Asylum Seekers – Australia’s Hope? by Ralf Stüttgen

August 28, 2013 at 8:46 am (Commentary)

Ralf Stüttgen was born in Berlin in 1939. He was educated at a Jesuit High School and in a  Divine Word Seminary. In 1967 he was ordained a priest. In 1968 he came to the East Sepik District of Papua New Guinea and worked as a missionary until the early seventies; subsequently leaving the priesthood and working in agriculture in PNG. He now lives in Wewak and

deals in Sepik art. For many years his abiding interest has been about education and development in the Third World. It is his firm belief that without the delivery of quality education en masse countries will forever be stuck in a quagmire of underdevelopment and poverty. Good education and training are not only economic imperatives but are also the rights of all people. With these thoughts in mind, Ralf wants to awaken policy makers and politicians to positive action to facilitate the delivery of quality education to their people.


Ralf discusses Sepik carvings with US Ambassador, Leslie Rowe

Ralf discusses Sepik carvings with US Ambassador, Leslie Rowe


In the 1990s I was travelling a bit in Queensland in Roma, St George and in other places. I was told everywhere in these places that they had a problem with declining populations.

The Australian Administration in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in its day moved thousands of people by creating resettlement schemes at Hoskins, Talasea, Kindeng. The local people sold their land to the Administration, and it was then subdivided into agricultural blocks, and leased out to applicants from other districts. Everyone granted a lease received a loan from the Development Bank to support them in making their land productive in oil palms and garden produce.

With the development of the land came roads, schools, aid posts, and towns like Kimbe. Most of the original settlers or their descendants are still there today.

Might it not be possible to do something similar for those growth-starved country towns in Australia? Thus, making use of all those asylum seekers?

Fifty years ago Australia provided assisted passage to attract immigrants from Europe. Today’s asylum seekers come without such help and even risk their lives in the hope for a better future. However, these people are not welcomed with open arms, as in the sixties. Instead they are seen as a problem. They may be poorly educated, or look different from blue-eyed English people. They come from suspicious cultural and religious backgrounds. But with every problem there comes a challenge and a potential! In this case a very big potential.

These people can become Australia’s future, if given the right assistance. To leave them uneducated, means wasting a big chance, and is not in the best interest of the economy, as they will remain low-income earners and low-taxpayers. Offering them courses in such subjects as English as a foreign language on a voluntary basis is largely ineffective! Many prefer to find a job as soon as possible – instead they should be forced to complete their education, also some tertiary training – compulsory schooling with no age limit; under threat of deportation. Opening them up to education is not only for economic reasons, but by having migrants complete their education will improve their English and enable them to talk to people of other cultures and religions. This opens their minds up to new values, thus facilitating integration. If they spend their lives in an ethnic and cultural ghetto, they may develop radical ideas, and become a security risk. We know that putting them through school costs money. But it may be money well spent. Investing in human resources is the most important investment in the long term.

Racism and xenophobia aside, these boat people could be Australia’s rescue. The continent is largely in a population vacuum! Why wait until some Asian power in fifty years’ time takes the country over by force of arms.

Global warming could radically change the rainfall distribution in the country and cause long term droughts in areas of high population density. You can imagine how much more of a disaster this would be if vast areas in the country have been left undeveloped.

Now, asylum seekers linger for weeks or months in processing camps, doing nothing. Instead, they should be put to work, from the first day on, after being fished out of the sea – school and work – five hours formal schooling, five hours gardening and building their own accommodation. The purpose is not to harass them or to keep them busy or even to make them economic but essentially to enable them to integrate more fully. Now, refugees admitted into the country are let loose to fend for themselves, and after thirty years some of them still cannot speak enough English.

My idea would be to put them on a little block of land less than a hectare, and have them grow their own food. Building their own house is not left up to them. Design and building materials would be provided by the government under the supervision of skilled people. The houses should be of a quality that allows them to be sold one day if desired. Or the settlers can stay on the lot for the rest of their lives. The main purpose of such a settlement scheme would be that these people complete their education.

Several government departments would have to be involved: Immigration, the Army or Police, Agriculture, Works, and maybe others.

Anyway, details of the idea have to be discussed further, and could vary from one project to another.

I add here, that I grew up in a suburb of Berlin, Germany, in exactly such a settlement as has been suggested above. This was on half a hectare of land with a six family house on it, and with intensive gardening going on, growing vegetables, potatoes and fruit trees.

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This blog promises to try and clean up its act!

August 26, 2013 at 6:19 am (Commentary)

A comment from perhaps one of my most discerning, painstaking and astute readers, put me back a step or two! :

“I don’t want anything I write to be associated with anything on the same site as all that horrible neanderthal sexist stuff. Plus I am an admirer of Gough Whitlam.”

In the future I’ll try and avoid sayings like the following: cutting off a slice, red-blooded and a demon in the cot. There is no offence intended to my female readers.

As regards Gough, I find it hard to forgive him for giving the green light to Indonesia to take over East Timor, and for the part he had in giving PNG Independence years before it should have been granted.

As a male with a tremendous respect for the female part of creation, in the future I’ll try my best to make my lady readers aware of this. I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll do my best!

I feel obliged to add that in the evolutionary scheme of things, I’ve always had a lot of respect for the Neanderthals. They were from all the evidence we have a race of strong virile beings. I’m not saying for a moment that they were cutting off a slice nor to my knowledge were they red-blooded or demons in the cot, but they are said to have enriched the Caucasian division of mankind or for that matter womankind, which from all accounts took place with a lot of crossbreeding.

I’ll end on a question: Are the present feminists doing their bit to enrich future generations?

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Book Review

August 25, 2013 at 8:48 am (Book review, Commentary, David Wall, East Sepik District, Fiction, PNG, Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk, Sepik River)

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Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk – Kindle Edition $2.00

August 25, 2013 at 8:20 am (Book review, East Sepik District, expatriates, Papua New Guinea, Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk)

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Jim Wall An Australian Life by David Wall

August 25, 2013 at 3:21 am (Commentary)

Get a Kindle Edition for $1.00

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Ralf Stüttgen reflects on some questions

August 24, 2013 at 2:29 am (Commentary)

Ralf Stuttgen

Ralf Stuttgen


Ralf Stüttgen was born in Berlin in 1939. He was educated at a Jesuit High School and in a  Divine Word Seminary. In 1967 he was ordained a priest. In 1968 he came to the East Sepik District of Papua New Guinea and worked as a missionary until the early seventies; subsequently leaving the priesthood and working in agriculture in PNG. He now lives in Wewak and deals in Sepik art. For many years his abiding interest has been about education and development in the Third World. It is his firm belief that without the delivery of quality education en masse countries will forever be stuck in a quagmire of underdevelopment and poverty. Good education and training are not only economic imperatives but are also the rights of all people. With these thoughts in mind, Ralf wants to awaken policy makers and politicians to positive action to facilitate the delivery of quality education to their people.


1. I’m not trying to give comprehensive definitions. For those we have theological dictionaries. I am only drawing attention to some aspects often neglected in religious teaching.

2. Do you believe in the Devil?

It depends on what you mean by the term.

(a) The Devil is not an anthropomorph character with horns and a horsefoot. Nor a dark shadow which can be photographed at certain times. It, for the want of a better term, cannot be seen, heard, smelled, nor imagined. It is a general concept, which can only be thought.

(b) The Devil is the nonsense, that is anything that does not make sense, or enough sense.  This is typical for any lie. The Devil is called the father of the lie. A lie usually contains some truth, in order to deceive. But not enough truth to be acted upon. A lie confuses and creates insecurity. Devil, from the Greek diabolos means the mixer, the confuser.

” Is he a fellow, who is trying to harm us?” somebody asked. No this sounds too anthropomorph. He is not a fellow. The Devil is a potential, a possibility. By making use of this possibility we ourselves cause harm by doing something that does not make enough sense. We have to use our heads; not just somehow, but to the fullest, using all our insight, considering all circumstances.

(3) What is Sin?

For some people sin is synonymous with sex. However, sex in itself is just as value-neutral as anything else. It depends on the circumstances. It may just make you happy, or maybe ruin somebody’s life.

Sin in the fuller meaning is a mistake. Any mistake in any field of life; interpersonal relations, health, economics, politics, environment, cooking, flying, whatever. A decision is a mistake, if the damage outweighs the gains; considering all parties involved.

Some examples: You are tired. But you haven’t read today’s newspaper yet. What is the bigger value? The sleep, or catching up with the latest developments?  A wrong decision in this matter would be a sin.

Somebody has money to spare, should it be invested in a bank term deposit or in real estate?  A wrong decision could well be a sin.

I ask you to disregard here the criteria of free will and sufficient insight – damage is damage! Ignorance does not protect you from punishment.

“Stupidity is the most common cause of death.”

We have much to learn in life and about life, but I believe that in the evolutionary process humanity is advancing. The insights of Moshe Feldenkrais inspire one to look forward to future human enlightenment.

“In spite of the apparent darkness of the human future, I believe we have not yet reached our Homo sapiens capacities for learning; it is still too early to condemn man on the strength of the small awareness he has acquired by chance and not by his outstanding ability to reduce great complexity to familiar simplicity – in other words, to learn. We have never yet really used our essential freedom of choice and we have barely learned to learn.”

(Moshe Feldenkrais, On the Primacy of Hearing, SOMATICS,, autumn 1976, p.21)

Dissidents, should they be wise?

Dissidents, human-rights activists, protesters, revolutionaries, freedom fighters, should not only be right, good, willing, intelligent, but also clever, wise. They should consider the most basic principle: Do it right equals success. Do it wrong equals failure.

Examples: Osama Bin Laden was right. He wanted Israel to treat the Palestinians in better ways. He objected to the West’s exploiting the oil-producing countries. What he did to achieve his aims was wrong. He opted for violence, achieved nothing, and destroyed himself and many others.

Gorbachev saw the problems of the Soviet Union. But he kept his mouth shut until he had risen to a position that allowed him to speak out. Even then he criticised in ways which did not alienate the other party members. They made him their spokesman.

Chinese dissidents protest in forms which are unacceptable to the government. With the result that they bring themselves and others into trouble, and help nobody.

Sometimes wisdom demands: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

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A very interesting article by Kevin Trueman written sometime before he died

August 18, 2013 at 6:11 am (Commentary, Kevin Trueman)

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A delightful evening

August 12, 2013 at 4:07 am (Commentary)


In the early start of this century a significant and highly entertaining evening took place at 152 Wilson Street, Newtown – such interesting and remarkable guests graced the dinner table!

Cast your eyes over the attached photo from left and around the table: Maja, the recently married young Polish woman to my son David Augustus Wall. She was formerly Maja Banachowicz.

Next we see Adam, an Australian champion walker of Olympic quality. At this time Luke was aspiring to marry Martyne, the sister of Maja, who was still in Poland.

After Adam we see Halina Sidorowicz, the grandmother of Maja and the widow of a distinguished Polish military general.

Sitting next to Halina is Dr Jan Saave, on this evening the guest of honour. Jan was a unique character and a legend. He was part of the Polish resistance to the Nazis during the occupation of Poland during the War, and subsequently a distinguished surgeon, malariologist and researcher in Papua New Guinea for over thirty years. Not too many years after the memorable gathering we are talking of he passed on.

Deborah Ruiz Wall is sitting next to Jan and next to her is David Andrew Wall, here we have the hostess and host of the dinner party.

Next to David is Danusia Banachowicz, the mother of Maja. Danusia was then married to Professor Andrzej Banachowicz. She was and is a psychologist. Andrzej is widely known in artistic circles in Europe, and is a Professor of fine arts at Poznan University.

The Poles prepared a sumptuous feast and Halina made the special Polish Vodka drinks which Jan insisted were only to be taken straight!

During the course of the evening it was clear to be seen that Jan was very taken by Danusia. At one stage he invited her to the opera, of course, he prefixed this, being the gentleman he was, with the words: “With the permission of the Professor, of course!”

I don’t think Jan went over too well with Halina, when he addressed her as “grandma”, seeing that both he and she were roughly of the same age.

Jan, my former boss in PNG complimented me in being the catalyst as it were in bringing such an intelligent multicultural group into being.

There’s no doubt all enjoyed the evening, including Halina and Danusia. Luke kindly drove Jan home to Lane Cove.

I’ll end this by saying that I only wish that Danusia had taken up Jan’s offer to go to the opera with him. I’m sure the Professor would not have minded this.

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A rendezvous with a canny Scotsman of fond memory

August 6, 2013 at 2:32 am (Commentary)

We shall call him Tommy, the name Mrs Walker knew him by many years ago.

It would have been in the very early seventies that Tommy, Mrs Walker and I were in the Rex Hotel in Kings Cross.

At one stage of our drinking session Tommy had the idea of taking Mrs Walker home and as he said “giving her a tickle”. But alas, Elaine as I recall her first name became so inebriated that we had to put her in a taxi with instructions to the driver to take her home.

My main dealings and memory of Tommy were in Angoram a small town on the Sepik River.

There he was into artefact buying and what a canny eye he had for a good piece. He would go upriver and elsewhere and as it were sweat on a piece until he got it.

He had many dealings with a German missionary where each would try to outwit each other in artefact buying and selling – it was all a bit of a game! On one occasion he got the better of the said missionary and scored a valuable pocket watch which he showed off with pride in the Angoram Club.

Tommy when I knew him was a man of reasonably advanced years, but from all reports he was still very fit and sexually active. It would be no exaggeration to say that on numerous occasions he would as it were cut off a slice with one of the local women. In fact he had a reputation of being a demon in the cot.

To the accusation that he may be a corrupting influence on the young women he’d associated with his reply was that they had been corrupted years before he’d got at them.

For those who were fortunate to know Tommy in the old days we would be unable to forget how well he read the Sydney property market. If we’d have taken his advice we’d have all ended up in the money “There’s a nice piece of property in Balmain.”

In appearance Tommy was a man of short to medium height with a bounce in his step, with a face and beard not unlike Ernest Hemingway.

Tommy’s end in Sydney was sad for those who knew him but fitting in many ways. The night before he died, probably of a massive heart attack, he’d spend with Jock McIntyre another Scotsman whom we all knew and liked, having a few drinks. He said goodbye to Jock and went home to his place in Cremorne and died in his sleep.

The aftermath of Tommy’s death was not all a bed of roses for he left his properties and all to his son Davey, and from all reports these were not put to good use.

At least at the judgement seat Tommy could say that he’d made a bob in life and passed it all onto his son. Perhaps that German missionary may have put in a good word for him with the Almighty!

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“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Walter Scott

August 1, 2013 at 4:19 am (Commentary)

For years I’ve walked softly in the footsteps of the elders, and now I suddenly realize that I’m one of the elders, but as far as I know no one is walking softly in my footsteps!

Does this say something about me or those previous elders whom I so eagerly followed?

At 77 I’m smiling,  but as the Bard more or less said: a man may smile and smile again and yet be a villain.

What a terrible world the oldies are passing onto the young.

Recently I was in poor health and I went through extensive medical tests that must have cost the Australian taxpayers a deal of money. Just think how hard the young have to work to keep an old bloke like me alive. I’m grateful, but what can I do to repay the country? Not much, I’m afraid! No wonder the Fuhrer snuffed out the oldies, undesirables and racially questionable individuals. We all know what a fine fellow Adolf was!

Just think of the super bugs we have left the young to cope with in the world, and the many disastrous geo-political decisions. To mention but two: the creation of Israel with the resulting destabilization of the Middle East. The handing over of Western New Guinea to Indonesia with the resulting killings and dispossession of the Melanesian people there, these actions should hang heavily on the shoulders of past elders/decision makers!

Let’s think of the Bard’s quote above, and if ever there’s been a smiling gentleman in recent times in New South Wales it would be Ian Macdonald, a star performer in the ICAC Inquiry. I’ve often wondered about that smile of his.

That smile has been a constant throughout the Inquiry, and he’s to be admired for this, for we now know that he suffers from “neck tiredness”.

In the goodness of his heart he went through a demanding luncheon with Ron Medich and other executives at Tuscany, a smart eating place, this aggravated the tiredness of his neck to the extent he was forced to seek relief from a young Chinese beauty, Tiffanie, in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Whatever the condition of Ian’s neck no one has ever claimed to my knowledge that he is a demon in the cot! This seems to be borne out in Tiffanie’s words that Macdonald made her feel like vomiting.

Would the young in New South Wales see Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald as elders to be followed?

You must agree that Eddie is an excellent family man. He’s done much for his sons. His five sons all have a share in family businesses.

The New South Wales Labor Party will, I’m sure, never forget the Obeid family. One acquaintance of mine was heard to say: “Send them all back to Lebanon!”

I somehow think that Eddie and his crew will survive. As to Ian, that neck I think will be his undoing.

So after all this, where can the young look for guidance from: the state, the church, the law, politicians, ethnic or aboriginal elders, significant members of society, historical prophets, saints or just family members?

The one person who comes out better than most in this whole human saga, I would say is Tiffanie, a person who knows what she is selling and is prepared to give value for money.

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