William Dampier (1651-1715), British naval officer sent by the British Admiralty to explore the east coast of Australia and New Guinea in 1699. He sailed along the east and south coasts of the island of New Ireland and through the strait, which now bears his name, between the main island of New Guinea and the island of New Britain. His detailed description of New Britain aroused the interest of both the British and the French.
John Thomson Gunther (1910-1984), Australian medical doctor, public servant and the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Gunther won a scholarship to Kings School, Sydney, and graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney in 1934. In 1935 he joined Lever’s Pacific Plantations in Solomon Islands where he became interested in malaria. In 1938 he accepted a research post with Mt Isa Mines where he investigated lead poisoning in outback Australia. He joined the RAAF and was posted to New Guinea after the Japanese invasion in 1942. After the war he was invited by the Australian Minister for External Affairs to become Director of Public Health in New Guinea.
He arrived in Port Moresby in 1946 to find few staff, poor facilities and a high incidence of malaria, yaws, tuberculosis and tropical ulcers. With the help of funds provided under Australia’s “New Deal” for PNG, and new drugs, such as antibiotics, developed during the war, he embarked upon a large scale health campaign. His work with PNGans was hampered by the largely racist white community which expected priority in health service. Gunther revived the prewar Native Medical Assistants Scheme (later Aid Post Orderlies) under which semi-literate PNGans were trained to recognize major common diseases and administer premeasured doses of medicine. He organized a large-scale vaccination campaign against tuberculosis in the highlands. In 1964 he sent students to the Central Medical School in Suva to be trained as Medical Officers. He was in favor of repealing the ordinance under which PNGans were forbidden to drink alcohol. In 1962 he became Acting Administrator. In 1966 he became the first and one of the best Vice-Chancellors of UPNG. In 1972, when Gunther retired to Australia, UPNG was a well established scholarly institution with a high reputation.
Edward (Ted) Ramu Diro (1943- ), soldier, politician and businessman. Diro was born in Boku village, CD, and educated at Boku mission school, Kila Kila High School, Sogeri High School and Slade School, Warwick, in Queensland, Australia. In 1963 he entered the Officer Cadet School in Australia from which he graduated as a 2nd lieutenant in the Australian Army. Diro served as a commissioned officer in the Royal Australian Regiment and the Pacific Islands Regiment. In 1967 he became a captain, and in 1971 he was the first PNGan to attain the rank of major. In 1972 he commanded the C Company, 1st Pacific Islands Regiment, and in 1975 he became a Brigadier-General and Commander of the PNG Defence Force. Diro resigned his commission in 1981 and formed the PNG Independent Group (actually a Papuan bloc) to contest the 1982 House of Assembly elections. He was elected in 1982 and took his Independent Group into the National Party of which he was the leader for a period in 1982-83. Diro defected from the National Party in 1986 and his group became the basis of the People’s Action Party (PAP). In 1987 he was the parliamentary leader of the PAP.
In 1987, a Forestry Enquiry found that Diro had been party to a range of fraudulent activities while Minister for Forests (November 1985-December 1986). The Enquiry also found that, when Foreign Minister (December 1986-August 1987), Diro had received substantial sums of money from the Vanuatu government and an Indonesian army commander for his election campaign. In November 1987 he was charged with perjury and resigned from the cabinet. In January 1988 the perjury charges were dismissed. He was Minister for Internal Affairs (April-June 1988) and Minister for State, May 1989. In 1991 the Leadership Tribunal found Diro guilty of 81 counts of misconduct. Diro was not a candidate in the 1992 national election because under the Constitution those found guilty by the Leadership Tribunal are ineligible to stand for election for three years.