North Queensland electrician Maurie Morrisson has spent a total of eight years as a volunteer on remote mountain stations in Papua New Guinea.

Story By Dave Tacon

In Papua New Guinea (PNG) the clouds have granite in them. Or so the saying goes. On this October morning, however, the skies are clear as a small twin-engine Cessna glides its way through a mountain valley in a tight arc, then straightens for a bumpy landing on the narrow, grassy airstrip of Kanabea Catholic Mission on the highland fringe of PNG’s Gulf Province.
On board is Maurie Morrisson, an electrician from Gordonvale, south of Cairns, Qld, whose own relationship with PNG began more than 28 years ago. The reason for this journey is to lend a helping hand to an isolated community that has been without electricity for four months.
Maurie lives with wife Rosemary in a self-built home on the banks of the Mulgrave River. He’s a solar specialist as his home shows. “Our three-kilowatt inverter is adequate to run all our mod cons and the system is designed to give us six days of use if there is no solar input,” Maurie says. “In particular, it ensures Rosemary doesn’t have to mess around with the back-up generator while I’m away.”
Maurie is responsible for maintenance on about 20 solar systems from Cape York to the Gulf of Carpentaria. This involves three to four trips a year with an offsider for a week or two during the dry season, and occasional emergency repairs. The Morrissons are always ready to pitch in at a local level and were recently involved in the clean-up of the Tully/Silkwood area in the wake of Cyclone Yasi. On top of that, Maurie has spent a total of eight years as a volunteer on remote mountain stations in PNG.
John Ward, a former priest at Kanabea, pilots the Cessna that takes Maurie to the mission station. Departing from Port Moresby, two hours away, John has also picked up his wife Louise Ward, a nurse, and Kevin Blake, a retired engineer, now the secretary of the charity Melbourne Overseas Missions. Medical help, mechanical know-how and familiar faces are always welcome at the mission. As the plane taxis to a stop, a small crowd of mission staff and members of the local Kamea community gather to greet the arrivals with handshakes and song, courtesy of a choir of primary-school students.

This story excerpt is from Issue #76

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2011