‘That’s what keeps me going with SkatePNG seeing the skate culture come alive over there.’
Tell us something about PNG people do not know?
Papua New Guinea has the most languages of any country in the world. Over 850 languages are still alive today.
Tell us something about yourself?
I’m a skateboarder from Australia, but moved to Papua New Guinea as a teacher just over ten years ago. I fell in love with the place, the people, and culture and I work between Australia and PNG as much as possible.
‘The Skateistan program inspired me to start up skatepng.’
How different is teaching in PNG compared to Australia?
There are similarities between teaching in Australia and PNG, but this was because I was teaching at an International School in Port Moresby. Remote village schools are very different. Some of the schools I visited in the villages would be simple open air bush huts, with mats on the floor, one teacher out the front and that was it. The kids were always super stoked regardless. They are bred super tough and adventurous over there! i.e. they make rad skateboarders!
The biggest difference would be the celebration of diversity and culture. Each and every student in Papua New Guinea was proud and felt free to share, embrace and celebrate their heritage (i.e. what tribe/clan/village they were from, their languages and traditions, dances, customs). Independence day was huge!! Students would dress in their traditional dress (bilas) and proudly share their culture, dances etc at school. As with languages, there are so many different tribes and clans, each with their own unique set of customs. You would get to see all of these on show during independence day…we also held other cultural events during the school year, so it felt like it was constantly being shared and celebrated.
We are starting to see more of that in Australia..unfortunately the first nations people of Australia have suffered for a lot longer under colonisation. We still don’t celebrate first nations culture near enough in schools in Australia. It’s slowly changing…but it’s a long road ahead.
‘As with languages, there are so many different tribes and clans, each with their own unique set of customs.’
How big is the skate community in PNG?
Small, but growing each and every day. Skateboarding is a relatively brand new sport for Papua New Guinea. Some kids who are fortunate enough to travel overseas are able to access skateboards. Currently, there are no skate shops or places to buy decent skate gear in PNG itself.
Did you introduce PNG to skateboarding or was it already there when you arrived?
Apart from expatriates who had skateboards, and kids who come to Australia and have skateboards through that avenue, there was no real skate culture that existed in Papua New Guinea before we built the community ramp at Taurama. It’s still small, but its growing each and every day. That’s what keeps me going with SkatePNG seeing the skate culture come alive over there.
What are some of the best skate spots in PNG?
There are some rad crusty curbs and ledges around the city. But so much is yet to be explored from a skateboarding perspective. SkatePNG worked with a local beach community called Taurama in Port Moresby to build a mini ramp about two years ago. The Solien family welcomed us onto their land and worked with us to build a skate space for the whole community to enjoy.
‘The local kids down at Taurama are definitely owning the mini ramp.’
Are there any official skate parks?
Not yet. However, one is in the works. We’re working on a proposal as we speak.
Any talented local kids that are making a name for themselves?
The local kids down at Taurama are definitely owning the mini ramp. Raymond Solien, Cynthia Parascos for the girls, and David Safitoa are all ripping.
How close is the relationship between the different islands nearby (Solomon, Vanuatu, New Caledonia etc) nations among the skate community?
We’ve connected a bit with the crew in Fiji on Instagram. An islands/oceania competition is definitely on the horizon. Once we’ve completed the first public park in Port Moresby, it’d be great to share what we learn and help other communities across the islands get their own parks built too.
How difficult is it to access skateboard gear?
Difficult! We currently rely on donations and boards being brought over from Australia. Postage/logistics costs are insanely high. Everytime I fly over my bags are packed to the brim with skate gear.
Are there any local brands?
Not yet, but skatePNG has been working with local artists and we have produced clothing and decks featuring their designs. All funds we raise goes back into the skate projects happening in PNG, or purchasing more skate gear to bring over for the crew.
You are part of ‘Skateboarding PNG’. Your website looks awesome by the way. What projects are you working on at the moment?
We’re working towards getting regular sessions happening at the mini-ramp down at Taurama, including a weekly female only session. A main focus for skatePNG is gender equality and getting the girls rolling too. As mentioned, a public skatepark is also on the agenda. We’re also working towards getting mobile skate sessions happening throughout Port Moresby so more kids can have the opportunity to have a go at skateboarding.
What are some of the challenges people face in PNG every day?
Corruption and insane costs of living. The cost of living is extremely high, especially in Port Moresby. The crazy rent costs mean that many people live in informal houses or ‘settlements’ which are communities that lack basic infrastructure like roads, running water or electricity. Things that we take for granted like playgrounds (and skateparks!) are non-existent in many areas. Unfortunately, corruption only makes the situation worse.
Many of the problems faced by PNG today can be traced back to its colonial past. PNG only gained independence from Australia in 1975. An awesome book to read about the history of this is ‘the embarrassed colonist’ by an Australian Journalist called Sean Dorney https://www.lowyinstitute.org/ publications/embarrassed-colonialist
Last question: If you could interview a person, who would it be and why? What would you ask?
Olly Perkovich who heads up Skateistan. The Skateistan program inspired me to start up skatepng. I’d hit him up for advice on how to keep it all rolling.
‘Many of the problems faced by PNG today can be traced back to its colonial past.’