Marquis de Rays

Charles Marie Bonaventure du Breil, Marquis de Rays (1832-1893), French financial speculator and swindler who attempted to establish the “Free Colony of Port Breton” at Port Praslin, on the southwest coast of New Ireland, between 1879 and 1882. His scheme was to colonize eastern New Guinea and the Solomon Islands into a “New France” of which he proclaimed himself King. Although European governments denounced the project, about 1,000 gullible French, Belgians, Spaniards, Germans and Italians believed in his promise of cheap land and labor (Chinese and Malay), and markets for tropical crops. De Rays never visited the region and made no preparation for any of the four parties which he sent out. The land was unworkable and the majority of would-be colonists died of starvation or disease. Most of the survivors escaped to Australia. In 1882 de Rays’ fraud was exposed and he was sentenced to six years in jail for criminal negligence.

Timothy Akis

Timothy Akis (c1944-1984), visual artist, born in Tsembagek, Madang District. Akis had little formal education and worked first on a coastal plantation where he learnt Tok Pisin. On his return to the village he became an assistant to anthropologists and naturalists and sketched plants and animals to assist in their identification. In 1969 he visited Port Moresby where he was encouraged by expatriate artist Georgina Beier. Forty of the drawings he produced in this period were shown as the first one-man exhibition by a PNGan. Between 1972 and 1984 Akis made several visits to the government-funded Creative Arts Centre in Port Moresby where he was provided with accommodation, food, a small living allowance, a work space and equipment. His drawings are based on the myths of his people and the plants and animals with which he was familiar. He worked rapidly, produced many detailed drawings and had several successful exhibitions.

Alumu Bagita

Alumu Bagita (c1896-c1970), Papuan policeman who worked for the trading firm Burns Philp in Samarai from 1912 to 1916 when he joined the Papuan police force. In 1922 he became a sergeant and for 40 years a member of the Criminal Investigations Branch. When he retired in 1966, after 50 years service, he held the British Empire Medal, the Australia Service Medal and the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

George Brown

George Brown (1835-1917), Methodist missionary in New Britain from 1875-80 and General Secretary for Foreign Missions of the Australasian Board of Missions of the Methodist Church from 1887-1908. After 14 years of missionary work in Samoa Brown established a station on York Island, New Guinea, where he landed with a group of Samoan and Fijian teachers in 1875. Until the arrival of Rev. Benjamin Danks in 1878 he was the only European missionary in the region. Between 1875 and 1880 he established stations in the Duke of York Islands, the Gazelle Peninsula and New Ireland. In response to the killing of a Fijian minister and three teachers in 1878 he led a punitive expedition in which a number of the local (Tolai) people were killed and villages burnt down. Investigations of the incident by the church, the British and German authorities, and the Western Pacific High Commissioner, cleared him of criminal charges. In 1880 he rescued many of the survivors of the abortive settlement scheme of the Marquis de Rays in New Ireland. The first three local preachers in his area were appointed in 1880. From 1887 to 1908 he was based in Sydney, Australia, as the General Secretary of Missionsa body concerned with Methodist activity in the South Pacific.

In 1890 Brown visited PNG in response to a request from Administrator MacGregor for Methodists to undertake missionary work in Papua. He was a party to MacGregor’s scheme to divide Papua into missionary “spheres of influence”the London Missionary Society (LMS), the Anglicans and the Methodists. In 1891 he supervised the foundation of a mission at Dobu Island. During three further visits to Papua he guided Methodist mission expansion and discussed missionary activities with leaders of the LMS and Lutheran missions. An Autobiography, based on his anthropological and natural history observations as well as his missionary experiences, was published in 1908.

Josephine Abaijah

Dame Josephine Abaijah (1944- ), health worker, politician, administrator, businesswoman and founder and leader of the Papua Besena movement. Born in Wamira Village, Milne Bay, she was educated in PNG (where she was the first girl to attend Misima government school and the only girl in her class throughout her schooling) and at an Anglican boarding school in Queensland, Australia. Abaijah holds certificates in Health Education, Public Health, Education and Rural Reconstruction, and Teacher Training. She was one of the first Administration trained nurses in PNG. Abaijah has been secretary to the Papuan Medical College, Regional Health Educator at Lae, Senior Health Educator in the Department of Public Health and Principal of the Institute of Health Education. In 1972 Abaijah and her Australian advisor Dr Wright founded the Papua Besena (“hands off Papua”) movement to fight for independence for Papua. In 1972 she became the first woman to be elected to the House of Assembly where she served until her defeat in 1982. She has successfully managed retail businesses and in 1989 became the first woman chairperson of the Interim Commission (governing body) of the National Capital District. In 1991 she became a Dame of the British Empire. Her novel, A Thousand Coloured Dreams, based on her life, was published in Australia in 1991. This is the first published novel by a PNGan woman. Abaijah was an unsuccessful candidate for the House of Assembly in 1992.

Nora Vagi Brash

Nora Vagi Brash (1945- ), playwright and poet. Born into a Motuan family, Brash was educated at London Missionary Society schools, Port Moresby High School and Port Moresby Teachers’ College. She graduated from college in 1965 and wrote her first performed play while teaching at Kila Kila primary school. She received a Diploma in Teaching Techniques from the East-West Institute of Technology Hawaii Center in 1966 and taught at the Goroka Demonstration School from 1967-69. She obtained a Diploma in Journalism from UPNG in 1980 and a B.A. from UPNG in 1982. In the 1970s Brash lectured in puppetry, dance and drama at the Creative Arts School in Port Moresby and became Artistic Director of the National Arts School. She has also been an actress and directed plays. She has toured with the National Theatre Company in New Zealand, Nigeria and England, served on the board of the Theatre Company and the National Broadcasting Commission, and participated in writers’ conferences and literary selection panels at the University of Singapore, the Australian National University, the Commonwealth Institute in London and the Universities of Canterbury and Christchurch in New Zealand. Brash has lived in Nigeria, England, Singapore and Australia. Her plays include: High Cost of Living Differently, Which Way Big Man?, Black Market Buai, Sold Outright and Taurama. Her plays and poems have appeared in journals and anthologies.

Charles Abel

Charles William Abel (1862-1930), London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary in British New Guinea (later Papua) 1890-1917, founder and director of a technical education scheme, the Kwato Extension Association. Abel arrived in Port Moresby from London in 1890, after ordination and a year’s medical training. In 1891 he and Rev. F. W. Walker established a station on Kwato Island, near Samarai, in what was then the Eastern District. In 1892 he married Beatrice Moxton. At Kwato Abel established a boarding school which developed an “industrial branch” to train Papuans in manual skills such as Western-style carpentry for house and boat construction and furniture making. In 1911 he established coconut plantations for the production of copra. These activities were opposed by LMS missionaries such as Dr W. G. Lawes who believed Abel was pursuing practical education at the expense of religious studies. In 1916, when the LMS withdrew financial support, Abel resigned, became an honorary LMS missionary, and established the Kwato Extension Association. The work of the Association was subsidized by the Administration and partly funded by supporters in Australia and America through the New Guinea Evangelization Society. The Association flourished and in 1927 the properties were handed over to the LMS which had by then accepted the importance of this form of education.

Charles Barnes

Charles Edward Barnes (1901–1998), Australian minister responsible for PNG from 1963-72. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, Barnes served with the RAAF in PNG during WW II. He held the Queensland seat of McPherson for the Country Party 1958-74 and succeeded Sir Paul Hasluck as Minister for Territories from 1963-68. In 1968 the Territories portfolio was cut in half and Barnes was concerned with only External Territories (almost entirely PNG) from 1968 to 1972. Barnes discouraged the development of political parties. He believed that economic development was an essential foundation for political development. To accommodate the highlanders’ fear of being dominated by Papuans after Independence, he encouraged them to believe that Australia could delay independence for decades.

James Chalmers

James Chalmers (1841-1901), London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary in British New Guinea from 1877-1901. In 1865 he was ordained a minister of the Congregational Church in his native Scotland. In 1877, after working in Cook Island missions for ten years, Chalmers moved to the Port Moresby station in PNG. Between 1877 and 1886 he traveled extensively on the coast, particularly in the southeast, organizing LMS activities and recording the customs of the people. He explored areas which had not been contacted by Europeans. His experience contributed to the establishment of the British colonial Administration in 1884. In 1887 he began work at the Motumotu station, near the Lakekamu River, west of Port Moresby, and developed LMS activities in the Gulf of Papua region.

Chalmers believed that the mission should provide secular as well as religious instruction and teach the English language. In 1892 he set up headquarters on Saguane Island near the mouth of the Fly River. He established stations along the coast, guided and supported the teachers he introduced, and maintained close contact with the people. In 1900 he was joined by the Rev. Oliver Tomkins. In 1901, against advice from fellow missionaries and Administration officials, he and Tomkins visited Goaribari Island in the Gulf of Papua. When they landed at the village of Dopima on 8 April, they and the ten Papuans who had accompanied them, were killed by the local people. The colonial Administrator, Sir George Le Hunte, led a punitive expedition against the Goaribari in May 1901.

Paulius Arek

Paulius Arek (1929-1973), public servant and politician. Arek was born in Wanigela, Northern Province, and educated at Wanigela Anglican mission school and Sogeri Education Centre where he completed a teacher training course in 1948. He taught in Madang, Northern District and Western District. In the mid-1960s he was president of the Northern District Workers’ Association and the Popondetta Workers’ Club and vice-president of the Higaturu local government council. From 1968 until his death in 1973 Arek represented a Northern District electorate in the House of Assembly. In 1969 he became the first chairman of the Federation of Workers’ Associations. Also in 1969 he was elected chairman of the Select Committee on Constitutional Development and traveled extensively within PNG canvassing the people’s views on the form of government the country should adopt. He also traveled overseas to look at the experience of other developing countries. In 1971 the House of Assembly accepted the basic recommendations of the Committee’s Final Report. In 1972 Arek became Minister for Information and successfully established the National Broadcasting Commission.