The war was not over for Onoda

Onoda (second left) walking from the jungle where he had hidden since World War II, on Lubang island in the Philippines

I found this story deeply moving.

Hiroo Onoda was the last Japanese imperial soldier to emerge from hiding. He finally surrendered in 1974 on Lubang island in the Philippines. Onoda’s imperial army uniform, cap and sword were still in good condition.

Two weeks ago, one of the most fascinating story about the war came to an end when a former imperial soldier, Hiroo Onoda died at the age of 91 in Japan. When the war had ended in 1945, and his troops surrendered, Onoda had refused to surrender and hid in the jungles of the Philippines for 30 years. He was accidentally discovered by a traveller, and through conversation, the traveller returned and reported Oneda’s existence to the Japanese army.

When approached, Mr Onoda still could not believe, the war was over. Only his own superior and commander from 30 years ago, had to go to the Philippines and convince Mr Onoda – the war was truly over.

Onoda struggled to adapt to normal life on his return to Japan and he emigrated to Brazil in 1975 to become a farmer. He finally returned and settled in his homeland in 1984 and opened nature camps for children.

He did not consider his 30 years in the jungle to have been a waste of time.
‘Without that experience, I wouldn’t have my life today’ he said. ‘I do everything twice as fast so I can make up for the 30 years. I wish someone could eat and sleep for me so I can work 24 hours a day.’

Read more: The Daily Mirror


The Tufi Tattoos

The Tufi tattooing is a beautiful tradition that remains alive in Oro Province.  The art of traditional tattooing is dying, but, traditional artists and master tattooist in Tufi have kept the tradition alive for women in this culture. Tufi is known world-wide for its enchanting natural beauty. The town of Tufi is surrounded by reefs. It is one of the top diving spots in the world and a place of rich cultural heritage. The Tapa cloth also comes from Tufi. The town is located in the Eastern Peninsula of Cape Nelson in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea. 

Ramona at Kasiawa
Picture from Mr Jan in PNG


Mr Jan in PNG

Ramona at Kasiawa Ramona at Kasiawa

When a Tufi girl is ready for marriage she might, for some weeks, enter the hibernating process of getting a facial tattoo. The tattooing is an old traditional practice that has faded away and disappeared in most communities, but there are some areas where the tradition lives on.

Ethel is proud of her tattoo Ethel is proud of her tattoo

The girl stays in seclusion during the time of the application, which is made by a qualified tattooist – sometimes a relative; always a woman. First the pattern is drawn in black, and when the girls’ parents have expressed their appreciation the tattooist starts the actual process. Dulcie at Kafuaruru village and Levinia at Angorogho, two of the still active tattooists, use a modern needle instead of the bush needle that was tapped by a stick, which was the old way. The dyes today are also mixed with modern ingredients that give a stronger…

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The High Man

A full documentary about ancient Ireland’s myths and monuments

Some of you know about this archeology site in Ireland. I found its story and the artwork very intriguing.  The High Man documentary is about a fascinating giant figure of a warrior god in the ancient landscape of Ireland.

The Spirit of Mambesak

From: the garamut

Spirit of Mambesak was initially formed in the 70’s and 80’s by West Papuan artists Arnold Ap and Eddie Mofu. They understood the importance of culture and strove to use music as a medium to convey their basic human right: the freedom of expression.

Mambesak was formed to revitalise traditional West Papuan dance, music and song and eventually provided a certain colour, form and inspiration for the birth of music and dance groups throughout Papua, actively promoting and strengthening West Papuan identity. However, Arnold Ap and Eddie Mofu’s popularity and the conscious pride in being Papuan Mambesak’s music engendered, brought them to the attention of the Indonesian military who accused them of being separatists. They were finally murdered. Today, the spirit of Mambesak endures with new faces and new songs. This album was released in 2004.

You can listen to more or purchase their music here


“Life is Easy”

Jon Jandai

“Life is easy” says Jon Jandai. “Why do we have to make it so difficult?”

After pursuing “success” in Bangkok for several years, Jon dropped out of university to return to village life. There, he went back to the life he knew as a child, working two months of the year to grow rice (with an additional 15 minutes a day to grow vegetables), dug a couple of fish ponds, built his own homes using earthen bricks, and gave up buying clothes (he has so many clothes from friends and visitors that he has to give them away). Jo contends that to be happy, we cannot just rely on money; we have to reconnect with each other.

“Before I thought that stupid people like me … cannot have a house… because people who are cleverer than me and get a job need to work for 30 years to have a house. But for me, who cannot finish university, how can I have a house. It’s hopeless for people who have low education like me. But when I start to do earthen buildings, it’s so easy! I spent two hours per day… and in 3 months I have a house. A friend who was the most clever in the class he has a house too but he has to be in debt for 30 years, so compared to him I have 29 years and 10 months of free time. I feel life is so easy.”

Jon runs Pun Pun an organic farm, seed-saving operation, and sustainable living and learning center. At Pun Pun they use ancient natural building techniques with readily available, local, natural materials with little embodied energy and salvaged materials to make homes, a practical and affordable alternative to resource intensive conventional building.

An Epic Journey of Discovery

Happy Australia Day!

On March 7th, 1979, a week before I turned 14, I heard at school and on the news that a famous explorer named Michael James (Mich) Leahy had died. This man took an epic journey into the undiscovered, and untamed central highlands of British New Guinea in 1930s. I was in year nine at Busu High School, Lae, Papua New Guinea. During that time, I had been searching for my father and I already knew I was a child of the Leahy family. None of the information about the Leahys including those of the famous explorer were told to me. I was a very inquisitive child with many resources available and many people I could ask. However, only very few of my mother’s family members were responsive. At an early age, I knew that in order to find my father, I had to get my own information and do my own research. I became anxious as I grew older and was faced with the charges of other cruel children. They would constantly question who I was, my life, my father, my colour, and why I was ‘different’. Up until that point, all the information to do with my heritage was bundled into one big secret, kept by my mother. To get the information, I conducted a secret investigation of my own.

And, that was how I knew, the famous explorer who died was my father’s father. On that day, reading the news, I knew I would never meet my grandfather. It was a moment of surrealism, one I could not share with anyone. It felt strange to be paralysed by the thought of losing something great, that I never had. I did not speak about the death with anyone. As days went by, my fears were suppressed by my curiosity. Wherever I went and whoever I spoke to, I continued my research for every information I could get about my father. (Read more when I publish my memoir.)

fig19 Mich Leahy
Mich Leahy

My final Australian story tonight is about Australian Michael Leahy, the first white man to enter the central highlands of Papua New Guinea with his three brothers. This is a long story, however, this post will be brief, and I will give you as many links as I can for you to read more about Mick Leahy.

Born in Toowoomba on February 26, 1901, fourth child of nine to Daniel and Ellen Leahy, an Irish migrant family, Mick completed his education at Christian Brothers College, Toowoomba. His first job was as a railway clerk, but, his entrepreneurial spirit drove him to leave and become a freelance wood-cutter. When the news of the gold rush in Eddie Creek, New Guinea, in 1926 reached him, Mick was driving a lorry. He had stopped the truck and the story was that, he jumped on the first ship to Port Moresby. His three brothers, Paddy, James and Dan joined him later. His brother Tom remained in Toowoomba.

In the same year Mich was born, June of 1926 the Permanent Mandates of the League of nation met in Geneva to discuss Australia’s takeover of New Guinea. It was noted that the total area of New Guinea was 16,000 square miles. This was only one sixth of the actual total area and the reason being, the rest of New Guinea was unexplored and unknown.

Mich started his gold prospecting; mostly down along the Bulolo and near and around areas close to the Eddie Creek. During his prospecting years in New Guinea, Mich became ill with Malaria and nearly lost his life. He took a construction job and stayed out of the bush until 1930.

Michael_Lahey_Mt_Hagen_expedition Mich with his back to the camera is making a movie of the plane Canberra being prepared for surveying expedition into the highlands. Ken and Irish Spinks collection at National Library of Australia photos.

He returned with Mick Dwyer and walked across parts of interior New Guinea. Their main aim was to prospect for gold. However, as they approached some parts of the interior, they discovered that they were the first white men to be seen by the natives of the area. The natives of the interior could not communicate readily and many reacted as if the Mich and Dywer were ghosts or spirits. They had brought workmen from the coast, and some could speak and translate in pidgin. Mich and Dwyer had  been warned the inland area was unpopulated with no Australian government administration and it was very dangerous. They were told that they could lose their lives. This did not deter Mich’s passion for prospecting and his inquisitiveness to see inland New Guinea. Mich had not wanted to take his brother Dan, the youngest, because he felt, Dan was not ready. Both Mich and Dywer kept personal diaries, notes, and they took photographs of their expedition. In the first part of the Epic journey, Mich and Dywer crossed the Purari/Gulf of Papua which began his taste to return and walk deeper into the highlands of New Guinea.  In his book, The Land That Time Forgot, Mich Leahy wrote that in their first expedition, on the foot of the hills before him and Dwyer entered the highlands, one of the missionary workers tried to scare Ewunga, Mich’s boss-boy in pidgin.  Mich more or less wrote it in his version of Pidgin-English:

“Moun-tain ee big fella more. No got road, Kanaka long hap, man belong fight true. Allee can killum you fella, now kai-kai.”

(Translation – the mountains are bigger, there is no road and the natives are fearful warriors. They can kill and eat you.”)

To which the fearless Ewunga replied: “No can! Kanaka something nothing. Suppose allee like fight, me fella can tryum.”

Translation: (“No, they cannot! Natives are nothing. If they want to fight, we can all try.”) Mich was really glad that Ewunga was fearless.

Leahy, Michael J., 1901-1979. Papuans looking at first gramaphone, Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, 1933 PPIc: National Library of Australia.

Mick and his brother Danny were leaders of the next and the 1933 expedition that opened up the Wahgi Valley of the Western Highlands and this was where Danny would eventually settle. From what he had written, I believe, Mich loved the Waghi Valley and the Western Highlands the most. He admired the architecture of the houses, the adornment and dress of the people. he also thought the people were intelligent and warm.

“The landscaping and the sing sing (dancing) grounds resembled that of the upper Waghi and we were continually admiring their beauty and arrangement. I was invited to enter one of the ceremonial houses and found them to a well-made, circular grass house, with a roof ten feet high, divided into five compartments, one of them being a sort of hallway down the centre.” Leahy, The Land That Time Forgot”, p.218.

Mich’s gold prospecting adventures turned out to be one epic journey which has gone into the history books of both Australia and Papua New Guinea. A trilogy of the Leahys’ story can be purchased from ABC stores. There are previews on YouTube. I have posted a link to the Australian Screen.

The Central Highlands of New Guinea. Royal Geographical Society: London. (pp. 229–262 in the Geographical Journal

A Digital Master Attuned to Healing

Jenny Fraser

My next story to celebrate Australia Day is about an exceptional woman. She is an artist, an advocate for the rights of the aboriginal people and also a very clever curator. Recently, Jenny Fraser has decided to move from making art and digital films into traditional and natural healing.

I first met Jenny in Bundaberg during my curatorial project “Pacific Storms Contemporary Art Exhibition“.

Jenny Fraser is a digital native working within a fluid screen-based practice. Because of the diverse creative media Fraser uses, much of her work defies categorization, taking iconic and everyday symbols of Australian life and places them into a context that questions the values they represent. With a laconic sense of humour she picks away at the fabric of our society, exposing contradictions, absurdities, and denial. Her practice has also been partly defined through a strong commitment to Artist / Curating as an act of sovereignty and emancipation.

unnamed Jenny on surf board
On the waves, Jenny Fraser

A Murri, she was born in Mareeba, Far North Queensland in 1971 and her old people originally hailed from Yugambeh Country in the Gold Coast Hinterland on the South East Queensland / Northern New South Wales border. She has completed a Master of Indigenous Wellbeing at Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales and is currently completing a PhD in the Art of Aboriginal healing and Decolonisation at Batchelor Institute in the Northern Territory. Jenny is the eldest of three girls.

Jenny spent her early years with one of her sisters, driving across Australia. This is where she learnt to be comfortable with the lifestyle, be that in the Australian bush, city or by the ocean.

“I have always known that I would be an artist. Although I am a trained Art / Film and Media Educator, I resigned from that in 2000. The artists lifestyle suits me much better.”

As a child, Jenny had a keen interest in many cultural approaches towards different lifestyle choices, practising and maintaining traditional knowledges, and relaxation techniques.

The curator’s transition into Natural medicine was a defining moment for her when she was making films and speaking with some of the healers in natural medicine. Jenny felt that was something that greatly interested her, she had only realised it when she spent more time with the people in that natural medicine.

“This awareness became more solid for me, when I worked on some films and witnessed the way people work so hard in that industry, which often drives them to sickness. But some have learnt from the hard work and have opened their own businesses in Natural medicine instead”.

Jenny is also a spearhead for Aboriginal Media Arts, founding cyberTribe online Gallery in 1999 and the Blackout Collective in 2002. More recently she was the first Aboriginal Curator to present a Triennial exhibition in Australia: ‘the other APT’ coinciding and responding to the Asia Pacific Triennial which was then accepted for inclusion into the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

She has travelled extensively and completed residency programs from remote communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and also Raw Space and New Flames in Brisbane.

The best way to see some of Jenny’s work is to click on some of the links below:

From a Fisherman to a Wallaby

688342-will-genia fishing
Will (right) returning home with a catch in Port Moresby. Pic: Courier Mail.

Australia is known world-wide for its achievements in both rugby league and rugby union. Today, for Australian stories, I would like to share a story about a rugby union legend. This story is also about a fisherman who became a Wallaby. If you don’t know what a wallaby is, it is an Australian marsupial from the same family as a Kangaroo. If you play for the Australian national rugby team, you are also called a wallaby.  This story began in Papua New Guinea and ended in Australia, and  it has now connected the two countries proudly.

The Will of Power

When he was growing up, Sanchez, William Genia (Will) was not driven to play sports nor did he like one particular sport. Like a typical coastal PNG child, Will spent weekends and free time fishing, to catch food. He and his brother and cousins would go to their village down the coast to fish. On Saturdays, Will had told Courier Mail, the family gathered and worshipped in the village church.The children played a little cricket after church in the backyard. Will idolised Australian cricketer, Steve Waugh.

Will’s mother was the assistant governor at the Bank of PNG and his father was a cabinet minister 2011.  At the age of 12, Will’s family decided to send him and his brother down to Brisbane, Australia for schooling and this was when he was introduced to rugby. Will told Courier Mail, he realised for the first time, this was going to be a completely new life and away from his large family, back in Port Moresby. His brother had already spent two years in Canberra so he was happy to be in Brisbane. That first day, Will went to his brother’s room and cried in bed. His brother was not impressed. In Brisbane Boys College, his new sport consumed his new life and soon he went from playing school rugby to being recruited into club rugby by the Queensland Reds in 2006. He played his first Super 14 at 19-years-old. He played in scrum-half position.

440648-will-genia wallaby
New Wallaby … a proud-as-peach Will Genia poses for the cameras. Photograph: Nathan Richter

In 2009 Will was selected to play for Australia and became the second PNG-born Wallaby, at the age of 21. (The first was Graeme Bond). And, on this day, funny enough, he could not ring to tell his parents because his mother Elizabeth was overseas, and his father Kilroy Genia was down the coast fishing.

Will has had many outstanding professional rugby achievements, amongst playing for Junior World Cup, being selected into Wallabies in 2009, Captaining the Reds, winning the player of the year several times, winning People’s Choice, winning the Pilecki Medal twice and was voted the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year by Australian rugby writers.


The All-Blacks half-back Justine Marshall in 2013 described Will as being the best player in the world for his position. Others players, both retired and current players have said Will is currently the best half back rugby union player in the world. Finally, Will was nominated the Ambassador for the Kokoda Track Foundation. The Kokoda Trail is a famous historical site which united Australia and PNG through the history of war. This will be another post.


*Here is a piece of an interview from the Melbourne Herald Sun which I found amusing. I do know Will and his family personally and I am very proud of him. Will is a son of both Australia and PNG.

SANCHEZ Genia, best known by his middle name Will, has become one of Queensland sport’s most enchanting success stories. The Papua-New Guinea-raised son of a senior government minister has surged through the rugby ranks to be Wallaby halfback.

Q: Sanchez Genia. Great name, but you have kept it pretty quiet.
A: The boys here are the only ones who call me Sanchez because they are probably the only ones who know about it. When I made my first trip to South Africa they got my passport and said “who’s Sanchez?” It all started from there.

Q: Who were you named after?
A: My dad’s older brother, who was heavily involved in raising us as kids, had a favourite boxer who was Mexican and his name was (Salvador) Sanchez. My dad did not want to call me Sanchez but he had a lot of respect for his older brother so he said “you can name him”. I never really liked Sanchez because as a kid I was teased and they called me Sandshoes. They’d say “you don’t look like a Sanchez” and I’d say “OK, call me Will”.

Q: Sanchez Genia has a real ring to it and great marketing potential, don’t you agree?
A: It is definitely something you would not forget: a little dark kid from Papua New Guinea named Sanchez. The boys reckon I should use it because it is cool, but I am not going back to it.


A Diary to Remember

I had kept diaries in the past. Over the years, some have been lost by accident, or the diaries were deliberately destroyed under difficult circumstances. With the digital age, I keep notes on my phone, a tablet or a laptop. Some of these notes often do not make sense after a while but sometimes I find some little gems I could use in my stories or important information I need to keep. There are websites you can write a diary on these days. In my search to find Australian stories to celebrate Australia Day, I found a story about another fascinating historical character. Ethel Turner was an Edwardian woman and writer who kept diaries for 62 years. She later wrote for the Sydney newspaper and eventually published books.  I believe that maintaining a habit of writing consistently, sometimes with meaningless notes, apart from writing for the love of it, has made it natural for Ethel to progress into a published writer. Ethel’s diary entries which seemed vain and meaningless at that time of entry, also later became part of history.  In addition, Ethel’s grand-daughter Philippa Poole was able to bring together and use these valuable entries as threads for all her grandmother’s writings.

Here is a review on The Diaries of Ethel Turner & Seven Little Australians” found on a blog called, Tell Me a Story.


For 62 years, Ethel Turner kept a diary. Ethel’s diary entries which begin in 1889 at aged 17 were only a simple record of each day of shopping, tennis and picnics, garden parties and balls.

“This morning I made myself a black lace hat. Idled in afternoon. At night went to Articled Clerks dance and wore my white liberty again, this time with crimson flowers and snowdrops. M.Backhouse asked me for a dance and then did not account for it. I shall never notice him again. He was a bit intoxicated last night, I think, it is pity, he might be a very nice boy. I’m awfully sorry for him.”

If the endless round of social gaiety was enough for most girls Ethel and her sister Lilian had other ideas. Having gained experience editing their school magazine, in 1889 they launched their own monthly publication called the Parthenon which would have considerable success during the next three years. Her love of literature and writing becomes more noticeable in the diary entries as she records the books she buys and reads…

” I read the loveliest book or part of it after 11pm last night Not All In Vain by Ada Cambridge – I think I like better than any book I have read.’

She began writing stories, poems and articles for a Sydney newspaper, recognising that she had a talent that could earn her money and help her gain independence.

seven little australians

In 1894 Seven Little Australians was accepted for publication.

Set in Sydney in the 1880’s it tells the story of the seven children of a very authoritarian father and a flighty stepmother. By informing her young readers at the beginning that they are about to hear the tale of ‘very naughty children’ Ethel Turner immediately grasps their interest.

She was also ahead of her time with her writing by capturing a warm relationship between parents and children and by going against the ‘happy ever after’ ending. This is a story of fun, adventure and a tear-jerking tragedy.

Despite warnings that marriage would mean the end of her writing career , in 1896 Ethel married her long-time suitor Herbert Curlewis and bore two children, Jean and Adrian early in the new century.
She continued to write prolifically – more than 40 novels, short stories and poems for children.

In 1928 her beloved daughter was diagnosed with tuberculosis and after a prolonged illness died in 1930. Ethel was heartbroken and never wrote again.

Ethel Turner died in 1958.

The First Indigenous Author to be in Print

For Australia Day features, my son Nathan came up with this brilliant suggestion, and something from Australia’s history. It is a story of a man who became a mediator and later described as a traitor for his relationship with the first settlers. He lived a fascinating life between his own people and the colonials and this life took him on an adventure to England in 1792. Bennelong was said to be the first Indigenous Australian Author to have his words printed. Here are two versions of his story with a song from Bennelong. Long live his spirit!

From ABC Radio, here is a brief story about his trip to England with an audio recording of Bennelong singing.


It has been more than two hundred years since the death of Bennelong – that great Wanggal leader and ambassador to the Sydney colony.

Bennelong has long been cast as a tragic figure, a traitor to his people, a damaged character from countless Australian histories, novels and narratives. But as more information about him and his contemporaries comes to light, Bennelong is being recast as an adventurer, a politician, a diplomat … and it seems he is still speaking to us across the centuries, in words and song.

Bennelong was 29 and his companion Yemmerawanne was just 19 when they agreed to sail to England with Governor Phillip.

When Bennelong finally returned to Sydney Cove, he’d been away for almost three years … Yemmerawanne died in England and is buried there.

Back at the Governor’s house in Sydney Cove, Bennelong wrote a letter to Lord Sydney. We’re not sure if Bennelong dictated it to another person, or wrote it in his own hand, because the original letter can’t be found. Only a copy survives.

Historian and curator, Keith Vincent Smith, has been investigating Bennelong’s life and his long, traumatic voyage to Britain in 1792. He found the copy of the letter we have today, in an obscure German astronomy journal published in the early 19th century.

Performed in London in 1792, as notated and published by musician Edward Jones in 1811. This version is performed by Clarence Slockee and Matthew Doyle at the State Library of NSW, August 2010.
(02’01”, 1.85MB)

Bennelong Sings


National Library of Australia Picture and caption: Portrait of Bennilong, a native of New Holland, who after experiencing for two years the luxuries of England, returned to his own country and resumed all his savage habits [picture].
 Bennelong (1764–1813)

by Eleanor Dark

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Bennelong (1764?-1813), Aboriginal, was captured in November 1789 and brought to the settlement at Sydney Cove by order of Governor Arthur Phillip, who hoped to learn from him more of the natives’ customs and language. Bennelong took readily to life among the white men, relished their food, acquired a taste for liquor, learned to speak English and became particularly attached to the governor, in whose house he lodged. In May he escaped, and no more was seen of him until September when he was among a large assembly of natives at Manly, one of whom wounded Phillip with a spear. The attack seems to have been the result of a misunderstanding, and Bennelong took no part in it; indeed, he expressed concern and frequently appeared near Sydney Cove to inquire after the governor’s health. The incident was thus the means of re-establishing contact between them and, when assured that he would not be detained, Bennelong began to frequent the settlement with many of his compatriots, who made the Government House yard their headquarters. In 1791 a brick hut, 12 feet sq. (1.1 m²), was built for him on the eastern point of Sydney Cove, now called Bennelong Point.

In December 1792 he sailed with Phillip for England where he was presented to King George III. August 1794 found him on board the Reliance in Plymouth Sound, waiting to return to the colony with Governor John Hunter, but the ship did not sail until early in 1795, and on 25 January Hunter wrote that Bennelong’s health was precarious because of cold, homesickness and disappointment at the long delay which had ‘much broken his spirit’. He reached Sydney in September, and thereafter references to him are scanty, though it is clear that he could no longer find contentment or full acceptance either among his countrymen or the white men. Two years later he had become ‘so fond of drinking that he lost no opportunity of being intoxicated, and in that state was so savage and violent as to be capable of any mischief’. In 1798 he was twice dangerously wounded in tribal battles. A censorious paragraph in the Sydney Gazette records his death at Kissing Point on 3 January 1813.

His wife, Barangaroo, bore him a daughter named Dilboong who died in infancy. Later he took a second wife, Gooroobaroobooloo, but during his absence in England she found another mate, and disdained Bennelong when he returned.

His age, at the time of his capture, was estimated at 25, and he was described as being ‘of good stature, stoutly made’, with a ‘bold, intrepid countenance’. His appetite was such that ‘the ration of a week was insufficient to have kept him for a day’, and ‘love and war seemed his favourite pursuits’. Contemporary accounts reveal him as courageous, intelligent, vain, quick-tempered, ‘tender with children’ and something of a comedian.

Bennelong also had a son who was adopted by Rev. William Walker and christened Thomas Walker Coke. He died after a short illness aged about 20.