Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fuzzy Wuzzies and rugby league

Article from:  Australian Associated Press


Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and rugby league have one thing in common - they're both ties that bind Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Both ties were strengthened during a meeting on Tuesday between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his PNG counterpart Sir Michael Somare.

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels are indelibly linked with the Kokoda Track, where Australian forces turned the Japanese drive towards Port Moresby, largely because of the poem by Sapper Bert Beros that celebrated the endurance, bravery and care with which Papuans helped wounded Australians back to safety.

The poem ends:


May the mothers of Australia

when they offer up a prayer

Mention those impromptu angels

with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.


The history of Papua New Guineans in World War Two is more complicated; a story of confused loyalties, or none at all. Sir Michael, whose first schooling came from the occupying Japanese, knows this.

But the Kokoda bearers were special and they've become a potent symbol of Australian-PNG relations.

So Rudd announced, with Sir Michael beside him and two elderly angels, complete with feathered head-dresses in the news conference audience, that Australia will strike commemorative medallions to recognise the contribution that Papua New Guinean civilians made to the war effort.

About 55,000 carried supplies, built bases and airfields or evacuated the wounded and sick. Survivors, or their widows or widowers, may apply for a medallion.

"The medallions will feature the image of a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel helping a wounded Australian along the Kokoda Track - one of the iconic images of World War 2 and testament to the strength of the bond between our two nations," Rudd said.

Sir Michael welcomed the move, saying he was very proud to be in Australia for the announcement that medals would be struck for "our fuzzy wuzzies".

But the Angels are small beer compared with rugby league.

Although the other codes are played, league - which was boosted by Australian soldiers during the war - is the game.

In its early years, anthropologists saw it as a substitute for tribal fighting.

It's now played almost everywhere. PNG has produced some notable players, such as former Melbourne Storm and Leeds Rhinos winger Marcus Bai.

The Australian government, seeing it as both an important unifying force in a nation of disparate tribes and as a way to further strengthen ties between the two countries, has been exploring ways to develop the game and link it with Australia.

Now Rudd said he and Sir Michael were developing a plan to go to a ministerial forum in June.

Australia is likely to help develop a genuine national competition, followed by a PNG team in the Queensland competition. The ultimate goal is playing in the NRL.

Little of this is really new. What is new is the idea of linking access to league programs with primary school attendance. This meshes neatly with another major program to greatly increase primary school attendance.


No comments:

Post a Comment