This September 16, 2023, the Papua New Guinean community in Hawaii gathered from O’ahu and Hilo to celebrate Papua New Guinea’s 48th Independence Day.
Due to the time zone difference, independence came to Hawaiians a day later, but that did not spoil the atmosphere of the celebration.
PNG students and those participating in sponsored professional work programs were welcomed by David and Cherry Kunert, as well as David’s parents [the hosts], Daniel and Nancy Kunert.
The PNG community was also joined by wantoks from the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Samoa and friends from the United States and Taiwan to join the independence celebrations.
Daniel and Nancy Kunert have a rich history of involvement in PNG dating back to the 1960s (pre-independence) when they began their illustrious teaching careers in the Laiagam district of Enga province (then part of larger Central Highlands province) and then to Eastern Highland Province where Daniel Kunert became the second principal of Aiyura National High School of Excellence, serving from 1979 to 1986 and where Nancy taught English.
They were deployed to Enga in the 1960s as young teachers in their 20s, soon after marriage, to begin their careers in PNG under the Lutheran Church program.
The Kunerts enjoyed their time in PNG and the experiences they shared with others and especially with their students, who have now left their mark in PNG and around the world.
They shared fond memories of working with PNG’s founder, the late Sir Michael Somare, and the first Speaker of Parliament, Sir John Guise.
They witnessed the day PNG gained independence from Australia.
PNG students studying in Hawaii and the United States proudly represent the country in a variety of studies and disciplines.
Even though they were studying abroad and not physically present in PNG, the students reiterated that their hearts are always tied to PNG.
Additionally, during the celebration we learned that there are places in Melanesia that are still fighting for independence, such as West Papua, New Caledonia, and the Moluccas according to Leoshina Kariha, a senior at the University of Hawaii.
“We invite other young people who are considering pursuing higher education abroad to apply for various scholarship programs, both at home and abroad.”
“If you are considering joining the community in Hawaii, it is diverse and provides a rewarding environment in which to pursue an education.”
Some of the fields that PNG students currently study in Hawaii include astrophysics, political science, law, business and economics, tropical conservation biology, and earth and planetary sciences.