A year ago, I remarked to my small news team how good it would be if the universe gave me one opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the great Sean Dorney, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s longest serving PNG correspondent.
I grew up watching Sean on ABC television. My parents talked about him when he was deported. I never thought that I would, during my first year as a journalist, get to rub shoulders with this great man.
In one day in 1997, I stood outside the Port Moresby court house during the Sandline inquiry while he did a piece-to-camera. He entertained the crowd with his witty sense of humor laced with a few unprintables aimed at himself for the mistakes he kept making during recording.
Sean is, and has always been, a fighter. In the last 20 years, I never had an opportunity to sit down with him outside of work. He is now retired and battling motor neuron disease which is restricting his movements. Motor neuron disease has not affected his sense of humor in any way and his positive spirit amidst his personal challenge is infectious.
On Tuesday (12th November), after the end of a two day workshop of Melanesian journalists at Griffith University. Pauline and Sean pulled up their chairs and we talked about work and PNG.
While Sean is the most visible of the pair, Mama Pauline, is a powerhouse. You can’t separate one from the other. Sometimes, you end up in situations where you learn important life lessons.
Tuesday night was, coincidently, the eve of the 20th anniversary of me and my partner in crime and I had the pleasure of listening to Sean and Pauline – besties for over 40 years – give me precious gems of advice laced with humor.
“I tell him: ‘Yu konim planti yangpla wantem toktok blo yu,” Pauline said shaking her head in hilarious disgust. This was in in reference to his super interesting anecdotes from PNG and the Pacific which still captures the imaginations of people like me.
Then she turned to me: “Every time he talks, I say to him, wanem kain kon yu mekim nau?”
Sean burst in laughter.
Sean is a ‘bit’ of a troublemaker. His reports have seen him deported from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Nauru. There’s still a travel ban for Sean in Fiji after many years.
In August 2018, when Sean and Pauline visited Pauline’s home village on Manus, Sean wrote about how much time he had left.
“We have come to Tulu, Pauline’s village on Manus Island, in what could be my final visit. This is a place I have come to love where people live in harmony with nature.”
Later, that evening, I remarked to another powerful Pacific journalist, Jo Chandler, about how precious the meeting with Sean and Pauline was to me personally. I wished it, a year ago, it was granted and I am truly thankful.