PNGAA Library

PNG Flag: Ramon R Thurecht

I refer to the article on the production of the PNG flag from the September issue of Una Voce. All that is said in the article is true but have you ever pondered on where the stylised reproduction of the Bird of Paradise on the flag came from?

Here are the facts. In 1966 I, with my then business partner, Halsey (Hal) Byrne, started PNG Printing Company. Shortly after the commencement of business, with a bit of pushing from my old friend Bert Stubbs, of John Stubbs and Sons, I took an interest in the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, eventually becoming president of both Port Moresby and the PNG Chambers.

At that time our artist-inresidence was well known personality Graeme Ross. I had already noted that there was no Made in PNG logo available in the then Territory of PNG. I had discussed with Graeme the necessity for a simple outline logo that could be used on every product and could be stencilled on Copra bags. We were influenced by the stylised kangaroo used by Australia and the stylised kiwi used by New Zealand. Naturally we decided to follow suit with a bird that was most associated with PNG.

The Bird of Paradise immediately came to mind so Graeme’s instruction was to produce a stylised Bird of Paradise. He came up with the bird now pictured on the flag, except that it was more in the vertical plane with the tail feather curved around to enclose the wording Made in PNG or whatever wording was required. We of course christened it The Squashed Cockroach.

How did this symbol get onto the flag? Well, in 1972 with the joining of Ansett and TAA to make Air Niugini, another well-known artist, Haldane (Hal) Holman, Lexi Burns’ older brother, the Artist in Residence at the Department of Information and Extension Services (DIES) was given the job of drawing up the livery for the new airline. We had previously had manufactured in New Zealand rolls of the new logo which were sold in our stationery shop in Badili (the old Outdoor Theatre).

We believe that Hal got hold of one of these stickers as he used the same stylised bird in the design for the tail of the aircraft. We subsequently challenged him on this and he did not dissent, merely giving his Mona Lisa smile, as only Hal can. As we had no objection and we had not registered the logo we did not, nor did we intend, to do anything about it. In fact we were quite proud that our design ended up on Air Niugini. I was present at the launching of Air Niugini in 1972 and, as you can well imagine, was quite vocal on origin of the design.

Fast forward to the design of the flag. You will note that, once again our bird was incorporated in the original design to be presented to the Select Committee and it was subsequently used by Susan Karike in her design which, by the way, was also put into finished art work by Hal. As an aside, Hal also designed the PNG Coat of Arms and physically made the coat of arms adorning the then new Supreme Court Building in Port Moresby. I still have an original print of the design, signed by Hal, hanging in my office. The relevant Gazette, accepting the design, I have placed at the rear of the picture. It is possible that this is the only remaining original print.