Courtney Neville is a recruitment specialist who spends her time between PNG and Australia. She was a boarder at Girls Grammar school in Canberra and then attended Narrabundah College before moving to Queensland. Courtney lived in and around Brisbane for 7 years, studying and working, and then moved to Townsville with her two youngest siblings (and three dogs) to join their army sister.
For me, these photos symbolise the different worlds and cultures that bring PNG and Australia together. Although they are so close geographically and are in some senses sister countries, I recall being struck by distinctions between the two places as a child when I visited my Nan and Pop in Canberra for a fair bit of time every year. The photo of my sister and me was taken at their place, where we loved to run through the sprinklers and roll around in the mud, baking mud pies. We did this back home in PNG, too, and continued to play our games wherever our parents took us. Apparently, you can take the girl out of PNG, but you can’t take PNG out of the girl. Some of our cousins in Canberra were a lot more “posh” than us, and didn’t know how to take their grubby and carefree PNG cousins, but kids will be kids anywhere in the world and playing games always unites people – play is a universal language.
The first photograph in this piece was taken in Mendi, in the Southern Highlands in PNG, and is of myself and my father at a marketplace on the side of the road. From what I have gathered, the pig was a household pet and was not for sale – we were just playing with it when my mother took the photo. It is actually one of my favourite photographs of my father and me. The marketplaces in Mendi still look similar and driving around there these days reminds me of my childhood and being carefree.
I was lucky to go back to PNG in September 2017 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay. Kids were dancing and selling artifacts to the tourists who came in on the Pacific Ocean cruise, to raise funds for school tuition. Observing this brought back memories of when I used to dance and participate in similar school cultural events. The excitement and nerves were always present, but talking and hugging it out with school friends is a memory that you cherish forever. The smiles on the kids’ faces were so big and their eyes so bright – they were so proud of themselves, as well they should be, contributing as they were to fundraising for their school tuition and making lifelong memories – just as I did.
© Courtney Neville, 2017