Previous month:
February 2007
Next month:
April 2007

18 posts from March 2007


Asopa There was a great turn out at today’s ‘back to ASOPA’ gathering at the old School – which I assure you retains a dignified beauty despite being a little tatty around the edges. The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is doing a great job trying to ensure that the site will appropriately commemorate the existence of ASOPA and ITI, but our readers’ help is needed to make this a reality.

This afternoon nearly 60 former staff and students of ASOPA and ITI returned to the Middle Head campus to discuss how to demonstrate the significance of the site and its buildings. While the site’s future is already assured, such is the nature of bureaucracy that there is a need to assemble a powerful case for persuasively interpreting the reason ASOPA existed in the first place.

Without mincing words, what this means is whether the School will be marked by a mere plaque or by something more substantial, such as a research centre or a commemorative display.

“There’s a great feeling of belonging that exists among people who have been associated with this place,” said Bob Clarke, Sydney Harbour Trust architect responsible for the site.

But, he added, ASOPA’s significance needs to be demonstrated and the best people to do that are probably those who worked and studied there. That is, us.

Ingrid Jackson, a former ITI lecturer who I met and married on campus, volunteered to coordinate a project on behalf of the Trust in which people will be asked to provide information including:

          Reasons why ASOPA/ITI should be considered a site of significance.

          Comparable institutions in other countries.

          Lists of photographs, documents or other memorabilia in your possession that may be of interest to a research centre.

You can help keep ASOPA’s memory alive by emailing Ingrid at this Internet address or by faxing her at (02) 9904 0960 indicating how you might be able to assist with any of these matters.

By the way, this month’s issue of The Mail was distributed today. And, if you’re not on our mailing list, you can Download Mail110Apr.pdf right here.


Rabaulstamp Bruce Alexander of the East New Britain Chamber of Commerce reports that Air Niugini is initiating a direct international Cairns-Rabaul flight on 9 April. In urging people to support what he terms “this brave initiative”, Bruce says: “This is a very exciting and positive step for the East New Britain Province and we are grateful to Air Niugini for this rare opportunity to prove ourselves as an international gateway to the New Guinea Islands.” Tickets cost 1,755 kina ($A730) per person return. Bookings can be made through Air Niugini or your travel agent.


Asopamap More than 60 ASOPA veterans are expected to attend an open day at the old School on Saturday. Former staff and students have been invited to meet with officials of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to discuss ideas for how the site may be used to commemorate ASOPA and its successor institutions.

The Trust has prepared a map showing where to park [P] and register [R] on the day. If the parking area is full, as is possible given the numbers, there are more spaces available on the parade ground to the right of the oval as indicated on the map. You will also notice that, conveniently, the toilets are marked as 'TOILETS'. The meeting will be held in the former Library between 2 and 4 pm. If you want to participate, contact Jessica Sartor on (02) 8969 2177.


Asopa This Saturday, for the first time in many years, ASOPA formally opens its doors to visitors. Former staff and students of the School have been invited to meet with officials of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to discuss ideas for how the site may be used to commemorate ASOPA and its successor institutions.

The meeting also aims to gather details of people who may be able to supply copies of photos, memorabilia and other material and who also may wish to participate in oral history interviews. Afterwards, participants will be able to “wander around the site”, according to Trust manager Bob Clark.

The meeting will be held in the former Library from 2 - 4 pm. If you are able to attend, contact the Trust booking officer on (02) 8969 2100.

The original Coronation Street

Laealogo Wendy Clarke, a student at Lae Primary A School (perhaps better known as Coronation Street) from 1955-62, has assembled a website including a brief history and nostalgic glimpses of the school as seen through the eyes of former pupils and, in one case, teacher Judy (Peters) Duggan. The site also contains a list of students from 1951-75 and many reminiscences and photos from the same era, Lae Primary commenced classes in 1951. It successor Coronation College continues to this day, although the original buildings were demolished in 1992 due to white ant damage.

Ross McDougall: “The school rugby league days will remain with me forever. Teams were determined by weight, as their age was unknown by many of our opposition. We had 5 and 6 stone teams and most matches we played at Bugandi High, losing somewhere in the vicinity of 30-nil...not good considering matches consisted of only 5 or 10 minute halves.”

Laea Judy Duggan: “I was a teacher at the school for 6 months, from June to December in 1962. It was my first year of teaching and I was not quite 19 years old. I taught Grade 2 in the class-room second from the end of the right side of the U shaped buildings, and I remember that the school dentist was visiting for a period during July and individual children were being called out for checks and treatment.”

Photo: the original Lae Primary A school building circa 1955


Meeting_the_challenge With Brisbane reunion preparations building in intensity, this might be a good time to begin preparing for the experience. There’s no better way to do so than settling down with a rattling good read. And Gail Burke’s compilation of true stories by former teachers in Papua New Guiinea, Meeting the Challenge, is exactly that. If you haven't read it, the book is still on sale and remains a wonderful reflection of great times now, sadly, past.

In the 1950s and 1960s young Australians were recruited to teach in PNG, often the only reference material being a slender leaflet entitled, ‘Careers with a challenge’. As one of the adventurous people who met this challenge, Gail Burke recounts her own story and has gathered many others from her fellow teachers. The stories not only provide an invaluable insight to PNG and its people but offer a very entertaining account of how young Australians dealt with the cultural and other differences experienced along the way.

Meeting the Challenge provides a mine of information about an eventful period. You can order it from Copyright Publishing by visiting this website or by writing to the publisher at GPO Box 2927 Brisbane Queensland Australia 4001.

Meeting the Challenge: Personal stories of Australian teachers in Papua New Guinea pre-Independence 1955-1975. Edited by Gail Burke. 236 pages. Hard cover. $27.50 (incl postage)

Top chalkie talks

06pagello Dr Joseph Pagelio, PNG's top chalkie, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and educational administrator and gained a doctorate in education from Queensland University of Technology while doing it. After secondary school he attended Goroka Teachers' College and, in 1975, became a high school teacher in Morobe Province.

Joseph advanced to headmaster, inspector and moved into policy and planning at headquarters. Since his appointment as Secretary for Education early last year he has led the reform of an education system facing a difficult array of geographical, social and economic challenges. “More and more children in Papua New Guinea are receiving at least six years of basic education and, increasingly, more teachers are being trained throughout the country,” he says. “'Progress may seem slow but you must remember we started in 1993 from a very low base.”

Dr Pagelio is keen to expand programs offered by vocational and technical institutions which teach life-skills. “These bodies offer an education that is probably more relevant to the majority of Papua New Guineans who live outside urban areas,” he says. “These people often don't have the opportunity to enter the formal workforce.”

Change is already underway. “The curriculum used to be based on standard subjects taught in the classroom. Now it's becoming more student-based. In some schools we have introduced, for instance, personal development and technology courses which we plan to take to schools throughout the country. It's all about improving the relevance and quality of what we teach our population,” Dr Pagelio explains.

Joseph looks forward to driving the process that will give Papua New Guineans a modern and better education system. His main thesis while studying for his doctorate was on leadership and management of education. “I came back with ideas how to improve the department's performance.”

Old Samarai

Valasi (Sparks) Hey was at ASOPA in 1960-61 and later married John Hey (1961-62) with whom I shared a memorable Christmas in Goroka in 1963. Valasi writes: I was fascinated by your descriptions of places on your trip around PNG. You mentioned Samarai and how things were falling to pieces. My rellies lived in the islands from 1912. The following is a description from my mum’s memoirs of Samarai in May 1932.

Samaraiisland "Two days later we approached Samarai having passed through Buna Passage -very rarely attempted by ships and only at high tide. As we approached a rain squall developed and all the people waiting on the wharf disappeared under large black umbrellas. The monthly arrival of the steamer brought all the island's inhabitants down to the wharf. My sister-in-law and her husband Norman Izod, an engineer, were there. Behind them were the houseboys who seized our luggage and followed us up the hill to their home.

“Samarai was very tiny - one could walk around it in 20 minutes, but it rose up into a hill like formation and the houses were spaced round the two hills. There was one wharf for the steamers and two very long narrow wharves stretching out into the ocean, with a small building at the end. The constant stream of natives along this roused my curiosity until Norman told me they were the natives sibodias or 'small houses’.

“There were no vehicles just a pleasant wide path of coral going around the island from which went the paths to various houses. There was a hotel, a bakery, Norman Izod's engineering workshop, the Burns Philp and Steamships Trading Company's stores, a church and a hospital on one of the hills. The hospital was old and antiquated and the floors riddled with white ants.

“My sister-in-law’s garden was a wonderful setting of terraces and she had two garden boys working all the time. She also had a half-caste housegirl called Silitoi who kept the whole place spotless. They had a beautiful home and successful business. My brothers were the first white twins born on Samarai at the end of 1932 - they were premature, not expected to survive, but did.”


I was interviewed this afternoon for Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program [weekdays 5 am, 4 pm and 6 pm] on the contribution to PNG broadcasting of Sam Piniau, OBE, who died at Vunapope Hospital on 20 February aged 68. During the interview, I related an anecdote from my visit to Rabaul last October.

Keith_sam_with_nbc_logo_2 You may recall that, during that visit, I met Sam for the first time in 30 years. He then spent two days guiding Ingrid and me around the Gazelle, including visiting his modest house in Rakatop village in the hills behind Kokopo. As Sam manoeuvred his vehicle gingerly down the gullied clay track into Rakatop, he pointed out his latest project with pride - the power poles were being erected to bring electricity to the village for the first time.

Sam had a lovely sense of humour. As we were driving through the bush not far from Rakatop, he stopped the car and pointed to a spot beside the road. “This is where my people killed and ate the first Christian missionaries from Fiji,” he told me. “It was a very hot day and the Fijians had struggled to the top of this hill. They were plump and glistening with sweat. They looked so good my people just couldn’t help themselves”.

[Photo: Sam and I pose in front of the NBC logo at Radio East New Britain last October. Sam reminded me how we’d designed the logo together over a beer in 1973 and how Hal Holman OAM later made something good and tangible of it.]


The gates of ASOPA will be formally thrown open to visitors for the first time in many years later this month. Ex staff and students of the School have been invited to meet officials of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust at ASOPA and will be able to “wander around the site” afterwards, according to Trust manager Bob Clark.

Asopashft Heritage architects have been invited to tender for work for conservation of the ASOPA buildings. Work will start on implementation as soon as the plan is approved.

The aim of the meeting is to gather details of people who may be able to supply copies of photos, memorabilia and other material and who also may wish to participate in an oral history interview. Ideas for how the site may be used to commemorate ASOPA and its successor institutions will also be discussed.

The meeting will be held in the former Library on the ASOPA campus from 2 - 4 pm on Saturday 31 March. Afternoon tea will be provided. People who are able to attend should contact the Trust booking officer on (02) 8969 2100 or email here by Wednesday 28 March. If you are not able to attend but are interested in providing memorabilia or oral histories at some time in the future, you can email Bob Clark here.


Rabaulmuseum Carolyn Newton and her husband, keen readers of The Mail, were in Rabaul aboard the Oceanic Discoverer at the same time Ingrid and I were there on the Orion last October. Unlike us, though, Carolyn visited the old New Guinea Club museum, where she took the accompanying photo. It commemorates Gough Whitlam’s notorious 1969 visit to Rabaul with an image of the great man and some words of mine crafted for some other occasion. I must say, at the vibrant age of 62, the last thing I expected was to find myself in a museum.


Funny how things happen. Yesterday I attended my first meeting as a committee member of the newly incorporated Matthew Flinders Society. There I met Ray Baker, Melbourne-based sports trainer and remedial masseur who works with, among many others, Aussie Rules teams Carlton and Essendon. Ray is also a direct descendant of Bungaree, the last tribal chief of the Broken Bay Aborigines.

Bungaree2 Now Bungaree’s name may not be well known to you, or even known at all. But it ought to be, because he circumnavigated Australia with Lieutenant Matthew Flinders and the cat, Trim, in that pioneering expedition of 1798, Flinders noting that Bungaree was ‘a worthy and brave fellow’ who, on more than one occasion, saved the expedition. Flinders was the man who coined the name ‘Australia’ and, upon doing so, he is reputed to have told Bungaree that he was “the first Australian”, Flinders himself having been born in England and Trim the cat in South Africa! Bungaree subsequently cut quite a figure around Sydney and was the subject of no less that 17 portraits - including the one here painted in 1826 by Augustus Earle.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie, recognising Bungaree’s courage and worth, gave him some land in the general area of where ASOPA is today. But Bungaree wasn’t much of a farmer, preferring hunting and fishing, and the farm never came to much. But, along with other aspects of Middle Head’s rich history, it remains a substantial part of the Australian story. And yesterday I took Ray Baker across to Mosman in a cab for his first visit to his forbear’s land. I’m glad I did. It was one of those small, important, memorable events.

Georges Ray met with Bob Clark of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust to talk about how Bungaree’s life and times may be marked in the amazing project that is transforming Middle Head, extolling its history and restoring its heritage. The old ASOPA campus is part of this, of course, and that’s why you Sydneysiders and near Sydneysiders should try to make that information day at the School between 2 and 4 pm on Saturday 31 March.

Bob Clark suggests you bring along any old photos and documents that may be relevant to the site, but especially your knowledge of how the place was at various points in its development and how it worked. I’ll see you there.


Scenemh Bob Clark writes: The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is in the process of beginning the adaptive reuse of the ASOPA and adjoining sites. A back to ASOPA afternoon is being held for ex students, teachers and others from 2 -4 pm on Saturday 31 March. The Trust is interested in photos and knowledge of how the site worked and changed over time until its closure. If you can attend you will be most welcome and we would like to collect contact details.

[Photo: Sydney Harbour Federation Trust]


Mail109 The most recent issue of The Mail - in a sparkling new format - has just been published and disseminated by email. The Mail has been produced since the first ASOPA Reunion of the Modern Era at Port Macquarie in 2002. Its purpose was, and remains, to ensure that the bonds of friendship and collegiality that were forged among Cadet Education Officers at ASOPA between the late 1950s and early 1970s - and which tended to lapse thereafter - having now been rebuilt, remain strong.  Your contributions are always welcome and you can send them to me at this email address.


Bain2 Perhaps the most prolific former ASOPA student in terms of sheer weight of published work is Keith Bain (ASOPA 1962-63) who, having made England his home, recently retired from the University of East London. Keith (along with Peter Howells) co-authored no less than nine economics books between 1985 (‘An Introduction to Monetary Economics’) and 2003 (‘Monetary Economics’). That’s one every two years for the statistically inclined. Keith says “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.


Ken Pioneering PNG educational administrator, ASOPA alumni and one of Australia’s most distinguished educators, Prof Ken McKinnon, AO, will be the guest speaker at the October ASOPA reunion in Brisbane.

After attending Adelaide and Queensland universities, Ken decided to head for PNG, completing an ASOPA course from January to April 1954 before arriving in Port Moresby in May that year. He says now: “My Sydney sojourn came after two years at Oodnadatta, so was mostly a time for savouring the offerings of the city - not neglecting ASOPA luminaries such as James McAuley and Camilla Wedgewood.”

At the beginning of 1955 Ken was posted to Samarai as Area Education Officer, the beginning of a stellar career in educational administration. After completing a doctorate at Harvard University, he was appointed PNG Director of Education in 1966, occupying the position until 1973. These were the years of rapid expansion and professionalisation of education in the then Territory as it prepared for Independence in 1975.

C1985unesco_mckinnon_tn After leaving PNG, Ken became the first Chairman of the Australian Schools Commission (1973-81), which had been set up by the Whitlam Government. In 1981 he was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Wollongong University, a position he held until 1995. In this role he was credited with transforming the university into one of Australia’s leading campuses. During this period (1984-88), I served with him on the Australian National Commission for UNESCO when he was Chairman. [Photo: Ken with Gough Whitlam and then education minister Susan Ryan at a national commission meeting.]

Ken, a self-confessed press junkie, is now Chairman of the Australian Press Council, which  adjudicates on complaints from the public about bias and inappropriate publication. “To many individuals the press looms so powerful and so large that they feel the scales seem unequally weighted against them in making comment,” he says.


3578961_firstimageimg_thumb In a condolence message to Mrs Dulcie Piniau and family, Secretary General of the PNG Sports Federation, Sir John N Dawanincura, recalled many good memories spanning some 41 years ago when he and late Sam Piniau first represented PNG in Rugby Union in the South Pacific Games in Noumea in 1966 and again in 1969. He could not recall him playing any other position except hooker both at club and international level.

He became life member of the PNG Sports Federation & Olympic Committee because of his contribution to the organisation. "He was indeed a solid rock (as demonstrated in his rugby days) regardless of the circumstances and I am sure that those who will speak today will pay tribute to a man who was a quiet achiever in his professional and sporting career."

[Source: Papua New Guinea Sports Federation and Olympic Committee]


Afp_logo A deservedly proud Col Booth writes: Wendy and I are just back from Canberra where we were privileged to witness [son] Nigel being presented with two bravery awards: one individual and one as part of a group citation. Both were in connection with his efforts in rescuing Chinese people who were being attacked by the rioters in Honiara last year. It seems that Australia has some sophisticated and dangerous crims on our doorstep.

Battle_of_kukum_highway_200406_2 It was a very impressive investiture: lone piper, flag ceremony, etc. An array of people with chests covered in medals a la Mexican general style. Nigel's award was the highest presented on this occasion. There are only two awards of higher precedence in AFP [Australian Federal Police] circles, and I was told that they are usually reserved for incoming commissioners etc.

[Photo: AFP officers alert and ready for trouble in April last year during ‘The Battle of Kukum Highway’ in Honiara. AFP photo]