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26 posts from March 2006


Colin ‘Huggiebear’ Huggins reports from Brisbane that planning for the ASOPA 1962/63 reunion in that city in 2007 is keeping everyone busy. “Ideas for venues and comparisons of prices are coming along well,” Huggiebear reports, “and will keep us occupied at our meeting on 23rd April.” Colin says he’s still trying to locate Brian Smith and Molly (Lishmund) Kreidl. If you can help with the search you can email Colin here.


The self-styled Rycharrrrrrde Jones is back in the commentary box. The Bendigo Football League Lightning Premiership on April Fool’s Day is benefiting from Dick’s footie calling and analysis talents. Our friend will be fronting from 9.30 am to 8.15 pm that day, which goes to show that one of the older ASOPA 62/63 veterans can still put in a good day’s commentating.


Ian ‘Talker’ Mclean, along with wife Belinda, has taken up residence in Sydney after an arduous 55-minute flight from Melbourne, promising to update us on the true story of the recent Eltham mini-reunion. Ian and Belinda’s eldest son Andrew is set to marry Mandy Mang Tai Hung on Saturday week. The Registry Office gig will be followed by dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, the Regal in Sussex Street. As readers may know, Ian and Belinda are normally residents of Okinawa, Japan, where my old ASOPA buddy is apparently still enjoying island life.

Bendigo kiap writes

Jeff van Oosterwijck, who was on the kiaps course at ASOPA in 1969, writes from Bendigo about how he came to be a patrol officer.

“I’d known about patrol officers from my early teens, as my sister’s best friend married one who was home on leave in Bendigo. I thought I was not mature enough for that awesome responsibility, so waited until I was nearly 23 years before applying. Of course I found people coming straight out of school to join up! I have learnt since that we are never ready and always ready to take on responsibility - so to speak.

“I was interested in Paul Oates’ suggestion that the old ASOPA site become a museum. Then to see Giampaulo ‘GP’ Pertosi’s interest in preserving the place as an active resource for other areas of community interest was very satisfying.”


Tasminnie If two pictures are capable of telling the story, then these are the pictures. The top image, 'Grieving widow regains beloved niece', is from the Brisbane Courier-Mail. It shows Nammie White hugging niece Tasminnie after Immigration authorities eventually relented and allowed the young woman back into Australia.

The opening par says: 'Nammie White broke down crying yesterday as she cradled her 13-year-old niece Tasminnie Tavari who had just returned from PNG. It was the one moment Mrs White's cancer stricken husband Brian had been fighting cancer to see. "He hung on for 14 months even though the doctor said he only had 3 months to live. He just fought on because he wanted to see our lttile daughter come back".'


And this photo shows Brian and Nammie late last year, on the stump in Toowoomba, an ailing Brian still fighting to bring Tasminnie home.

It was a victory our ASOPA brother did not live to see.

PNG champ wins gold


WE should all congratulate PNG's Ryan Pini for his Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 100-metre butterfly at the swimming. I reckon he's the son of former Port Moresby sports identity Jack Pini.

Both Keith and I would have worked with Jack on the coverage of the 1969 South Pacific Games in Moresby. We both wrote articles for the Post-Courier about events at those groundbreaking 1969 Games.

I'm pretty sure I also worked with Jack at the 1975 Guam Games. He was kind enough to pen some complimentary words about me in the paper when Judyth and I left Papua New Guinea at the end of 1976.

But as far as the Commonwealth Games result goes, it was a terrific swim by Ryan Pini and will give his career a huge lift.


lf you haven't visited yet, you must give it the once over. Albert Mispel's website contains some richly nostalgic material on his Papua New Guinea experiences including the first E Course. Before decamping to PNG, Albert even had his appendix removed in anticipation of an isolated PNG posting. The site offers many illuminating anecdotes about people we knew and places we were....

Norm ‘Dad’ Donnison was an instant hit at the college on his very first lecture. He walked in and started talking about how lessons should get attention and be memorable. He rolled his trousers legs up and demonstrated Captain Cook wading ashore at Botany Bay. I know that he changed my (and I'm sure many others) whole attitude to teaching in 30 seconds.

There's much more like this on a website that continues to get better and better.


Will revelations about esteemed ASOPA 1962-63 colleagues  ever end? As events at the 18th Commonwealth Games continued unabated just a few kilometres away on Saturday night, Michael and Wendy Wilson’s Eltham, Victoria pad was the setting for the mini-reunion of Mick, Ian ‘Talker’ McLean and Richard ‘You Can Call Me Dick’ Jones and spouses Belinda and Judyth.

Did you know that Mick not only drove a truck or two along PNG’s Highlands Highway but also ferried Australian rock legend Johnny O’Keefe in a cab? Or that Talker could usefully handle a horse-drawn vehicle? Or that Dick once saluted Ho Chi Minh?

Let me elaborate. Mick was driving his taxi up Sydney’s William Street early one morning when he was hailed by a man and his female companion. Into the cab tumbled none other than J O’K and his date for the evening. Mick set off for an eastern suburbs address but unhappily overshot the drop zone by 50 metres.

Backing up, Mick’s attention was momentarily diverted by some goings-on in the back seat. The bang was a parked Mercedes. J O’K and friend hastily disembarked (paying the bill) and miscreant Mick left a hastily scrawled note under the windscreen wiper of the damaged car.

Back at base this news was not well received by the taxi firm and, following a spate of invective, Mick raced back to the bent Merc to retrieve the pencilled note.

The Talker found himself a vacation job while at school in western Victoria. Bread delivery the task, but no motor to accomplish it. So up to the sulky’s seat is hoisted Talker and told to head along the Mortlake streets to fulfil his  quota. Clip-clop. Talker became a dab hand at nudging neddy but history has not recorded whether he had to muck out the stable once the round was  complete.

Along with thousands, Dickie lined up on a stifling Hanoi spring day to view Vietnam’s reunification hero, Ho Chi Minh. Westerners in one batch; Vietnamese in another. Along the street and up the steps the faithful shuffled, finally creeping into the vast mausoleum.

Soldiers urged them along using rifle butts to make sure the recalcitrant did not linger too long over the dead warrior. Dick absorbed the mandatory blow from the butt but, pausing briefly, managed to turn front-on and salute Uncle Ho. Clearly moved by this appreciation from a foreigner, a beaming guard allowed Dick to exit the tomb with grace.

It has to be remembered this trio of ASOPA veterans are Victorians. Do similar  reminiscences emerge when mates from other States converge?


Sue Timmins, who worked for Steamships on Samarai Island from 1973 to 1981 (“they were some of the best years of my life”) is organising a reunion of Samarai wantoks to be held in Cairns from 28 - 31 July 2006. You can visit Sue’s website for more details.


The following exchange of letters, drawn from the website of Australian historian, Humphrey McQueen, provides an interesting insight into the history of ASOPA.

Many years after the letter featured here was written, Jack Emanuel was murdered in East New Britain. There was specualtion at the time that this was connected to his prominent role in the Territory government's efforts to contain the Mataungan Association, a nascent nationalist movement that flourished on the Gazelle Peninsula in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It's possible he had been engaged in intelligence activities.

It's worth observing that, in the early sixties, rumours were rife at ASOPA that ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) operatives were active on the campus.


28 Balgowlah Road
Fairlight NSW
19th September 1950

The Rt. Hon. R. G. Menzies
Prime Minister of Australia


The purpose of this letter is not a political matter, but to respectfully inform you that the opportunity has been given me to join the Communist Party, and it is intended that I do so. The sole reason for joining is to take the possible opportunity of informing the Government of the activities of this organisation. In view of the proposed legislation dealing with the dissolution of Communists I desire to respectfully inform you of my intentions.

Such a letter as this, however, does not convince that my intentions are bona fide.

My activities are open to investigation. My occupation is a Patrol Officer, Territory of Papua-New Guinea, and I am at present attending a two year course at the Australian School of Pacific Administration, Mosman, Sydney.

Communist Party ideas are not and never will be part of my beliefs, but I have often
spoken to members of the party lately without disagreeing with them, as I desired to deliberately form a friendship, for the reason mentioned earlier.

I respectfully request, Sir, that hits letter be treated confidentially, and that the authorities's address be forwarded so that I can inform them of anything I ascertain concerning this Communist Party, and its activities.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
yours respectfully and obediently,
Jack Emanuel

28th September 1950

Dear Mr Emanuel,

The Prime Minister has directed me to acknowledge a confidential letter which he received from you recently.

Mr Menzies has asked that I pass on to you the name of Colonel C.C. F. Spry, the Director-General of Security, to whom any information relating to subversive activities should be conveyed.

Correspondence will reach Colonel Spry if addressed to Box 4880, G.P.O., Sydney.

Yours sincerely,
(E. M. Wilkinson)
Private Secretary

TYPED COVER NOTE: Mr Menzies - draft only. Says he is joining Commos to know what is going on and wants to know to whom to impart information .


In Toowomba, Queensland, it's the day of the White Family Fundraiser and welcome home event for Tasminnie, the White's orphaned niece who was stranded so long in Papua New Guinea away from her family. The event was planned to assist and honour Brian and Nammie White after Brian was stricken by cancer. But, as readers will know, our esteemed ASOPA colleague didn't make it.

Organiser Grahame Deck writes from Toowoomba:

"It has been a very hectic time getting the fund raising/welcome home Tasminnie dinner going. The function is tonight and we have about 235 people attending.

"Our goal is to present Nammie with $10,000 after it is over. (We look like achieving that goal.) My business partner and I have been responsible for the web site and electronic communication, so I have been privy to the emails sent to Nammie.

"I must admit that I was surprised and most impressed by the support from the ASOPA group. What a fantastic group of people! Few people are lucky enough to have a circle of friends that will last for so many years. You guys are a wonderful group of people and I truly envy the camaraderie that exists among you.

"I have a couple of mates who did time in PNG (Greg Smith and Brian Walsh) years ago and friends from my days at TAA that tell many tales of life in PNG. I wish I could have been part of that era. Once again, many thanks."

Up Mapleton way

Bill Finter was the founder and owner of Badili Auto Electrical in Port Moresby until, with Papua New Guinea independence looming, he left for Mapleton in the Blackall Ranges behind the Sunshine Coast in 1974. There he grew strawberries and with his Papuan wife - who we at ASOPA in 1962-63 knew as Mary Iorive - raised two lovely children.

Mary, who we'll now give her married name, Justine Finter, taught primary school around the district before being offered a job in the Gulf of Carpentaria as a support teacher - with seven schools on her round and a four wheel drive and charter aircraft at her disposal. It was an exciting and adventurous role which made the eventual return to Mapleton a real reward.

Yesterday I drove up into the hills behind Caloundra, taking the road up to Mapleton to visit Justine and Bill for morning tea. It was the traditional Aussie morning tea that we all know and love. Enough food to feed a famished boy scout troop, presented with Escoffier style and quality. We talked of ourselves and our kids and of old times and people we knew. These nostalgia trips can be very good for the soul.


Courtesy of an Internet cafe in Noosa, I sit here on an archetypal Sunshine Coast morning, ever so slightly in caffeine debt, to keep in touch. The term 'mini-reunion' was coined, I think, by Dick Jones and refers to any gathering of more than one ASOPA person. Yes, two is enough. Well, with Ian 'Talker' McLean visiting Sydney from Okinawa (son Andrew, the first of the line, marrying Mandy), Dave 'Dubbo' Kesby decided a mini would be in order. So that's what we'll be doing come April Fool's Day. It's great to see the ASOPA diaspora is still active and kicking on.


Gaye Speldewinde has tasked ex kiap husband Wilhelm with the job of raiding the Kingsgrove Archives for information about the Class of 1961/62. This Friday Wilhelm will travel by bus to Sydney to visit the Archives and retrieve a single box of musty, fading teaching reports.

While attending to the main job of finding the full name of every Cadet Education Officer who attended ASOPA in that 1961/62 Class, may dally over the critical contents of some of those teaching reports. The incomplete daily programs. The scruffy appearance of some pupils. The scruffy appearance of some teachers. Inadequate motivation. Hapless questioning.

Being an ex kiap, though, Wilhelm will probably find these remarks somewhat incongruous, if not effete, in terms of the Territory he knew. But that single box of documents remains a living link - and perhaps the only one - to the identities of all those young men and women who trained to teach in Australia's territories between about 1958 and 1972. We wish Wilhelm, and Gaye, well.


As they did in January last year, and as I’m sure they’ll do every year they can, three members of ASOPA 1962/63 - Michael ‘Mick’ Wilson, Ian ‘Talker’ McLean and Richard ‘Call Me Dick’ Jones are meeting up again.

This time it won't be at the exotic Bendigo Art Gallery cafe but in the more cultivated environment of the Wilson estate at Eltham, Victoria.

Eltham, you say, I've heard that name before. And of course you have. It's the place where Melbourne's cultural community established a colony a few decades back for people involved in the visual and performing arts.

Nowadays the Wilson clan resides in Eltham's Arthur Street, not far from the cultural epicentre, and on Saturday 18 March the Wilson household will be hosting the mini reunion.

Spouses will be present, of course, and the whisper is that people expect a fair quantity of quality red to be sipped, no, quaffed.

There is also an expectation that Mick will regale the troops with stories of his truck driving exploits along the Highlands Highway and with tales of the culinary masterpieces prepared in the kitchen of Lae's Melanesian Hotel.

As an erstwhile primary school teacher, Mick, back then in the sixties, spent time pursuing both occupations. As for the three year teaching bond, well, it took just a lazy six years to extinguish.

"I had a complete lack of interest in becoming a teacher," Mick recalled last year. Good thing. Mick is now renowned as a one of Australia’s foremost goldsmiths and jewellers. Thanks ASOPA!


Today, your diarist is off to Noosa for a week, where he will be disporting himself amongst the rich and fatuous. Upon arrival in the millionaire's playground, there will be an intensive search for an Internet cafe - a base from which both to scrutinise your email contributions and, it is hoped, continue to compile this weblog.


The website of the Woollahra Colleagues Rugby Union Football Club, which has played in the 1st Division of the NSW Suburban Rugby Union since its establishment in 1933, may seem an unlikely place from which to derive a reference to ASOPA. Well try this slice of history…..

Regarded as one of the finest Burke Cup teams ever to play for the Colleagues, the 1961 side defeated the Australian School of Pacific Administration 36-5 in the Grand Final played that year at Woollahra Oval.

Team selection for this Burke Grand Final was intense with one position (open side breakaway) being decided by the toss of a coin. Coach, John Corlis and Captain, Nick Sabine selecting Tony Finnmore ahead of Charles Vandervord.

This prompted what is said to be the quote of the decade from Charles Vandervord: “Play a blinder Tony because you’re playing for both of us”.

CNR is back on the air

It’s surprising the people you meet on the web. Just last night, whoosh, an email from Jane Belfield, a gifted journalist who, in the early to mid 1970s, used to anchor the central newsroom (CNR) in Port Moresby for the 12, 15, 20 (they just kept growing) government radio stations then flourishing in Papua New Guinea.

Not having the benefit of teleprinter or fax, let alone Internet, Jane’s stories (the big national and international news of the day) were broadcast to stations over a special radio frequency. We recorded and then translated them into Kuanua, Kuman, Nassioi, Chuave, Baining, Benabena, whatever language (and there were scores of them) our audiences (and there were just as many of them) could understand.

In her exploratory email, Jane asked ‘do you remember me?’ I guess that’s a fair question after 30-odd years. I was able to respond: “Of course I remember you. Very well. Who could forget lines like ‘Nambawan man bilong Misis Kwin long gavman olikolim Administrata’.* Whenever I think of the word olikolim (literally, “people call it”), I think of Jane.

And I think of her contemporaries of the time: Trevor McGilvray, Ian Smeeton, Jim Leigh, Lisle Newby, Richard ‘Boldness Be My Friend’ Pape, Hal Holman, David Ransom, Neville Moderate, Phil Charley and many others who immediately demand attention.

Sadly, Jane’s other reason for writing was to pay tribute, through an obituary to her former husband, Mick Belfield, who attended ASOPA before going to PNG as an agricultural officer (didiman).

Now I didn't know Mick, but the piece Jane wrote was very evocative of so many of that very special breed of Territorian. It must have been the scientific training that made them so calm. Even after consuminMbelfield_300dpig lakes of SP brown or green.

Mick's obit will be in the next issue of our regular monthly newsletter, The Mail. Let me know if you want to join its rapidly expanding mailing list by emailing me here.

[* 'The Queen's top man in the government, known as the Administrator"]


In 1964, Graham Pople was elected for the seat of Gumine in the first Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. Aim your finger at the middle of a map of PNG and it’s pointing at Gumine. Graham was a patrol officer before politics and a businessman after – and he’s still in PNG.

He’s also related by marriage to Brian White, who died in Toowoomba a little over a week ago, and has been active in trying to get Brian and Nammie’s niece, Tasminnie, back to Australia. Last night I received this message from Graham.

The little girl has made it to Australia! She arrived in Port Moresby from Popondetta on Monday and I collected her and looked after her that night. This morning I took her to the airport and she made it safely to Brisbane, where Nammie was there to meet her - together with her new brothers and sisters.

She has to have a medical and then her present six months visa will be changed into a permanent residence visa.

There was a chap from the Australian High Commission [in Port Moresby], Neil McAllister, who was extremely helpful and removed any obstacles. Tas and I saw him Monday afternoon and he gave us the documentation.

It’s good to know that, eventually, Australia got it right on Tasminnie. It’s a shame Brian wasn’t around to experience the great day.


The Mt.Wilhelm Traverse is for those with a sense of adventure. It is not just a quick weekend trip up to the summit, it takes four days for extremely strong walkers and six for those who want to take it a bit easier. It is an adventure, and you travel through absolutely spectacular country that is different to anywhere else on earth. It's rugged beauty is captivating.

So begins a wonderfully detailed description, complete with photographs, of the four-day trek which takes in Papua New Guinea's highest peak. It recaptured memories for me of that expedition at Easter 42 years ago when, with three companions, I climbed Mt Wilhelm, the story of which is contained in Gail Burke's excellent book, Meeting the Challenge.


Keith Bain was the guy who, in 1963, wrote the bulk of the scripts for the satirical revue The Natives Are Restless, which, in a two-night ‘season’ at Mosman Town Hall, splendidly harnessed the hitherto deeply buried theatrical talents of about 80 kiaps and chalkies.

After his Papua New Guinea service, Keith moved on to a notable career as an academic and author in the United Kingdom before retiring last year. His University of East London website remains active, though, and reprises the dry wit and pointed insight that made his scripts so compelling.

“I'm afraid I don't believe in answering machines,” Keith notes on the site, “and wish to preserve the possibility of occasionally being uncontactable. So, if you really need to contact me, keep trying.”

He goes on to say. “My academic interests are monetary economics, financial economics and macroeconomic policy. My genuine interests are cricket; theatre; poetry; Italian language, literature and film; and Saint Sebastian in art.” Touché.

PNG cruises recommence from Cairns

After a gap of some years, a cruise line has begun offering voyages around some of the main ports of Papua New Guinea - but at a price. Orion Expedition Cruises has six sailings a year, with fares ranging from $8,000 per traveller to twice that for the owner's suite.

There's a ten day cruise embarking at Cairns and sailing via Milne Bay, the Trobriands, Gizo and New Georgia in the Solomons to Rabaul. This abuts with an eleven day cruise from Rabaul via Kavieng, the Sepik, Madang, Long Island, Cape Nelson, Tufi, the D'Entrecasteaux Islands, Samarai and back to Cairns.

The Orion, a luxury vessel launched only two years ago, offers five star accommodation to her 100 passengers who are tended to by a crew of 75. In virtually every place visited, Orion drops anchor and lands travellers ashore in one of its fleet of 10 Zodiac inflatable rubber boats: the one brief taste of outstation life you're likely to suffer!


David Keating, who in his day was an outstanding middle distance runner, and Ron Antoine, both based in Brisbane, are successfully pulling together the ASOPA Class of 1961/62. The most recent member to be ‘found’ is Loch Blatchford, although Loch believes he was never actually lost as he knew where he was all the time. It was simply a matter of everyone else finding out. David may be contacted at this email address or by post at PO Box 73 New Farm QLD 4005.


I hear that Richard Jones erstwhile retirement has, to use the great man’s own word, morphed into a reprise of his journalistic glory days. Augmenting commitments to present three football shows a week on radio, Richard’s back doing what he did for 24 years - scribing for the local newspaper.

This time round, the contribution takes the form of a weekly film preview for Saturday's edition of the Bendigo Advertiser. Richard says he and Judyth see 25 - 30 movies a year, three-quarters of which are arthouse releases screened at the local Star Cinema. Now the ponderings arising from this earnest commitment to culture on the big screen are being put out for  public scrutiny.


The funeral of Brian White, who passed away in the early hours of the last day of Summer, will be held at 11 am this Saturday 4 March at St James Church in Mort Street, Toowoomba.

You can send messages of condolence to the White family by emailing here.

Donations to the White family can be made through this bank account:

BSB: 638-060

Account No: 010244204

Account Name: White Family Benefit Association

Bank: Heritage Building Society

You may also like to consider attending the Welcome Tasminnie Home dinner on Saturday 18 March to celebrate Brian’s life and welcome Tasminnie home from her enforced separation from her family in Papua New Guinea.

More details on this event are available on the Tasminnie website here.