Throughout his three years in Port Moresby because the ABC’s Papua New Guinea correspondent, Eric Tlozek lined pupil protests that threatened to carry down PNG’s Prime Minister, contentious and violent nationwide elections and the continuing story concerning the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island.
As his posting involves an finish, he displays on a nation of extremes, typically misunderstood or underestimated by outsiders.
He was threatened with deportation and excluded from authorities occasions, however discovered a few of his largest challenges truly got here from attempting to assist his workers and Papua New Guinean mates.
Private challenges each day
I learnt about PNG by means of the struggles of my workers and of strangers.
One workers member had a untimely child, which died at simply six days previous.
Sitting with the grieving household across the physique of that tiny woman I witnessed a deep and horrible unhappiness.
One other workers member practically died from tuberculosis, then a subsequent bout of pneumonia.
One’s brother was shot and killed, one other endured horrible home violence.
I handled others for infections and took them to hospital once they had been overwhelmed and robbed.
I did the identical for a girl I discovered bleeding on the road, who’d been hit within the head with a rock.
Early in my posting, I ended to assist my neighbour, who subsequently died from a coronary heart assault as I drove him to hospital.
I ended a person who was bashing his girlfriend’s head into the footpath.
I used to be enormously affected by this violence, and it is one thing PNG is understood for, however it’s truly the nation’s best contradiction.
Individuals are absurdly useful to one another and to outsiders — significantly Australians, however they will present nice cruelty to their fellow Papua New Guineans.
That saddened and shamed me most of all.
I might be welcomed in villages the place girls had been gang raped, or individuals tortured after being accused of sorcery.
The identical officers who would search bribes from poor individuals who wanted their assist would fast-track my paperwork.
Males who have been killing their neighbours in brutal tribal conflicts would hug me like a brother.
It is my nice hope that Papua New Guineans — who’re so variety to everybody else — will cease accepting such ranges of violence and cruelty to one another.
Competing views of a posh tradition
PNG mother Alena Potape struggles to support her children in the aftermath of a large earthquake in February 2018. (ABC: Eric Tlozek)
After I grew to become the PNG Correspondent in 2015, I encountered two prevailing Australian viewpoints of the nation.
One view is of a corrupt, violent and failing state, the opposite is of a spot of fond recollections, heat, pleasant individuals and potential.
The primary view implies a sort of smug disgust at PNG’s failings, and the second parental affection for Australia’s colonial offspring.
It was Australia that gave PNG its independence and an underfunded push into the fashionable world.
Each views comprise some fact, and each are incomplete.
You possibly can’t have a look at PNG with out seeing its flaws, and you may’t reside in PNG with out being touched by its heat.
I nonetheless do not totally perceive the place or its individuals — in actual fact, my time in PNG taught me so much concerning the corruption and lack of accountability in Australia.
After all there are grave issues in PNG and far of the violence I discussed is induced or aggravated by failures of presidency.
The absence of the state — its failure to supply important companies — is stark in rural areas the place the majority of the inhabitants reside.
Essentially the most terrible violence — the worst tribal combating for which PNG is understood — happens across the nation’s largest sources challenge.
It is the place the military and police guard a gasoline plant, whereas some girls and youngsters are raped in surrounding villages, then ransomed again to their households by the boys of warring clans.
Corruption and mismanagement of medical provide contracts left PNG dangerously in need of HIV medicine not too long ago.
A go to to these rural well being centres that are nonetheless open will present you crumbling buildings with out medication.
These failures contribute to the mutation and unfold of harmful communicable ailments — “superbugs” on Australia’s doorstep.
Maternal and baby mortality charges are the worst within the area.
A young mum demonstrates the Kangaroo Mother care technique to her baby which is wearing the baby bracelet. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)
Authorities reduction efforts for the current highlands earthquake have been sluggish, costly and insufficient.
Profiteering was rife and dysfunction at native ranges painfully evident.
Tens of 1000’s of individuals have been excluded from voting in final yr’s elections — the outcomes of which have been extremely questionable, and by which not one lady was elected.
Corruption stops individuals from getting important identification paperwork and even probably the most fundamental assist from their authorities.
Damage to a road in Hela province after an earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on February 26, 2018. (Supplied: Catholic Bishop Donald Lippert)
Nearly half the nation’s youngsters are undernourished and will likely be stunted, with issues of their cognitive growth.
That is a litany of failures to jot down about, choose and wring one’s arms over.
Documenting these is a crucial activity of the only international correspondent in Papua New Guinea — nevertheless it’s solely a part of the story of PNG.
The opposite a part of the story is considered one of resilience, pleasure, pleasure and unimaginable heat.
Correspondent Eric Tlozek is gifted a traditional skirt from local schoolchildren. (ABC News)
Resilience amid adversity
I’ve cursed Papua New Guinea many instances; for its dysfunction, the short-sightedness of its leaders, for Port Moresby’s drivers or infuriating roadworks, for the issue of doing even easy issues generally.
However by no means for its individuals, who have been busy blessing me with experiences, with studying, with development and with love.
I’ve by no means felt extra welcome than in components of PNG, significantly the highlands.
I used to be hugged by crowds of strangers and had my messy hair fastened by powerful, burly males for an election rally piece to digital camera.
Children — and their dad and mom — have been so eager to the touch me they overloaded the again of the espresso truck I used to be hitching a carry round western highlands in.
Papua New Guineans reside exhausting lives, however their uncomplicated capability for happiness and generosity is inconceivable to overlook.
Their self-reliance is unimaginable, and their willingness to share their historic tradition is a large present to guests.
However PNG confirmed me how sheltered Australians are from dying and from hardship, and the way our affluence wraps us in a gentle cocoon of sanctimony.
Papua New Guineans have easy wishes.
They need training and alternative. Like anybody, they need a society that is truthful and simply.
They profess to hate corruption, but for causes of tradition and poverty, all too continuously interact in conduct that perpetuates it.
Being the Papua New Guinea correspondent is a superb and ridiculous job.
Not solely are you a journalist, cameraman and video editor — you’re a bureau supervisor, book-keeper, dwelling and workplace repairman, satellite tv for pc technician, visa agent, part-time physician, marriage counsellor, gardener, canine handler and pest exterminator.
Eric Tlozek and former PNG Correspondent Liam Cochrane, filming for Foreign Correspondent in Port Moresby in 2016. (ABC News: Tarami Legei)
I’ve bandaged wounds, handled infections, fastened pumps, bogs and scorching water companies, supplied counselling, re-trained a homicidal German shepherd canine and killed many, many rats.
Seeking to the long run
I did not do all of the tales I needed to, and I did not do all of the tales that wanted doing.
PNG is a vital nation to Australia — we helped create it, now we’re combating China for affect over its future.
I hope that future will likely be simply and free from violence, and that Australians develop a brand new view of PNG, seeing greater than Kokoda and greater than Manus Island.
When individuals look north I hope they’ll see a affluent nation of joyful individuals, a spot extra of them will go to and find out about.
I’ll miss it terribly.