Notes from the Northern Territory: Jim Toner

June 2013

The fact that, following the PNG general election of 2012, the victors in 95% of the seats had been challenged by losing candidates was mentioned in the December issue. Consideration of their petitions has been the responsibility of a single Judge and unsurprisingly he admits to being stressed. In April he said that going around the country for five months examining all these disputes had not been easy. He added “Judges are not robots....” No, indeed.

Them were the days. Goroka had a rugby league ground alongside its Club and Bill Brown tells us that back in 1953/54 the Gillies brothers and young Danny Leahy were already the hard core of its team (the adjective being well chosen). Behind them were the unlikely—to most of us—figures of Paul Healey at half-back, Ian Downs at five-eighth with Fred Kaad and Bill Brown as centres. Frightening.

In the March issue I mentioned Dr Albert Foreman, a physician now resident in Darwin, who had both an unusual pre-medicine background and much experience in PNG. The same goes for Dr Barry Kirby. A NSW Northern Rivers farm boy, he was educated at a Brisbane college but his first job was in Sydney as a trainee accountant. He gave that away to become a carpenter like his father and earns a place in these Notes because he eventually set up a building business in Alice Springs. When that collapsed he applied for a job in Menyamya. As one would?

Kirby spent four years amongst the Kukukuku, building (for AusAID) a High School and boarding houses for students. In 1990, prompted by what he had seen of health services in the PNG bush, he decided to study for a medical degree and did that at universities in Sydney, Brisbane, and UPNG Moresby. Finally in 2002 he commenced practice as a rural obstetrics specialist and now, aged 62, he is based at Alotau but sails around Milne Bay province doing what he can for expectant island women. Not too many "Career Change" stories can compare with his.

News of the appalling fate (set alight) of a 20-year-old woman accused or sorcery in Mt Hagen flashed around the world during February. The fact that mobile phones were instantly produced by witnesses in order to take photos of the crime would have amazed only us lapuns who once lived in the Highlands.

On a similar violent topic, technological advances enable anyone to see a collection of pictures of women in PNG hospitals maltreated by spouses and strangers. For members with the stomach to view them click on

Col Maddden, a 1967-68 ASOPA chalkie, and his wife Esther from Tufi, also a teacher, are residents of Palmerston NT and were looking forward to a visit from their daughter Damana over the Anzac Day weekend. She is a computer-whiz working in Canberra and has just returned from London having been selected by Microsoft, her employer, for hi-tech training in part with the BBC. She does visit her maternal relatives in the Northern Province but will have much to tell her Northern Territory family about that trip to London.