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.
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.
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.
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.
Luigi Maria d’Albertis (1841-1901), an Italian naturalist and explorer who worked on the Papuan coast and Fly River between 1875 and 1877. Albertis collected, for scientific purposes, specimens of plants, mammals, birds, insects, and Papuan artifacts and skeletons. In 1876 he and his crew traveled up the Fly (flying both the British and Italian flags) for 45 days before being forced back by disease and a shortage of food. During this expedition he named the Victor Emanuel Range. His travels are described in his New Guinea: What I Did and What I Saw published in both Italian and English in 1880. He did not believe that Papuans had rights and collected material by force where necessary. The collections are housed in museums in Italy and Australia. They are of considerable scientific value and have been extensively studied.
George Ambo (1922-2008), the first PNGan bishop and archbishop of the Anglican church. Ambo was born at Kurous village, near Gona, in what is now Oro Province. He was educated at Anglican missions and trained as a primary school teacher at St Aidan’s College, Dogura, and for the Ministry at Newton College, Dogura. First consecrated bishop at St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, Australia, in 1954, in 1970 Ambo was bishop for the Northern Papua Region of the Anglican Diocese of New Guinea. In 1973 he became the first PNGan Anglican Archbishop. He was knighted in 1988.
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.
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.
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.
Alain Marie Guynot de Boismenu (1870-1953), A leading member of the Congregation of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in British New Guinea (later Papua) 1898-1945. In 1898 he established a Catholic mission on Yule Island, off the south central coast of Papua, and was appointed counselor to Archbishop Navarre, the Vicar Apostolic of British New Guinea. In 1900 he was consecrated as coadjutor bishop to Navarre whom he succeeded as Vicar Apostolic in 1908. Between 1910 and 1940 he established an administrative and financial structure under which the mission expanded from Yule Island and the Mekeo region of the Papuan coast to inland districts. He encouraged missionaries to evangelize areas beyond the stations and train local catechists usually in the vernacular. In 1898 there were five districts, covering 8,000 people, with an estimated 2,400 Catholics and 800 children in mission schools. In 1945 there were 11 districts, covering 65,000 people, with an estimated 23,500 Catholics and 7,000 children in mission schools.
Boismenu believed that mission schools should give a basic general education as well as religious instruction and teach the English language. He encouraged missions to teach the skills needed to build and maintain stations. In 1924 he established a technical school on Yule Island as a model for Catholic mission technical training. By 1932 48 graduates of Catholic technical schools were employed by the Administration and private enterprises. Schools were funded from Australian and European sources and subsidized by the Administration. In 1916 a training school for catechists was established and in 1933 there were 219 Papuan catechists. In 1928 he sent a Papuan, Louis Vangeke, to study in Madagascar. Vangeke returned as an ordained priest, the first Melanesian of any denomination in the colony, in 1937. In 1918 Boismenu founded the Handmaids of Our Lord which was developed by the French Sister Marie Therese Noblet between 1921 and 1930. In 1935 he introduced Carmelite nuns from France and the Philippines to found the first contemplative monastery. He retired in 1945 but continued to live in PNG until his death in 1953.