My Story Begins

I was trawling back through early versions of my memoir the last two days and reoorganising it. It could be written sometime soon and it feels good to begin to see its structure as well, but back to the other novel and the memoir can sit and stew, although I am making notes of memories I’d like to add to it when I feel I can’t work on the novel. It could be three books, or one book with three to four sections.

“My story begins with the love story of my parents to be, in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s. Dad when he reads my first telling of their story in a short piece called ‘Lost in the Bush’ says, ‘You make it sound so much like a movie.’ And it’s true: it has that feeling about it, because it’s an epic story about the coming together of two rebellious and open minded young people from different cultures.

My parents met when they were young. She was eighteen and training to be a nurse, while he was a patrol officer in his early twenties, and part of the colonial administration of Papua New Guinea by Australia.

My mother, Anna Elizabeth Ako, began her life living in Maipa Village Papua New Guinea, tending to the pigs, which were destined to be killed for feasts. She had a younger brother and sisters and older brother and sister, and another two sisters who died before she was born. Later she went away to a mission boarding school and was educated by Catholic nuns with the occasional visit from Priests.

In her teens she would examine many churches to see whether Catholicism truly was the one for her and even later she would look at world religions. Her father Malolo was the local sorcerer, who gave love spells, herbal remedies, and sometimes curses. He didn’t think much of churches, as they looked down on his carving, and living a traditional life. Yet, still this traditional man didn’t object to his daughter being trained as a nurse, as long as she still learnt traditional dances and understood her role as a woman to care for her family and extended family. Her mother was Paisa, destined to be the semi exiled second wife of the sorcerer.

Paisa would later ask her daughter to please bring her to Australia to live. I was told I would be sharing a room with her. My mother planned this for years but sadly it never happened.”

(c) June Perkins, Extract from Memoir in Progress.


Lest We Forget

My mother tells me my grandfather was one of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

That’s all I know of the story so far, apart from what is in the Australian War Memorial Records, and written by the army or historians.

There is so much history that could have been written but might forever be lost.

So we search for fragments in the often faded memories of those relatives who spoke to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Must we then imagine their stories from these spoken fragments, public records, and photographs, where so many faces seem to be from the village of my grandfather.

Will some historians who want written records, and identify verification from the photographs, discount our hand-me-down fragments and pieced together tales?

I am touched when a friend of mine says her grandfather was an Australian on that trails.

Maybe our grandfathers met each other.

We will never now.

Malolo was a Fuzzy Wuzzy angel.

He was my bubu (grandfather)

Lest we Forget.


For more information (photographs in the public domain)


Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels


Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him
and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley Track

For they haven’t any halos
only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse

Slow and careful in the bad places
on the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It’s a picture worth recording
that an artist’s yet to paint

Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track

May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.

By Bert Beros

Can be found at

Honouring Stories

Fragments of Broken Hearts – June Perkins – featured on nineteen months

It was a day for honouring and remembering people born in villages, with open houses, who have to make and grow everything they have – those whose islands may be going under, and they may have to mass migrate.

I had an enlightening yarn up with a Papua New Guinean Australian lady I have met at the place where I tutor. There’s a common room where staff and students often mingle including the more transient sessional academics, who tutor.

Today we talked about culture, opportunities for the young in the Pacific, our travels, growing up Papua New Guinean in Australian, and I always feel like I understand something more after our yarns. On another note we discussed pigs, colonisation, and chickens.  I won’t go into our private yarn up too much, but plenty of deep thinking conversation not to mention laughter.  Reminds me of visits and yarns with my dear friend Lima up in Tully

My mum was the caretaker of the pigs, and eventually they would end up at feast.  Pigs are there, weddings and funerals, and there was one at my wedding in Hobart.  That’s one way to be PNG in Australia, have the pig at the important events.

When I arrived home my mum emailed me that an older brother had passed away. She was, understandably pretty sad about it, and rarely travels to Papua New Guinea which makes that loss even harder (no closure from the funeral), although she often sends parcels and does major projects to give back to the community she grew up in.

This week has been wonderful for discovering a whole stack of Pasifika writers.  I did a shout out on my twitter and Lani Wendt Young, who I met briefly at her book launch sent me a shout out back.  Loving visiting their blogs and discovering more about the newer Pasifika writers.  Hope I can join their wonderful company!

When the holidays arrive and tutoring is finished for the year, will be great to explore their texts, write more of my stories, and hoping and dreaming that Magic Fish Dreaming comes true.  Not long to kickstarter lift off, just a few more jobs and away we go.

(On another note looking forward to Mel Irvine being back in Australia soon!)

(c) June Perkins