Interview number 2 at Sogeri plateau on 7 July 2014. We have here Geoffrey Meia, who is going to talk about the war experience of his dad, Meia Waia. You may start now.
Thank you. Meia born in 19 .. Meia born in 1928. In 1942, he was .. 14 years old.
The Australian government forcing him in, the Australian soldiers forcing him, he's 14 years old. They they took him to where the big camp is, at Ilolo plantation, with Mr McDonald, that is what the first information gave to me by my father Meia. Anyway the Australian soldiers forcing him, you come to the bases at Ilolo plantation. And then they said, you be going up the carriers carrying the things and you go to Ioribaiwa then come back. But you know my father his age is 14 years old. He was scared because when he saw big cargo he was very scared.
So he was trying to run away, with one of his friends, suffering of fear, all of them were trying to escape. In the .. night they escape but the soldiers saw them so they go and took them back. And they said you are going to carry the things for your work. At that time my father was 14 years old. So they carry the tins and the cargoes and they follow the Australian soldiers. They went to Ioribaiwa. And then they came back. That's what they did to my father, that's what my father told me.
After the war they sent him back down to Kilakila, that's where the Australians' base was so he went there. From there, .. he signed some of the document, that's what he told me, signed the document, and then they make farewell party to him, then he came back, to Koitaki where the .. farm was, and so he worked as a cowboy there in 1942. That's what my father told me.
On that time when he was about 14 years old.
I was crying because of his age. That time because Ilolo is where my father and family lives, the place where they live at the back of Ilolo plantations, Korobadabu [?], and that they were scared because Japanese were throwing the guns, bombs, and they were trying to run away. But McDonald says don't run away, I'm here. If I scared I ride on my card and then I run away. Then you can move out but I'm here, don't move, McDonald's here. So those village people listen to what McDonald said to us so they didn't run away but they were scared. My father told me, said one of the men, woman was scared, instead of calling his sons, he want to get his son, but he missed and he go and get the other sons.
But son said he want to run away together but he said no, this is my son because of the noises from the bomb and the gun. But McDonald says don't run away. But that's the story that my father told me while he was with me. He died last year, December 23, Christmas, so he's about 86 years old. And he died. So that's the story that my father told me so I just want to tell you. I wrote down this report already, this history already, when I'm ready I'll take the report down and give it to you people so you can put it into your paper.
Geoffry, was your father given any medal or anything of that sort for his effort?
Yes they gave him, but at the same time when he finished his war career in 1955 the SDA mission, because we SDA, my father was the pioneer missionary so he move around with the missionary work in this part of Papua New Guinea so that's why he doesn't know where he put his medal. That's what he told me. He even show the medal, that time was also, I don't know.
You realise that this voice recording is going to stay forever at the national museum, and it's going to be from your own mouth. Is there anything that you wrote in the piece of paper that you promise to give us, that you would like to say in this point in time – it'll be recorded forever.
Yeah OK. I wrote all the papers already but when I'm ready I will take it down to the group so you can put it into the museum. What I'm really worried about is this. It's now 71 years on after the war. The Australians forget the Sogeri.. Australians forget the Sogeri Koiari people since they left after the war, they went back to Australia, they forget about the Sogeri people. That was 71 years ago now. And then today, I am proud. I am happy because you came back. You came back. That's why, please, Australians don't forget about us Sogeri Koiari people.
Because the administration during the war was based in here, from Nine Mile right up to Sirinumu Dam, and Ower's Corner but you people forget us, they just pass through from Mt Koiari, Efogi, then Isurava. That's all. We are still waiting for Australian to come back but we are happy, we are glad, that Australians come back to us. You spoil our areas here, our places here, you do your training here, like mission station, at Bisiatabu mission station was SDA we gave, that's our land, we gave it to the SDA mission in 1908 by my parents, my grandparents, they gave it to SDA mission in 1908. And in 1944 when Australians come, they chase all the SDA pastors and they took over the Bisiatabu mission station, they destroy it.
That's where their training was, and then there's a hospital there, still, the hospital clinic is still there, it currently is there but it's no use, and also Margarida DPI station, where I'm now living is where PIB was having their practice. That's why I say Australians since they left, they left Sogeri for 71 years, my question to the Australian government is: What are you going to do with us? The Sogeri Koiari people, that's my question to the Australian government. I leave it to the Australian government to come.
I'm going to make a statement and I'll be interested to see how you react to it. We have a shared history and a shared heritage. The sentiments that you have just expressed, do they relate to that at all? We have a shared history. The war history belongs to Papua New Guineans and Australians as well, and the heritage is of course the same. You want the Australians to come back because of that? I want to hear it from your own mouth.
I really want Australians to come back. Because Australia, that's their bases. That's where the base, the administration is. If that's not Sogeri, if they were not based at Sogeri, they'd lhave ost the war. But because they came and based here, that's where all the administration work is. Where I am living now, that's at Sogeri market is, that's where the Australians make their bakery, and their printing press is right where my uncle living, that's where the printing press is. So everything was here, at Sogeri plateau. If not for Sogeri, Australian would have definitely lost the war. But because of our hospitality with the Australians, that's why Australians won the battle. The war. That's why I really want Australians, please, don't forget us, come back, come back, we have a lot of things for us, the Australians to help us, but who going to be our mouth [?] man.
Nobody. So now we have the right people here so that you people will take our cry, and what problems to the Australians, the Papua New Guinea government, to help us, come back to Sogeri, because Sogeri is the base where about 6 or 7 hospitals were put in here in Sogeri. So we want Australian to build one big hospital here. And even we don't have a good township here, so we want Australia to one big township for Sogeri. That's for Australians. That's what I was as the landowner of Sogeri plateau. Because as Dari clan, my land was being used by the Australians. That's why, on behalf of my people here at the Sogeri plateau, I want Australians to come back. Come back and help us and put something that will remind us for our generations, our children and our after children will know, that Australians come here, they came back and they help us.
Apart from the hospital, what else was here Geoffry? We heard about airport. Now when you go to Sirinumu now, there's only water there. They look around and there's bush there. What comes to your mind when you see these things, that once upon a time there was something standing there. How do you see the picture today?
I want because if you go to right up to Isurava down to Kokoda station, you will see the monuments there, but here at Sogeri you see nothing. There's no monument, no printing press monument, no bakery monument, and when we were a logging camp the Australians cut down the trees and then they carry the trees on road where truck could move. That's why, I really want Australians to set up, this one is only one, that monument is only one. But we want to put many of the monuments up, right up to Sogeri National High School because the Sogeri National High School is also where the picture [?] was there. That's why I want Australians to look at this one too. Also at Donadabu was where the first Australian, they came to Donadabu and they have the first rugby there. Rugby field there, Australians. When the finish war they come here for their resting, they usually go there and play rugby there. So many, a lot of things to say, that's why I don't have a lot of things to say but I think ..
In the NRL: which is your favouriterugby team?
My favourite team, I even call it my father, father Meninga, that's my favourite team. When you talk about, if you talk about it, if Maroons lose, I'm upset. I'm happy because last time when they .. lost the game I told them it's OK we won for 8 years. I'm a Maroons supporter. Thank you.
Finally Geoffry, what do you think of the scores of Australians who come through Sogeri to go to Kokoda? What would you say about that? Even on ANZAC day we have a big group of pilgrims going to Isurava. What are your thoughts on that?
Isurava is battlefield. Australians always go to ANZAC Day at Isurava. When they pass through this area here we are upset. Because they should do something much better than Isurava. Because Isurava is a battlefield, where they fought and come back, but we look after them. We carry their things and then we walk. So Australians should look seriously about this.. The meaning of the fuzzy wuzzy angel, it's our language. Koiari language. Fuzzy mean my friend. Wuzzy mean my leg. So that's an angel helping these people, carrying the wounded soldiers back to the hospital, because we have hospitals here, hospitals at Bagere, Bisiatabu, here, and Seventeen Mile, there's a big general hospital there. So please Australians, don't pass through Sogeri. Think about Sogeri. If you pass through Sogeri, we upset. That's why I feel emotion. I feel emotion. Because Australia put us down.
OK Geoff, thank you very much for your time mate, very good.
“Geoffry Meia - Oral History interview recorded on 7 July 2014 at Karakadabu/Depo, Central Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed September 23, 2023, https://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/261.