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The Die Was Cast - My Journey to New Guinea

The Bougainville Aftermath

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22 June 2013

Happiness is a red plastic chair

Or rather, it was!

It was when one's "home" was a 9x9ft donga tastefully decorated with PLAYBOY centrefolds of girls waxed to the point of martyrdom, when one's wordly possessions easily fitted into a 2ft-wide metal locker, and when one's needs for comfort were satisfied by a red plastic chair on the porch.

Click on image to enter Bougainville Copper Project website

Life was so simple then; we were so innocent!

Or, at least, some of us were. The old saying that New Guinea attracted three types of men, namely missionaries, moneymakers, and misfits, had to be rewritten for the Bougainville Copper Project to include those running away from their wives, the police, or themselves.

18 June 2013

Condolences John Dutton

John Dutton died peacefully at home on in Gawler SA aged 91 years. The funeral was held on June 11th in Gawler SA.

John was one of the early pioneers who arrived on Bougainville with his wife Vi in 1971, to a construction camp in Arawa and a half-built power plant at Loloho. John led the Commissioning Team and over the next 2-3 years he became first the plant Superintendent and then Manager Power, leading all the generation and transmission for the mine. He built up a team of experts operating the Loloho plant and at that time kept it at the highest availability of any steam turbine plant in Australia, consistently achieving well over 97%.

John and Vi enjoyed eight years on the island and had the added bonus of family coming to join them in 1974, when his son Geoffrey came to Bougainville with Yvonne and baby Stuart to work at the power station. Geoff and Yvonne subsequently had a daughter and two sons in Arawa Hospital. Geoff left the power station to become Communications Superintendent in Panguna and stayed until 1985 when the family left for Australia.

John retired in 1979 and he and Vi went to live in Gawler South Australia. John started his engineering career in radar design in the 40’s in the UK and went on to be the Commissioning Manager for the 2,000MW Fawley Power Station. He came to Australia in 1968 to the Torrens Island Power Station in SA, before leaving for adventures in Bougainville.

Besides his love of power engineering John loved his music and played the French horn to records regularly, unfortunately leaving the island before the brass band started in the 1980s. In Gawler he enjoyed retirement with Vi until she died in 2007. He regularly enjoyed a port with his colleagues from Torrens Island and he and Vi played together in the Gawler Brass Band as well as enjoying their grandchildren, three of whom lived close by.

John is survived by three children, 11 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.

17 June 2013

Condolences Peter Lukey

It was very sad news indeed to learn that Peter had peacefully passed away in Townsville after suffering from a massive cerebral haemorrhage.

Peter and wife Gwen arrived in Bougainville in 1972 and remained for a period of ten years. Peter was employed by BCL as the Instrument Foreman in the Loloho Power Station.

Peter was a keen scuba diver and specialised in recovering spent artillery shells from sunken WW2 vessels. He was a great “tinkerer” and the light always seemed to be burning in his little workshop under the house. Everyone in the street was fascinated with Pete’s train that he had set up in the front yard.

Sons Troy and Adam were born during this time on Bougainville and Adam has continued his relationship with PNG and still works there.

Peter was a great supporter of the SP Brewing company and we were able to share many a ‘brown bottle’ as he tinkered away.

Post Bougainville, Peter spent time with QAL, OTML and latterly in the sugar industry around Innisfail and Babinda in Far North Queensland where Troy still works.

Peter’s funeral is to be held in Innisfail at 10:30am on Tuesday 18th June 2013 and the cortege will then move to Babinda for the burial ceremony.

Island-sitting anyone?


An American friend who owns an island in the Kingdom of Tonga, is looking for someone to island-sit the place for the next six months. It's a breathtakingly beautiful place with a breathtakingly beautiful residence.



As my friend says, "We can't offer any pay but consider all the benefits of staying on the island at no cost and access to all houses and boats."

Here are some more enchanting images.

Interested? Email me at riverbend[AT]


11 June 2013

In memory of the late Noel Butler of Wewak, a remarkably unremarkable man

Childers, Queensland, by night

It's almost exactly eighteen years to the day when my best friend from my New Guinea days, Noel Butler, sent me this funny "Childers by Night" card and wrote,

"Dear Pete, Hope your outlook on the future is not
as black as this. Mine is but that's inevitable."

I had no idea how prescient and indeed deadly serious his message was until a couple of months later I received a phone call from a woman. She introduced herself as Noel's sister and told me that Noel had just passed away! The only death we experience is other people's.

It may seem that Noel had never achieved much in his life except get through it. And after his life had come to an end, he left no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water. But the way of life that he had chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and self-reliance of his character left a great influence on me so that, long after his death, I still remember him as a very remarkable man.

Noel and I first met aboard the liner PATRIS in 1967 when he was going on a European holiday and I was returning to Germany. The PATRIS had been scheduled to call at Port Moresby in New Guinea but, following the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel, the Suez Canal closed and the ship was re-routed around the Cape of Good Hope.

However, the many New Guinea expats who had already booked, Noel amongst them, still joined the ship in Sydney. As did Graeme Bell's All Stars Band. And so for the next four weeks I would sit in the ship's Midnight Club and listen to the many yarns of high adventure told by those larger-than-life New Guinea expats while Graeme Bell's All Stars played their ragtime music.

During the day, Noel and I would sit on deck for hours, hunched over a chessboard. Our mutual love of chess and my interest in New Guinea started a friendship which lasted until his death almost thirty years later!

We kept up a regular correspondence during all those years which Noel spent mostly in Wewak in the Sepik District, before PNG's Independence in 1975 and old age forced him to return to his homestate Queensland.

I had come up to PNG in late 1969 and worked there for several years. During this time I visited Noel on his small country estate outside Wewak and Noel came to spent Christmas 1973 and Christmas 1974 with me. Or at least he tried because by the time he arrived on Bougainville in 1973, I was in Arawa Hospital being prepared for an urgent appendectomy; and when he came to see me in Lae in 1974 I was already packed up and ready to fly out to my next assignment in Burma.

Our paths crossed more frequently after I had temporarily come back to Australia in 1979. I visited him several times and observed with some concern his struggle to make himself at home again in Australia, first at Caboolture, then at Mt Perry, and finally at Childers. He never quite succeeded since, as he put it, after a lifetime spent in PNG, "my spiritual home will always be New Guinea".

Perhaps this struggle is something else that we shared. I, too, still think almost every day about those many farway places in which I lived and worked. The years spent there have left me unsuited in many respects for life in the deep south. I feel suspended between my past life in the islands and my present life in mainstream Australia, and I still seek a place where I can feel truly content.

"Über den Himmel Wolken ziehen, über die Felder geht der Wind, ... irgendwo über den Bergen muss meine ferne Heimat sein."   
                                                                         Hermann Hesse

Peter Goerman
email riverbend[AT}

6 June 2013

Beverly Jager emailed on behalf and in memory of Dietrich (Dieter) Jager:


I was so interested to receive news of Bougainville by email via Warwick and Vesna Cuneo today. My husband, Dietrich Jager (Dieter) and I, Beverly, lived and worked in Bougainville from 1971- 1975. We lived in Arawa and travelled to Panguna each day to work. Our son, Paul was born in 1973 while we were there. We have kept in touch with a number of friends who were there at that time - the Cuneos, Colleen and Graham Hoskins and family, Elaine Devereux, Henry and Rosemary Pearson, to name a few. My brother and his family holidayed with us and my late mother also came and stayed after the death of my father. Sadly my husband, Dieter, died on 14 September, 2011 from cancer. He had just turned 80 in May 2011.

After Bougainville in 1975 we returned to live in Adelaide South Australia. Dieter worked for many years at Moomba Gas Fields where he flew in and out. After that his work as a maintenance planner took him all over Australia. I am now living in Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan Wales since Easter this year and am to be married again on 13 July 2013 to a man, John Rowley, whom I met in 1966 while living and working in London. I returned to Australia from UK at the end 1967 and Dieter and I met up and married in 1970. We had met some time earlier before I went to UK in the 60s but at that stage were just acquaintances. Three weeks before he died Dieter said 'you should look up that chap you knew in London'. This I eventually did after having no contact for 46 years and found that my future husband's wife had died 5 days before my husband. It is very special as I feel I have Dieter's blessing - a very kind man.

Dieter loved his time in Bougainville. He was very adventurous - loved to go boating, times at Loloho, enjoyed his work and made good friends. Our time there was very interesting and enjoyable, although a culture shock for me initially with Arawa still in process of being constructed - no supermarket, church, hospital or made roads - big boulders and mud and slush everywhere. Dietrich would have found this web site very interesting and nostalgic and I would like him to be included in the web's 'Honour Roll' and 'The Big Copper Mine in the Sky'.

I enclose some old photos and scanned slides; all others are still in Adelaide.

Beverly Jager
email bevjager[AT]


Dieter & Beverly, Bovo River 1971

Dieter with good catch

Arawa Market

Arawa under construction;
the Jager's house; Dieter in foreground

Colleen Hoskins on Arovo Island

Graham Hoskins with the day's catch

4 June 2013

German Harry

Aerial view of Deliverance IslandAerial View from the North of Deliverance Island, locally called Warul Kawa (Island of Turtles)

"............. we reached the welcome shelter of Deliverance Island. Perhaps half a mile or so in circumference, ringed with a beach of white coral sand, crowned with coconut palms dancing in the breeze, and surrounded by a wide fringing reef, it resembled an island such as might be imagined in a boyhood adventure book ........"


W. Somerset Maugham wrote some very evocative short stories of life in the islands, including "German Harry" which is set on Deliverance Island in the Torres Strait, halfway between Australia and Papua New Guinea:

"I was in Thursday Island and I wanted very much to go to New Guinea. Now the only way in which I could do this was by getting a pearling lugger to take me across the Arafura Sea. The pearl fishery at that time was in a bad way and a flock of neat little craft lay anchored in the harbour. I found a skipper with nothing much to do (the journey to Merauke and back could hardly take him less than a month) and with him I made the necessary arrangements. He engaged four Torres Straits islanders as crew (the boat was but nineteen tons) and we ransacked the local store for canned goods. A day or two before I sailed a man who owned a number of pearlers came to me and asked whether on my way I would stop at the island of Trebucket and leave a sack of flour, another of rice, and some magazines for the hermit who lived there.

I pricked up my ears. It appeared that the hermit had lived by himself on this remote and tiny island for thirty years ..."

To continue reading this fascinating story, click here.


The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia Inc.


if you want to stay in touch with all things PNG, reminisce and read about "the good old days", join The Papua New Guinea Association to receive their excellent journal "Una Voce".

One of this month's fascinating articles is "Ex-Builder-s labour of love in PNG" which also appeared in THE AUSTRALIAN Weekend Magazine.

If nothing else, buy yourself a copy of their excellent DVD "Walk into Paradise" starring Chips Rafferty.


3 June 2013

Little help needed to find Little Chimbu


Remember Little Chimbu who lived in a round house made of palm-leaves, at the foot of a very tall mountain on a big island called New Guinea? Because it is always warm where Little Chimbu lives, he wears a small grass skirt. He has lots of brothers and sisters who make him cross so he finds a Kokomo Bird to be his friend. When his new friend disappears, Little Chimbu sets out to find him. On the way he has some amazing adventures with a kind Lady Crocodile, an angry Cassowary, and a sleepy Kapul. Finally Little Chimbu does catch up with the Kokomo Bird only to get a big surprise.

Marie and Rowley Cornell remember the Little Chimbu books from their time in New Guinea and emailed:

"Would you please place this notice on your website.

Looking for any spare Nancy Curtis Little Chimbu books and coasters. Willing to pay dollars plus postage. We are expats and lived in Arawa from 72 to 82, section 7. Unfortunately we have misplaced our well loved editions.

Please contact Marie and Rowley Cornell. Email. cornellrm[AT]

'Thanks for your help Riverbend"

If you have any Little Chimbu books for sale (or to give away ☺ ), please contact Marie and Rowley direct.


A couple of pictures of the old Kieta

1 June 2013

The Key to Wealth: Swimming Lessons


After reading in the news that an “Illegal immigrant mother of seven is given food stamps, meds, housing, and Social Security—for 20 years”, Bob and Sally, who were living in Toledo, made a bold move. They hitchhiked to Texas, crossed the border into Mexico, swam back across the Rio Grande, and applied for federal benefits.

“Little did we know how rich we’d become”, Sally said. “Our government counsellor told us we were suddenly eligible for $700 a month and free housing. For the rest of our lives.” But that was just the beginning of the story. “You see”, Bob said, “sitting there across from our federal-aid counsellor, still dripping wet from our swim back into the US, I realized she was talking about giving Sally and me roughly five million dollars over the course of our lives.”

Bob proposed an alternative payout plan. Francine Baggit, their counsellor, was amazed as she listened. “Bob explained that if we paid them the whole sum at once, they could invest it. I personally wrote a letter to the president, and two weeks later I almost fell off my chair when he called me at home and agreed.”

Bob and Sally Craft have now written a book. Overnight, it’s leaped to the top of the New York Times best-seller list: The Key to Wealth: Swimming Lessons - order it here - , which has triggered a mass exodus, temporary to be sure, from the US into Mexico. At last count, the Department of Homeland Security, who is supervising what they’re calling ‘Operation Red Sea’, estimates that 150 million Americans are making their way to the Mexican border in Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Now I don't want to cause a similar exodus from Australia by writing a book on how to handle leaky boats, but I think Bob and Sally have made their point.