The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the tyranny of evil and the folly of foolish men. Blessed is he who out of charity and goodwill shepeards the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children, & I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those of you who attempt to poison and destroy my brother, and you will know my name is the LORD when I lay my vengeance upon thee …

–Ezekiel 25:17

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A Lighthouse

A Lighthouse

… where I spent my summer vacation …

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John Howard and Foday Sankoh: A Comparative Essay

Question One: Does it really matter who leads? Assess the relative importance of political leaders to Governmental Performance …






At first glance, the question of the relative importance of political leaders to government performance is deceptively simple. Of course it matters who leads. However, once we move beyond this initial reaction, it becomes clear that attempting to find a substantive answer is akin to opening a veritable Pandora’s Box. Is there a particular type of leader best suited to induce the best possible performance? To what extent is a leader’s power circumscribed by not only their personality but also by the institutional framework in which they operate? And what of the role of chance, context and circumstance in politics? Do we need to look at not only ‘good’ but ‘bad’ leaders? This paper will consider these questions in turn, which, as we shall see, turns upon the consideration of the role of what is actually a most elusive concept, that of the nature of leadership.



Much of the extant literature on leadership points to the fact that at least in the realm of political science, it is a concept that has historically been poorly understood.[1] This is despite the fact that there is surely a corollary between ‘good’ governance and ‘good’ leadership. Furthermore, in a normative sense, good governments are those that are ‘representative and accountable to the population they are meant to serve’ and ‘effective – i.e. capable of protecting the population from violence, ensuring the security of property rights, and supplying other public goods that the populace needs and desires’.[2]


It is important, at this stage, to qualify this line of reasoning by stating what ‘leadership’ actually is. In economic terms, leadership is a basic commodity of human existence. Now, while there is a paucity of literature about leadership in the field of political science, on the other hand it is a concept much thought and spoken about in the field of, say, management consultancy.[3]


It is important, also, to think of leadership in terms of a social good[4]. Martin Luther King was a leader, but so was Adolf Hitler. And so was Ghandi, and so was Ronald Reagan, and so on.[5] The point here is that there is a moral aspect to leadership as well: This simply means that a leader can be good and effective while still pursuing what might be described, politically, as ends that are abhorrent to human nature.


To recap then, Leadership is 1) a commodity; 2) a social good); and 3) as a concept, it has a moral element to it.




Now, if we take Leadership to mean these three things, one could make the argument  that it is not only who leads, but also how they lead, and to an equally important extent what they actually say and do when in or out of political office. Now, in Management Theory, as well as Sociology[6] there is actually quite a large volume of extant literature, done on a conceptual level, about Leadership. Of particular interest is a paper written a Swedish team about the concept of ‘bad’ leaders, and how they function.[7]


According to Einarsen, Aasland, and Skogstad, then, ‘bad’ leaders can be just as effective as ‘good’ ones. In this light, if we think about the quality of Leadership for a moment, we can see that this actually creates more problems than it solves. But the news isn’t all bad: there is a concept native to the politics of the United States of America known as ‘the vision thing’.[8] This concept is most useful when trying to pin down what Leadership actually is: when used in concert with the Normative Moral Aspect of Leadership[9] it gives it a third dimension, that is to say, a moral one.


Now, it will be argued here that thinking about Leadership in this way allows us to make explicit statements, or rather explicitly political statements about it. In other words, what we can say with relative certainty is that whatever it is, Leadership is at least a two dimensional entity.





This paper will now consider, briefly, the careers of two somewhat ‘different’[10] leaders: John Howard, who was Prime Minister of Australia from 1996 to 2007, and Foday Sankoh, who was the former dictator of Sierra Leone, who was born in 1937 and died in 2003.[11]


Now, both of these men were Leaders. Howard was a man driven as much by his failures as his successes; the same might be said of Foday Sankoh. Both had the courage and the temerity to push through ‘unpopular’ legislation while holding office. In this instance, one might consider Howard’s anti-gun legislation in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1997; there is a close moral parallel, possibly, here with Sankoh’s judicious handling of the ‘Conflict Diamond’ issue, which continues to harm that fair State far more perniciously than anything seen on the continent of Africa in, say, the last our or five hundred years.[12]


To reiterate , both of these men, as obvious by their both their failures and their successes while in office, Leaders. John Winston Howard became Prime Minister of Australia in 1996. His immediate contemporaries in the Western World were William Jefferson Clinton, who was the President of the United of America, and Tony Blair, who was at the time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[13] In rough terms, the Australian Labor Party in Australia tends towards the Left of the Political Spectrum, while the Coalition tends towards the right. To an outsider, they may both be described as ‘centrist’.[14] In Australian politics, no other third party has yet emerged to threaten either one from forming government.


At any rate, Mr. Howard made the cover of Time magazine in the first week of March 1996.[15] Despite all this, or probably more accurately because of the above, Mr. Howard’s political foes were livid. The main thing people were saying about him at this stage was that he divided, rather than united the nation. There was and is a measure of truth to this aspect of public sentiment: he would not say Sorry to the Aboriginal people of Australia, instead stating that the Government of Australia would not apologise for past wrongs.[E1] 


At around this time there was a great tragedy in the state of Tasmania, where a man named Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree in a Tourist Area.[16] One of the first pieces of legislation that the Liberal-National Coalition managed to pass during their first term of government were firearm laws aimed at preventing such a Tragedy from occurring again. The leadership displayed by Mr. Howard at this juncture in Australian History was nothing short of extraordinary: essentially, by making a few amendments to existing statutes that would make it harder for people like Martin Bryant to even own firearms, Mr. Howard’s stroke of genius – political genius – was to declare a ‘gun amnesty’ for the entire country.[E2] [17]


The Coalition remained in power until 2007, when they were ousted by the Labor Party, led by Mr. Kevin Rudd.[18] At this stage, Mr. Howard may have realised that, I think, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time.[19]


Now: the question arises. Was Howard a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ leader? To answer this question we must return to the country of Sierra Leone, whose nationhood came into being when it was ‘re-colonised’ by freed slaves from the United States of America following that nation’s Civil War.




The ecomony of Sierra Leone is chiefly reliant on mining, especially diamonds. It is, in fact, among the top ten diamond producing nations in the world, with mineral exports being its main foreign currency earner. The country also contains large reserves of titanium, bauxite, and gold, as well as one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile; it is also home to the third largest natural harbour in the world. Despite all of this, seventy per cent of its population live below the poverty line.

It was a colony under the auspices of the Sierra Leone Company from March 11, 1792 until 1808, when it became a British Colony. It is now a Constitutional Republic, with a directly elected president and a unicameral legislature. The president is the Head of State and Head of Government. Since Independence in 1961, Sierra Leone’s political scene has been dominated by two major parties: the Sierra Leone People’s Party, (SLPP) and the All People’s Congress (APC). Other political parties have also existed throughout but with no significant supports.[20]

Foday Sankoh was sent to prison for seven years in 1971 for his part in an attempted coup there. Upon release he journeyed to Libya to train with other West African revolutionaries, during which time he met Charles Taylor (the erstwhile ruler of Liberia). The alliance formed between these two men did much to inform the politics of West Africa for the next three decades.


Upon his return to Sierra Leone, Sankoh formed the Revolutionary United Front in order to overthrow the then government and control the country’s mineral resources. To do so he employed many unsavoury and inhumane tactics. Once the government had been overthrown, he used the revenues from the country’s diamond mines to buy domestic political support as well as arms from Charles Taylor’s Liberian government.


We can see, then, that there are at least some historical, and, further to the point, economic parallels between the two countries. But the question of which one was a better leader is, as we shall see, somewhat vexed. While Howard moved early and decisively to make sane, sensibly firearm legislation, Sankoh’s basic strategy was to create a generation of Homicidal Maniacs.




And yet we can see by analysing the political careers of John Howard and Foday Sankoh, the quality of leadership is of critical importance to Governmental Performance. Leaving aside the fact that the two men were rough contemporaries, and taking into account the three qualities of Leadership touched on here, we can see first of , it impacts firstly on a country’s diplomatic and economic performance. In the case of Howard (who certainly reaped the benefits of the economic reforms brought in by his two Left of Centre predecessors[21]) there can be no question that these two indices of Governmental Performance during his terms as Prime Minister could be graded around a seven to nine out of ten. It is outside the scope of this essay to make an argument about why this was the case, but suffice to say that his Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, was extremely well thought of in diplomatic circles.

In terms of domestic politics, there is a fair enough case to be made that Howard was possessed of sufficient gravitas to overcome significant challenges from both sides of the street: he was loathed among the ‘chattering classes’ for not being sufficiently apologetic to the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia, while on the other side he saw off a significant challenge to the Coalition’s power base in Middle Australia in the person of Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Movement.[22] To add to this, he shook off quite legitimate challenges from very competent and well regarded Labor Party MPs, such as Simon Crean and the Right Honorable Kim Beazley. I would therefore quantify Mr Howard’s performance in this area at around a seven or an eight out of ten. It will be recalled that he was ultimately brought down by both a politician who outmanoeuvred him at his own game, in Kevin Rudd, but also by a Leadership Challenge from within his own party around the time of the Federal Election of 2007.


Now, it has been argued here that there are at least two and possibly three dimensions to the quality of Leadership: it exists as both 1) a commodity; 2) a social good); and 3) as a concept, it has a moral element to it.

            It is posited at this point that the performance of a government is influenced chiefly by Leadership as a commodity and secondly by its aspect as a social good. It is furthermore posited that the former can be measured by what I shall call the diplomatic/economic aspect, while the former is best described as the domestic politics aspect. We must consider these two aspects before judging whether or not a leader was or is moral. that a leader may also be judged in moral terms. For it is here that the game of quantifying the performance the performance of a leader becomes well nigh impossible. In philosophy, ethics and morality are, in fact, non-quantifiable, zero-sum qualities. A man or a woman either has morals and lives ethically, or has morals and does not live ethically, or has no morals but tries to live (or, for that matter, govern) ethically.




Now, if there is a point to contrasting the political careers of Messrs Sankoh and Howard it is this: unless I’m a politician, an arms dealer, or a crooked diamond mine owner, I would much prefer to live in Australia than Sierra Leone. Furthermore, having the leader of my country under all kinds of diplomatic and legal heat from bodies like the International War Crimes Tribunal makes it very difficult to join bodies like NATO, or the Pan-African Alliance, and so on. This, in turn, affects my country’s economic performance, to the point where we get stuck in this frightful loop of putting live weapons in the hands of ten year old children and forcing them to murder their parents. About the only thing that works in Sierra Leone, in this sad state of affairs[23] is the mining trade. But us Aussies are pretty good at pushing Gold and Coal around, too. The point here is that compared to Foday Sankoh, John Howard, while admittedly a product of his times and so on, was clearly a moral leader, while Sankoh was not.




Now, to answer the questions posed at the start of this paper. Is there a particular type of leader best suited to induce the best possible performance? There are as many ‘types’ of leaders as there are Corn Flakes in a cereal packet. According to the extant literature, leaders are typically narcissistic, charismatic, and good at managing other people. We are fortunate to live in a society where the power accorded to people like this is circumscribed a fair amount by our adherence to the Westminster System of government. In a Presidential political society in a country like Sierra Leone, or for that matter the United States of America, the office of president is not to be taken lightly. In raw political terms, Foday Sankoh did about as much bad or good as for his country as, say, Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton. As to the role of chance, context and circumstance, both Howard and Sankoh, and this is not necessarily a legitimate point of comparison, managed to stay in power more than ten years. Leaving Sankoh aside, Howard was as astute at managing the things he could control, as he was at recognising the things he couldn’t. The lesson to gleaned from this comparison is therefore a simple one: there are no such things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ leaders; but there is a difference, at their level, between an effective leader and an ineffective one.  



Birmingham, John, The Opportunist, Quarterly Essay Number xx, Volume xx, Year

Greenstein, Fred I., ed., Leadership in the modern presidency, Harvard University Press, London, England, 1988

Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, OxfordUniversity Press, 1963

Johnson, Paul, A History of the American People, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996

Levi, Margaret, xxxxx xxxxx, sourced from Reading Brick

Little, Graham, xxxxx xxxxx, sourced from Reading Brick

So and so, ed. The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches


Journal Articles


Internet Sources


Media Articles

[1] See, for example Little, 1985

[2] Margaret Levi, Why We Need a New Theory of Government, etc. p.5

[3] See, for example, Hogan

[4] The Idea of the Social Good is a philosophical concept beloved by those of the Socialist Persuasion.

[5] See, for example, The Penguin Book of Historic Speeches, which, curiously enough, omits any speech ever made by Ronald Reagan.

[6] Insert web reference

[7] Stale Einarsen, Merethe Schanke, Anders Skogstad, The Leadership Quarterly 18 (2007), pp. 207-216

[8] See Book about Presidential Leadership by [insert reference].

[9] This is a philosophical concept that is Aristotelean in origin.

[10] In the Scientific sense of the word

[11] See Hogan and so and so

[12] For a History of institutionalised Racism in North America, see Paul Johnson’s History …

[13] At this time, also, [insert name] had been elected President of Indonesia, and [insert name] was the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Howard’s immediate predecessor as Prime Minister of Australia was Paul Keating, who had succeeded Bob Hawke. Both Keating and Hawke were members of the Australian Labor Party, while Howard was the leader of the Liberal-National Party Coalition (henceforth to be referred to as the Coalition).

[14] There is not enough space here to further parse the Australian political scene. Anyone interested in Howard’s immediate predecessors may do well to pick up Recollections of A Bleeding Heart by Don Watson, who was Keating’s chief speechwriter during his tumultuous years at the top; the Standard Text about Bob Hawke is probably his biography by Blanche D’Alpuget,

[15] Time Magazine etc.

[16] For an account of this incident, please refer to the relevant Wikipedia Article

[17] See relevant newspaper reports

[18] Commentators at the time remarked on the basic similarities between the two men.

[19] This is actually a line uttered by T.S. Eliot and oft repeated among my parent’s generation.

[20] Information harvested from the CIA Fact Book and Wikipedia

[21] See, for example, so and so’s piece on …

[22] See, for example, John Birmingham’s Quarterly Essay on the topic of Howard post-Tampa

[23] I could go on about Sierra Leone, but I’ll end this line of argument by referring to Leviathan, by the English Political Philosopher, Thomas Hobbes: at least while Sankoh was in power, the political climate there could most accurately be summed up as a state of war between all against all.

 [E1]Footnote this

Along the lines of the argument


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A Short Essay About Russian Politics

Politics in Russia Second Essay


Question 4


By Evan Hanford



Russia’s relationship with the West in the decade after perestroika was fraught with difficulty. The Russian political class was sceptical at best about the motives of outside powers, and at worst actively mistrustful. For the Russian people, on the other hand, the decade was a mixed blessing: the transition to a free market economy saw some citizens gain untold wealth, while at the same time pensioners were not getting paid on time, if at all. This paper will examine the attitudes of these two groups towards the West around the time of the transition to power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin.


There are any number of surveys[i] published in the last fifteen years or so that attempt to quantify the attitudinal relationship between the people of Russia and the concept of ‘the West’. An important part of this methodology is the opinion poll, which despite its flaws is the only way to gauge that elusive thing known as public sentiment. A brief survey of the literature reveals that the attitudes of the Russian people towards the West circa 1999 was quite complicated while at the same time being quite simple.[ii]


In this paper, Guriev et al. found three things about the attitudinal relationship of the Russian people to the concept of ‘the West’. Firstly ‘the attitude towards the West is almost uniformly negative across al economic and social strata of Russian society.’ Second, ‘there is no reason to believe that this negative sentiment will fade away as time goes by.’ Finally, ‘the Russians dislike the Western socioeconomic model and the US in particular, but they seem to rely on Western economic values in their everyday life.’[iii]


What this means is that the Russian citizenry have what might be a complicated relationship with countries like the United States of America.


The attitudes of the Russian political class towards the West are a bit more ambiguous, as well as being harder to gauge. There is what is said in public by politicians, and then there is the business of politics, which is largely conducted behind closed doors.


It is important to remember here that 1999 was the year that Vladimir Putin took over from Boris Yelstin as President of Russia. It was also, of course, the turn of the millennium, and there is indeed something of what is known as millenarianism in the pronouncements of the world’s politicians around this time. I can recall sharing a house with a couple of ethnic Russians from the Ukraine around this time: I asked them why they liked Putin, and they replied that they liked him because he ‘made Russia strong’ – echoes of the attitudinal relationships of your average American to say, Ronald Reagan.

Indeed, the rivalry between Russia and the West was one of the salient features of the Twentieth Century. Its origins can be traced all the way back to the Russian Revolution of 1917. At around this time, in the United States, D.W. Griffith, an American filmmaker, created a film called The Birth of a Nation (1915)[iv] Xxx. Many film scholars agree that the film was a documentary about the Klu Klux Klan; whatever the case, the United States was in the process of creating its own Personal Myth. One may draw a parallel here between Griffith and the work of, say, Sergei Eisenstein.


Around this time, Russia was more afraid of the East than it was of the West, largely due to the Sino-Soviet War of 1905-5; it, too was in the process of creating its own national myth, when along came the conspirator,[v] Vladimir Illyich Lenin.


After the Civil War, Lenin, Trotsky et al set about normalising relations with the West. The story goes that Lenin wanted to make Trotsky, a marvellous speaker, Minister for the Interior, but Trotsky demurred, saying that the Russian people weren’t prepared to have someone of Jewish extraction fill that post; instead, he became the de facto Minister for International Relations, and adroitly organised many treaties with the warring parties on Russian soil.[vi] There are also traces of this kind of anti-semitism in American culture.[vii]


Despite all of this, the United States and Russia have much in common. American people, like Russian people, are generally decent and hard working folk, with a strong sense of liberty and a confidence in their indigenous cultures that few countries can match.[viii] This is what is commonly known as patriotism, which, as we know, is the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel.


However, if we can discourse about Putin for a moment, he inherited what was basically a broken country, ravaged with corruption and petty cronyism,[ix] not to mention the Rise of the Oligarchs.[x] One of the first things he did was to make sure that people’s pensions were paid on time. As many travellers will attest, Americans abroad tend to support the President: this is one trait that Russia has in common with the West.[xi]


The point to this anecdote is that this is another thing that Russians and Americans have in common: a robust attitude toward healthy political discourse (something which is sadly lacking in Australia, for example).[xii]




So what can we glean from all of this? Firstly, the Russian people have a complicated relationship with Western Civilisation. This is quantifiable through the use of opinion poll data.[xiii] In particular, the Russian people are big fans of things like McDonalds, BMWs, Prada, Gucci, and so on. In other words, they have taken to the Free Market like ducks to water. Furthermore, they are this way because Russia has a very strong sense of her own identity: a mixture of the femininity and chauvinism that reminds me, on my best days, of the United States of America.


Thirdly, Russian and Western politicians have always had what might be called a ‘tetchy’ relationship. Watching Yeltsin interact with Bill Clinton was like watching a bear and a mongoose go at it … just as Putin and Bush danced around each other like a pair of wolves.


[i]  The best of these is probably by Guriev, Sergei, Trudolyubov, Maxim & Tsyvinski, Aleh, Russian Attitudes Towards the West, Centre for Economic and Financial Research at NewEconomicSchool, December 2008

[ii] op cit.

[iii] op cit. p.2

[iv] search DW Griffith on

[v] See Helen Rappaport, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile, Basic Books, New York, 2010

[viii] CIA website

[ix] find journal article from week 12.

[x] Find journal article from week eleven

[xi] I can recall being a waiter at a Coffee Shop in Manuka around about the time of the second term of George W. Bush. A table of twelve Americans materialised, and I caught a snippet of an argument between two gentlemen who obviously were of the Republican and Democrat persuasion; they were debating whether America should bomb some poor West African country back to the Stone Age; and they were being very polite with each other.

[xii] Donald Horne was being ironic when he called us the ‘Lucky Country’. See

[xiii] Guriev et al.

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Lighting Up Pt.2

A short fillum about smoking …

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Optimus Prime is Back in the Building

Autobots!The Decepticons have Kidnapped Natalie Portman! Transform and Roll Out!

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Rude Notes from a Psychiatric Ward in the ACT

[Editor’s Note: The following was found in an empty Dr. Pepper can in an apartment in Reid, ACT]

Dr Sqane, treating a thirty three year old with bipolar disorder and a bad attitude, cannot find the Endone … two beds down there is a newborn baby screaming its head off, the waiting room is filled with swine flu and zombies and there is nothing anyone can do about it but take a seat … three Angry Young Men with Immaculate Hair arrive via ambulance, some kind of Street Violence has happened, they are either perpetrators or victims or both with their cuts and bruises and shattered cheek bones, the worst of them will soon be in orthaeopedics …

Outside, there is a good dose of November Rain, just like in the Guns and Roses song, & a mournful young gentleman dressed in a Public Enemy t-shirt, army surplus cap, blue jeans, and the whitest pair of basketball sneakers you have ever seen. He is smoking pensively a cigarette and contemplating suicide ….>>>]

An ambulance arrives, bearing another victim of El Culito the Arse Bandit; the victim, a male in his late twenties, has been savagely sodomised with a broomstick. The mournful smoker puts out his cigarette and follows the Ambos into the Emergency Department … he is waiting for his mother to arrive so that he can be transferred to the smoking section of the Hospital, or, failing that, at the Central Public Hospital on the Other Side of Town …

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In Cyberspace, No One Can Smell Your Fear

Ahem. Not much on the posting front recently. Time & life have been a bit thick, as they say. Anyway there will be more stuff coming soon, including some profile pieces of prominent and not so prominent Canberra Identities, places I like to do business with, experimental fiction and the like.

I have just been looking at the readership statistics for this site and it seems that the people that do come here read the stuff but don’t comment, which is fine … In Cyberspace No One Can Smell Your Fear, to appropriate the tag line from the film “Alien”, meaning that I am perfectly OK with the huge indifference to this type of thing that one encounters with the minimal effort that I have been putting into it … but for those people that do occasionally log on, I want to promise to do better, to be that little sliver in your day when you’re maybe at work with nothing better to do but surf the interweb; the idea that something that I might write, right here and now, might bring a smirk to your face or a nod of appreciation is why I even bother.

Thank you and good bye for now.

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The Death of Postmodernism

Postmodernism states that everything is relative

If every thing is relative then there can be no truth.

Without truth there can be no beauty.

Without beauty there can be no hope.

Who wants to live in such a world?

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The Anthropologist in Repose

One of the chief pleasures of anthropologist Wojchiech Dabrowski, at least these days, is playing tennis with his 30 year old son, Rafal. Born in Krackow, Poland in 1947, Woj emigrated to Australia in 1981 and is married to artist Kathy Golski, who has three grown children from a previous marriage.
Woj received his degree from ANU in the same year that he became a citizen and divides his teaching time between the University of xxx in Poland and the University of Sydney, where he is an Associate Professor.
For Woj, anthropology is not so much a vocation as a way of life. He originally trained as an electrical engineer in the Old Country and also studied in the African Department at ANU when he first arrived here. These studies led him to the study of anthropology at a PhD level.
Apart from his tennis matches with his son, he says only half jokingly that his social calendar is determined by his wife, whose first husband, now deceased, was a doctor and friend of his.
Woj says that anthropology is a way of looking and understanding life, with a focus on the individual and societwy. His PhD, titled ‘A Line to Heaven’, focused on the Gamegai Tribe in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. In order to research the PhD he and his young family lived among the tribespeople for one year. His wife also had a book, Watched by Ancestors, published about the subject.
Woj says that the best part about being and living in Australia is the friends and family he has made here, and the worst thing is that he is not really a hot weather person.

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