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Kondom Agaundo (1917–1966)

by Paula Brown

This article was published:

Kondom Agaundo (c.1917-1966), tribal leader and politician, was born probably about 1917 near Kundiawa, Eastern Highlands, New Guinea, son of Agaundo, a war leader. Kondom's rise to prominence corresponded to the early period of Australian colonial control of his country. Orphaned in childhood, he sought a close association with the newly-arrived government and mission: his first job was to carry milk from Mingende Catholic mission to the government station at Kundiawa.

In 1943, realizing that Arime, his tribe's luluai (government-appointed leader), was experiencing difficulties in his conflicting allegiances to government and mission, Kondom grasped the opportunity to impress the Australian officer with his abilities and his loyalty. He became one of the youngest Chimbu luluais, an impressive orator and a progressive leader, and was taken on visits to conferences and development projects. An enthusiast for government-sponsored advancement, he directed coffee-planting throughout his tribal region, built a timber-frame home for himself and a community meeting-house, and installed a coffee-pulper at Wandi which he wanted to become a showcase for the district. He had at least eight wives and took care of widows and children in his clan.

Kondom's tribe, with three others of the Waiye area close to the Chimbu subdistrict headquarters at Kundiawa, formed an early highlands local government council; with the kiap's support, Kondom was elected its first president in 1959. He soon mastered the procedures of council leadership and was active in promoting economic programmes, as well as schools and health facilities in the council area. In 1961 he was elected to the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea as representative of almost one million highlanders. In his speeches he made persistent demands for developing the highlands and emphasized the need for continuing dependence on Australia. Defeated in the 1964 elections for the new national House of Assembly, he found an outlet for his energies through the Chimbu Coffee Cooperative. He was also a member of the Eastern Highlands District Advisory Council.

On 28 August 1966 Kondom was killed in a traffic accident on the precipitous Daulo Pass in the Eastern Highlands; he was buried at Wandi. His death was mourned by thousands; years after the accident the tribe to which his car-driver belonged paid Kondom's family a vast sum. The Kundiawa provincial office-building is named Kondom Agaundo House. Although he had received no formal education and was illiterate, he was one of the few 'big men' whose influence extended beyond his locality. He is remembered by the Chimbu as the person who brought coffee, cash crops, business and local government to the highlands, as one who directed the building of roads, bridges, airstrips, schools and clinics, as a peacemaker and a great man.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Williams, Stone Age Island (Syd, 1964)
  • D. G. Bettison et al (eds), The Papua-New Guinea 1964 Elections (Canb, 1965)
  • J. L. Whittaker et al (eds), Documents and Readings in New Guinea History (Brisb, 1975)
  • P. Brown, 'Kondom', Journal of the Papua New Guinea Society, 1, no 2, 1967, p 26, and 'Big Man, Past and Present', Ethnology, 29, 1990, p 97
  • South Pacific Post, 29 Aug, 5 Sept 1966.

Citation details

Paula Brown, 'Agaundo, Kondom (1917–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 19 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea


28 August, 1966 (aged ~ 49)
Daulo Pass, Papua New Guinea

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.