Tasman Orere - Oral History interview recorded on 22 May 2017 at Beama, Northern Province, PNG


Mr Tasman Orere tells his mother's story of working as a laundry girl at Dobuduru during the war.



Warning: This site contains stories of war. Some of these interviews may include detailed and graphic descriptions of events and experiences that may be disturbing for some individuals.

[VS] So when you’re ready.
My name is Tasman Orere, I’m telling my stories about my step-mother. I’m an Australian soldier for eight years before the country got independent, and during my service in the force I been through Sydney Holsworthy Barracks for one week, flew across to New Zealand South Island for three months and back. During the war, my step-mother is Nita Mary Oyago Orere. That’s about 18 years of age, she made the sisoro among the men up at—, also many women get involved in making sisoro up at Garara Wuji on the highway, and then later she was selected, or employed as laundry girl.
[ME] So Mr Orere before you go on with your story, why were the people, including your step-mother, making the sisoro?
They were asked by the ANGAU up at the Dobuduru to make sisoro and that sisoro been shifted up to Dobuduru to put the shelter for the people, ourselves, our elderly people who been moved up there, and they were taken care in the care centre up at Dobuduru. That’s a big story we all know about that. And that’s how my step-mother was employed as a laundry girl, one from Eroro, Violet Teuba, and both were in the other native women, about 60 of them, and also they work along with the white women, do the laundry of the Australians and Americans soldiers. There wash the clothes about 1500 per day in between Eroro Creek to Dobuduru, our headquarters up to Dobuduru at that time during the war. That’s all what my stepmother told me all about was she done during the war.
[ME] Apart from, you know, helping the white ladies to do the laundry for the soldiers, did she do any other thing?
No when they finish do the laundry they all, both men and women hang their clothes on the line, that’s all she was doing during the war, helping the white women and the other native women, they all work together.
[ME] Would you know of some of the women who were involved in such activities like doing the laundry and maybe some ladies who were…
Not only the local women, some are from other parts of the Province, yeah, and one got, one must died because of the sickness but it’s unknown where she from.
[ME] Okay.
That has been recorded, right there, but it doesn’t say she particularly from.
[ME] So this story that you’re just telling us was told you to you by your step-mother?
That’s right yes. That story was told by my step-mother.
[ME] At that time where was your father?
My father was, they were busy, all my fathers and other village men…
[ME] Uncles, yes
Were doing, they were very busy making sisoro. The sisoro was keep moving up to Dobuduru.
[ME] For people to put up the care centre
That’s right
[ME] So that was what your step-mother was doing?
That’s the story told me by my step-mother
[VS] What did your mother tell you about her experience of doing that work? Was it positive for her? Did she enjoy it? Were they new things?
She enjoyed but that was during the war so that, her life is somehow in danger, but they all been told to work to help the other woman, natives and European women to do the laundry.
[VS] Where was your mother’s place before the war? Where was she living?
[VS] And she was married—
To my father, step-father.
[VS] To your father, step-father.
But my step-father’s second eldest brother, sorry third-eldest was labourer and a carrier and also been recruited in the PIB and he was sent to Ambasi, and he paddled a canoe all the way with my step-mother, to Beama, and they hid their guns among the dry coconut leaves and they tie them together. Japanese check them at the Gona Beach, they were talking with my step-father and my uncle but they didn’t check, tell them to check what is in the canoe. So that’s how they came home. I don’t know what happened to them if the Japanese find the gun in the canoe. So that was lucky for them to get away from the Japanese, when they came arrive at Beama.
[VS] So when your step-mother and the other women were working in the laundry they were living at the camp at that time?
They were living up at Dobuduru, and they were transported every morning, and then after laundry they were transported back to Dobuduru.
[VS] So during that time who would look after the children?
My step-mother has no children and yeah at that time she was young and the children, that time they never have no children.
[VS] So it was all young women?
Yeah young woman.
[VS] What were the relationships like between the women doing the laundry work? The Oro women and the white women?
They enjoyed themselves, they were told by the white woman what to do and they followed them. The relationship was very good, they worked together they feel happy. That’s all they been doing. Nothing wrong with them. They were very happy to do that.
[VS] What was the job that the white women were doing? Were they doing laundry also or were they…
They do the laundry also and telling them what to do, so the local women follow them. They watch how the white women do the laundry, our locals do the same.
[ME] Okay did they have any white women there who were nurses, you know giving medicine to the…
Yes of course, we got very big hospital up here, up on the top, other one, so the nurses side I will not talk about that, I am talking concerning the women who took part in the laundry.
[ME] Yes, okay.
But also, the nurses are very busy doing their duty in the hospital. Taking care of wounded soldiers.
[ME] They did have some local woman in there, trained…?
Maybe but I don’t know.
[ME] You wouldn’t have
I haven’t heard that story. But I only have the story from a lady from Milne Bay who rescued the Royal Australian Airforce plane crashed at the sea, I remember that story and that story’s written down here.
[ME] You were told by, okay.
[VS] Can you tell us that story?
[ME] If you have it there you can read it how it is written.
It says, ANGAU recruited and then employed about 55,000 natives of Papuan and New Guinean to assist Australians and American Soldiers in Papua New Guinea during World War II. According to Maclaren Hiari’s research about 31 native woman were employed to work as nurses and laundry girls in Port Moresby, Kairuku, Mile Bay, Oro Bay, Lae, and Rabaul. One of these nurses was from Milne Bay by the name of Maiogaru Gimu Raya who looked after an Australian, Diamond Bill Waters, of Royal Australian Airforce, who crashed in the waters near Gahi Loma Island and rescued by the local people.
After the airmen [were] recovered, Maiogaru risked her own life on canoe and paddled across the sea and safely delivered to the Royal Australian Airforce at Gurney in August 1943. At the end of the Milne Bay Battle in 1942 the Australian Army recognized Maiogaru’s courageous and selfless effort and presented her with the long service medal at Gurney. Beside the nurses, two Papuan women have been identified to have worked as laundry girls together with 118 Papuan men and 98 white men and women at ten laundry facilities at Eroro, between February 1943 and November 1945.
These two Papuan women were Violet Teuba from Eroro village, and Nita Mary Oyago Orere from Beama village. Both women were along, about 20 years old when they were employed by ANGAU to work as laundry girls. The ten laundry facilities could hold a capacity of 25,000 to 30,000 piece of clothes a week, from seven European hospitals in Dobuduru or Base B area. According to ANGAU records, only one woman out of the total of 31 native women, lost her life during the war It is not yet known where part of Papua New Guinea she came from.
[VS] Thank you, can you tell me a little bit about this story? So is this, this is, you have written this…
[VS] Drawing on the research that Maclaren has done—
[Maclaren Hiari] The 31 is nurses, not laundry girls
[VS] 31 nurses he said.
[Maclaren Hiari] 60 is the one he was referring to, 31 is nurses.
So that’s a story I been told and written down, so recorded and keeping the story by writing down on the paper.
[VS] So you have obviously made an effort already to record some of these stories.
That’s right. More or less like repeating it but that’s how I had been interviewed by the first group who came, they interviewed us on that shelter there.
[VS] So maybe we can just go back to your step-mother’s experience, so when she worked, how many days would she work in a week? Every day?
More or less, seven days. Except Sunday, I believe, but the six days, every day within six days a week.
[VS] On Sundays did they have a church service?
Yeah, that time some have priest at that time and our, not many local priest, but at that time we were white priest who been here, both teachers, nurses, so all that been martyred here that’s why they build the Martyrs School up at— So sometimes we have services by the white priest.
[VS] How long did your mother do this work for, during the war?
It’s, they been keep on doing until the word came that the war was surrender, that’s how they been laid out.
[VS] So for the whole time? Did your mother know before she started doing this work that there was work that women could do?
No but she, while she was working she understood and had better idea of what she’s supposed to do.
[VS] And it’s not just men also, who are contributing to the war effort.
Yes, yes.
[VS] Also women did that, that work as well.
Women and men. Most of the men from Oro Bay they became the carriers for Popondetta, Kokoda, Kagi, and then return. On their return journey some of them been killed by ourselves, local people.
[VS] By local people?
[VS] Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
[Reading typed document] “War Carriers of World War II, Journey To and From Oro Bay, Kokoda, Kagi and Popondetta. Carrier’s name, home village, comment. Nongori Orere, from Baberada village. He returned safely. Boke, Beama, killed at Pirive village on his return journey. Dogari, Beama, Oride, Beama, Juwai, Beama, Embogo, Beama, Keopa, Beama, they all returned safely home. Nganambu, Dombada, killed at Boro village on his return journey.
Yopare, Dombada, Ogoba, Dombada, they returned safely home. Beange, Busega, killed at Pririve village on his return journey. Gamboda, Embogo, wounded at Pirive at the time of killing the above named. Ivuga, Embogo, Jeburu Bogu, Embogo, Sororoba, Embogo, killed at Hungiri on his return journey. Ngobari, Embogo, Berugari, Embogo, Jewapie, Embogo, they return home safely. Simbiri, Kopure, Woworaba, Kopure, they return home safely. Bebe Baude, Kopure, died at Kagi by sickness. Monu Kopure, Ivuga, Kopure, Siraba Jenati killed at Hungiri village on return journey. Nongori Teimi, Natatu, returned safely home. Above listed war carriers are all from Oro Bay. Those died were all being killed or wounded by the village people.”
[VS] Do you know anything about why village people were killing other—
At that time we were ourselves, our forefathers were cannibals I can tell you honestly we are cannibals, that’s why they killed to eat, and that’s what I can tell you. It’s no hidden agenda, it’s all clear
[VS] Okay thank you very much for sharing your story.
Thank you.
[VS] Do you have any other questions to add, Margaret or Mavis?
[ME] I don’t think so.
I was lucky enough to collect this information and still keeping it.
[VS] Where did you collect this information from?
From the Ex-Serviceman Office. And you—this is what I always think about—the Australian Government supposed to compensate all this but that never happened. So, I can’t say anything because this should be compensated, this should be considered by the Australian Government. That’s all I can say.
[VS] Yeah
It’s very sad
[VS] A lot of very sad stories.
Yeah. [Showing documents] So this is the sketches during the war, the maps, all there, and this is my own story, being in the force. This is what I’ve been written to the Graves and Honours award office in Melbourne, that was been written back to me.
[VS] So this was in request, in response to your requests…
[VS] –for recognition of your own service? Is that—
Yes, yes. We maybe, maybe we are not in the good order, we all mixed up. Sorry for saying this but this could be a New Guinea Parliament not Papua New Guinea Parliament. Gough Whitlam at that time was Prime Minister of Australia, he may have a hidden agenda with Michael Somare. I can say that, so that’s how we became an independent nation. But Papuans are seventh state of Australia, I’ve got all the records with me but something somehow go, went wrong. All the goodness, all the development going to New Guinea side, not in Papua. Just because Port Moresby’s the capital, that’s why Port Moresby is extending building, everything goes in Port Moresby, but most of the development, education, hospital whatnot is in New Guinea side, not in Papua.
[VS] Do you feel that Oro has been left out?
That’s right, Papuans as a whole are left out, nothing good happened in Papua. So all my conscience, sometimes I have headache thinking of this because I’ve got history been recorded, it’s up there. So, what shall we do? This should be considered by the Australian Government, the British Government and United Nations, should think of this.
[VS] It’s good that you can share your thoughts—
[VS] —about that as well. It’s important for people to—
We supposed to separate from now on, we’re supposed to separate from New Guinea, or New Guinea move back to their own origin and leave us alone to govern ourselves, that’s what I believe. Sooner or later we are going but our children, our generation to generation going to be suffer, that’s what I always dream about. Because the white Australians, they not worrying us. We shared our life, our best to fight in the war, because we were part of Australia before the war, 1905, that’s why they were recruited us, our fathers, to fight in the war. But it’s very sad that the Australians are not thinking of this, thinking of our service during the war. So we are forgotten by Gough Whitlam and Somare, that’s what I always believe based on the history.
[VS] And based on the experiences of your own family—
Yes, that’s right
[VS] —and you know these stories because they’ve been told to you.
Yes and my father, all our fathers from Beama, everywhere, even up to Kokoda, we give our effort to serve the wounded soldiers especially, and the dead, but the wounded, especially wounded soldiers, nothing good to us? We were side by side, our fore fathers fought with Australians and American soldiers, nothing good to us. Say, compensation or build a good house, or old ex-serviceman during the war, but you are here, nothing. I been to all of Australia, I’ve seen the ex-serviceman, oh beautiful, I got a lot of friends in Australia. I visited them, I slept with them, I ate with them, it’s good. How about Papuans? We are neglected by Australians. Sorry for saying this but I have to tell you the truth.
[VS] No, I appreciate you speaking your mind, that’s what we, we want you to feel free to speak your mind.
Yes. I love Australia but Australia is not worrying us. Our good hard work for nothing.
[ME] So what do you think Mr Orere, is it, who’s letting us down here? Is it our leaders in the government who are supposed to, you know, say something on our behalf—
Yes, yes, that’s right but they didn’t, they have no guts to say that. They enjoy their New Guinea packets in the parliament, they’re not worrying about the rest of the Papuans, they enjoy the pay packets.
[VS] Could I come back to— I’m interested to know what happened to your mother and father after the war? So the war ended, they were still living in the camp?
No they’d been sent out to the villages, back to their villages.
[VS] Already before the end of the war?
No the end of the war.
[VS] The end of the war.
And the ANGAU shifted them in a good way, in a good manner back to their villages.
[VS] So they came back here, to Beama?
Yes and then later on they got married, at that time they were just a boy and girl.
[ME] Single
Single. But as soon as they came back home they got married. I am from a different family group, more or less like same but I am from the different father, father and mother, and then my step-father ask me, ask one of us, at that time I was born I been given as a gift, like that to my step-mother and step-father because they have no children.
[VS] So they didn’t have children so your mummy and daddy who had you…
Yeah so they adopted me, my step-father.
[VS] So they came back to Beama, was the village still here or did they have to rebuild?
They rebuilt the village
[VS] And they made a life
Yes, yes all the Beama villages, people been shifted back to their village. So has the other villages too, and that’s how they rebuilt their village.
[VS] Wonderful, thank you for sharing your story and also for sharing your thoughts.
Yes, thank you very much Victoria.

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“Tasman Orere - Oral History interview recorded on 22 May 2017 at Beama, Northern Province, PNG,” Voices from the War, accessed July 17, 2024, https://pngvoices.deakin.edu.au/items/show/414.