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This article was originally published on vaiiplawyers.com.
The early legal eagles from Papua New Guinea.
A colleague asked the other day about who the first indigenous lawyers were to graduate from the University of Papua New Guinea? We’ve done a little digging around and here’s what we found.
In 1972, two local lawyers were admitted to the Bar. Both graduated from the University of Papua and New Guinea (as it was called then). The two gentlemen were Mr Ilinome Frank Tarua of Kwato, Milne Bay District, and Mr Kubulan Los of Madang.
As you can imagine, this was a very special occasion for the individuals, their families, the territory and of course the legal fraternity.
The local paper covered this momentous event and according to their report both gentlemen were welcomed at a reception in the Supreme Court, Port Moresby, on Tuesday 14, 1972.
At the time, Mr Tarua was employed by the Crown Law Department and Mr Los (as he then was) had just joined the Public Solicitor’s office in Port Moresby. In describing that significant event, Post Courier reported that Port Moresby based lawyers “crammed in to the courtroom to see the two proud young men admitted to the Bar.”
Their admissions were moved by the Secretary for Law, Mr Kearney and Public Solicitor, Mr Lalo.
Mr Justice Kelly in his welcome speech described the admissions as “a significant occasion in the legal profession in Papua New Guinea“.
Mr Justice Kelly said that both Mr Tarua and Mr Los were two of the first Papuan and New Guinean lawyers to receive training and admission in the Territory. Both were among the first group of Papuans and New Guineans to study law when the University opened in 1967.
Mr Los had a distinguished legal career and was appointed a judge of the National and Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea in 1983. Sir Kubulan spent 24 years on the bench and sadly passed away in 2012.
Mr Tarua became a senior legal advisor of the country’s first Prime Minister the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
Women in Law
Just over 40 years ago, 23 trainees of the Legal Training Institute were admitted to the bar. Among them was the third woman to qualify at the institute — Mrs Maria Malumga Doiwa (pictured – Post Courier), of Banz, Western Highlands Province. The first to qualify was Ms Meg Taylor (now Dame Meg Taylor) and Ms Josepha Kiris (late).
Prominent lawyer Robert Aisi, now a consultant, described those moments well in a comment on a LinkedIn post.
We were the class of 1976, the first under-grad class enrolled at the UPNG Law School just after Independence! Of course, there were quite a few classes prior to Independence: Sir Gibs Salika, current Chief Justice’s group was a year ahead of us etc… Along with our two Sisters, late Maria and Ms Hitalai Polume, we graduated and then attended LTI and were admitted to practise in the Courts of PNG on the day mentioned….Wow! 41 years ago! How time flies…!
Mr Aisi further commented about Dame Meg Taylor:
Fyi, Dame Meg, prior to Independence, graduated from the Uni of Melbourne, attended LTI and was admitted to practise Law in PNG. She has a Masters (LLM) from Harvard.
Dame Meg recently completed a very highly successful two-term tenure as the first women Secretary-General to head the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat.
I think late Mrs Josepha Kanawi was indeed the second PNG women admitted to practise Law in PNG.
In Remembrance: May our late Sisters Maria and Josepha continue to Rest in Eternal Peace!