Nations Will Learn from You

PNG-first-election-for-web

Polling night, 1972 House of Assembly elections.

The years from 1972 to 1975 were an exciting time to be living in Papua New Guinea as the nation came to terms with self-government and independence. Just about everybody was singing one song in particular, not only because of its pretty tune but also because it captured exactly the clean-slate optimism of those years. I remember the tune and the lyrics but I can’t remember the names of the author and composer, so hopefully someone can help me there. Until an official PNG anthem was written, it was the stand-in of sorts.

Stand-in anthem
Papua New Guinea
Six hundred islands
Warm sandy beaches
Long cooling highlands
Country of promise
Land of the future
Nations will learn from you

Repeat:
Country of promise
Land of the future
Nations will learn from you

Sail like a ship to harbour
Over the stormy sea
All of the nations calling
Waiting for you and me

Repeat:
Papua New Guinea
Six hundred islands
Warm sandy beaches
Long cooling highlands
Country of promise
Land of the future
Nations will learn from you

Repeat:
Country of promise
Land of the future
Nations will learn from you

Okay so it’s a bit cheeky and a bit cocky with that ‘Nations will learn from you’ line, but I think that is one of the reasons why we all loved it.  I hope that this blog recaptures something of those memorable years. The late Denis Williams put together an album of photos and I am very happy now to share them with you. No point in keeping them buried in a closet. If you think you can add some additional information please send me a comment and I will add it to the blog.

The first photo, above is of the 1972  tallying venue on election night, after all the polling booths had closed at 6.00 o’clock. We went along to watch all the electoral workers flat out answering phone calls from the polling booths and adding up the totals on the tally board. There were so many  candidates from so many parties that it was some time before the country’s first Chief Minister, Sir Michael Somare (Pangu Party), could form a coalition government. The photo below was taken at a farewell party for Post Courier journalist Jim O’Brien and the same photo has caught everyone’s attention.

Jim-O'Brien's-farewell-part

A whole bunch of Post Courier journalists looking at the same tally-room photo in an album gifted to departing journo Jim O’Brien (on the right wearing that great shirt).

Somare-press-conference-197

Chief Minister Sir Michael Somare (right) giving a press conference in 1973. The legendary Herald & Weekly Times journalist Gus Smales is on the left. And I’d say that is Gavera  Rea, MP, in the centre by the door.

Chief-Minister-Somare-press

Somare’s press conference in 1973.

Chief Minister Somare is an ex-journalist and his press conferences were informal, more like sitting down to have a chat with a bunch of old mates. Over the years that changed and I doubt whether there would  be too many PNG politicians today prepared to adopt a similar approach but it suited those times. There was quite a large contingent of journalists representing Australia’s major press groups, plus a growing number of locally-trained political journalists,

I still remember the elegant garden party at Government House for Papua New Guinea’s first Queen’s Birthday award recipients, when Gus Smales received an honour for his services to journalism. As far as I can recall, he was the only Australian journalist at that time to receive a Queen’s Birthday award from PNG.

H&W-snr-journo-Gus-Smales

It’s Gus Smales again at a Pruth Street party for Jim O’Brien, with sub-editor Charlie Cepulis (V.D.) in the background. Charlie was from the Sydney Telegraph.

8 thoughts on “Nations Will Learn from You

      • Thankyou Veronica. I used to enjoy listening to it and reckon it should be played more often in PNG. In my opinion, it can be a bit like Waltzing Matilda to Aussies. I remember ABC Radio – Pidgin Service use to play it.

  1. Veronica, I remember Denis well with his millions of cameras hanging off him. Sad to hear that he died. I worked as proof reader for Post Courier in 1977/8.

    • Hi Sue, thank you for your kind thoughts about Denis. He died 15 years ago this year. The years you mention, 77-78 were a wonderful time to be working at the Post Courier, under the late Luke Sela, and I know Denis took away memories that he cherished for the rest of his life.

      • Oh yes I remember Luke Sela now – a lovely man. Being on the “shop floor” I had more to do with everyone in production. I can still smell the hot lead that made the typeface, the black coffee we drank to stay awake on the night shift, the Filipino letterpress operators. Topala from Trobriands, Doura Rei from Hanuabada, Dai Mathias from Hanuabada – all finishing press operators/supervisors. My fellow proof readers – we had some good reads and laughs. The frantic last read before 6am (or earlier – can’t recall) to get the presses rolling for print. Yes great times.

  2. I was born 15 years after independence but I have heard from my father and my history teacher that pre independence and post independence was an exciting time for Papua New Guinea. Sadly I didn’t learn the song however I learnt a different one in primary school that would offer the same warm feelings.

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