A career with a challenge

This recruitment advertisement was produced by Australia’s Department of Territories in 1959.
This recruitment advertisement was produced by Australia’s Department of Territories in 1959. (NAA: A452, 1959/4654)

Do you have initiative, courage and imagination? Do you want a career with a challenge as a cadet patrol officer in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea (TPNG)? Between 1949 and 1974, some 2000 young Australian men said, ‘Yes!’

The Australian Government was flooded with applications from ex-servicemen, long-time residents of TPNG and boys who had grown up on films and novels such as Leslie Rees’ Danger Patrol: A Young Patrol Officer’s Adventures in New Guinea.

Most applicants who made it through the rigorous selection process were trained at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney. Before graduating as patrol officers, cadets spent months in the field under the watchful eyes of veteran officers, known as ‘kiaps’.

A career as a patrol officer in what was then Australian territory promised adventure, autonomy and the opportunity to make a difference. In the field, kiaps juggled the multiple roles of ambassador, policeman, judge, administrator, explorer, farmer, engineer and anthropologist.

Away for weeks at a time, kiaps patrolled vast areas on foot with the help of an indigenous police force. Surviving patrol reports detail attempts to introduce Australian law and governance, observations of customs and languages, mapping and census reports.

Were you one of the people who answered the kiap call? Or were you in TPNG before independence? Help us to identify the people and places in our TPNG photographs by visiting our Flickr site.

This year, Papua New Guinea celebrates the 35th anniversary of independence from Australia.

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    School for kiaps, 1960
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    Out on patrol, 1948
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    Payday for medical services, 1948

A selection of records relating to kiaps

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
PhotoSummit meeting1948A1200, L9969
PhotoCadet patrol officers, Port Moresby1950A6510, 1477
PhotoWelcoming the United Nations Trusteeship Mission, in Madang Districtcirca 1956A1200, L20127
PhotoOn location for the film, New Guinea Patrol1958A1200, L25011
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019