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Nick Schwarz leaves MI

Nick Schwarz
A staff member presenting Nick with a bilum

Nick Schwarz and his wife, Meagan Schwarz left the Melanesian Institute (MI) for Australia on April 30 2016, a day after the MI staff farewelled them with a little kaikai (feast).

However, Nick had left Goroka before, in the 1980s, when like so many Lutheran and other mission families with growing children, the Schwarz family left PNG after a considerable and active stay. He is the son of a former Research and Teaching staff member of MI, Rev Brian Schwarz and had been to school in the international school up overlooking the site of the old hospital.

In his native South Australia, a state known for its German townships and Lutheran church buildings, Nick furthered his schooling and began to qualify himself in the field of medicine, becoming a practising physiotherapist and a student of social medicine. Work then took him a long way from South Australia, to northern coastal NSW, and the pressures of a medical practice. In line with others in his family, he was a keen sportsman, in running and cycling.

Then he returned to a very different and rapidly changing Goroka on October 3 2009 when he joined MI and was to remain there for 7 years, displaying a most unusual work ethic (perhaps because he had been doing “a real job” before arriving, one involving quick thinking and reliable, accurate documentation), and he progressively branched out into conferences, editing text, off-campus committees like those of the local branch of the once-prestigious Institute of Medical Research, and the newer University of Goroka.

Nick’s stay was shaped by the increasing variety of his occupations, as other staff failed to deliver, or left. Whether he had an instinctive sense of how many years were “enough”, or whether it was the arrival (in and out) of one of the many females during the Orientation Course at Kefamo where he developed a connection to Meagan. Nick eventually announced that he and Meagan were to get married, in Canberra, as it turned out, and this clearly marked the end of his years of stiffening up the MI.

Personal openness, diligence, and competence marked his enthusiastic years here. The core business of the MI, social and cultural issues, were probably a natural extension of his studies and interests before his return to Goroka, and a rewarding field to commit deeply to. Nick brought fresh winds to an Institute which lies under some weight from its past, and is now trying to reinvent itself.

For us, Nick came at a good time, and he would probably admit that being here in the years when he was had turned into being an unusually good thing for him. It certainly provided experiences hard to get in any other way. We wish him and Meagan all the best for their plunge into a changing Australia. We also hope that the way he worked and the style in which he related to staff have left a mark on the ethos of the Institute.