The Promise

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Recently I was asked by Queensland RSL News to write an overview about a children’s book I’ve written, The Promise, and they have kindly published this in Edition 4 of their magazine.

During World War II, Papua New Guinea nurse Maiogaru Taulebona hid a wounded Australian airman in a cave, deep in the jungle near Milne Bay. With two words, “I promise”, she was bound to the task of saving his life.

WORLD War II was in its third year, and the Battle of Milne Bay was raging in Papua New Guinea. On the night of 25 August 1942, Japanese soldiers landed between Waga Waga and Wandula, on the northern coast of Milne Bay. The intention was to seize Milne Bay in preparation for landing in Port Moresby, their final destination.

It was during this time of carnage and confusion that an Australian airman, John Donegan, was fished out of Milne Bay by local fisherman Kidilon Luka. He pulled him into his canoe and took him to a mission nurse, Maiogaru Taulebona, who hid him deep in a shadowy cave so that enemy soldiers could not find him. It was then that she made a promise to protect him and take him to safety.

Maiogaru treated his wounds, wrapping them in banana leaves, and stayed with him until he was well enough to move. Determined to fulfil her promise, Maiogaru placed him in a canoe, concealed under a pile of vegetables, and paddled him through the night to a hospital on the other side of the Island.

Maiogaru one of the brave locals who took an enormous risk by helping injured soldiers in WWII. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) thanked Maiogaru for saving the life of an airman, and she was awarded the Loyal Service Medal.

This is my second book written about a nurse in Papua New Guinea during WWII. The Flying Angels, published in 2021, was my first. The Flying Angels revealed the story of a group of RAAF nurses who were handpicked to rescue injured soldiers from the frontline of Papua New Guinea.

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At the launch of The Flying Angel, a friend placed a Kina in my hand as a gentle reminder of the local Papua New Guinea people who also assisted and helped Australian soldiers in WWII. It was my friend’s passion for PNG’s unsung heroes that encouraged me to start my journey to find this amazing story about Maiogaru Taulebona.

The Promise is a story of courage, resilience, kindness and hope, which celebrates the bond between the people of Australia and Papua New Guinea. It is also a personal story for me as my father, Henry George McGregor, was stationed in PNG during WWII in the Signals Corp. He told me that he would not have survived without the help of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, as they were fondly called at the time. With care and love, these PNG natives became the Australian soldiers’ unsung heroes, rescuing injured Australian soldiers and taking them to safety.

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On the 80th anniversary of the battle of Milne Bay, Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Robert Chipman AM CSC presented copies of The Promise during his official visit to Milne Bay. Nurse Maiogaru’s family and local primary schools were very proud to receive these books. The Chief of Air Force recognises the significance of this story in connecting children in both Australia and PNG, and the significance of their shared history.

This book is a valuable resource for children to learn about their ancestors and how this conflict significantly shaped our history. The Promise also speaks of the bravery of women in the community. I believe there is a great need for authentic stories of local PNG heroes to be heard, and these ancestors will reach out to young PNG and Australian children to show them the way forward with clarity, courage, and hope.

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I enjoy telling little-told Australian stories of WWI and WWII and am available to talk at schools and events about these and other ANZAC stories. vicki@vickibennnett.com.au

Published by Boolarong Press, The Promise is available in bookstores and at www.boolarongpress.com.au or www.vickibennett.com.au

The Promise

The story of The Promise begins at a launch of my previous children’s book, The Flying Angel in 2021.  It is my second book written about a nurse in WW2. 

The Flying Angels tells the story of a group of RAAF nurses who were handpicked to rescue injured soldiers from the frontline of Papua New Guinea in WW2, and transport them safely back home to Australia. These nurses where known for their courage and compassion, and this story was inspired by the life of one of these remarkable nurse’s, Sister Marie Craig.

At the launch of The Flying Angels, I was seated next to Terry O’Neill, who during his 50 years of living and working in Papua New Guinea and the Asia Pacific, had the desire to support vulnerable communities which have been impacted by war and social disruption. He placed a silver Kina in my hand as a gentle reminder of the local Papua New Guinea people who also assisted, and helped our Australian soldiers in WW2. They were called the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

Immediately I thought of my father Henry George McGregor, who was stationed in PNG during WW2 in the Signals Corp. He told me that without the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels that he, and indeed I, would not be alive. With care and love, these PNG natives became the Australian soldiers’ unsung heroes, rescuing injured Australian soldiers and bringing them to safety.

Terry’s passion about these PNG’s unsung heroes, encouraged me to start my journey to find this amazing story about Maiogaru Taulebona. A Papua New Guinea Mission Nurse, who was one of those brave locals who took enormous risks to help injured Leading Aircraftsman, John Donegan, and with the risk of grave personal danger to herself, cared for his wounds and secured him away from the enemy. 

Maiogaru Taulebona was awarded the loyalty medal by the Royal Australian Air Force. The Promise, is a celebration of the bond between Australia and Papua New Guinea. 

This is the story of courage, resilience, kindness and hope. It is the first of a series of books I have been asked to write about Papua New Guinea heroes.

Hope is optimism in action

When my publisher asked me to write a book encapsulating everything about living a hope-filled life, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. Thrilled to be sharing my ideas but terrified that by opening up, I would be forced to navigate deeper levels of my understandings of anxiety. Why poke the sleeping bear?

As an adult, I’ve struggled with being enough. Overachievement and the need for approval have always driven me, often to the high end of anxiety and, when I was younger, to depression. Like many others, I have had lots of counselling to help pinpoint where my anxiety started, and this exploration has helped me to live a life of curiosity, love and passion. That’s why I decided that The Book of Hope – Antidote for Anxiety would be a handbook based on what I’ve learned about handling the ups and downs in life. 

The book was published in February 2020. Little did I know when I was writing it, that the looming worldwide pandemic would turn our lives upside down. 

Over 2 million Australians suffer from anxiety. Research suggests that 45% of Australians are expected to experience some form of mental health issue in their lifetime. These staggering numbers are growing in our 21st-century living. When we add the level of anxiety and stress created by COVID-19 there seems little opportunity for peace.

We are becoming increasingly anxious, frightened, depressed, and overwhelmed, but let’s not kid ourselves; we were already anxious, frightened, depressed, and overwhelmed before COVID-19. 

Human evolution relied on fear as a critical response to physical threat, our in-built mechanism of fight-flight-freeze is how we survived as a species. If we didn’t feel fear, we couldn’t protect ourselves. But now our survival-based fear has evolved into overwhelming anxiety, which we accommodate by soothing, avoiding, or numbing it down. 

What kept our ancestors alive is killing us slowly. 

Our ancestors were able to put aside their anxiety, to rest until the next battle or event. Our fast-paced technology, TV, social media, and texting drives us to feel like we are never quite free of pressure. Anxiety has become our new normal, and high levels of anxiety can smother hope in a heartbeat.

Recognizing anxiety is the first step. Identify when cortisol and adrenaline are activated; when our mind starts to race, hands tremble or there’s a shaking sensation in the chest. When you feel anxiety, sit quietly and breathe into that feeling, resist attaching a story of ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ to the feeling. Don’t argue with yourself about it; don’t try to blame, shame, or guilt the feeling away. That’s never worked. Identify the anxiety as early as possible and breathe through it until it lets go of you. 

A pioneer of dealing with anxiety Dr. Claire Weekes wrote, “To recover, we must know how to face and accept panic; to go through panic until it no longer matters … Recovery is in our own hands, not in drugs, not in the avoidance of panic, not in ‘getting used to’ difficult situations. Permanent recovery lies in the patient’s ability to know how to accept the panic until they no longer fear it.”

We may not be able to control the outer circumstances of our lives. However, by identifying and taking notice of what’s happening within, we can develop resistance by taking small moments of mindfulness, awareness, and being in the current moment. 

My definition of hope is optimism in action. Hope won’t stop the challenging things from happening, it just helps us to understand that they are transitory.

We need to create new neural pathways in our brain – those stimulated by gratitude, kindness, optimism, cheerfulness, buoyancy, and hope. When we think more hopeful thoughts, our bodies release dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters that relax the nervous system. Both of these chemicals are linked with happiness. 

Stop constantly accessing the news or having it on as background noise; at least take it down a couple of notches. Being hammered with the same event over and over again is not healthy. 

Spend time in the outdoors, read more, meditate, experience art, literature and music, these are the things that nurture our hearts and make us more peaceful and wise. 

As a small child, I remember the excitement of saying goodbye to my favourite aunt as she boarded a luxury liner from Sydney Harbour, heading to Southampton. She threw a yellow streamer from the upper deck and I eagerly caught it and held on tight, smiling and waving with my other hand. This encounter left an indelible mark on my imagination. Now as an adult, hope for me is the streamer between the ocean liner and the dock. Between me and my future. 

This article first apeared in Your Life Choices on 1st October 2020.  https://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/health/your-health/anxiety-is-killing-us-slowly