Popondetta Recollections

AtoZ2019PThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

However, today’s post comes from my husband’s recollections of his first home in the Territory of Papua New Guinea when he was just a small boy. His father was in charge of the high school and technical school, his mother a teacher in the Australian-curriculum school.

A small boy stands with his sister

Family747Beside his dad in colonial whites

Framed by their bush material home.

Less than a decade since war ended here

An old Army Jeep under the house

The wartime road made of

Coconut trunks lying in mud

Be careful or a Land Rover

Will bog up to the wheel-well in mud.

Tropical nightfall brings flying foxes in many thousands

Heading for the food gardens

Taking an hour to pass overhead.

37 Lee and Peter 3rd house Popodetta 1955

The gecko watches the evening nibbles

Then sneaks down

Licking sugar off the jelly beans.

Under the house a cane bar

“Cass Bar” illuminated on a glass louvre

A kasbah, ha ha, where friends visited.


Patrol into Mt Lamington c1954. The two men would be police. © Les Cass

His dad ventures to explore Mt Lamington

Erodes the soles from his Dunlop Volleys.


A labour line takes a break or sets up camp. © Les Cass (The tropical mould has had its way with this image).

Bringing education to the people

His father walks into the site of a new school

The labour line carries the component parts

To be a government school after all.

His first school, his mother his first teacher

An A-school infiltrated by white ants

Their feelers holding up the structure.

Mt Lamington as a backdrop

Two years past its eruption

If it smokes all is okay, If not – beware.

28 Cass backyard Popondetta bet 1952 and 1956

Popondetta backyard but not the garden “boi”.

Garden bois swing their sarifs to clear the bush

Both wife murderers – a traditional act

White man’s justice means

They wear red laplaps marked with arrows.

On the coast outrigger canoes

Surf into the black sand beach.

Orokaiva ceremonial dress

Orokaiva people. Photo taken c1954 © Les Cass

Thank you Mr Cassmob for sharing these memories.

You can read an earlier post about Popondetta here.

Tok Pisin:

Boi – the Pidgin term at the time for local staff.

Pikinini – child

Painim – look for

Payback – compensation for an injury or death eg killing a person, or a pig.

pik – pig

pukpuk – crocodile

pekpek – faeces (don’t confuse these last three)



Olgeta Samting


“Wanem dispela ‘olgeta samting’?”[i]

A generic everything

Craft and artefacts

From places where we’ve lived.

Woven straw mat

For picnics in PNG or at the beach

Beaded necklaces as farewell gifts

Lufa rugs in grey or white.

bilumA favourite Buka basket

Far too small for even a small pikinini[ii].

Or a serving tray for canapes.

Bilums laboriously woven

Will carry heavy weights –

Babies or kaukau[iii]

Or many beach towels.

Decades old tapa cloth from Oro

Now live at the Queensland Museum.

Fierce faces carved in wood

Striped ebony the choicest timber

dukduk dancerDolphins and fish

Sharks and turtles.

Dukduk dancer

Beaten in copper.

All traditionally crafted

Of no value to others

Precious memories for us

Our life story as décor.

Tok Pisin:

em i orait – it’s okay

olgeta – all20190416_130544

olgeta samting – everything


[i] What is this “everything”?

[ii] Baby/child

[iii] Sweet potato

New friends, old friends

This series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.AtoZ2019N

A country where expats

Move or are moved

From place to place

Is proof of the saying:

Friends for a reason

Neighbours, work or motherhood.

Louisa and Leah McNeice on Louisas 1st bday 1972 Nth Goroka

It’s not just the adults who share friendships. These two had a great time together and got into all sorts of mischief.

Friends for a season


Best mates in one place

Lost in a move.

Friends for a lifetime

Bonds form over

Cities, countries and continents

Treasured over decades.

Murphett at Madang 1975

Coincidence prevails – By chance I run into an old friend in Madang, and a uni friend in Goroka.

A good move reconnects us

With old friends and neighbours

Milne Bay to Goroka

Goroka to Gerehu

Gerehu to Australia.

Visits on leave South

With those “gone finish”.

We couldn’t forget cannoli and

Pauleen Louisa Leah

I’m sad to have lost touch with this little girl’s mum.


An Italian feast in Melbourne.

Exploring Sydney with others

Kids re-connecting

Laughter and chatting

“Is everybody happy?”

Remains Pat’s refrain.

Dinner parties as new wives

Expand our culinary skills –

Not yet aged enough to expand our waistlines

Curries, Fondues – that 70s staple

Beef Wellington and roast port with strawberries

Daiquiris with imported fruit or duty free spirits

Long frocks and Nehru jackets.


Rach at picnicBack yard barbeques

Conversations over beers

Kids play, swing and climb

Picnics and drives, squash and swimming


Pets are inherited from those departing

Whisky the blue heeler

Never loses her taste for mackerel pike

Brandi the beautiful cat

Our lovely Brandi catWho banished our Pedro,

Perhaps to a cooking pot,

Becomes ours and we weep bitter tears

As she goes to the vet before we leave

She knew, she knew.

Life as an expat was not always happy.


Milne Bay Magic

AtoZ2019MThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

My husband’s “place”

Has a place in my heart

Our first home

Many memories

Some clear, some faded.



This photo across the bay was taken in 2012.

A horseshoe shaped bay

The mouth facing the east

Edged on both sides by jungle and mountains

In the Wet Season the clouds descend

Wrap around the ranges

Obscure the bay

Stops the planes, mail and deliveries.


449 Milne Bay women Alotau 2012A friendly people

Smiles and hellos for

Sinebada and Taubada[i]

Now called dim-dims

Which doesn’t sound so pleasant.

Peace and tranquillity

Belie the recent history.


Milne Bay District, then

Milne Bay Province, now

PNG’s most eastern area

His father on the Kamonai,

The Education Department trawler,

Inspecting far-flung island schools

His mother home worrying

When the weather closes in

Or a cyclone is imminent.

Vacancies on charter flights

Offer opportunities to visit

Those islands more easily

Expanding my knowledge of this country

The excitement of seeing surf and white sand

On landing at Guasopa

Milne Bay women washing

These women are not reading like a sinebada.

A day trip or two to the Trobriands.

Decades later we return

Brimming with anticipation

It meets our expectations, memories and hopes.

The magic of a place that lives on in your heart.


Tok Pisin:

meri – woman

maski – forget about it – often used with children to tell them to leave something alone

muli – lemon

You can read more about our return to Milne Bay on this blog here which includes links to other posts.

[i] White woman and white man. I loved this quote I found online “Stop sitting like a sinebada reading. One day when you get married your husband will be cleaning the kitchen while you will be like the sinebada and reading a book”.  http://bukbilongpikinini.org/index.php/about-us?start=9


Lufa Ramblings

AtoZ2019LThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Weekend drives to Lufa

Down the Highlands Highway with the family

Spectacular scenery

Lufa Rd

Mountains rise to the side

As we journey through the valley.

Returning one day

I learn the reality of a skid

No longer just theory

Luckily not on a mountain cliff.

Peter and Louisa Highland picnic PNG 1971Picnics with friends

Or just the kids

Spread the straw mat

Lay out food and coffee

As if by magic

We draw a crowd of locals

To observe this strange custom.


Highlands village nr Lufa

The Highlands can look empty –

Until you stop.

Small local villages

Enclosed by banis[i]

Seem designed to repel invaders

Round huts with thatched roofs

Lufa kids

Kids from the village near Lufa.

Built to keep in the heat

Smoke filters through and merges

With pig grease spread on the skin

Protects from the Highland weather

And gives that distinctive fragrance

Children curious about our passing.

An historic purchase from the co-op

Louisa SP Box 1972 Goroka

A beer carton and a bilum – what more does a small girl need. Perhaps an heirloom rug? Check out those 70s curtains!

The large grey Lufa woollen rug

Features in our home and

Will become a family heirloom

Its value in the memories it brings.

The perfect climate

Close to the equator but with altitude

Warm, not hot, in the day

Cool, if not chilly in the nights

Knitting rediscovered

As I craft children’s woollies.

Some memories are only snapshots

Jogged by a photo we took

Other details have become simply

A blank space in my mind after other experiences

Mipela lapun tru (I’m an old person)

Luckily two memories can be better than one.

Tok Pisin:

long long – crazy

lapun – old person

laik – like/want

laplap – like a sarong around the waist

liklik – little


[i] Banis is Pidgin for fence

K is for Konedobu

AtoZ2019KThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Verbal jungle drums beat…

We’re on leave overseas

When the rumours hit town

My job is gone when I return


Flying over Gerehu in 2012 -it had grown enormously.

I am a temp after all.

We’re on the move again

Goroka to Gerehu[i]

Life in Moresby – the “big smoke”.

From Education offices in Konedobu

He wields his purple audit pen

On inspections country-wide

His “been there” knowledge

Kerema sunrise fm Peter

An audit trip and a beautiful sunrise in Kieta.

Makes his peers nervous.

On the home-front life goes on

But why do things always break –

Or the children get sick –

The minute he leaves town?

Sequential chicken pox anyone?

Later I join the family ranks

Judy Holland Lekei dunno and Pauleen Education Subsidies team POM 1975in Education at Konedobu.

Full time employment

The start of my career.

Judy Holland in the Educ Subsidies Office not paperless 1975

The Subsidies team and office, Konedobu c1974/75. I wonder where the other team members might be now.

Quonset huts and old buildings

Corral the compound

Files crowd the walls

Subsidies for school kids

In Australia or overseas

Fees and fares

I come to know every surname and school.

My first boss leaves and a new one arrives

Our friendship leads to another K place

As she leaves for Kathmandu and we visit.

One day a Papuan Brown[ii] slithers among the files


Staff leap on the desk and I end a phone call

Pauleen and Rach at Paga Hill POM 1977

From Paga Hill looking west towards Konedobu (behind the first hill), Hanuabada village and the back road to Gerehu.

Sorry, we have a snake, I’ll call you back later

Far away there’s indifference to our plight.

Driving home the back way past the villages and squatter’s camps

The raskols[iii] block the road….

With two small children in the car

It’s a case of hold your nerve.

A new identity all my own

And a turning point

No longer “just” his wife

or Les’s daughter-in-law

CASS Les and Kaye PNG Post Courier 19 Sept 1972 p17

Progressive dinner for CWA birthday (1972, September 19). Papua New Guinea Post-Courier (Port Moresby : 1969 – 1981), p. 17. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article251033983 I’d love to know what my mother-in-law served for entrees as she was a good cook.

Albeit temporary staff for ever

Just like his mother…

What’s a decade or two of work

For women who are married?

Forever a “Mrs” not just a misis[iv].

K is also for Kavieng where my in-laws lived (and sent us cray tails as treats), or Kainantu, Kabiufa, Killerton, Kerema or Kieta.

Tok Pisin:

Kiap – a government patrol officer

kaikai – food

kaikaim – eat

kainkain – all sorts of …

kina – PNG’s currency but also shells used for currency previously.

kakaruk – chicken


[i] Then a new suburb of Port Moresby, out past the University. Now known for gang trouble.

[ii] A potentially deadly snake…not one you want to have to look for in an office full of files.

[iii] A euphemistic word meaning raskals but really more like gang members.

[iv] A European woman, not necessarily a wife.


Jackson’s Airport

AtoZ2019JThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

The dry plain of Jackson’s airstrip

Bounded by the ocean

And the encircling hills.

On my first arrival


One of my first tasks as a married woman was to get an entry permit to the Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Heat slams my body,

Unfamiliar faces

Ground crew in sulus[i]

TAA written vertically,

Walk across the tarmac

Towards my new life.

A year later a new baby

Makes her arrival there

The start of her own adventurous life.

Travelling to Brisbane

Small children to see maternal grandparents

Visiting other family and friends

Louisa with grandparents Norman and Joan Kunkel Kelvin Grove 1971

Visiting my parents in Brisbane. Dad making silly faces at eldest daughter.

On leave or for work

Jackson’s is always part of the story.

Louisa and Rach airport BNE 1974

These two were already experienced flyers.

Friday nights in pay week

His week’s audit trip over

We slalom to Jackson’s round drunks

Car doors firmly locked.

Weekend flying lessons at the Aero Club

Circuits and bumps/landings

Heart pounds as we practice stalls

Sharing the sky with experienced pilots

All controlled by the Jackson’s Tower, “over”

The Grumman Tiger’s turn

May follow Air Nuigini’s 747.

Les and Kaye Cass going finish late 1976 with Louisa and Rach

A group photo of Jackson’s was part of the life experience. The kids farewelling their paternal grandparents as they went finish.

Greeting and farewelling

Jackson’s is our common denominator

The saddest is “going finish”[ii]

Most we see again, there or here

Until our turn comes

Leaving our hearts behind in PNG

For our new adventure “back home”.


Returning to Jackson’s on holidays in 2012.


[i] A sulu is a type of tailored laplap.

[ii] “Going finish”  was the term used for when people left Papua New Guinea permanently, usually to live in Australia, which wasn’t quite home any more.

Imagine Independence


The raising of the flag ceremony on Independence Hill. Our two cherubs are outlined.

This series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Imagine if you will a country with spectacular, awe-inspiring scenery from fierce mountain ranges clothed in almost impenetrable jungle to deep aquamarine seas with an abundance of tropical fish.

Imagine a country with hundreds of tribal groups, over 800 languages and specific cultures.

Imagine the potential for clashes between those tribal groups, the payback and potential for inter-clan fighting, and the translation of traditional sorcery into the recent horrors of witch-burning.

Imagine the variety of costumes and sounds when thousands of warriors come together from diverse places for a sing-sing, or music and dance. Where even other clans and tribal groups look on astonished at what they’re seeing.

Imagine being present when this diverse and challenging country gained Independence on 16 September 1975…No longer the Territory of Papua New Guinea, henceforth to be the nation of Papua New Guinea.


Prince Charles arrives for the flag lowering ceremony.

The presence of Prince Charles and dignitaries from PNG and Australia.

The gathering of tribes and sing-sings to celebrate.

The solemn and respectful lowering of the Australian flag at Hubert Murray Stadium.

The high school students in colourful costumes on Independence Hill

PNG flag

The raising of the national flag – a gold bird of paradise on red and

The Southern Cross on a night sky of black.

The sound of aircraft at the fly-over.

Profound memories.

You can read the original story along this theme here and about out Independence experiences here and here.


The Police Band looked very smart in their sulus/lap laps with Bird of Paradise emblem at Independence Hill

Tok Pisin

independs – Independence

insait – inside

inap – enough

i no


Highlands Warriors

AtoZ2019HThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Massed warriors gather

in the Goroka showground

Highland tribes with spears, arrows and axes

Highland warrior

© P Cass 1972

Feathers, beads, and arse gras[i]

Pig grease and smoke blend together

Chanel No 5 it’s not

But it is unforgettable even down the years.

Massive sing-sings with dense crowds

Dance with black mud to their ankles

Rhythmic chanting and ululations

The symphony of kundus[ii] of all sizes.

Goroka sing sing Wahgi men

Wahgi warriors wear a type of woven “skirt” and headdress. Pearl shell necklaces show wealth having been traded with coastal tribes. © P Cass 1972.

Wahgis with long skirts

beat time with their axe-heads

Goroka show

it is hard to tell if his skirt is made of tapa, cloth or woven. Around his neck he wears the skin of a cus-cus or possum. © P Cass 1972

Huli Wigmen, Mudmen from Asaro

Fire-pot men from Fore

Watabung women -beads from Job’s tears.

Thousands in one space lead to

Intertribal confrontation

Deployment of tear gas

Fences are trampled as the crowds disperse.

Our children take it all in

The covert threats absorbed

Released in screams and hysterics

At a Maori welcome in Rotorua.

GKA show firepot men

The firepot men at Goroka Show. P Cass 1972.

Tok Pisin

hamamas tru – enjoy

hambak – annoy or humbug

han bilong diwai – branch of tree

harim – listen

kiap i kam long village

Re-enacting the labour line bringing the kiap to a village. © P Cass 1972.


© P Cass 1972


[i] A bunch of leaves stuck into a type of belt which covers a man’s backside (or front).

[ii] A kundu is a drum

Going to Goroka

AtoZ2019GBe in Goroka next week” they said

Sure, no problem!” Hah!

A baby, a mother cat, five kittens

Public Works packing crates

Crazy packing and cleaning

Cat and kittens to the high school

Only a small grey kitten to join us

Guilty consciences for decades.

North Goroka AR20

Our first house in North Goroka – an AR20 design.

Turns out the choice for the District Inspector of Education

Was a chair, executive

Or a new District Clerk

On such whims do life events turn…

nth Goroka village back fence

The village at the back of our yard.

Daughter 2 could have been a Morobe Miss

Not a little Gehuka[i].

Reconnecting with friends

Making new ones

Overwhelmed by facilities

From trade stores to Steamies and BPs[ii]

Boggle-eyed we were, but Harrods they were not! Ehwah!

Mountains replace coastal jungles

Refreshing cool nights and jumpers prevail

The perfect climate at 5000+ feet near the equator.

Goroka Girls1

Young girls in Goroka in traditional dress.

A new home – another government issued AR20

A village behind the back fence

A squatters’ camp nearby

Laundry downstairs

A packing crate for a playpen.

Behind me a voice says

Missus mi laik wok”

Jump three feet…”no gat”.

Sunday drives to Kabiufa

The SevenDe[iii] mission farm and high school


The local scenery was spectacular. Kabiufa’s vegetable farm?

Baby caulis, broccoli and fresh vegies – such a treat.

A foam esky to the in-laws in coastal Kavieng

Returns with cray tails in exchange

Bringing popularity with our friends…

Crayfish curry and mah-jong evenings.

Louisa in basket and Pedro Nth Goroka 1972

Daughter 1 and the grey kitten – a family tradition of baby photos in laundry baskets.

PNG’s Self-government is heralded by

Crashing bin lids and tooting car horns

Fears averted – this is not African independence.

A new house near the hospital

Brings the whop of helicopter blades

Ferrying a wounded warrior with a spear sticking out.

Daughter goes “walkabout”

Our hearts pound with fear – we’re on a local PMV[iv] route

Found! “Em I orait masta[v]. Yes, thankfully.

A resident “visitor” while on leave

Peruses our underwear and clothes and

Leaves “souvenirs” in the bathroom

A sense of invasion.

Many adventures come to a close after three years….

Next stop, “be in Gerehu next week”.

Rach christening Goroka

Our little Gehuka’s christening at home in Goroka. Paisley was quite the fashion.

Tok Pisin:

giaman – to lie or trick, false, a joke

guria – an earthquake – we had our share in Goroka

glas bilong lukluk – mirror

gumi – inner tube (of tyre)

going finish” – leaving PNG for good. Always a sad time.


[i] The local clan of the Goroka district.

[ii] Steamies was Steamships and BPs the local name for Burns Philp.

[iii] Seventh Day Adventist mission and high school.

[iv] A PMV is a Public Motor Vehicle – kind of a basic, very crowded bus aka truck.

[v] “It’s okay boss”.