Posts Tagged ‘Papua New Guinea’

Anzac dead in captured Turkish trenches in Gallipoli

I wrote this poem remembering attending so many Remembrance Day services with my mother, whose husband, the father who I never knew, died at 46, a cheerful but essentially broken man, after six years of service in the Royal Navy..

I am very proud of this poem, both as a poem, in and of itself, and as an authentic expression of my feelings and some things I consider important.

I am largely a pacifist in my outlook, but I have great respect for those who put their lives on the line defending values I hold dear, and opposing tyranny.

It references not only those solemn services attended at memorials with my mother, but the many times since I have seen elderly people stand and pay their respects to the dead of both World Wars, and other wars.

Anzac DayThere is a wave of emotion sweeping Australia at the moment when Anzac day rolls around, with record numbers of people attending Dawn Services both around the country and in places overseas such as Papua New Guinea and Galipolli.

Increasingly, those people have young faces. The great grandchildren, grandchildren and children of those who were wounded, broken, and died. Why the sudden upsurge of interest? Perhaps younger people today look back to a past when the issues were simpler and convictions stronger.

I am also sure that the 39 Australian service people killed in Afghanistan since hostilities broke out there have something to do with it. The Americans and others have lost more people, of course, but those 39 lives are a grievous loss to a country with a population as small as Australia’s, just as the disproportionate sacrifice of the World War I diggers left a scar across the country that took generations to heal: the faces and stories of those brave young people killed in Afghanistan in recent years sure focuses the mind.

I am also reminded, on this solemn day, of the most important thing ever said about conflict, which is, of course:

“War will continue until men refuse to fight.”

If you are interested to purchase my collection of poems called Read Me – 71 Poems and 1 Story – just head here.

(Article re-published for Anzac Day 2013 and Remembrance Day 2014.)

Swimmers warned of testicle-biting pacu fish

(From Yahoo – with a special thank you)

As if there wasn’t enough reason to avoid Sweden, where the women are usually exquisite but the men think their idea of a good time is to get drunk on cheap vodka, have a good cry, hit each other repeatedly with birch twigs in the sauna and then jump into the ocean in mid winter), now Swedish men are being cautioned against nude swimming – “Hold on a moment, Olaf, I need to put my budgie smugglers on” – after the local discovery of a South American fish notorious for biting human testicles.

Pacu Fish

Who, me? Tee hee hee.

The Natural History Museum of Denmark issued the warning after a local fisherman caught a pacu fish, a relative of the piranha, in an eel trap in the Oresund Sound off the country’s south coast.

“Keep your swimwear on if you’re bathing in the Sound these days – maybe there are more out there,” the museum’s somewhat laid back warning warning read.

According to Sweden’s The Local, this fun little critter – the “pacu” (a corruption, presumably, of fuck you) – is usually found in warmer waters and has a global reputation for biting human ‘bits’.

“The pacu is not normally dangerous to people but it has quite a serious bite, there have been incidents in other countries, such as Papua New Guinea where some men have had their testicles bitten off,’ Henrik Carl, a fish expert at the Danish museum told The Local.

“They are almost identical to the piranha, you couldn’t even tell from the outside. It’s just that they have different teeth. Flatter and stronger, perfect for crushing,” he added, smiling.

Although pacu generally feast on nuts, (I kid you not, it’s in the press release) fruit and smaller fish, Carl called human testicles swimming in the water a ‘natural target’.

“They bite because they’re hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouth,” Carl explained.

(We are not going anywhere NEAR that comment, Ed.)

According to The Local, pacus have reportedly killed fisherman who bled to death after losing their testicles.

Mind you – although how they know this definitely is unclear – the museum noted that the pacu fish that was caught caused no harm to swimmers or fishermen.

Carl said the risk to other swimmers is minimal, too.

“No, there’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “You’re more likely to drown than get your nuts bitten off.” Reassuring,

“It could become a problem some time in the future if it’s not the only one. This one was the first, but who knows, it’s probably not the last,” he added.

Bollocks to that, if you’ll forgive the pun. We’re taking our holidays in Bridlington next year.


They look dangerous. Let’s send them somewhere acceptably primitive and tropical so no more come.

In a rush to the darkest hole in the murky depths of the political gene pool, Australian Labor have now decreed that any refugee attempting to arrive by boat who are intercepted before reaching the shores of our vast, under-populated and incredibly wealthy country will never be allowed to settle here, but will, instead, be shipped off permanently to Papua New Guinea.

PNG is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Their residency there will be paid for by huge Australian aid grants – theoretically, that is: the PNG infrastructure is woefully inadequate for their existing population, and it is hard to see how they could possibly cope with an influx of thousands of Iranians, Afghanis and Sri Lankans – but the Australian electorate are not even permitted to know what the scale of this financial support might be, as opposed to the cost (or likely benefit, as shown by research paper after research paper), of settling any refugees in Australia.

This is a disgracefully mean-spirited and petty move from our Prime Minister, who so often parades his “Christian” virtue – what a hypocrite. What a nasty little power hungry goblin of a man he really is, to be sure. He has the moral compass of a gang leader trying to take over a rival’s turf – in this case, the ever-strident ratbaggery of Tony Abbott and his radical right cronies.

It is a timely moment for everyone interested in the quality of our governance to remember Martin Luther King’s famous remark:

“Everything Hitler did was legal.”

The “PNG solution” is legal.

It is also wickedly, shamefully and embarrassingly wrong: it is morally unsupportable.

And that it could be considered an aid to the slim prospects of Kevin Rudd being re-elected is a swingeing indictment of the priorities of the Australian electorate, and of the endless campaign of misinformation that has been waged by the Liberal-National Coalition both in and out of office.

A plague on both your houses.

That we are obliged, by law, to exhaust our ballot choices until we inevitably vote for one or the other of you is no longer tenable.

It is time – long overdue – that “None of the above/No further” was an available option on our Alternative Vote ballot papers. A reform that would see many seats left vacant after an election, I am sure. Just the wake up call the hacks in the Australian Government and Opposition – and the commentariat that lets them get away with such appalling policies – deserves and needs.

And while we’re about it, let’s nail two other pieces of public policy bullshit.

Bullshit #1

Would you risk this, would you risk your family, if you weren't utterly desperate?

Would you risk this, would you risk your family, if you weren’t utterly desperate?

This isn’t about stopping asylum seekers from drowning at sea.

If that was our motivation, we would simply send a few chartered cruise ships to Indonesia, scoop up all the refugees, and bring them to Australia safely.

This is because, despite Australia’s legal obligations, we don’t want these people here.

Despite our honourable tradition of welcoming refugees – and of them becoming leading citizens at all levels of our society – we have now officially decided to turn our backs on some of the poorest, weakest, most persecuted people on the planet.

Because remember, these are not “illegal immigrants”. They are not “economic migrants”. Because if they are found to be, then they are repatriated. These are displaced people, refugees.

Bullshit #2

Why do these people have to try and make their way to Australia?

Because Indonesia and Malaysia are not signatories to the UN Convention on Human Rights. They won’t give these people a “safe haven”. They lock them up. They marginalise them. They persecute them. They won’t let them work, raise a family, make their own way.

So they HAVE to keep going. So tell me, someone, why does Australia support the Governments of these countries with economic aid? Why do we not leverage this aid to insist that they take up their responsibilities too?

No, I am not arguing that Australia should not take up a larger share of the burden – we have the resources, and Lord knows we need the people. But the hypocrisy of the Indonesian and Malaysian leadership is nearly as breathtakingly sickening as that of the Milky Bar Kid and his acolytes in Canberra.

It is time for ordinary people in Australia to become righteously angry about this matter. Sadly, I suspect that apart from a laudable and vocal minority, they will focus their attention on the cricket.

I reproduce this story verbatim from Julie Ulbricht at because I believe in and profoundly agree with every word.

It doesn’t really need any further comment from me, and it deserves to be very widely read and acted upon. I know what my wife – a fantastic, caring, creative and thoughtful mother, I think I should add – is getting for Mothers’ Day. OK, and a cup of tea in bed.

Please pass this story on.


Last year a girl I went to school with died in childbirth. I was in shock when I heard the news. She went into labour in a hospital in Melbourne, there were extreme complications and she died – leaving her baby to be raised by her devastated partner. Everyone I ran into that knew her was dumbfounded. Who dies in childbirth in Australia?

The interesting thing is that just six kilometres away in Papua New Guinea, being pregnant instantly places you at a risk 242 times greater of losing your life in childbirth than if you were having your baby here Australia.

My shock about my school friend was so big because it is so rare. Yet for women who live in the country just north of ours, dying in childbirth is not so rare. And most are not dying for any complicated reasons, like my friend did. Haemorrhage is the leading cause of death in childbirth, and one that is entirely avoidable.

A professor of obstetrics, (and my hero) Dr Stephen Robson was travelling on a plane in 2010, flicking through TIME magazine when he came across a photographic essay about women dying in childbirth in Sierra Leone. Reading about the plight of one of the 1,000 women who die throughout the world every single day horrified him.

Steve obsessed about a way he could make a contribution to lowering the stats. It came down to raising money to fund basic maternal health programs in countries which need them most. He remembered all of the women he had helped to deliver their babies and the countless flowers they received. He had seen so many of these flowers thrown out – thousands of dollars worth, in the bin, every day.

A woman and her child lie dead after a delivery with complications in Guinea-Bissau. No problems were expected, but medical facilities to save them were inadequate. Somewhere in the world, a woman dies during childbirth about every 90 seconds. In addition, around 20 more suffer injury, infection or disease – approximately 10 million women each year.

He wondered whether he could encourage people to make a donation towards saving the lives of mothers in the developing world instead of sending flowers to celebrate births in Australia.

He gathered a small band of like-minded people together – including me – we brainstormed, and Send Hope Not Flowers was born.

We launched a few months ago and have already raised enough to fund our first maternal health project – delivering 200 Baby Bundle Gifts for women in the Milne Bay Province which is a remote area of Papua New Guinea.

Recent studies in that area found one of the common reasons why women chose to have a delivery in their village rather than at their local Health Centre was because they had no baby clothes or nappies for their newborn and they felt shy at exposing their poverty when they showed up at the centre.

They also lacked the $4.50 delivery fee and had no money to feed themselves while they were away from home.

When a women is able to have a supervised delivery at a health centre, they reduce the risk of death in childbirth significantly. What a simple intervention. What a way to give a woman her dignity back. What a way to save her life.

I write about global poverty and have done so for a number of years now. And of all the progress we as a world are making to reduce the number of people suffering unnecessarily because they are living in abject poverty, one of the areas that needs particular focus is maternal mortality. Of the 1,000 women dying every day, 99 per cent of these live in developing nations. And one of those nations, Papua New Guinea is on Australia’s doorstep.

So this Mother’s Day, instead of racking your brain thinking of something to get her – we recently read about buying your mum liposuction for Mother’s Day. I mean, really. – how about you Send Hope Not Flowers (or Send Hope Not Lipo?) and make a donation in her honour to go towards saving a life of another.

It is a profound gift. And one which can make a difference.

After all, flowers die. Women giving birth shouldn’t.

Go to to find out more.

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To read more about Send Hope and global maternal health, go here or here.