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 traveled 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 man task was to make sure that all the explosives and munitions 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, two 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 1970s 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 10th July, this year he celebrated his 66th birthday.