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Gabriel Ehava Karava (1921–1985)

by H. N. Nelson

This article was published:

Gabriel Ehava Karava (c.1921-1985), soldier, village leader and politician, was born possibly in September 1921 at Heavala village, Moveave, Papua, only son of Karava Poevare and his wife Taise Auapo. Gabriel inherited high traditional status through both his mother’s and father’s lineages. He attended Catholic schools at the nearby village of Terapo and at Bomana, near Port Moresby; he later claimed to have had five years of schooling, the most then available, and to be literate in Police Motu, Pidgin and `some English’.

After working at a native hospital, he enlisted in the Papuan Infantry Battalion as Gabriel Ehava on 1 January 1942 and was given the rank of lance corporal. He was then 5 ft 4 ins (163 cm) tall, athletic, and commanding in appearance. In July-August the PIB engaged the invading Japanese as they advanced from Buna to Kokoda. Serving with Sergeant John Ehava Sefe, who also came from Heavala and who was to win the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Gabriel Ehava was by late 1942 in frequent combat with Japanese forces retreating along the north coast. He was awarded the Military Medal for going to the aid of a patrol under attack near the Opi River on 21 February 1943: `Armed with an automatic weapon he surprised and attacked the enemy from the flank, killing four and putting the remainder to flight’.

Rested and retrained at Bisiatabu, inland from Port Moresby, Karava flew to Wau, New Guinea, with `B’ Company in June and served in the Markham and Ramu valleys. He was discharged on 16 May 1944, probably one of several `time finish’ men who were then allowed to go home. Re-enlisting in the PIB on 26 March 1945, he was promoted to sergeant and given further training at Bisiatabu. In May the PIB landed at Torokina, Bougainville, and Karava went north to the Bonis Peninsula with `A’ Company. He was in several `fire-fights’ before the Japanese surrender. The PIB moved to Torokina then to Fauro Island and finally in March 1946 to Rabaul to guard Japanese prisoners. Karava was discharged on 17 June.

Back at Moveave, Karava and others who had served in the war were determined to bring change; they had some cash and their army experience made them ready to unite across clan and village lines, but they had little education and almost no supporting economic or political infrastructure. In 1948 Karava became the first chairman of the Heavala Co-operative Society, set up to buy copra and sell goods through village stores. From 1958 he was director of the Toaripi Association of Native Societies. When local government was introduced in the late 1950s, he was elected chairman of the Toaripi and then the East Kerema councils. He served on the Gulf District Advisory Council and in 1962 was selected to travel to Australia with a group observing Australian political institutions.

At the first election for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea’s House of Assembly in 1964, Karava won the Lakekamu open electorate. He had promised the people roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and more chances to grow cash crops; and in short speeches (sometimes given in Police Motu) in the House of Assembly he supported the Australian administration, was cautious about moves towards self-government, and asked for social and economic development in his electorate. In 1968 he was defeated by the younger and better educated Tore Lokoloko. After leaving national politics, he owned trade stores, a cattle farm and coconut, cocoa and rubber plantations, and supplemented his income by shooting crocodiles. He had married Josephine Sariman (with whom he had one daughter), Feareka Luvu (one son), Lauhari Kake (seven sons and four daughters) and More Kake (two sons and four daughters). Gabriel Ehava Karava died of asthma on 28 August 1985 in the Kerema General Hospital.

Select Bibliography

  • Territory of PNG, The Members of the House of Assembly (1964)
  • G. M. Byrnes, Green Shadows (1989)
  • J. Sinclair, To Find a Path, vol 1 (1990)
  • A. E. Hooper, Love, War & Letters (1994)
  • New Guinea Research Bulletin, no 25, 1968
  • AWM52, item 8/4/4, AWM54, item 419/5/10 (Australian War Memorial)
  • series B884, item PN4040 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

H. N. Nelson, 'Karava, Gabriel Ehava (1921–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


September, 1921
Moveave, Papua New Guinea


28 August, 1985 (aged 63)
Kerema, Papua New Guinea

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