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Vale Ken Fairweather: one of the great characters of Papua New Guinea

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Tuesday, 25 October 2022

On Monday one of the greatest, and most positive influences in my life, and especially my forty-plus year association with Papua New Guinea, left us.

After a short illness Ken Fairweather, politician, businessman and genuine larrikin, died. Ken went down with a bad case of malaria just over a week ago. His condition worsened until early Monday morning when he succumbed to a massive heart attack.

Ken was 76. He lived life to the fullest. A Victorian who went to PNG in the 1960s to work for the colonial administration, he owned the nation's leading road haulage business, several plantations and a major coffee exporter at various stages after he left the government service.


In 2019 he fulfilled a promise he made a number of us to write a book on his time in PNG, warts and all. He asked me to contribute, proofread the manuscript and write the forward. It was a privilege to do so.

He titled the book Farewell White Man, a title we debated over a short period. I gave in and don't regret doing so.

Then he gave me an even more demanding task - find a publisher. It helped that he undertook to underwrite full editing, production and printing costs.

I was put in touch with Dr Gloria Webb, Publisher of Wordfix in Cairns. After I sounded her out and was brutally frank about Ken's unique history in a lifetime in Papua New Guinea, she expressed a genuine interest.

I briefed Ken and virtually overnight he flew to Cairns to meet Gloria. They signed a deal, he paid a deposit, and Gloria and her team went to work on the manuscript.

Within days she was on the phone to me asking how she would address the "fruity language". Having read the manuscript I offered the view that without the swear words etc it would be a much thinner volume. And it would not be, as I put it "The Real Ken".


To Gloria's great credit she proceeded with few, mainly grammatical, changes.

Ken was proud of the book, and so was I.

I had first met Ken when I joined the new PNG Opposition Leader, Iambakey Okuk. He was keen for me to meet as many Papua New Guinean business and political leaders as possible including Australians who were playing a vital role in PNGs development. I'm ever grateful Ken Fairweather was one of them!

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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