Palms60 Profile: Mike Popple

Palms60 Profile: Mike Popple

A winning combination of honest work, fair play, love and happiness.

At the beginning of the 1970s, Mike Popple was 21 and working as an Accountant Teller but he didn’t feel part of the materialistic culture that he found in the banking industry.

Through his involvement with a Catholic youth organisation, he became interested in the Paulian Association.  After meeting Terry, who had been on placement in Mendi in Papua New Guinea, Mike was inspired to jump at the chance to volunteer.

Arriving in PNG, Mike found the people curious and helpful toward him and other foreigners.  He felt welcomed and looked after by the Capuchins and he is still in touch with them and other lay missionaries who were in Mendi. He has travelled around Australia visiting many of them.

Mike was happy that his placement involved keeping records for the small mission sawmill rather than finance and banking work. He also found that he had an aptitude for the manual trades and the Capuchin Brothers taught him many skills such as plumbing, mechanics, building and electrical work. These skills have proved very useful ever since.

He became the first Australian to play Rugby League in the Southern Highlands District. Playing rugby helped him connect with the locals and learn some Pidgin. He also realised that to fit in he needed to stand back and look at the culture and its rules about how to behave and treat others and be open to understanding how they view things.

After returning to Australia in 1975, Mike became the President of Palms and joined a Mission in Focus to PNG in 1976. At a reunion in Mendi in 1980 he met Lorraine who had worked there at the same time although they had only ever met incidentally then. They fell in love and married in 1981 and worked together for many years with Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land where they had four daughters.

If you would like to share your own skills and expertise doing honest work with an overseas community, as well as learning and growing from a cross-cultural experience, you can check out the current placement opportunities on the Palms website and register your interest in applying. We are currently taking applications for placements in 2021 and beyond and will be offering a pre-placement Orientation Course from 9 to 17 January, 2021.

Feature image: Mike playing rugby in Mendi in 1974