Previous month:
December 2006
Next month:
February 2007

12 posts from January 2007


Doctor “Mary Guntner was not your ordinary missionary type,” writes Colin Huggins. “She enjoyed club and social life and was my tennis partner in the weekly competitions at Finschhafen. Mary would have been know by Asopians Gil Cook, Stewart Woodger, Rover Leung, Edith Hatt, Bob Davis, Sonia Grainger, Merv Duncan, Val Rivers and Margaret Dwyer to name just a handful.”

And now Mary has written an account of the 12 years she spent as a doctor with the Lutheran Mission in Papua New Guinea. Mary graduated with an MB BS from Adelaide University in 1957. However, with a family background of involvement in missionary work, she was the fourth daughter of Pastor Walter Fritsch and his wife, Mathilde, it wasn't long before she took up the call to be of service to the Lutheran Mission in New Guinea. So in 1958, Mary found herself at Finschhafen at the Buangi and Butaweng hospitals.

Her work revolved around emergencies - caesarean sections, burns, fractures, massive goitres - and constantly waging the continuing fight with malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy. Mary was responsible for scores of patients at any one time - the Butaweng hospital alone had 600 beds - and she also became the region's 'flying doctor'.

The regular, newsy letters Mary wrote home during her time in New Guinea were preserved faithfully by her mother and, together with her own memories, they form the basis of this book. Quotes from her letters interspersed throughout the narrative allow readers to share Mary's enthusiasm and excitement.

Doctor in Paradise: Challenges and Rewards in Medical Service, New Guinea, 1958-1970, Mary W Guntner, Crawford House Publishing, Adelaide, 2006 (paperback), 412 pages.$34.95. ISBN 1863333118.


The Papua New Guinea Gossip website and accompanying newsletter offer more than the masthead suggests – providing both a lively source of current information about PNG and links to a wide array of PNG websites. The most recent issue of the Gossip contains links to some blogs. Here’s a sampling of them.

Cath Visits PNG is a blog by a medico working in the Highlands. Firstly there was the demise of our Reg with malaria & pneumonia leaving me and the resident in charge. It was a nightmare! Just when I thought I'd gotten out of the paperwork type stuff & more into the surgery … I lost the earpiece to my stethoscope. But the whole hospital did get behind me in looking for it ... such champions! A cautionary note: the blog contains a graphic photograph of a Bundi ulcer that should not be viewed before mealtime.

Milne Bay Crime provides exactly what it says: a regularly updated account of a listing of crimes reported to the community, mainly in Alotau. “Three offenders, armed with 1 factory made shotgun and 2 bushknives, in a dinghy with a 55HP outboard, boarded a Kiwali Fishing boat just off Nigila, and made off with a largish sum.”

Taken Back diarises the experiences and feelings of an American who’s just returned to PNG for a second tour of duty as a cook at a mission. “I can't even tell you in adequate words what I felt flying into Goroka. It didn't take long to unpack and get settled into my little round house. Now I am where I've wanted to be since I left this place last year. My feet are dirty, my tummy's full, my bug net is up, I'm wearing skirts and cooking constantly. I am HOME. I am so happy, and feel so blessed to be here! Again!

Cam and Jane in PNG is the blog of two Australian volunteers based in Alotau – Jane a teacher and Cam a marine biologist. “Unfortunately this week we’ve had to give Cam a break due to him experiencing his first dose of malaria. He’s been brought back to health and solid foods by lovely Nurse Jane.”


The Papua New Guinea connection may seem remote, but I’ll get there in a minute. Hawkesbury Council, in Sydney’s west, has invited former PNG broadcast executive Phil Charley to unveil a plaque in the local council chambers honouring his grandfather, Philip George Charley.

In 1877, as a 14-year old and for health reasons, Philip George was sent from Ballarat to Mt Gipps station (now better known as Broken Hill) in western New South Wales as a boundary rider and station hand. In 1883 Charles Rasp, who also worked at Mt Gipps, found mineral ore which Philip identified as silver chloride - assaying up to 1,000 ounces of silver to the ton. Station workers formed a seven-person syndicate to open a mine – and so started BHP Company Limited in which Philip held a one-seventh share.

Philip later went to Papua with an American called Herbert Hoover, later the 31st President of the US, to unsuccessfully prospect for gold in the Laloki region. It might have been this expedition that prompted Philip to give mining away because he set up a farm in the Hawkesbury area and turned his attention to improving the quality of Australian livestock.

He was the first person to import hackney horses, red poll cattle and other livestock from England. He was a pioneer and innovator and a great philanthropist. He was one of the founders of the Royal Agricultural Society which runs the annual Sydney Easter Show. He was also the first person in NSW to own a Rolls Royce - a 1908 Silver Ghost.

On Australia Day, January 26th, grandson Phil will unveil the plaque honouring Philip George. The 26th is also Phil’s 82nd birthday. By the way, the Laloki gold exploit has  a permanent place on PNG's landscape, part of which is occupied by a Lake Herbert Hoover.


The history of ASOPA is now chronicled, as precisely as I know it, in the free online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. You can find it here. If upon reviewing the entry, you have additional information that may enrich or correct it, Wikipedia enables you to be your own editor. See how to do it here.

Here's an extract from the Wikipedia entry on the Australian School of Pacific Administration.....

Asopa "By 1945, as World War II was drawing to a close, the School of Civil Affairs broadened its role to train officers for the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), responsible for civil administration in the Territories. Originally located at Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra, in March 1946 the School was transferred to civilian control and renamed the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA). In May 1947 it was relocated to a group of Army huts on Middle Head in the Sydney suburb of Mosman. ASOPA operated under the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949 and was a responsibility of the Federal Minister for External Territories until 1 December 1973.

"In 1946, John Kerr (later Sir John Kerr QC, Governor-General of Australia) was demobilised from the Australian Army with the rank of colonel and appointed the first Principal of ASOPA. The following year he also became the first Organising Secretary of the South Pacific Commission. He returned to the bar in 1948 to become one of Sydney's leading industrial lawyers. Conlon himself took over ASOPA and spent 1948-49 as a reportedly unsuccessful and unhappy Principal of the institution."


When I was in the Solomons a bit under three months ago, talking a lot with the locals about the mercurial politics of the place, the common compliment to Australia was about how we were trying to give them a hand with their problems. And the common complaint was how some members of the Australian police contingent were stuffing this up. The nub always seemed to be that the police (or ‘agents’ as tonight’s SBS program grandiosely called them) seemed not give a proverbial about local culture, politics, society, sensitivities or much else except the local drop, Solbrew.

If ever a hypothesis got proven through the glory that is television it was tonight. Some genius chose a copper from the backblocks of Western Australia to go the Solomons weather coast and, at least when the camera appeared, act like a goose. His appreciation of local culture seemed limited. His talked childish gibberish when speaking with an educated, English perfect Solomon islander. His understanding of Solomons Pidgin was of the "You fellow must be understand with the justice system or democracy he no can get there" kind. And that’s flattery.

I can’t comment on his policing (I hope it was of Poirot quality) except for noting the pain on the face of his sweet, competent and anguished Tolai woman copper boss whenever he opened his mouth. This guy would probably still be prancing around on the weather coast if it wasn’t for her.

When will the Australian Government learn that, before despatching emissaries to foreign lands, we must educate them a little in the local ways, teach them the elements of the lingua franca and prepare them properly for the task ahead.

Next week’s episode of ‘Australian Coppers Being Boofy in the Pacific’ is on SBS at 8 pm Wednesday.


Sbs_logo Col Booth, back at base camp in Port Macquarie after an arduous summer patrol, tells me of a new TV series on the challenges facing Australian Federal Police as they seek to bring justice and peace to the islands of the Pacific. The first program in the four-part documentary series – entitled ‘Dave’s New Beat’ - goes to air tonight at 8 pm on SBS. Readers may recall that Col and Wendy’s son, Nigel, did a tour of duty in the Solomon Islands with the Australian Federal Police which ended last August.

According to SBS, the TV series follows several Australian Federal agents deployed to the Solomons, “where they patrol the streets of the capital Honiara, the remote and dangerous weather coast and outer islands that rarely, if ever, see law enforcement.” SBS promises “edge-of-your-seat, real-life drama as Australian and Pacific police risk their lives in the battle to end lawlessness in the Solomon Islands and East Timor”. Tonight's episode follows agent Dave Elson, nearing the end of an 18-month tour of duty as a community constable on the Solomon's remote outer islands. “He patrols the weather coast, an area that looks like paradise but until 2003, was a battleground for warring tribes in a four-year cycle of revenge killings, rapes, murders and village raids.”


There is to be a Papua New Guinea highlands international primary schools reunion for ex-students from Banz, Goroka, Kundiawa, Minj and Mt Hagen in Brisbane later this year. The reunion will be held at the Queensland Irish Club on Saturday 15 September and tickets are $50 for adults and $30 for children. I’m sure the participants would welcome the opportunity to square matters away with former teachers. You should contact Jean Martin, Lola Collins or Lisa Adams for further information.


I’ve got to thank Bob ‘Moose’ Davis for this piece. Today I received an email from Moose who wrote: “I have just started to read the supposedly controversial biography Jonestown by Chris Masters. It purports to reveal all about Alan Jones, once Wallabies coach, now powerful radio personality.

“You probably already know what I am about to mention,” continues Bob, “but just in the slight off chance you do not I shall continue. The early chapters recount some of Alan Jones' time at boarding school including his trials and successes. There are anecdotes from Jones' contemporaries at Toowoomba Grammar School, in particular one BP White.

“Brian is mentioned a few times and always most favourably. Indeed it seems that he was something of a rival of Jones in a variety fields. In many ways the mentions may be another deserved accolade for one BP.”

Well I also happen to be reading Jonestown, a few chapters ahead of Bob, but not only didn’t I know that our late friend BP White had been a Toowoomba Grammar boy, I also hadn’t known that Brian’s father, Edgar ‘Bluey’ White, “a Shakespeare and Milton scholar and a New Guinea veteran”, Masters writes, was deputy principal at the school in Jones’ and White’s time.

In the biographical handbook, ASOPA People, produced for the first 1962-63 reunion, Brian wrote: “My dad had been in Milne Bay during the war and told me not to put that as a choice (for teaching) as it was the worst place on earth.” Brian went on to spend ten years teaching in Milne Bay and married Namwekona (Nammie) from the Trobriand Islands.

Anyway, with thanks to Bob Davis and Chris Masters, here’s one of the BP extracts from Jonestown:

In the 1950s the big deal was the mile. To win, (Alan Jones) had to beat the school’s best runner, his rival, Brian White. Another good trainer, White had the school’s best time of 4 minutes and 51 seconds. Toowoomba Grammar had a system that allowed winners to be challenged, which Jones did, a touch pompously according to White. What White did not know was that his challenger tried to conspire to have fellow boarders run as well and box White in. But Jones’ tactic fell on uncooperative ears: the boarders kept out of the dayboys’ way. Brian White remembers the episode well, years later recalling: “I beat him – soundly”.


Gaye (Zimitat) Speldewinde writes: "The reunions keep happening. At least eight of the ‘girls’ from 1961-62 are coming together for a talkfest here in Canberra in early March. I’ll use their ASOPA names to make it easier! Erica Ardill, Shirley Coffin, Caroline Enge, Liz Keegan, Margaret O’Connor, Lyn Osborne, Margaret Willington, Gaye Zimitat. If any one else is around and wants to join in they can contact me here.  Having already met up with all except two I can guarantee we will still have plenty to talk about come the Big Reunion in August – and we’ll recognize each other much quicker."


The newsletter of the Golding Centre for Women’s History, Theology and Spirituality at the Australian Catholic University has paid tribute to Ann Prendergast for the “generous gift of her Pacific Mission library which focuses on Papua New Guinea”. The newsletter says this is a timely gift since the Centre has a doctoral student researching the history of the Sisters of Mercy in PNG and another academic working on the history of the Presentation Sisters in PNG. More on a fine tribute to Ann in the January issue of The Mail, out soon.


“The Cadet (Patrol Officer) - who is usually aged between eighteen and 25 when he enters ASOPA for a grounding in such subjects as Colonial Administration, Law, Anthropology - gets experience soon enough. And if he goes into the field with a bright-eyed idealism, it is a good gleam for him to carry. Authority can so easily turn into arrogance - and even the Cadet is at once in a position of considerable authority over natives.

“The School also represents Australian realization that well-administered and well-assisted colonial peoples do not revolt and side with the governing nation in war… The School of Pacific Administration added modern training to a pre-war tradition. About this tradition there is nothing pukkah or military or old-school-tie. It was Made-In-New Guinea, and with it goes a spirit of belonging to something that belongs to New Guinea; and that means going through with a job when there would be reason enough to give up or turn back by ordinary standards - but not by New Guinea standards, of what men can do, or forbear to do, if they have enough of staunch wisdom and courage. It is a tremendously respectable thing in the eyes of the native people, this tradition. So it should be in Australian eyes and, indeed, in the eyes of a world which will have difficulty in pointing to anything quite like it anywhere else.”

[Source: ‘Recollections Of A Patrol Officer’, the story of Lloyd Hurrell, one of a fascinating array of Pacific anecdotes on Jane Resture's Oceania Page]


Asopa_courses Happy new year to all my readers. And here's a question to test your ageing memory: Exactly how many of those ASOPA courses that you diligently studied (or wilfully disregarded) can you recall? And how many subjects were you examined in during the two year program? Well, the answers are in this document, taken from the 1962-63 Cadet Education Officers course handbook. We studied an impressive 28 courses in our first year at the School and 25 in the second year. And seemed to have plenty of time left over for sport, dramatics, parties and frequenting the pool table at the Mosman Hotel. Ah, youth's fierce energy!