Stuart Hawthorne's BOOKS
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The Kokoda Trail: A History
Port Moresby: Taim bipo
Image of Port Moresby front cover
$30 (plus postage)

ISBN 9781921920196. 320 pages, with 4 appendices and index, 446 colour and black & white illustrations. Published by Boolarong Press 2011 .  240mm x 170mm.

Port Moresby: Taim bipo is about Port Moresbythe capital of Papua New Guineabut it is not about the city of today. Rather, it is about 'taim bipo' (a Pidgin English term meaning ‘previously’ or ‘as it was’), about how life was lived in Port Moresby in the two decades before 1975 when PNG was still under Australian control.

These were years of peace and progress—when it was still a ‘lovely and gentle city’—far removed from the troubled times that followed PNGs independence. 

With over 400 illustrations, this volume provides an engrossing slice through time, capturing page after page of this unique period of history that Australia and PNG share. Anyone who has ever lived in Port Moresby or has the slightest affection for how the town used to be will find impossible to put this book down.

Review by Jim Sinclair OBE.

Papua New Guinea has not been kindly treated in the Australian media since achieving independence in September 1975. The only accounts that Australians usually read in the newspapers or see on television are about crime or corruption. Few positive stories are ever told.

Yet there are many thousands of us who spent the best years of our lives there retain fond memories of PNG, and it is undeniable that it still exercises a spell.

In this book, Stuart Hawthorne has written an affectionate account of his boyhood years in Port Moresby, capital city of PNG, during the two decades before Independence, and of his eventual departure as a young man. The outstanding feature of this well-produced book is the more than 400 photographs, in colour and monochrome, that illustrate the narrative. Some were taken by the author, others by many contributors, all of whom are acknowledged.

They are well selected, and of generally excellent quality: all too often photographs are included in books of this type purely because of their historical significance, but a certain minimum quality level is really essential if a book is to succeed. This has been achieved here. Hawthorne has also included a useful selection of brief articles from contemporary PNG newspapers, which add to the experience, and maps of the town.

The author takes his reader on a nostalgic journey through the Port Moresby of yesteryear. His chapter headings tell the story to those who knew the Port Moresby of the 1950s and 1960s: At Home, Weekend Diversions, A Paradise for Kids, Good Sports, Bomana War Cemetery, A Working Port, Hanuabada, Hiri Voyages, The Yacht Club, Gemo Island, Ela Beach, the Streets of Port Moresby, Koki Market, Sogeri Show, and Town and Country, Going Finish. It is hardly necessary to make any further comment, the headings say it all.

Hawthorne devotes one chapter to an attempt to explain why the fortunes of PNG, and Port Moresby, have so dramatically changed since Independence. This is the least convincing part of the book, for it is manifestly impossible to do justice to such a huge and complex subject in a matter of 20 pages. Yet he does make some telling points. I am pleased to note that he has given considerable credit to the late Sir Donald Cleland, Administrator of PNG during most of the period covered in this book. I believe that historians of the future will be kind to Sir Donald.

This is a book that should find a place in the libraries of all who lived and worked in the old Port Moresby. It is lively, well presented, and of a handy size.  I recommend it to all PNG old-timers, and to those who want to know a little bit more about the fascinating country lying just off the tip of Australia.

Australians should know more about PNG: we administered the country from Federation to 1975. What happens in PNG should matter to us. You can literally almost throw a stone from the northernmost point of Queensland to the southern shore of Papua New Guinea. How many Australians realize that?


Review by Shirley Webb.

What an amazing book! Thoroughly researched and profusely illustrated. I was captivated from the first chapter.

The author, Stuart Hawthorne, has sought to record events and images from pre-independence Port Moresby, when post war optimism and freedom brought a unique quality of life to those living in the capital city of Papua New Guinea. He writes from a passionate desire to expound and defend the beautiful, peaceful, secure island life we grew up in – in response to criticism of the modern city of Port Moresby as being a dangerous and filthy place to live, with a corrupt and incompetent government.

His empathy with the PNG people is particularly evident as he describes the staging of the South Pacific Games in Port Moresby in 1969. He reaches a deeper level to look behind the events themselves and shows us another perspective, which was to bring about significant growth of a national identity.

The book is written in an informal, conversational style which flows easily and makes the reader feel part of the experience. The author uses exposition to present facts as clearly as possible, while interspersing this with personal recounts. He has succeeded in allowing the reader to interpret the text and photographs in the light of their own experiences. The inclusion of detailed maps and press clippings aids in understanding and brings memories to life.

He dedicates two chapters to a brief analysis of some of the circumstances that have led to such a profound change in lifestyle in Port Moresby. His conclusions are drawn logically from the evidence uncovered by accurate research.

Full of wonderfully descriptive pictures and accurate in detail this book is a valuable historical resource. I highly recommend it to anyone who has grown up in PNG or has a fascination with the way things were.