Papua New Guinea
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PNG community in Hawai’i celebrate independence

September 16, 2023, saw the Papua New Guinean community in Hawai’i come together from O’ahu and Hilo to celebrate PNG’s 48th Independence.

Due to the time difference, Independence came a day later for those in Hawai’i, but it did not dampen the mood for celebrations.

PNG students and those on sponsored professional work programs were hosted by David and Cherry Kunert, and David’s parents Daniel and Nancy Kunert. The PNG community was also joined by wantoks from Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Samoa and friends from the USA and Taiwan for the independence celebrations.

A mumu was prepared the night before and uncovered on the morning of Independence. The aroma of pig grease, mumu chicken, aibika, cabbage, kaukau and tapioca brought back fond memories of home.

Hosts Daniel and Nancy Kunert have a rich history of involvement in PNG going back to the 1960s (pre-independence) when they began their illustrious teaching careers firstly in the Laiagam District of Enga Province (then, a part of the larger Western Highlands Province) and later in Eastern Highlands Province where Daniel Kunert became the second Principal of the now Aiyura National High School of Excellence, serving from 1979-1986 and Nancy taught English.

They were deployed to Enga in the 1960s as young teachers in their early 20s right after they were married, to begin their careers in PNG under the Lutheran Church’s program.

The Kunerts cherished their time in PNG and the experiences that they shared with the people and most especially their students who have now gone on to make their own marks in PNG and the world.

They shared fond memories of sitting with the Founding Father of PNG- the late Sir Michael Somare and first Speaker of Parliament Sir John Guise.

They witnessed the day PNG achieved its independence from Australia.

As the famous quote by Sir Isaac Newton goes “if we have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” and indeed as we reflect on how far we have come as a nation, we pay homage and tribute to all those who have faithfully contributed behind the scenes to build our nation and to give the people of PNG today, the shoulders to stand on to see farther than yesterday.

As PNG students studying in the U.S., these students represent the country proudly in various studies and disciplines.

Despite physically studying abroad and not being present in PNG, the students recalled “our hearts are firmly anchored in PNG.

Also, in our celebration we are cognizant of the fact that there are some places in Melanesia that still strive for Independence like West Papua, New Caledonia and Maluku.” said Leoshina Kariha, final year student at the University of Hawaii.

“We appeal to other young people who are thinking of pursuing tertiary studies overseas, to apply to the variety of scholarship programs both local and abroad.

If you are thinking of joining the community here in Hawai’i, it is diverse and offers an enriching environment to pursue studies.”

A few areas that PNG students are currently studying in Hawai’i include Astrophysics, Political Science, Law, Business and Economics, Tropical Conservation Biology, and Earth and Planetary Sciences.

If your study journey takes you to Hawaii, the PNG ʻOhana (family) are eager to give you a warm Aloha (greeting) welcome to Hawaii’s shores!