Savouring the Best of PNG Independence Day in Cairns

A colourful day of celebration to remember Independence Day

One of my favourite things about travel photography is not only you enjoy and appreciate the beauty around you but actually you get to meet people in person from all walks of life. 

Here in Cairns, I had a great opportunity to capture some of the celebration moments of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Independence Day. Papua New Guinea is a country not only embrace the bird of paradise that symbolises the greatness of Papua New Guinea but it is a country with rich and unique diverse culture. 

With over 800 different languages still in daily use, it is one of the most intriguing and diverse place on this planet earth and you will be blown away not only in history but its unique lifestyle and diverse cultural celebrations which are still use in feasts, marriages, deaths, initiation rights and compensation ceremonies . No wonder it is known as the “land of unexpected”. 

When it comes to Independence Day celebration, there is no exotic world of natural colourful celebration than the people of Papua New Guinea. The country rose to Independence on 16th September, 1975 from Australia. Ever since that day, the Independence Day has been an occasion not only celebrated in almost every cities, villages and provinces throughout Papua New Guinea but it has been celebrated far and wide globally from Australia, across the tassman to New Zealand and throughout many pacific island countries where past and present citizens come together to celebrate to signify this special occasion. 

This year 2018, the PNG will be celebrating the 43rd Anniversary of that momentous event. Papua New Guineas 43rd Independence Day.

Faces of traditional Papua New Guineans from different parts of the country tells a story how unique this country is and where they belong does create an unique colourful celebration

Attending this special event – The PNG Independence Day celebration, 2018 for the second time after living in Cairns for the last 30 years gave me a great in-depth of my heritage. I have come back for the celebration to reflect on the country that raise me, educated me and the country that made me who I am today. I have decided to come back not only to take photographs but to take time out for the celebration and to see the people of Papua New Guinean community living in Cairns celebrating. At the same time, it gave me an opportunity to witness my own people rejoicing with songs and dances from various regions displaying their unity and diversity. This occasion is celebrated like a common festival that all the people from Papua New Guinea, friends, families and visitors, irrespective of religion, language or tribe come together to celebrate. It is the day that shows what they are – Proud Papua New Guineans. 

To be here taking some of the photographs of this colourful event, I found it to be a lovely way to bring together everyone from various tribes and regions and encourages a feeling of patriotism coupled with a lot of fun. It keeps the spirit of Independence Day alive. 

As a country of diverse culture, their diversity is not only in their language, culture and food but also in their attire. They all came out in their traditional face and body paintings, head dresses, grass skirts and traditional dresses and with modern fashion of clothing reflecting on the colours of the PNG flag – red, yellow, black and white. It was truly an colourful event and can’t be ignored to be part of it.

City of Cairns has has the largest PNG expats residing here from many different parts of Papua New Guinea. Many of them came here, cooked ethnic food from their natives and setup stalls to sell them to the people at the park. It was just wonderful to see all the tasty foods cooked in traditional way and must admit, I went a little overboard tasting every food from every regions.

Food Stalls

The area was lined with stalls with their unique PNG designs from clothing to string bags or known traditionally as bilums and mouth-watering betel nuts. There were certainly people both locals and tourists have come to enjoy the celebration and the traditional cuisines.

Cloths on display for sale
Buyers going for bargain at the stalls

Market stalls at the park
Collection of fruits, nuts and artefacts on sale
Bettel nut stall
Bilums on display for selling
People at their stalls
Tourists want to be part of the celebration
Sharing was part of the celebration
Crowd at the celebration
More visitors at the event
Proud PNGean

Traditional dress

Papua New Guinea is a country of diverse culture. Their diversity is not only in their language, culture and food; but also in our attire. They certainly came out in style to display their traditional dresses and regional colours – head dresses, face paintings, grass-skirts and dancing

Central region
East and West New Britain region
Highlands region
Morobe (Momase) region
Manus region
Bougainville area

The scene at the PNG Independence Day was electrifying as people began to take part in traditional dancing (sing-sing) and showing their skills with contemporary style of music. It was certainly a day of sharing fun, unity and a colourful event that everyone has to put in their calendar.

From personal perspective: It gives great pleasure in taking photographs of various place during my travels but it is more enjoyable when you become part of the celebration. It gives me a better understanding of the significance of their traditional culture, outfit (traditional head dresses, paintings and attire) and lifestyle.

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Living the Life in Australia. What a Life!!

A Better, Free Life in Australia

Australia, home to world famous iconic man-made buildings, the Opera house and the Sydney Harbour bridge is one of the best and most liveable country in the world by international comparisons of wealth, education, health and quality of life. 

Yes, when I first set foot on Australian soil with family almost 30 years ago in the city of Cairns, it turned out to be a life-changing life for me. This friendly, small-city vibe, climate and natural beauty surrounding won us over other cities in Australia. “I just love it here”. Even though, it is a very busy touristy city here, it is still very friendly and everything I need or wanted to see or do is within reach: the reef and the rainforest, day trips to various reefs, fishing and camping. There is plenty of it. 

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Ellis beach, Cairns region

Right on the door-step of the city of Cairns is home to one of the last of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is located along the northeast coast of Queensland, Australia and stretches about 2,600 kilometres. It is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem composed of almost 3,000 individual reefs. It is one of the most visited place in Australia by tourists throughout the world. This city is a real beauty for anyone to come and enjoy the World Heritage rainforest, outback and its sparkling clear ocean on the outer reefs.

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Part of Great Barrier reef. View from the helicopter

After living here for almost 3 decades, I must admit, I know a lot more about my own city both within and outside of my home and life in Cairns. Cairns is a small regional city but diverse city with many different sea-side and outback towns and culture. Many immigrants from around the world can be witnessed living here: Chinese, Philippines, Africans, Laos, Papua New Guineans and many more. Believe it or not, Cairns has the largest Papua New Guinean population outside Papua New Guinea. 

Face of Papua New Guineans in Cairns

Cairns city has been and will always be a special place in my life. Ever since I moved here, I would pack up our outback 4-wheel drive and drive north or west with family depending on what we wanted to do and see. We would spend few days enjoy the camping, fishing and hiking some of the best trails in Far North Queensland. 

View from Daintree Lookout, Cape Tribulation

To me, one of the best part of living here in Australia, especially Cairns is being free from all the crime and layers of restrictions or freedom that make life so confining and sterile back home. We had to live in a gated compound with 24 hour security and wherever I went both day and night time I never had the chance of freedom to be more relaxed. Life here in Australia is where I can breathe freely and live a better life.

From a personal perspective: As we travel we tend to see and witness the harsh environment that some people live. However, if you live and experience the struggle and the standard of living, you can certainly feel the hunger for freedom and relaxation. I certainly found myself in that situation. As we continue to travel, we open our mind and understanding of the realities that surrounds us.

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Taking time-out for Grieving Friends

Taking Time-Out to Knock-Out Grief

It is an unusual way to write a post not based on travel-stories but this time I decided to take a little bit of my time to go in a different direction. As I have a very strong passion on social issues, especially on homelessness and injustice society we live in. I try to advocate for people living with grief from personal perspective, especially for friends and those I come across along my pathway. It is all about “Living well with Grief” and “Understanding Grief”. 

As I was serving and talking to a gentlemen in his late 60’s travelling alone. I began to asked him if he was enjoying his time up here in Far North Queensland and why he has chosen this destination? Like all tourists to the Far North, because of the ideal weather condition to get away from cold winter down-south. I began to ask few more questions depending on the outcome of his answer and suddenly he broke down in tears in front of me. His wife recently passed away and they both promised to visit the area prior to her death 12 months ago. It was not about feeling awkward from a stranger but it was about understanding the very experience that a person was going through. I than told him, I am sorry about his loss, I fully understand his emptiness, I have been through that myself and a friend of mine recently lost his wife 12 months ago. I wanted to assure him that he was not alone. It was coincidence, prior to that, I was talking to a lady travelling alone on the train in her late 70’s and during our conversation she mentioned that her husband of 60 years passed away of cancer. She felt that part of her body had been ripped apart. She felt totally empty in her life and wished she had gone to the grave with her husband. It was profoundly heart-breaking for me to hear that from an old lady. However, I was so privileged that I was able to give her the hug-of-comfort. Having a conversation in an unfamiliar environment with these two strangers from totally different backgrounds, living in different parts of the country, never met them in my life and probably will never meet them again but sharing and hearing their difficult moment in life with a stranger had a profound effect on me. This was all part of grief.

Yes, life can have an instant life-changing moment when dealing with the death of someone close. It is a very difficult time in our life but we need to understand and do raises a lot of questions. We need to understand grief:

  • Grief is about loss and comes in many forms – whether from death, separation or divorce, ill health, redundancy, loss of a pet etc
  • Grief is healthy and normal – It is about adjusting our loss and learning to live with the changes it has brought to our life
  • People grieve differently – There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve. It is not about timing, it may take short or long term. 
  • Grieving is up and down – It is not about step-by-step process but it is a journey where we will encounter spiral journey
  • Grief is physical – Feeling of uneasy in our body and physical appearance – from lack of sleep to loss of appetite etc.
  • Grieving doesn’t last forever – but it comes part of our life and finding ways to live with it.

In “understanding grief”, at the same time, we need to understand “living well with grief”. People react differently but I have learnt to understand that through personal experience. It is about giving time to reconstruct themselves and contemplate deeply how grief affects them personally and how awkwardly it impacted on people around them. Yes, everyone will encounter grief and loss, difficulties and suffering in our lives but the challenge is how we manage these times, how we survive, develop resilience and understanding. People don’t have to be judgemental and need to understand that grief is not a neat, step-by-step process that has a set timetable. People will have few good days and then something can bring the grief crashing back. As the saying goes “Never judge a book by its cover”.

As I relaxed at home and reflect on this two strangers sharing their emptiness with me, I began to recall on what I had gone through during my time of need. At the same time, I began to make a contrast between this two strangers loss and the interviews I had with people in palliative care that are approaching their end of life and their loved ones. Suddenly, I had a phone call from a very good friend of mine who lost his wife 12 months ago asking me if I could accompany him to the cinema to watch “Mamma-Mia – Here we go again”. Without any hesitation, I said, Yes, before he could finish his sentence. With profound understanding of grief, I needed to be beside my friend as he grieves. I also needed to spent that few hours with him to ease some of the difficult moments that he is facing now and what he is going through. This whole line of event seemed very freaky to me but with understanding, this wasn’t a mistake. I felt that, they were very comfortable in sharing their grief with me and I felt honoured in some respect, knowing that it is ok to share with someone, even with a stranger. 

This movie is very significant to me and not only it triggered my grief as it was the last movie that I watched with the person that is not around here today but it reminded of me how I enjoyed watching the live broadway show in Westend – London. Yes, it was brilliant to watch it live on stage. The magnificent display of colours, actors, singers, choreography, lighting, transition etc on stage was just mesmerising. What a thrill it was to watch it.

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Westend – London

As we set there watching the movie till the end, it felt like it was a live theatre show. It was just brilliant movie. I felt that it was a right movie to knock-out grief and get hypnotised, which my friend needed it.

From personal perspective: In my travels or work,  I talk with people from all walks of life. I tend to observe everyone around me and make an effort to take a little bit of my time to chat with them. I leave no-one behind during my conversation wether on the train journey or at the station. Everyone may look cheerful on the outside but reality is from the inside. We can only know through when taking a genuine conversation.

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Celebrating NAIDOC Week

Brief History: Why we celebrate NAIDOC Week?

Just recently, I heard few comments from friends and colleagues about what is NAIDOC WEEK. Yes, for many that don’t know what it all means and why we celebrate NAIDOC Week. The acronym NAIDOC stands for (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee). It is an Australian observance lasting from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday.

NAIDOC history in brief: The organising committee behind the day adopted this name in 1991. The idea behind NAIDOC goes back to a letter written by William Cooper that was aimed at Aboriginal communities and at churches. It was written on behalf of the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, an umbrella group for a number of Aboriginal justice movements. The association gathered together a wide circle of Indigenous leaders including Douglas Nicholls, William Ferguson, Jack Patten and Margaret Tucker. In 1937, they were preparing for what would become the famous DAY of Mourning in 1938. It not only sparked a very effective one-off protest, it also stimulated a national observance that was at first championed by churches and is now a national celebration.

NAIDOC Week is about celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The week is celebrated not just in the Indigenous communities but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces. They have different themes each year. For this year 2018, the theme is #Because of her – I can. This recognises the achievements and valuable contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to their people and the country as a whole. 

NAIDOC activities are held across Australia. The activities include cultural and education activities in schools and work places and public displays. NAIDOC week activities might include listening to Indigenous Australian music, reading dream time stories, visiting Indigenous Australian websites on the internet and organising an art competition. This major celebratory events take place in Australian major cities as well as in larger rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In many ways, it unifies the communities and to share with the rest of the nation.

I had the great opportunity to witness some of the Boigu dancers from Torres Strait Islands performing at Bunnings at Port Smith in Cairns. They certainly gave us something to enjoy while shopping. It gives me great satisfaction to see how people celebrate the events that is so significant to them. They take pride and without a doubt display their culture to the people that knows very little about their history and probably about their own country as well.

Boigu Dancers from Torres Strait Islands

I was not only fascinated about their performances but the musical instrument they use. This include the long hollow tree which they call varup. This is very similar to what my people use in their traditional celebrations but we called them Kundu drums.

To better understand about this celebrated event among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, go to NAIDOC official website.

My Journey that took me into the world of homelessness across the Globe

Homelessness is a disease, that is epidemic

Looking around us whether your in your community, state or somewhere in the world travelling, there are homeless people around us but it is hardly recognised and talked about.

By i.c Golina

From my last post, I wrote about my friends that helped out in a homeless charity organisation in New York. They spent 5 hours of their time contributing to the community. This is how I witness the issue of homelessness in New York. However, this time, I decided to take on a different perspective and spend few minutes of my time talking with homeless people around the globe.


“The greatest cruelty is our casual blindness to the despair of others” – unknown

Homeless person sleeping in Townsville, Australia

My journey into this world of homelessness took me across many countries which has given me a rare insight into this deep dark forgotten world, where they call their homes have no street names. There is a deep and dark side to it where no-one has heard of. For me, taking this journey into this world of homeless individuals, I decided to explore how these homeless individuals deal with their day-to-day life, how society treats them and the support they get from each other as a community throughout various Countries in the world. I brought myself down to their level to engage with them to fully understand their world. I wasn’t surprise that most of the homeless people that I spoke to in many different cities throughout the world, they have shared very similar stories. It was profoundly shocking and heartbreaking to know that this is a major problem globally and it has sadden me so deeply. Wherever we are, whether we are at home or in a hotel room somewhere enjoying the comfortable environment around us, we never have a second thought on daily basis what we are going to eat or where we are going to sleep that night but for homeless people it is a constant struggle.

Homeless people living it rough near a creek in Cairns, Australia

As a child growing up in a third world country in Papua New Guinea where basic services were non-existence, it was a constant struggle for me and my families that I grew up with. When I see the news and the catastrophic events that occur on our planet, I’m reminded of the darkest hours of my history. When I see people that are decimated by stupidity, ignorance, greed and power I am filled with this chronic anger towards the injustice society we live in. How can we make this world a better place? Growing up has a child in a Christian environment, it has profoundly had some great influence or impact on my outlook on life and certainly define most of my decisions that I make – my values and core beliefs. With these, my journey has enabled me to become the person I could be and this has prompt me to write about homelessness which I am very passionate about. All I can say, at long last, I’m interested in sharing my journey in witnessing some of the cruelty towards homelessness.

Homeless person sleeping in the Waikiki beach park

It was about 6pm in the evening, I was lying comfortably in my 30th floor hotel room in downtown San Francisco. I decided not to touch any of my social media gadgets that evening but was contemplating on what I was going to do for the night after a hectic day sight-seeing around San Francisco. When you’re alone, staying right in the heart of the big city where millions things are happening at the same time at night time, your choice of what to do becomes endless. I was thinking to myself which restaurant I was going to, depending on my appetite that very moment but I never thought twice about the cost.

Like most majority of the hotels/motels throughout the world, one of the book that is always placed inside the bedside draws or next to the telephone is the Bible. I decided to read few chapters and it was all familiar to me and reminded of my childhood days, growing up in a God-Fearing home. As I continued to read, turning pages after pages, chapter after chapter but at the same time thinking about this problem of Homelessness. I then begin to question myself, how do they survive from day to day. As I was just about to close my eyes, I came across this verse in the Bible which caught my attention, it states that: 


“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” – Proverbs 30:8

Homeless person camping along side one of the roads outside San Diego city centre

I thought to myself as I lay quietly in my hotel room, I may not make an instant change about this chronic issue on homelessness like most celebrities and entrepreneurs do but I can speak out through social media. This has prompt me to write about my passion on homelessness. To me, we must stick together to resist and not sink into despair like the big white whale which allows itself to be washed up on the beach. It takes wit and courage to make our way while our way is making us, with no consolation to count on but art the the summer lightning of personal happiness, but if nothing is certain everything is possible, and that’s what gives us our human dignity.

Each of our journeys is so personal and diverse, that I am sometimes amazed when our paths intertwine. I certainly did with this homeless people. To go and really understand their world, we as individual need to be real – to carry on a genuine conversation with them and to recognise their difference – their use of language, communication, behaviours views, understanding and so on but not about US and THEM factor. For me to gain their trust on me, I first need to recognise how they view the world through their lense, which had to come from them and not from me.

Homeless person awaits in Wellington, New Zealand

One of the interesting thing that struck me and kept coming up during my conversation with them was about- their day-to-day life. I found that their day to day life is filled with constant changes. Most homeless people change their priority of needs on daily basis and at times instantly without any prior thoughts. It may not be their overall priorities, but their circumstances have thrust a new wrinkle into their lives. They are flexible and have no predetermined agenda at all.

The most heartbreaking that I heard from them, that brought tears to my eyes was how they are treated by society. They feel that the society turns a blind eye on them and they don’t feel the love anymore. This is when they feel the world come down crashing down on them and certainly brings them right down to their knees.

Finally, it was very comforting to hear that, how they get their support was very inspiring for me. They almost share everything among each other – homeless people. It is a different world out there in the middle of the normal world as we see it. Apart from what they receive from the community charity organisations, they still take extra to their other homeless friends who could not make it due to illness, intoxicated, couldn’t make it on time or other reasonable reasons. They share very little things they have and I found them to be so kind, thoughtful and understanding to each other.

Homelessness has an impact on the society and it is a significant issue facing Australia and the world today which is been neglected. Homelessness is not just the result of too few houses. Its forms and causes are many and varied. It can affect anyone and has a wide variety of manifestations. 

Since 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the preamble states in article 25 and it quote:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control…….. (United Nations Human Rights.

This was a world that I had come in contact with in a very short space of time that I spent but what I have shared is just a brief insight of what they do for living and survival from day to day. I found that 99% of them were very welcoming, passionate and compassionate about many things. So, let there be perpetual Spring in our hearts, as we share with each other, and wend our way together along this patchwork path we call Life.

From personal perspective: Leave no-one behind: For people experiencing homelessness, face violations of a wide range of human rights. Human rights are for all people including woman, man, asylum-seekers and refugees, mental illness health persons, indigenous people, youth and children in all places and at all times. It is my belief and opinion that these basic human rights need to be made transparent to all people and the society we live in.

© (2017). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material (photography and writing) without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.