Sunday, 15 March 2009

Leaving Papua

People who lived and worked in Papua New Guinea prior to 1975 when independence was prematurely thrust on an ill-prepared and largely unwilling population by the Australian Government, are becoming a thin on the ground as the years roll on.

Most former colonies including PNG have coped with their new status with varying degrees of success, and a recently republished book by former 'kiap' Philip Fitzpatrick would be a welcome addition to any collector of stories written by the men who brought youth, stamina and dedication to the task of preparing a stone age country for political independence .

Rescued from its out of print oblivion by niche publisher Diane Andrews of Cairns, Bamahuta. Leaving Papua reeks of authenticity and personal aquaintance with the people of Papua New Guinea by a writer who lived and worked with them as a kiap in the final years of Australia's occupation of Papua from 1967 to 1973, two years before independence.

Like others who returned to PNG after 1975, including the writer of this review, Philip returned from time to time after the departure of the Australian administration, and was appalled and saddened by the shambolic and lawless depths to which the country he knew and loved had descended. The opening chapter of the book has a vivid account of an armed payroll hijack at a remote airstrip which Fitzpatrick survived after his driver was shot and badly injured. It makes gripping reading.

There is much humour and wry comment by this percipient and acute observer of mankind, both black and white, some of it racier and more personal than in books written by former kiaps like Ivan Champion, Jack Hides and J K McCarthy, but it deserves a place alongside these in the Papua New Guinea section on your bookshelf.

Brian Darcey

The once out of print book is now available from its new publisher by email at

Bamahuta. Leaving Papua © Phillip Fitzpatrick.
Diane Andrews Publishing 2008