By MARK BAKER
THEY buried him on Australia Day on a windswept hillside in north-eastern Tasmania, far from the land he fell in love with, that he helped transform and that came to adopt him as one of its own.
But Barry Holloway brought Papua New Guinea home with him to the little timber church with the peeling paint and rusting tin roof at Kimberley, near Sheffield. It was there in his children, in the readings in the pidgin and in the haunting strains of Rock of Ages sung in Motu, the language of the coast.
|Holloway with the Queen in 1974.|
|Holloway with a UN Trusteeship Mission in 1956.|
The journey had begun here, in the house across the valley where his mother was born and where she gave birth to him in 1934, and in the nearby school where a boy dreamed of a life of adventure far away.
That journey was to take 60 years and it would traverse the modern history of PNG - from colonial trust territory, to self-government and independence and beyond.
It began with a teenage cadet patrol officer trekking through the remote and untamed territory of New Guinea and ended with a distinguished political career, a knighthood and the deep affection of a generation of Papua New Guineans.
At each step, Barry Holloway made a special mark. He was, probably more than any other Australian, instrumental in the making of modern PNG, and his death closes a circle on Australia's engagement with PNG's coming of age.
|Barry Holloway with Indonesian foreign minister Adam Malik and PNG chief minister Michael Somare|
He became speaker of the first parliament after independence, then a senior minister in several governments. He was a reformer, a champion of the ordinary man and a campaigner against corruption, the issue that many believe drove him to an early death.
After finishing secondary school, Holloway moved to Melbourne and was working as a labourer when he saw a newspaper advertisement seeking young men with ''initiative, imagination and courage'' to work as patrol officers in the UN-mandated Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
Between 1949 and 1974, more than 2000 Australians aged between 18 and 24 were recruited as patrol officers, or kiaps - pidgin for captain, from the German kapitan - and sent to bring the rule of white law to the often lawless outer reaches of the territories.
After six weeks' basic training, Holloway arrived in Port Moresby in April 1953, a lanky 18-year-old with a shock of curly red hair who was ready for adventure. After an initial posting with an experienced kiap on Bougainville island he was sent alone to a district in Madang province. Suddenly he was at once police chief, magistrate, medical chief, census officer and director of engineering for roads and airstrips.
On one of his first patrols into an uncontrolled area he had to defuse a clash between two warring tribes with the help of only a handful of native policemen.
''After three weeks, the whole crowd of about 600 to 700 would be massing around,'' he told the ABC in 2009. ''We demonstrated the power of the .303 by lining up about five shields, making a dum-dum out of a bullet, and showing how it would come out with a great gap on the other side. Because to these people these [rifles] were just sticks, and had no meaning until we demonstrated their power.'' That was the end of the tribal fight.
Holloway moved to the Eastern Highlands in 1958 and won election to the territory's first House of Assembly in 1964. He had a natural campaign advantage with his unruly red hair. Many of the tribes believed the gods had red hair.
He also had a unconventional but effective campaigning style. He would arrive at each village with a simple message: ''On election day just go the polling station and chant, 'Ollo-way, Ollo-way, Ollo-way'.'' And they did, in their thousands.
In Port Moresby, Holloway quickly befriended the first indigenous MPs and openly championed the case for independence in a parliament dominated by the colonial administration and conservative white planters.
In 1976 he and Tony Voutas, another kiap turned MP, helped found Pangu along with a clutch of others who would become legendary figures in the emerging nation - Albert Maori Kiki, John Guise, Ebia Olewale and Michael Somare.
In the struggle to choose a party leader, Holloway was instrumental in securing the numbers for Somare to beat Guise, who later became governor-general. As Somare noted in a tribute sent to the Holloway family last week: ''I acknowledge his immense contribution and great support for my early political aspirations … He was among a handful of non-indigenous people who supported the principle that Papua New Guineans should be able to determine their own future.''
Somare went on to become chief minister when Australia granted self-government in late 1973 and the first prime minister at independence two years later. After serving as speaker of the first parliament, Holloway held a series of ministerial appointments, serving as finance minister under Somare and Julius Chan, who led the country's second government.
His love affair with PNG was both physical and spiritual. Nine of his 12 children were born to Papua New Guinean mothers. Friends say the unofficial count is 16.
His first wife Elizabeth, whom he met and married in Tasmania while on leave from PNG, moved back to Australia to raise their twin sons and daughter. The boys returned in 1975 to spend independence year at school in PNG.
Son Daniel recalls: ''He took Damien and me up to Goroka on one occasion. When we got there, one day he drove to his office and asked us to wait outside on the footpath. A little while later he came back with a skinny little boy and said to us, 'Meet Joe. He's your brother.' I think it was as much of a surprise to Joe as it was for us.''
Many other children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren were to follow. ''None of us quite knew when he was going to stop,'' Daniel says. ''It was a bit of a running joke. Each time another child was born, we told him, 'You can stop now'.''
Holloway married Ikini Yaboyang, a feisty young journalist, in 1974. He is survived by his last wife, Dr Fua Uyassi (Lady Holloway). Says Daniel: ''He cared very much for all his children … and despite his marriages unfortunately not working out, he also cared for his wives to the end.''
His large and unconventional family was just one of the ways in which his life matched that of many traditional ''big men'' in PNG society. His homes in Port Moresby and Kainantu were open houses to friends and colleagues, his vehicles were freely available and what money he had was shared with those in need. ''If he only had a dollar in his pocket and someone asked him for some money he would give it to them,'' Daniel says.
A lifetime of such generosity and a series of business ventures, including starting his own micro-finance scheme for villagers, left him with little at the end of his life.
''He was flat broke,'' said Ernie Lohberger, a fellow Tasmanian and long-time PNG resident. ''In the end he was living on a friend's boat because he couldn't afford the rents they charge in Port Moresby these days.''
Unlike many Australians who stayed after independence - and many more of the Papua New Guineans who succeeded them in positions of power - Holloway did not set out to enrich himself. He was appalled by those who did and, ultimately, it probably hastened his death.
Disturbed by a trend that now ranks PNG among the worst on Transparency International's global corruption index, Holloway decided to make a political comeback in last year's elections, standing for governor of Eastern Highlands Province.
Two weeks before campaigning was due to begin in the midyear poll, he suffered a stroke that temporarily blinded him, according to a close friend. He refused to go to hospital because his opponents had argued that, at 78, he was too old for politics and he feared they would use the news to wreck his campaign.
Despite the pleas of family and friends, he threw himself into the campaign, travelling by road and air and often on foot to visit as many of the scattered and remote villages in the province as he could. In the end, he lost, but only by a few hundred votes.
''He got more than 100,000 votes. It was testament to the strength of his following and his standing in the Eastern Highlands,'' Peter Donigi, a long-time friend and PNG's former ambassador to the United Nations told the mourners in Kimberley.
Supporters wanted Holloway to call for a recount, which they believed would see the result overturned, but he refused. Instead, he was one of the first to send a message of congratulation to the new provincial governor.
Some say he never recovered from the exhausting campaign, his health issues compounded by prostate cancer.
''Barry never saw himself as merely a catalyst for change,'' says Tony Voutas, who left PNG on the eve of independence. ''For him, it was his country. He was one of the few in those colonial days who looked at Papua New Guineans as equal human beings. The planters called them bush kanakas and some right-wingers regarded them as a different evolutionary stream.
''But Barry was one of those people who did not see race. And the Papua New Guineans regarded him as one of them. And once you are accepted into their society it is as if you were born into their society.''
After his death at a Brisbane hospital on January 16, the leaders of Kainantu wanted him brought back to be buried there, but Barry Holloway's last wish was to be laid to rest beside his mother and father in the church yard at Kimberley.
As men wept and women wailed on Saturday afternoon, a daughter stepped forward and sprinkled a sachet of his favourite Goroka coffee into the red clay of the grave. For a moment the aroma of the New Guinea highlands mingled with the scents of the Tasmanian bush.
They won't. We won't.
Mark Baker is editor-at-large. He is a former PNG correspondent for Fairfax.