Flat White

Why do our black lives matter warriors ignore the deaths on our doorstep, in PNG?

23 April 2021

11:03 AM

23 April 2021

11:03 AM

Just to Australia’s north across a contiguous border, tens of thousands of Papua New Guineans are at constant risk from domestic and communal violence.

It is not state-sanctioned but seems beyond the ability of the government to control or more critically, stop.

Women are routinely subject to what Australians might call domestic violence and others are killed in the belief they are witches.

Disembowelling and burning alive are popular.

Payback, when it comes, may involve further killings and wanton destruction.

Men are also killed in communal disputes and during criminal activities.

Casualty numbers are irrelevant because no one actually knows.

To complicate, those who have not been recorded by government census simply don’t officially exist.

Nor are there the resources to report and comment on their plight in an endless, international media loop, if anyone apart from those immediately impacted actually cared.

Women particularly have no recourse to government help and are still regarded in many PNG societies as chattels to be purchased, without even basic rights.

They and their children have little if any access to basic immunisation programs against endemic childhood diseases which we take for granted.


There are hospitals without staff, drugs operating resources and therefore patients.

We share a porous border, but there are no real supervision programs on transition and no vaccination program to immunise them against COVID.

They are more at risk of disease because of societal issues and primitive living conditions and they don’t have a say which vaccine they prefer depending on their politics.

There is neither sufficient vaccine nor a program to administer it.

This tragedy is occurring on our doorstep but as they are not black Americans with a lengthy criminal record they are not newsworthy, alive or dead.

Their black lives don’t matter.

They don’t matter to the likes of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the Clintons, Barak Obama, Maxine Waters nor Rev Al Sharpton for whom racial division is a political tool, not a social problem to be solved.

Except where votes are involved.

There are no votes for them in PNG.

They don’t matter to ABC woke warrior Sarah Ferguson reporting from Minneapolis streets desperately seeking relevance while other opportunities elude her.

They don’t matter to her because what happens to them is not important to her social narrative.

What such black people do to each other is irrelevant to her.

Their black lives don’t matter because they have no hope, no prospects and no future except where limited government services and foreign philanthropic organisations, usually religious, step in.

They have no access to social or conventional media to highlight their issues.

Their black lives don’t matter because they are not newsworthy beyond their immediate society.

Destruction of their meagre bush material houses and few possessions does not have the same impact as mass looting and destruction of shopping centres, particularly conducted in the world media’s gaze.

No one deserves the treatment which resulted in the death of George Floyd, even while allegedly committing a felony.

George Floyd’s black life mattered because the arresting officer was white.

Black lives snuffed out by their fellows don’t matter equally because such deaths skew the political perception of interracial disharmony.

But to the widows, the orphans in their communities in PNG their black lives do matter, if only in their small sphere of influence.

Just as ultimately all lives matter.

Ross Eastgate OAM is a graduate of the Royal Military College Duntroon and military historian who writes a weekly column on defence issues and blogs at Targets Down. He was a recipient oF the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to United Nations peacekeepers.

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