Dear Uncle Murray
My Brisbane experience was a deeply personal one and in many ways, I found myself in its rich darkness. Although the last city of my Australian tour, Brisbane was the first overseas city I had ever visited.
Being the first point of contact, it shocked me. I mean, it impressed me so much I was shocked. I can only imagine what the First Contact experience of some native tribes must have been. But I experienced during the hour I spent in Brisbane Airport sums up in many ways what’s right about Australia and wrong with PNG.
What’s right with Australia is that it’s Lowest Acceptable Standard of conduct in society. Firstly I thought, the Qantas staffs at the airport, waiting to greet me, were a bit overdressed. But what I thought was a state of being overdressed was actually standard dress for the type of service being provided at the International Terminal. In many ways, the Lowest Acceptable Standard of dress by staff at the International terminal was higher than staff here at Jacksons.
I also had my ‘Somare sandal moment’ at Brisbane Airport security check. A rather stern voice from an overzealous security woman told me to remove my cap. I wasn’t asked to remove my cap here at Jacksons. The Lowest Acceptable Standard for security checks was obviously higher in Brisbane.
These two moments, as well as the vastness of the terminal and its higher standards of services obviously indicated a general trend of a higher Lowest Acceptable Standard. There is no reason why Papua New Guineans cannot have a higher standard of Health, Education, Commerce and trade as well as a higher social condition.
I do not necessarily think that the regular blame factors like corruption and mismanagement are to be blamed. PNG society in general is too passive and not making the demands that a necessary for the CHANGE that so many wish for. It is not good enough to talk about change but to demand for change through whatever means necessary including where necessary, through the use of violence to make a political point. Of course violence should be of last resort but our people need to seriously consider it as an option as well.
Now, Uncle Murray you did tell me that you were living in a rather well off part of the city and that I shouldn’t consider my experience with you and Jean as typical Australian. However, even during the trip with DRUG-ARM I got a sense that those in urban centers who fall through are kept above water by various social mechanisms. And of course, the meeting with the Toowong Rotary Club gave an insight into what members of civil society do for each other.
Of course, Papua New Guinea already has, to a certain extent, advanced social mechanisms for dealing with social relations. However, what works at the village level may not necessarily be relevant in the urban context although many have adapted into the much despised Wantok System. The multicultural nature of Papua New Guinea has produced diverse responses with varying degrees of success amongst PNG’s different ethnic groups.
We Papua New Guineans don’t have a choice between choosing the past or the present. Our current reality dictates the necessity to choose the best of both worlds and to move forward into the future.
Thanks Murray and Joan for putting up with me those few days in Brisbane. As much as anything I also found out a lot about myself and have had a renewed sense of optimism about my countrys future. No doubt, like the students at Queensland University of Technology, the are many other Papua New Guineans who wanna change the status quo.