made available to attract private investment to drive local development.

Yet, as we have seen in PNG, attracting private investment for the extraction of natural resources or expansion of industrial agriculture is not an effective development strategy and indeed can have devastating human and environmental consequences.

There are many better paths for the government to follow to support development that don’t require privatizing the land.

The government should encourage and support private investment that can improve the production, processing, and marketing of goods produced by local people without alienating their land.

There are many activities that require no change to customary land tenure systems that can be the focus of investment promotion by government.

These include investing in domestic trade, storage and processing of agricultural and forest products; promoting high value export commodities such as chocolate, processed coconut oils and vanilla; and establishing in-country processing of wood rather than exporting round timber.

Myth 2 – Private land titles are necessary to access bank loans

Rural people do not need to risk their customary land as collateral to borrow money. If they do, they risk losing their land to the banks

Some officials claim customary land is ‘dead capital’ and that creating private titles will reduce poverty by allowing landowners to use their land as collateral to borrow money they can invest to increase their incomes.

Yet research shows that when farmers with limited resources received private title, banks remained largely unwilling to offer them credit or loans.

Furthermore, using titled land as collateral makes it possible for banks to legally take over the land if farmers experience a difficult harvest and are unable to pay back their loan or mortgage.

In PNG we already have several micro-banks serving the rural sector with loans, access to bank accounts and financial literacy training.

Government support should be directed towards the expansion of the micro-banking sector and more financial literacy and small-business training to help rural people build their own local and sustainable businesses.

Myth 3 – Privatising customary land brings development

Customary land alienation in PNG has not generally delivered positive development outcomes and has caused social and economic displacement and environmental destruction

There is little evidence, either internationally or in PNG, that replacing customary land tenure with private titles leads to development.

The report ‘From Extraction to Inclusionshows how PNG’s development outcomes have either declined or stagnated over the last 40 years despite the major foreign investment in large-scale mining, logging, oil and gas projects and oil palm plantations that have all been established on what was previously customary land.

The report explains the reasons why the large-scale extraction of natural resources has failed to deliver promised development outcomes and how the government should instead focus on protecting and supporting customary land tenure and invest in local farmers and rural production.

Putting people back at the centre of development is the best way to improve their lives and livelihoods.

Myth 4 – Privatising customary land makes access to land more equitable

Creating private land titles allows a few people to increase their wealth at the expense of the majority

Another commonly advanced myth is that privatising land will create land markets that will help overcome inequalities in access to land.

This is untrue; around the world the ‘creation’ of land markets has been repeatedly found to solidify existing inequalities in access to land.

Creating private titles also allows large corporations and wealthy private individuals to acquire large areas of land at the expense of ordinary people.

Land markets are in fact purposefully designed to restrict poor and rural people from access to land.

Within a market system where land is just another commodity, corporations and wealthy individuals can price local people and farmers, who rely on land for their livelihoods, out of the markets.

Globally, this has resulted in growing landlessness and concentration of control of land in the hands of a few.

Worldwide, the largest one percent of farms now operate more than 70% of the world’s farmland. In South Asia and Latin America, the top 10% of landowners own approximately 75% of all agricultural land while the bottom 50% own less than two percent.

Myth 5 – Customary land does not provide secure tenure

Research shows group rights are more effective than individual titles and customary land has proven to be highly resilient, long-lasting and strong

Customary land registration and other privatisation schemes are often promoted through the false notion that customary and collective land tenure systems fail to provide tenure security.

Yet, global evidence refuting this myth has been abundant for decades.

The first USAID country land tenure profiles from 1986 noted:

“African countries with relatively good production records over the last twenty years have achieved them under remarkably diverse set of tenure arrangements, in which customary tenure figures prominently.”

In 2011, the European Union Task Force on Land stated:

“Land titling is not always the best way of increasing tenure security, and nor does it automatically lead to greater investment and productivity. In many places, land is held through unwritten, customary means, but it is not subject to insecurity.”

After years of efforts to privatise land, the World Bank itself recognized in 2019 that safeguarding customary land rights should be a “development priority.”

The Bank also acknowledged that customary land has proven to be “highly resilient, continuous and flexible.”

Myth 6 – Customary land reform helps local farmers

The privatisation of land is geared towards serving corporate profits at the expense of local people and improving livelihoods

The privatisation of land is not about helping local famers, fighting poverty or improving livelihoods. Indeed, the process of transitioning customary land into private titled land will result in greater landlessness and land concentration.

Rather than promoting development, land privatisation efforts are just another avenue for further colonisation and exploitation of natural resources for the benefit of private interests and multinational corporations.

They pose a threat to rural livelihoods and the environment and will further the climate crisis.


Second book blues, but after that it’s easy

09 April 2021


TUMBY BAY – Writing the first book is hard but believe me it’s the second one that is really challenging, especially if the first has been a success.

In that second book you have to live up to the expectations you created with the first one.

You can’t write the same book again but there have to be faint echoes of the first one to please your readers.

Even for talented writers, second books are very seldom better than the first but if they get close enough they have a good chance of success.

Some authors whose first book is successful have trouble mustering the courage to tackle that difficult second one.

Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind, never wrote another book. Neither did Emily Brontë, who wrote Wuthering Heights.

Nothing further was ever forthcoming from Marcel Proust, who wrote In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past), but given that his book was 4,215 pages long maybe it was a case of pure exhaustion.

Arthur Golden, who wrote the 1997 bestselling Memoirs of a Geisha, is rumoured to be working on another novel but it has yet to see the light of day.

Usually, when you get to your third book you are home and hosed and can pretty much write about anything you like in any style you choose.

You’re even allowed the odd dud. Readers will be disappointed but they won’t abandon you.

There’s no way of telling how a book will fare. Not even well-established publishers have that gift of divination.

You have to be prepared to be surprised. Despite all your misgivings that difficult book you’re not wholly happy with just might strike a chord with readers.

They might find something in the book that you, as the author, were not aware existed. What you thought you were writing about turns out to be something entirely different.

Despite the accolades that authors heap on their editors and agents in the acknowledgements of their books, deep down there is often an unspoken resentment at the way their creations have been wrestled and melded into a commercial product.

Quite often the editing process is a battle between a publisher’s commercial intent and the author’s need to retain the integrity of what they have written.

By that third book, especially if the first couple of books have been successful, authors are in a much better position to control what is done during the editing process. 

This new or restored power over what they write and publish tips the scales back in favour of the creative process, rather than the commercial one.

The onerous and subversive nature of commercial editing is what has pushed many authors into self- publishing. It is where they can control how their book develops and is published.

After my third book I abandoned traditional publishers and adopted the self-publishing route.

Self-publishing is not new. Many famous authors paid to have their books published when they couldn’t find a willing commercial publisher.

Jane Austen’s father paid for the publication of her book Pride and Prejudice. Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust and many others paid to have their books published.

Even the prodigious Stephen King opts to self-publish some of his books. His still unfinished serialised thriller, The Plant, describes a vicious vine that terrorises a small publishing house demanding human sacrifices as the price of success. For some authors, the image is apt.

Of course, now digital publishing has taken off, there are lots of writers self-publishing bad books and blithely continuing doing the same, hoping to hit some sort of sweet spot in a kind of scattergun approach.

They are writers who could benefit from a good editor. There are freelance editors available who charge for such a service. In Australia there are editor associations in most states.

Freedom from battles with editors and the tyranny of commercial publishing interests afforded by technology is perhaps the most significant thing to have happened to literature in the last 100 years.

Phil Fitzpatrick’s two most recent books are Black Huntress: Seven Spears, about an Aboriginal girl seeking revenge after a tribal massacre (available here from Amazon), and Inspector Metau: The Case of the Great Pumpkin Heist (available here from Amazon). Phil is currently writing a novel about abandoned children in Australia.