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Port Moresby
August 16, 2020
Featured Life

Luke Goa, still a soldier and fighter

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Those who have studied at the University of Technology  in Lae will know Luke Goa,  as the guy who manages  the NCS catering services at  the university.  Luke Goa  does the all important job of keeping more than 2000 students and staff at the university fed  throughout the academic year.

It is a tough job that takes up much of  his time with every task carried out with precision  and without much of a hitch.   The precision and discipline  comes from his background  in the Australian Army in the former colony.

In pre-independence  1967,  16-year-old  Luke Goa, left his home in Bougainville after being  accepted to join the Northern Command of the Australian Army in what was then the  Australian Trust Territory of  New Guinea.

“When I used to watch  war films  back then, I was very interested in the army… Not so much the navy. I wanted to go into the bush…”

The 1960s were a turbulent period for western powers.  The US was  fighting a war in Vietnam with Australian  soldiers also engaged  in the conflict.

Goa was in grade 9 when he  travelled to Port Moresby’s Goldie River training  depot to begin six months of infantry training conducted by Australian Army veterans.

“Army training was tough. We had instructors who had served in the Second World War, the Korean War and some from Vietnam.”

After basic training, Goa  was assigned to  what was then called the Royal Ordinance Corps. This was the Australian Army  branch   tasked with the supply of munitions  and explosives.  Over the short period, he developed a strong interest in explosives.  In 1973,  he was then selected  for a specialist  course  in Victoria, Australia. Graduating in 1974, Goa became the only local soldier trained as an ammunitions technician.

“There weren’t many of us doing specialist jobs back then,” he says.  “It was just me and a few Australian  soldiers.

“We travelled all over the  territory…. Igam barracks,  Moem in Wewak, the naval establishment in Manus…. Our main task was to make sure that all the explosives and ammunitions were safe for the army to use.”

After leaving school at ninth grade,  twelve years in the army not only taught him the skills  for war, it also gave him   the equivalent of a senior  high school and technical education he would not have  easily received as a civilian.

Then, after 12 years in the military, civilian life beckoned.  In 1978,  three years after Papua New Guinea gained independence  and two years  shy of  the PNGDF’s first overseas deployment in Vanuatu, the 28-year-old sergeant Luke Goa, left what had become the Papua New Guinea Defence Force led by  Brigadier General Ted Diro.

As a civilian, Goa had to readjust to a new life which meant learning new skill sets.

“When I left the army, I enrolled at the Lae Technical College,  now called the  Lae Polytech where I took a Pre-employment Technical Training (PETT) course in catering.”

Since then,  Luke Goa has been in managing catering businesses  for a living with his longest stint at Unitech to the present day.

But to say the army and catering  is  what makes Luke Goa the man he is, would be an understatement of the abilities of this remarkably humble  character.

Whilst in the army,  Luke Goa, began learning  various martial arts.  As a young man, he traversed the 1970’s  sporting  landscape,  fighting in boxing tournaments and rubbing shoulders with professional  Papua New Guinean boxers like  Martin Benny and fellow Bougainvillean, John Aba.

With much interest in boxing circles,  Goa drew away from the hype and  began  serious study in the Okinawan art of Goju-Ryu karate under  Hawaiian Sensei,  Sal Ebenez. Goju-Ryu is what is called a “hard-soft” style blending ancient Chinese  style of fighting with traditional  Japanese styles.

“The style of Goju-Ryu appealed to me because it’s applications of technique are both soft and hard,” he says. “Sometimes when a person  throws a hard punch, the best way is to go with the flow. If you meet with a hard block you may be injured.”

The discipline from the military and karate have become ingrained in his life.

“Sometimes, when students are frustrated about the catering at the university and they come to you, you cannot meet their complaints with a hard stand.

“Goju-Ryu karate teaches you to be calm and to go forth with a soft response.”

As the most  senior Goju-Ryu karate practitioner in Papua New Guinea, He is known to his students as “Sensei” Luke Goa.

On July 10, this year he celebrated his 66th birthday.

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