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14 posts from August 2006





This date may seem far off, but Asopians and friends can assure a preferential room rate by booking now. The Brisbane organising committee has secured highly discounted rates at two of Brisbane’s leading hotels, Sofitel and Novotel. The hotels are just five minutes apart (for a slow dog on a bad day) and are adjacent to Central Railway Station and the Brisbane CBD.


ASOPA booking code ASO1007

Rooms on Floors 10 - 21 cost $195 per night for single, double or twin. There are also Concierge Rooms (above the 21st floor) for $235 and Club Rooms, which include access to the Sofitel Club on the 30th floor, for $270 single and $300 double. Club Room accommodation includes free breakfast in the Sofitel Club and afternoon canapes and cocktails.

Ballroom You can make a reservation by paying the first night's accommodation in advance with the remaining payment to be made on arrival or when checking out. Bookings can be made by credit card or bank key card.

Book through Jade Thompson at email [email protected] or by phoning her on 07 3835 3535 or 07 3835 4959. Remember to quote the booking code.

And if you decide to extend your stay before or after the reunion period, subject to availability the Sofitel will extend the same room charges.


ASOPA booking code ASOPA 2007

The room rate is $150 per night for single, double or twin. You can make reservations by giving credit card details and paying on arrival.

Book through reservations sales manager Laura Ousby, who can be contacted at email [email protected] or by phoning 07 3309 3309. Remember to quote the booking code.

If you want to extend your stay before or after the reunion, the Novotel will extend the same room charges for the 11th and/or the 15th.

Photo: Sofitel Ball Room, venue for the Great Reunion Dinner. No, Virginia, you will not be forced to sit in rows!


Brisbane06 The ASOPA Class of 1962-63 continues to regroup in twos, threes and multiples thereof whenever the opportunity arises. On my recent trip north we gathered at Brisbane's Bow Thai restaurant (left) - which will be one of the scenes of next year's frivolities when the class reunites in that fine city on the weekend of 12-14 October. Pictured are Henry Bodman, Keith Jackson, Kathyrn and Joe Crainean, Bill Welbourne, Dianne and Bill Bohlen and organiser extraordinaire Colin (Huggiebear) Huggins.

Nambour06 The  next day Ingrid and I headed off to the Sunshine Coast hinterland at Nambour where, after inspecting Barry (Fluffer) Flannery's fine home on the outskirts of the town (he lives a richly bucolic lifestyle), we met up with Justine Finter (down from the even more intensely rural Mapleton) and proceeded to the local club for lunch (see picture). The new Nambour RSL has a colour scheme designed to keep you awake no matter how desultory the conversation. On this occasion, however, the recollections were good enough to keep a blind mute alert in a dark room. Next time you see Fluffer, get him to relate his experiences as a local Sunshine Coast bus driver.

Pictures: Ingrid Jackson


David Keating probably won't thank me for contrasting his views on Papua New Guinea with those of Australian Prime Minister John Howard. But I will anyway.

At the same time I was enjoying a quiet lunch with David and Ron Antoine [also ASOPA 1962-62] on the Brisbane riverside last week, our PM decided to give PNG a touch up by intimating, as part-justification of an increase in Australia's defence forces, that the former Territory was well on the way to becoming a failed state.

Quite naturally, PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare objected to this characterisation. In fact, PNG  must be tiring of the proclivity of some senior Australian politicians (Alexander Downer is another) to refer to PNG in terms which, not to mince words, are patronising.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, David, Ron and I were discussing the trials and triumphs of PNG since Independence in 1975 when David made the salient observation that, of all that has happened in the 30 years since, and some of that's been pretty ugly, the over-rding achievement has been PNG's capacity to remain as one democratic nation.

Eight hundred tribes came together to form PNG. And, despite all the vicissitudes, they are still together. And they still have regular free and fair elections. These really are great achievements. And the Australian government ought to be mindful of them.


There's something very alluring about the Queensland capital. It's summed up by that wide toothy grin of Premier Peter Beattie that says: 'Forget about problems with health, water and power, the sun's shining out there'.

And so it was that Colin Huggins led Ingrid and me on The Great Trek from our bolthole on the river, tracing the will-be steps of ASOPA reunionistas through colonnades and tunnels, along balconies and balustrades, inside a myriad of hotel function rooms, meeting with comely young conference organisers - with whom Colin seemed to have developed a close rapport.

Thence to the Bow Thai where we ordered a banquet to which Colin added Number 47, a barking hot platter of Moreton Bay seafood that was still affecting my personal progress late into the following day. We met up with Bill and Diane Bohlen (about to head off on another Grand European Tour), Joe Crainean and his new wife Kathryn, Bill Welbourne and Henry Bodman.

Earlier in the day I touched base with David Keating and Ron Antoine [ASOPA1961-62], who are well advanced in their orgaisation of next year's Class reunion - the first in the 45 years since they left the School.

Meanwhile, the 1962-63 organising committee meets in Brisbane Sunday. They need have no fear that Mr Huggins has anything other than a firm grip on his arrangements.

Oh yeah, and Noosa's great, as always.


Ingrid and I are heading up to Brisbane and Noosa in an hour or so with the dual purpose of taking a short break from Sin City and catching up with a number of former Papua New Guinea acquaintances who have chosen, for reasons best known to them, to live in the Sunshine State.

Today I’ll be visiting Martin and Ann Hadlow at their rural retreat in Brisbane’s north. Martin is now Associate Professor Hadlow, Director of the Centre for Communication in Change and Development at the University of Queensland. If you think that’s a bit of a mouthful you should cop some of the job titles he had in his earlier UNESCO career.

Martin has settled for the relative calm of Brisvegas after stints in Kazakhstan, Jordan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka (restoring communications after the tsunami) and finally a truly hardship posting in Paris. Martin took over Radio Bougainville from me in 1973 and then, in 1976, did likewise when I left 2ARM-FM Armidale to do a Maldive Islands stint with … UNESCO.

Later in the week I’ll be in touch with many other Asopians and E-Coursians including Murray and Joan Bladwell, David Keating, Ron Antoine, Colin (Huggiebear) Huggins, Henry and Janelle Bodman, Bill Welbourne, Dennis and Ros Burrell, Diane and Bill Bohlen, Joe and Kathryn Crainean and Barry (Fluffer) Flannery up in Nambour.

I’ll try to report on the week’s escapades from Internet cafes along the route.


Djones Richard Jones [ASOPA 1962-63, pictured] has contributed a reminiscence to David Keating’s PNG school sports project, and I encourage you to do the same by sending your PNG school sports story to David here. Here’s an extract from Richard’s piece…..

Like our 1962-63 ASOPA convenor Keith Jackson I spent just a few, short years in the teaching business. It wasn't a profession for me I decided pretty early on. But it was through writing articles about local sport, including school track and field carnivals, for Port Moresby's South Pacific Post which later became the national daily Post Courier that I got a start in my life's real career: journalism.

I was posted to the Sogeri Primary T School in 1966 and through a friendship with 1961-62 ASOPA graduate Allyn Hicks became involved in the Papuan Amateur Boxing Association. Hicksy played rugby league for the Magani-Badili club in the five-club senior Papuan Rugby League structure, but he also had an abiding love of boxing.

I, too, had been a keen boxer at a large Victorian private school and indeed ended up as the School Captain of Boxing -- a title much grander than anything it actually implied. Anyway, the PABA needed a publicity officer so Hicksy, House of Assembly member John Stuntz and other members of the boxing body's committee installed me as the person in charge of publicity.

This involved a fair bit of driving up and down the range from Sogeri to Moresby and back, but the newspaper seemed to like accounts of the bouts arranged by the PABA and eventually wanted previews of upcoming tournaments too. The ABC pricked up their ears as well so I ended up in the Moresby studios doing live reads to air about the bouts. The airtime and newspaper column inches (this was long before metric conversion) picked up remarkably whenever a national PNG championship was nigh.


Gagl My teaching career lasted three years and it was only in the third that I got out of town and into the bush at Gagl, a Primary T School 15 km west of Kundiawa [see photo]. It was 1966 and it was the first time Gagl had seen a Standard 6 come through. Imbo Mundua, at 23, was the oldest student in the class. I was 21.

Ray Anderson, the senior educator in the Chimbu at the time, decided there should be a district-wide school athletics carnival. There hadn’t been anything like it previously that brought all the primary schools together. 

Assembling the 160 Gagl students before me one crisp sunny morning, with the mist carpeting the valley below, I explained what an athletics carnival was, how Gagl would compete against other schools and how we’d have our own contest first so we could choose a team. 

Then, deciding we needed a uniform, I found a source of cheap yellow tee shirts and a bolt of dark green laplap, adequate to the task of tailoring the logo of a soaring eagle, for which I provided a rudimentary template. And so was born the Gagl Eagles! Amateur seamstresses recruited from adjacent villages manufactured 30 sports uniforms. Ahead of the big day, we hired a truck to pick us up at Mingende Mission, the nearest point on the Highlands Highway, a 5 km walk. 

The athletes assembled in the Gagl playground on the morning of the carnival, surrounded by scores of chattering and cooing villagers. For the first time I saw the whole team in uniform. Not every eagle soared. Not every eagle was even recognisably avian. But the squad looked to me like the most thoroughgoing professional outfit ever gathered in those parts. 

Meg By the way, the carnival was an outstanding success. The Gagl kids, many of whom had never been to town before, were effervescing with excitement. Little Meg [see photo] convincingly put Gagl in front as she ran the final leg of the girls 4 x 100 metres relay. And big Imbo Mundua slew all before him in the boys’ long jump.

[David Keating [ASOPA 1961-62] is seeking your school sports reminscences from Papua New Guinea. Email him here with your contribution.]


Barry Flannery [ASOPA 1962-63] recalls: During the Queen’s Birthday Holiday in 1972, two rugby league squads and a netball team travelled from Port Moresby to Cairns to play in a local primary schools carnival. To raise $3,000 for the DC3 charter, various fundraisers were organised. Unbeknownst to us, one of these included a porn and card night. These ventures were a roaring success.

A couple of days prior to departure, I called to see that all was well with the DC3 to be told the plane was no longer available as it was needed on Groote Island. I pondered whom I could call for help, settling on Barry Holloway, Speaker of the House of Assembly, and an acquaintance from my time in Kainantu.

Within a short time, I received a call from the chief executive officer of Bush Pilots Airways who apologised profusely for the terrible mistake and assured me a DC3 would be available. I later learnt Bush Pilots was seeking landing rights in PNG and did not want unfavourable publicity.

[David Keating [ASOPA 1961-62] is seeking your school sports reminscences from Papua New Guinea. Email him here with your contribution.]


If you haven’t yet visited Albert Mispel’s website, you’re missing out on a treat. Here's an extract to whet your appetite.....

In the more remote posting I had in the Gulf, the previous teacher had shot himself in the toilet. The teacher who took my place at the same school was a pious Christian who spurned the demon drink. For that reason (and maybe others) the Patrol Officers and Diddymen avoided his place. He tried to attract them by getting in some beer. They still didn't visit him. I was told that it got too much and he drank himself into a such state that he had to be carried out with alcoholic poisoning.

The highlands had plenty of stories and were far more attractive than the Gulf. In the end I did get more European company. In fact I had 2 Europeans on my staff at my last school, Kapakamarigi in the Eastern Highlands. I finally went on long leave (6 months) and never went back.

I did not accumulate many European friends there because I didn't meet many. I keep in touch with only a few people such as Dan Mannix and Kevin Lock, whom I knew in the Gulf. I do not follow the fortunes or misfortunes of the country in any depth and am not sure who the Prime Minister is.

However, the 1st few years in the Gulf are stamped in my soul as the most formative years of my life. Most of my present attitudes towards people, art and the world start there.

I spent all my New Guinea superannuation on a full time computer course and have followed that path ever since.


Col Booth [ASOPA 1962/63] tells me he and Wendy have been in Brisbane where they had “had a lovely day” with Colin (Huggiebear) Huggins and Bill Welbourne with whom they performed the ‘walk of pride’ as Huggiebear showed off his 2007 reunion meeting and sleeping places. “They have certainly picked a top locale for Event 3,” writes Col. “And the prices Huggie has negotiated will blow you away.”

Col and Wendy were also pleasantly surprised when an old PNG comrade in arms, Paul Brigg, joined them for lunch. Paul was head teacher of the Tavui Girls School near Rabaul from 1964-66 and this was their first meeting since leaving the Gazelle nearly 40 years ago. Col says Paul is making good progress in reuniting the ASOPA Class of 1960/61 as the scattered remnants of those glorious years come together again.

Ingrid and I will be in Brisbane next week and plans are well afoot for us to stride out the ‘walk of pride’ with no less a local identity than Huggiebear himself. We’ll also be meeting up with many ASOPA and PNG friends and, amongst all this, I’m hoping to fit in a bit of work for Jackson Wells Morris.

Now be a good sport

A couple of months ago David Keating asked if people might put pen to paper and provide a short anecdote, story, yarn, recollection of anything to do with sport in Papua New Guinea between 1960 and 1975.

David says he’s had responses from Terry Hewett, John Maksimas, Richard Jones, Leo Carroll, Jim Toner, John Mayo and Keith Jackson. But he’s looking for more. “I know there is a short story lurking in you just waiting to be released,” he says.

The deadline is 31 August and you can write to David at PO Box 73, New Farm, QLD 4005 or email him here.

And to encourage your literary powers, here are a couple of extracts from John Mayo’s contribution...

“On one never to be forgotten occasion, the expatriate members of two Aussie Rules teams began a punch up even as the first whistle was blown, to the bemused amazement of their local team-mates, not to mention the spectators.” (I can’t help but wonder if one Henry Bodman may have been close at hand when hostilities broke out!)

“The high point of my sporting career was officiating at the 1969 South Pacific Games, held in Port Moresby. This was an uncomplicated time: one did not find syringes in the garbage, if people smoked, it was tobacco, and alcohol was consumed with discretion by officials and athletes.” (I particularly enjoy the term ‘with discretion’ applied to the consumption of alcohol in pre-Independence PNG.)


Dave Kesby [ASOPA 1962-63] writes: "As well as being the editor of our much-loved Mail, in a previous life Keith mixed with the powerful. There is a great story in the Sydney Morning Herald (5 August) of how our editor was in a meeting where Bob Hawke was tearing strips off the management of the ABC over a story Four Corners did on Bob Hawke’s best friend, Sir Peter Abeles.

"It was Keith’s meticulous notes that were used to show that Bob Hawke used undue pressure on the ABC. Great stuff and a great insight into Keith’s previous life. The article was written by Alan Ramsey who writes angry articles each week. He dislikes most politicians but has a huge loathing of both Bob Hawke and John Howard. I love the articles anyway."

Dave's reference is to this extract from Ramsey’s article:

“Ken Inglis, a former professor of history at the Australian National University and professor of Australian studies at Harvard, has just published his second ABC blockbuster. The first, in 1983, titled This is the ABC, covered the ABC's first 50 years from 1932. The second completes the next 23 years. And on page 155 of his latest book, Whose ABC?, there is a wonderful excerpt from the diary of Keith Jackson, a senior ABC management figure of the 1980s.

“Inglis recounts a meeting by Somervaille and Jackson with Hawke in the prime minister's Canberra office in late August 1987, the detail of which Jackson later committed to his diary.

“Inglis quotes Jackson's diary: "The prime minister began [the meeting] with an 'intemperate attack on Four Corners as a nest of vipers'. Says he knows there is a program in production on 'the friends of the government' and advises ABC to seek the counsel of defamation lawyers. Expresses repugnance that 'public funds should be used to underwrite people whose purpose is to undermine the fabric of society'. Somervaille placidly absorbed all this, and more, and responded with words to the effect: 'I hear what you say, prime minister, but I know you would be the last person to want me to interfere in ABC programming.' "


Barryretreat Barry Paterson (ASOPA 1962-63) has returned to his slice of tropical paradise at Wonga Beach in Far North Queensland, 100 km up the coast from Cairns, and sends us this photo. “I just thought you might like to see what it looks like through my study window at Wonga,” writes Rev Dr Barry, “Life is hell, isn't it?”


Asopa Scott Robertson, from Robertson & Hindmarsh Architects, tells me his firm has been commissioned to prepare a Conservation Management Plan for the ASOPA site. Scott says his firm wants to contact former staff or students who have photographs of the buildings – photographs taken when they were in use. He’s also wondering if there is anyone who knows who planted what is now the lush tropical vegetation beside the walkways. You can contact Scott by emailing him here or respond directly to this web log through the Comments link below.