Time for a Fair Go for Fuzzy Wuzzy descendants

The people of Oro Province, at the northern end of the Kokoda Track in PNG, have been waiting for more than two years for their government to help rebuild the roads, bridges, schools and villages destroyed by Cyclone Guba in November 2007.

Hundreds were killed and tens of thousands lost their homes when Cyclone Guba hit the province. Around 60 bridges and almost 100 schools were lost in the disaster.

Two years on, and just a handful of temporary bridges have been put in place. Thousands still live under tarpaulins in temporary shelters and kids are being taught in bush lean-tos. Much of the province is still cut off from the main thoroughfare for food and basic supplies – the road to Kokoda from the port of Oro Bay and the town of Popondetta.

Just when you think things couldn’t get worse, two things happen: first, the region suffers more floods during last month’s torrential rain; and second, it now seems the government has lost the funds it committed for the province’s rebuilding.

Yes, that’s right, apparently the Kina 60 million earmarked for the restoration of the province’s infrastructure has disappeared in Port Moresby!

In the latest issue of his PNG Attitude newsletter, respected commentator, Keith Jackson, writes:

“Over K60 million allocated by the PNG Government for relief and restoration efforts after Cyclone Guba devastated Oro Province in 2007 has ‘gone missing’. Provincial authorities briefed Public Services Minister Peter O’Neill of the situation but were not able to say where the money had gone.”

The Province’s administrator, Owen Awaita, was quoted as saying that K11 million had been allocated for restoration work during the state of emergency declared following the disaster and another K50 million had been “parked” at the Treasury Department in Port Moresby. Unbelievably, apparently all this money has disappeared.

In addition, a further K600,000 committed to land owners in Girua village, north east of Kokoda, allegedly had not been paid, prompting the villagers to ban authorities from their land until the payment is made.

The time has come for the PNG to show some political will and some transparency. Any qualified accountant could trace the missing funds within days.

While this disgraceful abrogation of responsibility continues, the people of Oro – many of whom are the descendants of the beloved Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – are relying on NGOs like the Kokoda Track Foundation and the Anglican Church for food and water. They are being denied justice and access to basic resources. Their children are being denied a future.

The PNG Government cannot proclaim its success in securing massive gas projects while turning a blind eye to massive fraud and ignoring the plight of so many of its people.

It's Never Too Late

If police officers and international footballers are starting to look like kids to you, you know you’ve reached that ‘certain age’. But, instead of stressing about getting there, I reckon we should celebrate making it. 

It’s a great age: an age when you have more time to consider things and when you can spend more time doing the things you love, rather than the things you have to do.  It’s an age when you even feel like you’re starting to gain some wisdom - or at least some perspective.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves some of life’s really tough questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? How can I be the best that I can? What percentage of my potential do I normally achieve? And what is the main internal obstacle preventing me from achieving more?

For most of us the answer to that last question is fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of pushing outside the boundaries we draw around ourselves. When we realise that most of our boundaries are illusions, we can set ourselves free.

I’m convinced that it’s never too late to be what you might have been! It’s never too late to push through your boundaries … to open your mind … to make your own decisions … to do something great.

In case you think it might be too late for you, consider a few examples: 

Consider Ray’s case. He was 52, diabetic, arthritic and had gall bladder and thyroid problems. He’d dropped out of high school, worked as a chalkie in a broker’s firm, sold paper cups, even tried his hand as a jazz musician.  He was selling milkshake machines when he met two blokes named Mac and Dick who owned a restaurant.  Ray saw the potential and followed his dream. Ray Krok bought the restaurant from the McDonald brothers and gave birth to the Golden Arches.  It wasn’t too late.

It was never too late for Nelson Mandela either.   He began his real career on the world stage at 72.  And what an impact he has had and is still having!

Winston Churchill took over as Prime Minister of Britain at the age of 65 and guided his nation through to victory in WWII at the age of 71. Coincidentally, both John Winston Howard and Edward Gough Whitlam were both 56 when they became Prime Minister.

My great friend, Stan Bisset, is about to turn 97.  He’s one of the heroes of the Kokoda campaign and our oldest living Wallaby rugby international.  Some circulation problems recently left him with a leg sore that wouldn’t heal. Did he lie back and accept it?  No, he did what he always has done: thought positive.  He checked things out on the net (yes, at 96!) and saw that some of the top footballers used hyperbaric chambers to improve blood flow for healing injuries.  So he organised a couple of weeks’ treatment in the chamber and solved his problem.  Now he’s working on a new exercise regime.  It’s never too late.

The one thing which has changed dramatically over our lifetimes is the pace of change. A very wise man once wrote: “Some people don’t like change.  Change couldn’t care less!”

It’s time to pause and reflect.  Whatever our age, whatever our stage in life, it’s never too late to take control of our destinies, to rethink our priorities, to rekindle our passions and to chase our dreams … and, most importantly, to have fun doing it!  Perhaps that bulging brain, Edward de Bono, summed it up best: “You can analyse the past but you have to design the future.”

It’s never too late to design your future!

(An article Patrick wrote for All About You, the magazine of the Queensland AMA)