Saltwater and Mountain Men come to Borroloola

20 November 2015
Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) Sergeants Francis Munap and Ben Trepi drove with me the thousand kilometres from Darwin to Borroloola last week.
Sgts Ben Trepi and Francis Munap with a family at Robinson River
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They were used to travelling long distances in PNG, but not like this. The staggering part to them was how straight the roads are here … and that you can get to places here by road.

They were more used to rough tracks if there are any, or light aircraft when there’s not.

During our travel we discussed the differences between our two jurisdictions and issues around how our Indigenous population is policed and how their current environment came about.

They were constantly amazed by the quality of the infrastructure in remote areas, the resources dedicated to those communities and the opportunities available.

From Borroloola we had the opportunity to visit King Ash Bay and Bing Bong before conducting a rural patrol to Robinson River where we served some legal processes and met a few groups of local people.

They got on very well with the locals, but were mystified by the craze of dressing up anthills that has hit the NT in the past couple of years. They are confident the photograph of them with an anthill parent and a ‘baby’ anthill in a pusher will be a hit back home. Describing where they came from was made a lot easier when we told locals that Sergeant Munap was a ‘saltwater man’ – he comes from New Britain, surrounded by swamps and crocodiles – and that Sergeant Trepi is a ‘mountain man’ from Mount Hagen, right in the middle of the central mountain range of PNG.

Later they took part in local patrols with Constable 1/C Shannon Harvey and Constable Taku Tayler and observed traffic stops and random breath testing. During their time there a sexual assault investigation was conducted that involved detectives and forensic from Katherine.

They had the opportunity to see how we do crime scene guarding and how the special units of Northern Command supported local activities. They learned about the Criminal Code and the Bail Act, with particular reference to S.137 and the Presumptions on Bail – neither of which they have in PNG.

From what they said, policing in PNG in 2015 is similar to how it was done in the Territory about 30 years ago. There was a lot of discussion about how there is both good and bad from both eras.

They assisted Shannon with the breakfast program at the school here, and later in addressing students on bullying, Divas Chat and Facebook issues, as well as their experiences in PNG and encouraged the children to attend school and to study.

There was also time to see how NT Parks and Wildlife officers dealt with a 4m crocodile caught in a trap in the McArthur River in Borroloola.

After a month in Australia they will be glad to get home, and very glad of the opportunity afforded them by the RPNGC - Australian Policing Program coordinated through the AFP to come and see how policing is done here in the NT.

By Senior Constable Marcus Tilbrook, CEPO for the Carpentaria Area