By Josie Tankunani Sirivi, Marilyn Taleo Havini
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Additional info for As Mothers of the Land: The Birth of the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom
We eventually flew out of Bougainville on 5 January, 1990, after a very emotional series of farewells and reassurances to our clan that we were not leaving for long. Five days later, the Australian Government evacuated all its and many foreign citizens. Moses began his law studies at Sydney University and I did one term of casual teaching before gaining a permanent appointment as a high school visual arts teacher in Sydney. We hadn’t realised how traumatised we all were until we found ourselves ducking for cover whenever a helicopter passed overhead or a car backfired or we found ourselves crying at the news and our ears were alert to every report.
Marcelline and I sat together on the veranda and sobbed our hearts out. At last, the pent-up fears and anger found expression as we cried, grieved, ranted and prayed together. This experience marks for ever, to me, the day I counted myself once more in the struggle. I had tried to ignore the war — weary from the 20-year-long haul of trying to develop Bougainville. I was struggling with a personal anger at PNG for its misuse of power, its refusal to face the root causes of our grievances and yet, on the other hand, I had even resented these young Bougainvillean militants who were threatening to destroy all of Bougainville’s hard work.
It was difficult to see the track but we waddled down the steep hill, half sliding with the loads on our backs, groping and holding fast to the plants beside the track to keep us from falling. When we got to the steepest part of the descent, I fell on my stomach and slid down the hill head-first, all the while gaining speed. I was lucky the heavy bag of food didn’t crush my bones. My sister-in-law heard me shouting as I fell and asked what the matter was. I shouted from under my load, ‘I fell down’, but unfortunately the weight of my burden smothered me and she found it difficult to hear me, my face being squashed flat against the hill.
As Mothers of the Land: The Birth of the Bougainville Women for Peace and Freedom by Josie Tankunani Sirivi, Marilyn Taleo Havini