Between 1974 and 1999, I spent twenty years as a journalist in Papua New Guinea. Following that, I spent fifteen years reporting on and from the Pacific islands, with a visit or two back to Papua New Guinea each year. Unfortunately, not long after the ABC made me redundant in 2014, I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. It has severely limited my ability to type. Whereas once I was a ten-fingered typist, I am now down to two fingers, and even that is laboured. For my recent birthday, my wife, Pauline, and my two children bought me Dragon voice-recognition software. I could not have written this essay without it. But it is not perfect – especially with unfamiliar words.
I have been transcribing the extensive notes that my late mother wrote in longhand on our family history. In the mid-1970s, I spent three years on secondment from the ABC to the newly created National Broadcasting Commission of Papua New Guinea. My mother wrote about how, in 1975, she and my father came to Port Moresby to watch me play as a halfback for the national rugby league team, the Kumuls. Dragon made a stab at autocorrect. “Kumul” is the Melanesian Pidgin word for “bird of paradise”. However, according to Dragon, the national rugby league team is not named “the Kumuls” but “the Criminals”.