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44 posts from September 2007

An unexpected encounter on the banks of the Currambene

I was visiting the NSW south coast for a school reunion last weekend and decided to stay on the shores of Jervis Bay at a guesthouse in the pleasant village of Huskisson. From the mid 19th century until the 1950s, Huskisson, located on a safe anchorage in a region of straight and tall timber, was a thriving boat building community.

Boat_description_2 What I didn’t know until my recent visit was that, in the years before World War 2, local boat builder AW Settree constructed inter-island trading vessels for WR Carpenter & Co, a household name in PNG and the Pacific. The vessel pictured, ‘Desikoko’, was built in Currambene Creek at Huskisson and launched in May 1934. She was 232 tons, made of local wood and 120 feet long. ‘Desikoko’ was towed to Sydney to have her engine installed and then carried a cargo of timber on her maiden voyage from Sydney to PNG.

‘Desikoko’ mostly operated out of Rabaul, sailing around the islands every two or three weeks collecting and discharging copra. In May 1936, she was badly damaged when Vulcan erupted in Simpson Harbour. After fleeing Rabaul through volcanic ash and pumice, she subsequently returned to Sydney under her own steam for repairs.

‘Desikoko’ saw service in World War 2 and then was sold to a ChineseCcurrambene  company and renamed ‘Yua Hwa’. Under the command of a Captain Baldwin, in January 1947 she sailed from Sydney with a cargo of flour. She encountered heavy weather, sprang a leak and, after the engine room flooded, was unable to use the pumps. The pilot boat ‘Birubi’ took her in tow but ‘Yua Hwa’ listed and sank 8 km south of Newcastle on 5 January 1947. The crew abandoned ship and fortunately all survived.

[Lower photo: Currambene Creek enters Jervis Bay at Huskisson. The local boat building industry that produced trading vessels for WR Carpenter was located right here.]

Kiaps gird loins for annual get-together

The annual kiaps reunion at Buddina in Queensland is just around the corner and a call is out for participants. This event commonly attracts around 200 people and the organisers are already up to 100 for this year’s gathering [see their names here], which as usual will be held at Kawana Waters Hotel on Nicklin Way.

The only one I attended two years ago was a great event, especially when combined with a long weekend at nearby Mooloolaba. The reunion is on Sunday 11 November from 11 am and you should contact the organisers Bob Fayle and Denys Faithful if you wish to accept or have any queries about accommodation.

Cats' big day. Dick's big day. Please copy

Geelong. What thoughts does the word conjure up? The Ford factory and Toorak Tractors. The Shell refinery. Jetstar. The Alcoa aluminium plant. Well Richard (Dick) Jones hopes not. He wants you to think feline. C – A – T. Pronounced Geelong.

Richard Quote. “COLIN Rice stands out as one of the greatest rovers and crumbers in post-war Bendigo football. His dominance around the packs, terrific ball-gathering skills and inspiration …..”

Now that is classic Jones. From the capitalised first word and the gritty detail to the energetic rhythm of the prose. Strewn with phrases like “famous red and white Guernsey”, “testament to the champion rover's 25 years”, “promoted to the senior side and never looked back”, “cemented a spot as a VFL star”, and “a driving force in the Bloods' victory”. Pure Jones. Vintage Jones. Dick Jones.

Following the 2005 reunion, Richard was in fine footie fettle when he wrote: “I don’t want to hear one more mention of the Sydney Swans! Dave Kesby was delirious with joy about the Swannies’ success and didn’t want to hear that they had just fallen over the line against Geelong on the last kick of the night.” That’s loyalty.Djones

Diane Bohlen wrote at the time: “Watching Richard meeting and greeting his mates from 43 years ago was a delight. He was so excited. I had to laugh at Judyth saying, “He might be your Dick, but he’s my Richard.”

Now, for the first time in 44 years, not since 1963 when Richard was in his final year at ASOPA, the Cats are back. Can Dick replicate that great grand final day, 44 very long and disappointing seasons ago, when the pussies purred proudly at the peak of footie fame? Tomorrow we know.

Mapping memories we didn’t even know we had

Map I don’t know whether this map is clear enough for you to interpret (just left click on it). But, for all of us who spent time at ASOPA or ITI or whatever they called it later, after the place was defenestrated, this image has significance.

Most of the huts were built in 1941 as an Australian Army Signals camp. What became the Hallstrom Pacific Library and the Principal’s administrative bunker were sleeping huts then. They were placed near the road where, if you’re a bureaucrat, sleeping huts should be. The old common room and canteen, remember those sweeping views across the harbour to Rose Bay, in those days were the signalmens’ camp mess.

The lecture room, where Jean Newcombe struggled to teach us biology, was a workshop. Jean had been naïve (or mischievous) enough to tell us that the Bird of Paradise mates upside down. Whereupon one bright spark interpolated: “Ah, it inverts and multiplies”. To be trumped by another genius: “No, it inverts and inserts”. Mathematics Method never had it so good.

There are battery rooms that became lecture rooms. And latrines that remained toilets. But isn’t it amazing that even a stark map can dredge up the richest of memories?

Behind the Directorate: Kerr on Conlon

When Alf Conlon died in 1961, the mates and colleagues of the man who was ASOPA's progenitor agreed to provide their memories and opinions of him for a book published to mark his career. John Kerr, later Australia's Governor-General, offered this analysis:

Top_hat I think it would be fair to say that the Directorate [of Research and Civil Affairs] really lived on the fringe of the Army, it was not of the Army in any true and deep sense, it was a peripheral institution existing for the purposes of the Commander-in-Chief’s relations and the Army’s relations of a slightly unorthodox character with outside institutions in the country and abroad.

We were then for the first time in history a nation in arms, we had an army which consisted of not just a few divisions in somebody else’s army. There was no Military Board, however, and the Commander-in-Chief felt the need of a group of people to advise him on what were non-orthodox military problems, not merely internally, but in relation to Whitehall, the British Army, and also, as time showed, colonial problems in New Guinea and Borneo and relations with the Americans in Japan and so on.

[General] Blamey was very impressed by Alf [Conlon], relied on him a great deal, and one of the great services he rendered to the General was that he handled his relations with Mr Ward. Ward was at that time Minister for External Territories, and he and General Blamey were, as anyone would know, entirely different people. Alf’s very great skill in handling people made him a very successful middleman, if one could put it that way, between the Minister in charge of the civilian side of New Guinea affairs and the Commander-in-Chief who was responsible for the military occupation of the area.

It has to be appreciated that Alf was a master of talking to people in their own language, and he was in those days a very skilled political realist. He was able to deal with actualities of power and position, and it was quite possible for him at the same time to convince the Minister for Territories that he was mainly concerned, in the exercise of army power, to ensure that a proper policy in relation to New Guinea affairs was evolved and, if possible, begun in army days, whilst at the same time being able to persuade General Blamey that the army wouldn’t suffer by any steps that were taken, but on the contrary would profit, and so would his reputation in the eyes of history.

It has to be appreciated, though it isn’t remembered nowadays, that there had built up around this unconventional idea of the Australian army being headed not by a Military Board, but by a Commander-in-Chief, a very considerable amount of opposition. This opposition was expressed not only in Opposition parties but in the Government parties too, although Blamey had the very strong support throughout of the Prime Minister. But also in the Civil Service during 1943, 1944, and even on into 1945, a considerable attack was mounted on the position of Commander-in-Chief. A great effort was made to have the position abolished and to bring about a reversion to orthodox military organisation.

Conlon played a significant role by way of defence of the office, both on the files and in unorthodox and directly political ways, and in the upshot the office was preserved until the final surrender in Tokyo Bay. General Blamey went up to participate in that surrender, and then he, as it were, laid down his arms, in a letter, which as far as I can recollect was drafted by Alf.

Hot off the press - the great reunion dinner program in full

Asopa_logo In just over two weeks time, the Great ASOPA Reunion Dinner will be held in Brisbane - the centrepiece of a weekend of highlights. As designated MC for this event, I’ve worked with the organising committee to line up an evening’s entertainment to complement the cordon bleu cuisine and the conversation and badinage that will flow like, well, may I offer a metaphor, juice squirting from a ripe grape. Hmmmm.

Sofitel_anzac There will be cocktails from 7 adjacent to Sofitel’s Le Grand Ballroom 3 before the dinner starts at 7.30. Youll be at a table with your ASOPA peers, so there'll be no awkward gaps in the conversation. At 7.45, before the entrée wafts its way into view, Dick Arnold [ASOPA 1960-61] will extend a welcome on behalf of the Brisbane organising committee and Rev Dr Barry Paterson [ASOPA 1962-63] will pay tribute to absent friends and then offer grace.

There will be a break in proceedings to allow the noisy eaters to extinguish their entrée before the next segment begins at about 8.15. This will feature a light-hearted talk on the ASOPA legacy by former PNG Young_ken Director of Education and current Chairman of the Australian Press Council, Prof Ken McKinnon AO [ASOPA 1954]. Dr Clarrie Burke [ASOPA 1958-59] will deliver a message from current PNG Secretary for Education, Dr Joe Pagelio, on the theme of the expatriate legacy in PNG education. Then Gail Burke, author of Meeting the Challenge, a book of teaching reminiscences from pre-Independence PNG, will present a cheque to former Rotary District Governor Henry Bodman [ASOPA 1962-63] to purchase equipment for PNG schools.

As the main course appears and is consumed like there's no tomorrow, a succession of speakers representing ASOPA classes will provide a  glimpse of their groups' character and culture in a segment we’ve called ‘Ours was the year that was’. In order of appearance: Sue Ward Asopacrest [ASOPA 1957-58], Ian Robertson [ASOPA 1958-59], Terry Chapman [ASOPA 1960-61], Val Murphy [ASOPA 1961-62], Richard Jones [ASOPA 1962-63], John Colwell [ASOPA 1966-67] and Robert Egglestone [ASOPA 1968-69].

The formal part of the evening will conclude over dessert with a vote of thanks to the organisers from Col Booth [ASOPA 1962-63], the brains behind the first CEO reunion of the modern era at Port Macquarie in 2002. All this stuff will be over by 9.20, allowing plenty of time for everything else. We think we’ve got a good, vibrant program - loaded with friendship, nostalgia and humour. Something to look forward to; something to remember.

How Charles Rowley nearly missed the ASOPA gig

Maude It was early 1950. Alf Conlon’s principalship of ASOPA had come to a sticky end the previous September and the powers that be were looking for a replacement. They offered the job to Harry Maude.

Henry Evans (Harry) Maude OBE [1906-2006] graduated from Cambridge University with honours in Anthropology in 1928 and immediately nominated the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony as his only choice in the cadetship application he made to the Colonial Administrative Service.

He ended up spending 18 years there, finishing as Resident Commissioner. This included a stint in World War 2 when he was attached to US Naval Intelligence at Pearl Harbour as part of a group whose local knowledge was used to plan the amphibious offensives against the Japanese.

After the war, from 1949-55, he was seconded to the newly formed SouthMaudejph  Pacific Commission and it was during this period he was offered – and rejected – the post of ASOPA Principal, leaving the way clear for Charles Rowley, who took up the job in November 1950.

Maude spent the final years of his working life as Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Pacific History at ANU, where he founded the Journal of Pacific History that continues to this day. He lived a fulllife - he was 100 when he died - and he wrote and mentored young academics all the while.

A little oomp-pah-pah; a big blast for Colin

While shopping in the Brisbane CBD at the weekend, Colin Huggins walked by the yuppified Grand Central Hotel, refurbished, rebranded and re-imaged an entire socio-economic group above its previous persona – the plain vanilla Railway Station Hotel.

A sign on the façade attracted Colin’s attention:Lederhosen  ‘Join us for the Oktoberfest’. Which happens to be the Saturday of the forthcoming ASOPA reunion. On Ann Street, directly below the Sofitel, from noon that day there will be an authentic oomp-pah-pah band belting out German hofbrauhaus songs such as ‘Ver Oh Ver Uscht Mein Lederhosen’ and ‘Konrad Dere’s A Vlei Unt Mein Sauerkraut’.

“The Oktoberfest commences at noon,” says Colin, “but because of the authenticity of the musicians - all in their seventies - oomp-pah-pahing will cease at four. Never mind. There will still be available 22 varieties of Deutsche sausages and 22 varieties of Deutsche lager.”

Colin’s convinced this Oktoberfest gig will continue all day and well into the night so “after the official function when we have to vacate Le Grand Ballroom 3, those who wish to party on can adjourn to this venue. There will be no band - it will be tucked up in bed - but I should think that the oomp-pah-pah will still be going on. Bring your lederhosen and dirndls.”

Brisbane reunion - latest program

ASOPA PEOPLE will publish a final program update on Wednesday 10 October


Airtrain [Airport – Central]. Trains every half hour. Return $22; one way $12. No senior discounts. Electronic Airtrain times at Sofitel and Novotel    

12 noon – Whistle Stop Lunch Early arrivals will meet at the Sofitel Whistle Stop Bar: the best roast in the city    

6 pm – Meet & Greet Class of 1960-61: Novotel pool deck Class of 1962-63: Sofitel Hotel Chez Bar & Bistro Class of 1964-65: Sofitel Hotel Chez Bar & Bistro Others - Choose the Class group you want to be with    

6.30 pm – Meet & Greet Classes of 1968-72: Greek Club, 29-31 Edmondstone Street, West End [opposite Musgrave Park]


10 am – River Cruise Depart Meet in Sofitel lobby. Walk or ride to Riverside Dock

10.30 am – River Cruise Board Lady Brisbane for 2-hr cruise. Renew acquaintances over coffee or a glass of bubbly while taking in the sights of Brisbane. No sharp heels

12.30 pm – South Bank Lunch Explore Brisbane’s playground. Plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars. Many cultural and other attractions. No formal lunch arrangements – make your own plans

7 pm – Pre-Dinner Drinks Outside Sofitel Le Grand Ballroom 3

7.30 pm – Reunion Dinner Sofitel Le Grand Ballroom 3. Dress smart casual. Guest speaker – Prof Ken McKinnon. Brief reminiscences from Class representatives [ladies can dress up]. Function ends at 12 midnight. Chez Bar open until 3 am


Church services Churches of various denominations within easy walking distance of Sofitel and Novotel

11 am – Guided Walk Meet in Sofitel lobby. Judy Duggan will guide you on a scenic walk through the city

Other suggestions • Walk to Riverside and take in the markets • Hop on a CityCat and visit Bulimba; there are many boutique restaurants in Oxford Street just a short walk from the CityCat terminal • If you like walking, there are kilometres of walking tracks along the river edge on both sides • If you like shopping, the CBD is adjacent • Sit in the bar and chat to old mates • Roma Street Gardens well worth seeing

6 pm – Bow Thai Banquet Farewell function. Walk or taxi to restaurant. Enjoy the hospitality and a sumptuous banquet as you say farewell to old friends until next time

Sammy the Puppet gets a hand me up

The September issue of The Mail and its item on inspection reports piqued the interest of pikinini kiap turned tisa, Col Booth, who, you may be alarmed to learn, will have the last word at the Brisbane reunion. My article mentioned the name of the great CE (Charlie) Beresford who inspected Col’s teaching methods, such as they were, at Tavui near Rabaul in 1966.

“Mr Beresford was so taken with taking over my class to show what a beaut teacher he was,” says Col, “that he didn’t have time to look at such mundane things as my actual teaching and whether or not a lesson program existed.

Sammy_the_puppet “He spent the afternoon “shewing the poopils” his special techniques. He dragged out a moth-eaten piece of cloth into which he proceeded to shove his hand. He wrote on the blackboard the words: ‘Sammy the Puppet’.

"To make sure Standard 5 could read this, he went on to spell it out phonetically: ‘Saaaaaar-mi the Pooooooo-pet’, which he repeated a few times for effect. The kids had no idea what he was on about and fell asleep. ‘So much for motivation and the clear pronunciation of the Queen’s English’, I thought.”

Mother of invention, great-grandmother to Finn

Kiss_me_quick Former PNG radio journalist Jane Belfield has in the space of a couple of weeks become a great-grandmother (to Finn Mieke Oltvolgyi, born in Queensland on Monday 10 September) and, under her alter ego Jane Hill, herself created a fourth e-book.

And here’s the sell. Kiss Me Quick (you can purchase and download a copy on the Internet for about two bucks) is a collection of nine short love stories. Infatuation, sexual attraction, passion, fascination, obsession. Cupid’s arrow pierces with fascinating consequences.

Jane (Hill) Belfield lives in Victoria on 10 acres by the sea. She lived and worked in PNG for 25 years and was a radio and print journalist who now writes and edits as a freelancer. Her work has been published and broadcast in several countries. Jane’s first romance novel was King of The Castle, but she’s written many short stories with a girl-meets-boy theme and the best are in her current book book.

By the way, the publisher has given Kiss Me Quick a ‘simmering’ rating. Here’s an excerpt….

They had, of course, gone straight to bed as soon as they'd locked the door of their room. Well, that's what you did on weekends such as this, didn't you? What some people called 'dirty weekends', Elizabeth thought indignantly as she tipped hotel bath salts into the steaming water. There was nothing 'dirty' about what there was between Jack and herself. But, of course, Gerald wouldn't appreciate that. Especially as most of the work he was doing these days was divorce cases.

You can read more from Jane’s books or order a copy for yourself at Alinar Publishing here or at Fictionwise here.

His Excellency looks like a goer for Brisbane reunion

There’s been a startling development involving discussions between Brisbane and Suva. With the reunion just over three weeks away, ‘long lost’ 1962-63 Asopian, Nauruan Kennan Adeang has been located. Ken has been well hidden as Nauru’s High Commissioner to Fiji.

Nauru gained independence in 1968 with Hammer deRoburt as first President. Ken was deRoburt’s great political rival, establishing the opposition Democratic Party of Nauru. While he was to become President three times, Ken served a total of only six weeks in all.

He had deRoburt removed after a vote of no confidence in 1989 as a result of which Ken became Finance Minister. Ken waited ten years to become President the next time, but lasted only three weeks.

David_adeang His Excellency Kennan Ranibok Adeang presented his credentials in Suva in February this year. His son David [pictured], a lawyer and co-founder of the Naoero Amo (Nauru First) Party, is now Nauru’s Foreign Minister.

Now Ken has told Henry Bodman that he will attend next month’s Brisbane reunion, renewing acquaintances that have lapsed for these past 44 years. His presence will certainly add eveb more sparkle to what is already shaping as once in a lifetime event.

The only image of Ken I’ve been able to find is this photo from the 1962 Territory Ball in Sydney. From Asopa63_4   left, the late Mike Hatch, Dennis Burrell, Pam Mahoney (now Kruger) and Kennan .

By the way, you won’t be hearing from me for a couple of days. I’m off to another reunion, this one of 1957 students of my former high school in Nowra. I’m taking along my 94-year old father Stan who was economics and geography master at the time. That’ll surprise ‘em.

The first dismissal: How Kerr got Conlon out of ASOPA

As regular readers will know, on the eve of the greatest ever gathering of former cadet education officers in Brisbane next month, ASOPA PEOPLE has been pursuing the story of Alf Conlon, the erratic genius who conceived the idea of ASOPA and then engineered it into existence.

The saga of Alf Conlon's departure from the School is told in John Kerr's 1978 autobiography, ‘Matters for Judgment’. When he returned to the Sydney bar in 1948, Kerr had handed his Principalship of ASOPA to Conlon, who was at the time fighting a losing battle with Canberra over making the School a research-oriented colonial training college with the status of a university. Conlon was also battling his ASOPA colleagues, who had begun to resent his uncollaborative and even reclusive behaviour. Kerr writes:

“In the end, [James] McCauley led a revolt six weeks or so after Conlon took over. The Portrait_2 Registrar rang me in my chambers, said there was a grave crisis at the school, and asked me to go over. And he meant a crisis, there and then. The staff had had a meeting and had decided that unless Conlon left the School that day they would take some action - I do not think it was actually expressed in the language of a strike; but in reality there was a real risk of teaching ceasing.

“McCauley had delivered Conlon an ultimatum, and the Registrar said Conlon had locked himself in his room and was in a state of profound depression. That day at the School he let me in to see him and I said, “What's it all about, Alf?” “Oh”, he said, “they just ... don’t want me”. And I said, “You really shouldn't be here, Alf. I think you should go back and finish your medicine”.  He said, “I don't want to be thrown out, and I think they mean it. They just won't teach tomorrow”. He suggested he be given six weeks to find a means of rationalising why he was going.

“The tension among the staff was so great it was doubtful whether they would agree to six weeks. I went out to the others and held some negotiations with McCauley. As I remember it, McCauley said, “Well John, he's got to go, physically, now. As far as we're concerned it can appear publicly for six weeks that he’s still Principal but he must not come into the place - he must stay away”. So something along these lines was worked out and Conlon accepted it”.

Alfconlon_2 And so, having been eased out by Kerr, Conlon left ASOPA at the age of 41 to finish his medical degree and ultimately to practice psychiatry – an apt profession you might suppose. After Conlon’s death in 1961, Kerr told an interviewer:

“He was eccentric and unorthodox, and he rubbed a great number of people up the wrong way. He left behind him in Canberra, amongst the bureaucracy, a trail of what one might call oppositionists, and as soon as Alf lost the power he’d got by delegation, Blamey’s power in other words, Canberra … cut itself off from him.”

Colin and the Presbyterian women’s union

My guess, in an earlier post about Ken McKinnon a few days ago, that Kwamalo Kalo was one of the unnamed people pictured at a 1968 senior education officers meeting, stirred up some memories for Colin Huggins.

I met Kwamalo at Dregerhafen. I can't remember whether at that stage he was on staff or was training as an inspector. However I recall inviting him to my humble home for refreshments and dinner in order to display my epicurean brilliance.

The cookbook I used was given to me as a 21st birthday present by staff members of the Girls’ School, Edith Hatt, Judy Peters and Joy Tremayne. The notation inside the book reads, ‘From you know whom and you know why’. I’ve never fathomed out why this was written - was it affection or sarcasm?

I had no idea how to cook and was often seen at meal times wandering the school perimeter in a state of hunger. They must have been sick of so generously sharing their food.

Pwmu_cookbook The book was ‘The Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union of Victoria Cookbook’, first published in 1904; my 1961 second edition indicates it was not a great seller. Naturally the book contains no recipes with any hint of alcohol. I still have it - much the worse for wear - but I always use the batter recipe when making fritters.

Kwamalo was a charming and unassuming person even if I did inadvertently try to poison him with my early culinary efforts.

[Photo: The PMWU Cookbook published its centenary edition (above) in 2004. It is now into its fifth edition, so Colin’s stained and worn old volume has become something of a collector’s item]

Time running out for reunion bookings

Brisbane reunion organisers have set the end of this month as the deadline for Brisbane reunion bookings. By then numbers will need to be confirmed at the range of venues selected for reunion activities. You can contact Colin Huggins at this email for further information. And don't forget Bill Bohlen's excellent reunion website which you can click through to here.

The Program for the weekend of 12-14 October....

FRIDAY 12 OCTOBER   12 noon: Whistle Stop Lunch • Reunionists in Brisbane early before can adjourn to the Sofitel Whistle Stop Bar for the best roast in the city    6 pm: Meet and Greet  • 60/61 at Novotel pool deck area  • 62/63 at Sofitel Chez Bar and Bistro  • 66/67 at Sofitel Chez Bar and Bistro • 68/72 at Greek Club, 29-31 Edmonstone Street, West End • Others - choose the Class group you want to be with

Lady_brisbaneSATURDAY 13 OCTOBER   10 am: River Cruise • Meet in Sofitel lobby at 10 am • Walk or ride to Riverside Dock to board Lady Brisbane for 2 hour cruise of Brisbane River • Time to renew acquaintances over coffee or a glass of bubbly • Take in the sights of Brisbane • No sharp heels please    12.30: Lunch at South Bank • Disembark and explore the delights of South Bank • You will be provided with a map to locate many restaurants and attractions • Visit useful websites here and here  Suggestions • After leaving the boat, walk left along Clem Jones Promenade to the first selection of riverside restaurants • More restaurants along the boardwalk • Alternatively, when you leave the boat, walk from the promenade to the Arbour, a sculptured steel pathway bathed in bougainvillea. You will come to cafes, bars and lifestyle markets • We haven't booked a restaurant for lunch so choose one of the many at South Bank • After lunch, explore the attractions and make your way back to the hotel by CityCat, ferry, bus, train or foot • If you have time, visit the new Gallery of Modern Art by walking along the promenade under the Victoria Bridge past the old Art Gallery and the State Library    7 pm: ASOPA reunion dinner • Meet for pre-dinner cocktails outside Sofitel Le Grand Ballroom 3    7.30 pm: Dinner in Sofitel Le Grand Ballroom 3 • Guest speaker Prof Ken McKinnon, former PNG Director of Education • Brief reminiscences from representatives of each Class • Dress: smart casual [ladies can dress up] • All guests must have left the ballroom by 12 midnight • Chez Bar remains open until 3 am

SUNDAY 14 OCTOBER Churches of various denominations within easy walking distance of Sofitel and Novotel    11 am: Guided walk • Meet Judith Duggan in Sofitel lobby for  guided walk around city    Other suggestions • Walk to Riverside and take in the markets • Hop on a CityCat and visit Bulimba; there are many boutique restaurants in Oxford Street just a short walk from the CityCat terminal • If you like walking, there are kilometres of walking tracks along the river edge on both sides • If you like shopping, the CBD is adjacent • Sit in the bar and chat to old mates • Roma Street Gardens well worth seeing • Other Brisbane attractions on this website    6 pm: Bow Thai Banquet • Walk or taxi to restaurant • Enjoy the hospitality and a sumptuous banquet as you say farewell to old friends until next time

In the beginning: the story of an ASOPA pioneer

In February 1949, Reg Thomson arrived at ASOPA to train to teach in PNG. At the time Alf Conlon was Principal and Camilla Wedgwood lectured on anthropology and education. Reg writes of his experiences at the School in a chapter of an unpublished manuscript, ‘Looking For A Good Book’. Reg, who’s now pushing 90, lives on the Gold Coast.

I've just read the ASOPA chapter and was thrilled to get a first hand account of the School's early days. Reg was there when Conlon was squeezed out by James MacAuley and other staff, with John Kerr organising the exit strategy (reminded me of 1975). Fascinating stuff. When I get approval from Reg I’ll run extracts in ASOPA PEOPLE and The Mail – but here’s a foretaste.

“The student body was made up of five other aspiring Education Officers, 14 serving officers of the Department of Native Affairs in their second year of a two-year Diploma Course, and three young Forestry Officers. Most of us were billeted in Army huts at Middle Head. Alf took no part in the teaching.

Camillawedgewood “The education group had the Honourable Camilla Wedgwood as its guide and friend. A daughter of Lord Wedgwood, the pottery king, she wore her ‘Honourable’ very casually, rolling her own cigarettes and showing a good length of bloomer when hopping over her window sill as a short cut into her room. She was no beauty but her rugged features lit up when she smiled, which was often. She was kind, helpful, and erudite.

“Her special interest in native education led to her becoming a main contender for the job of Director of Education in Papua New Guinea, which eventually went to Bill Groves, who had taught in Rabaul before the war and written a book on his plans for education in Papua New Guinea. Bill had spent the war years as a Major in the Army Education Unit, holding an Honours Degree in Anthropology from Melbourne University.

“Our course was centred on comparative studies of education in the colonies of the world, social anthropology, the geography, flora and fauna of Papua New Guinea, colonial administration, language studies, and the techniques of communication.

“My group were all trained teachers, which caused me some concern over the direction I was heading. At Camilla's suggestion I wrote to Bill Groves, pointing out I was not a teacher, although I felt I had something to offer the country. He, in turn spoke to Colonel Murray, the Administrator, who agreed there was room in Papua New Guinea for a person with my interests, directing that a special position of Senior Welfare Officer be created.”

School’s philosophy turned war orientation to welfare

In the first issue of Vortex magazine, published in 1962 as an initiative of the ASOPA Class of 1962-63, Principal Charles Rowley reflected on the educational philosophy that had underpinned the School’s early years.

Charlesrowley2 “Nearly all the students of the early fifties were ex-servicemen. Many had served in the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit, which controlled the destinies of New Guineans during the war; it had been concerned mainly with winning the war, and welfare was secondary. Thus in our courses we tried to provoke students to re-think conclusions which they had formed of the proper role of the Australians in New Guinea.

“Though most of them were mature men, this chance to get them thinking in the ‘long course’ (then a solid two years) seems to have paid off. For they had been well chosen; and their work was of high standard.

“Some of them came with reluctance into studies which, according to the accusations of some of the older ‘practical’ men of the Pacific, were guided by a group of impractical ‘long-haired theorists’; but for a long time now they have been basing routine day-to-day decisions on principles which it was necessary to emphasise ten years ago.”

E-Courser blogs account of Aussie life

Kev_lock_arehava_62 Kevin Lock, who completed the second E Course in 1961, and served at schools in the Gulf, Madang and Sepik, authors – with wife Joan – a tremendous blog called ‘Lock family Ramblings’, subtitled ‘Perspectives on the happenings in our days and weeks’.

The blog is the compelling and gritty story of a typical Aussie household – an open and revealing account of the triumphs, dramas and everyday challenges of lives lived to the full. Try this for size….

“I have spent a couple of hours at my brother's place and I am a bit pissed! We tried to consume a couple of whites and were quite successful. One was a French white and at $8 it was a good start to the day. Can't remember what it was all about but I am sitting at the computer waffling on. Ouch! I just fell asleep and head touched the keyboard, so goodbye!”

The blog also includes a few anecdotes of Kev’s PNG years, which are related with fondness and a warm nostalgia.

Taa_catalina_kerema_bay_1963 “I remember the Catalina fondly as I had a number of flights in them when I taught in the Gulf of Papua. In the early 60s there were no airstrips in most of coastal Papua and TAA operated two or three (Catalinas) to outstations. I recall one trip to Port Moresby with around 20 passengers and their luggage. The Cat made a ten-minute run out to sea before bouncing off a wave and gradually climbing to height. They were very noisy as there was no sound insulation and the two huge radial engines were only half a propeller’s distance from the passengers. The co-pilot informed passengers of features below by passing a card message back which, when read, was passed to the next passenger.”

You can visit Kev and Joan’s blog here.  I think you'll enjoy it.

[Photos from Kevin Lock’s collection. [1] Kev Lock and schoolboys, Arehava, 1962 [2] TAA Catalina in Kerema Bay awaiting passengers arriving by barge, 1963]

Two names, two snaps, two vibrant memories

I first encountered Pat Dwyer (ASOPA 1956 and 1960) in the Chimbu in 1964 when he was pushing a pedometer from Kundiawa to Chuave. He was a kiap and was extinguishing a minor punishment for some trivial infraction of Kiap Rules. Pat later married one of the belles of 1962-63, Margaret McKenna, but, unlike Margaret, won’t be attending the Brisbane reunion because he claims to “have a dog and seven grandchildren to care for”. We correspond from time to time and I see him on those rare occasions I’m in Perth.

Leafing through the September Mail, Pat came upon two names that summoned up vivid memories and two fading Box Brownie photographs. Let Pat take over the story…..

Bogged_1957 Bogged. Early 1957. My first venture into the jungles of darkest Papua. I was a clerk at Education HQ in Konedobu and my boss was Dick Ralph, father of Margaret Lyons. Centre with the macho stance is Clarrie Burke (ASOPA 1958-59), then junior clerk at District Education Office, Port Moresby. Clarrie was returning a teacher to Tubusereia. The teacher had been chased out of the village by his wife for fornicating with a Standard 6 girl (or maybe a big Standard 4) and had sought the DEO’s assistance. We didn’t get to Tubusereia. The road was too boggy. I think Clarrie sent the teacher on to face the music by himself.

Moresby_piss_up Socialising. Early 1957. Piss-up in Moresby. Bill Connelly (Forestry) and John ‘Grog’ Groenewegen (ASOPA 1958-59), failed university student. Grog was a member of a group of uni students sent to Moresby at taxpayers’ expense with the idea of conning them into the colonial service. Fellow tourists included a smart arse ex quiz kid and later TV guru, who was deported for misuse of a firearm; an Anglican fundamentalist from Sydney (no drink, no smoke, no dance, no fornicate), who was seduced by a Jewish lass at the Boroko pub and later became a missionary in Japan; and a serious young man and later PNG judge, Bob O’Regan.

Can Grog still remember the words of “the burden, the burden, the white man’s burden in Pa-pu-a” – composed by one of his group and sung ad nauseam in the Boroko pub? Grog stayed on as an Education Department clerk before attending ASOPA to train as a CEO. I last saw him as a serious teacher in Goroka about 1961.

Ken McKinnon looking forward to ‘epic’ reunion

“This looks as if it is developing as a meeting of epic proportions, sufficiently awesome to make me nervous,” Ken McKinnon says of the reunion as we discuss his presentation to the Grand Reunion Dinner. Ken began working on his talk a couple of weeks ago “but it is hard to stop the flow of memories of PNG, so it got far too long.” As a result Ken’s decided to speak as the mood and the moment dictate.

Balimo_longhaus_57 In exchanging emails about such matters, Ken provided me with some rare photographs of some of his PNG experiences and I’d like to share these with you. The first is from fifty years ago, 1957, when Ken had been in the Territory for some three years and was posted as District Education Officer, Western District. Here he stands in front of a long house at Balimo, a dwelling accommodating about 600 people. Senior_ed_madang_68_4

This next shot is of a 1968 meeting in Madang of all the senior officers in the Department of Education.  I don’t know whether the guy holding the chart is Kwamalo Kalo, but it sure looks like him. Some of you may be able to help out on this and the other characters in the photo.

Ed_gazette_leaving_png The final exhibit here is the spoof cover of a special Education Gazette published to mark Ken’s departure from PNG in August 1973 when he moved to Australia to establish the Schools Commission. Ken says it was produced by “some irreverent people, no doubt ex-ASOPA folk”.

Catch up on all reunion information and the laughing crocodile at Bill Bohlen’s website here.

Mrs Murphy’s little boy is on the way

He’s coming from the west to an ASOPA reunion for the second time this year, and he’s coming with attitude. Val Murphy has anointed his time at ASOPA in 1961-62 as the ‘classic years’; which, by inference, all the other years were not: a point I feel sure Val will argue with his usual pugnacity and sly wit at every opportunity.

Val_murphyWriting about a famous rugby league match at ASOPA in 1962, Richard Jones nominated as one of the game’s highlights “the fortitude shown by Val Murphy who stood up to a lot of tough punishment but gave as good as he got”. Val’s generally robust approach to life was also summed up in the accompanying Sivijs caricature from the same year.

In 1990 Val became the first lay Principal of the Perth inner city Aranmore Catholic College, run by the Australian Institute of the Sisters of Mercy and one of the most culturally diverse schools in Western Australia.

Now freed up from the Principal’s job, Val this year has taken on the position of operations coordinator of the Western Australian Rugby League, which involves overseeing the local competition and ensuring the game is run professionally. Val is a life member of WARL and his history with the sport has included managing and coaching WA state teams, service on the judiciary panel, chairman of selectors and ground announcer at feature games.

Val will be speaking on behalf of the Class of 61-62 at next month’s Brisbane reunion. I’m sure his presentation will be awesome.

[Cartoon: ‘Mrs Murphy’s little boy Valmore’ by Georg Sivijs, ‘Vortex’ magazine, 1962]

Early reunionistas can gather at the Whistle Stop

There hasn’t been a tragedy quite like it since the great ASOPA fire of 1969 that destroyed all the records relating to the establishment and operations of the original Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs. Colin ‘Cuddles’ Huggins has lost his list.

The list in question contained the names of all the good folk who had advised him they’d be attending the pre-reunion lunch. Now Colin wants to reconstitute the list for the lunch, which will be held in a rolling fashion from 12 noon on Friday 12 October at the Sofitel Whistle Stop Bar, where Colin claims you can tuck into “the best roast in the city”.

Whistle_stop_bar_colin_josephineThe lunch will especially suit people who arrive early and can’t wait to see what havoc the years have wreaked on their erstwhile colleagues. So if you think you’ll be there, email Colin here and let him know.

By the way, Bill and Diane Bohlen have put together a cornucopia of reunion information at a special website here.

[Photo: Colin and Josephine Arnold give the Whistle Stop the once over]

Life wasn't meant to be easily bilious

[The editor, on behalf of the Brisbane reunion organising committee, sincerely apologises to Malcolm, Memphis and any missing trousers for a headline in appallingly bad taste.]

Bill_jade_henry_jo_diane_colin_di_3There was a meeting. A luncheon meeting at Chez Sofitel. Bodman was there. So too Dick and Josephine Arnold, and Diane and Bill Bohlen. And Huggins, of course. So was Jade Thompson from the Sofitel.

Food was on the agenda. First the banquet menu, as approved by the chef. If you have dietary problems, or expect to have dietary problems, or would like to have dietary problems, contact your Table Captain, and then contact Colin Huggins right here, because the TC will be thoroughly bemused by all of this.

Jade informed the group, early, while it was still alert, that the Sofitel employs 30 chefs under the guidance of an ex-Waldorf Astoria main chef who, to the delight of Bill Bohlen, is Swiss. Expect cheese, mountain goat and alpenhorn on the menu.

Interesting snippet: the Sofitel has bestowed upon Huggins the honorific of ‘Technical Director and Producer’. So be afraid.

Henry_jadeHenry believes he has the souvenir program well under control. Put it this way.  If you now have a mental image of a 50 tonne souvenir panda crushing a moustachioed ex teacher and entrepreneur, it’s a fantasy and you’re on drugs.

Let's turn to hotel security. (1) It exists. (2) It has not yet been subjected to The Chaser. (3) It is a far cry from the days when we were students. (4) You can only access your booked floor. Interesting snippet: Sofitel staff have their hands x-rayed for access to their offices. (I had my abdomen x-rayed a fortnight ago and no one will let me  anywhere.)

Dick_arnoldSouvenir polo shirt. This is important and you need to know that. I don’t know why. Perhaps because you can wear it. But bring money with you anyway. I'm told that's quite vital.

Further interesting snippet: Dianne: “Colin, what will we do after the reunion is over?” Colin: “I don't ever want to see a list of names again”. Colin Francis Huggins, you are a list of names!

How ASOPA nearly didn’t happen

Portrait Anyone who regularly reads ASOPA PEOPLE will know that John Kerr, the Australian Governor-General who engineered the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975, was the first Principal of ASOPA when it received its letters patent 60 years ago. Kerr had earlier been the second-in-command and confidante of Colonel Alf Conlon, who conceived ASOPA and proceeded to wheel and deal so the idea would be realised. You may also recall that Conlon was the second, and according to one of his contemporaries, an unhappy Principal of ASOPA.

The organisation that preceded ASOPA was the School of Civil Affairs, and the organisation that preceded it was the Army Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs. Each was a Conlon creation. But it all nearly didn’t happen. Here, in John Kerr’s words, is the story.

“Alf had me drafted into his research unit, which was established about the time when General Blamey became Commander-in-Chief in the earlier part of 1942.

“In 1942 there was a constant fear of Japanese invasion, and it was one of the army’s problems to consider what should be done about areas that conceivably might be cut off from control by constitutional authorities. One of Alf’s first tasks was to apply himself to this problem, and a detailed plan with draft regulations was drawn up. Of course, fortunately, it was never necessary to establish a system of regional control of a revolutionary constitutional character in Australia because after the Battle of the Coral Sea the whole thing disappeared as a real practical problem.

“Anyhow, the research unit did work of that kind, but it remained a small body until Blamey started to find his feet as Commander-in-Chief. One of the relatively early things Blamey did was to send General Stantke to the Queensland lines of communication area and replace him by General Lloyd as Adjutant-General. General Lloyd was a totally unsympathetic character so far as Conlon was concerned. Lloyd was disposed I think to disband the unit altogether, or to sidetrack it into some relatively unimportant position where it could do its thinking in a way that wouldn’t embarrass him. Some of the people in the unit were actually demobilised at that stage.

“But Alf, who was developing very great skills indeed in influencing people, was not daunted by the prospect of impressing Blamey, and this he did, I think, partly with the help of Brigadier Gorman – Eugene Gorman QC, of Melbourne – who was very close to Blamey. Alf knew Gorman well, and the upshot of it was that Blamey, so far from disbanding this little unit, decided to make it his own, put it on his own staff and converted it into the Army Directorate of Research, which afterwards became the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs.”

[From a collection of memoirs published by Conlon’s friends and colleagues after his death in 1961]

J K Murray

Murray_1954 Sir Jack Keith Murray OBE [1889-1979] was an agriculturalist, a soldier and an administrator – and he excelled in every field. His parents separated when he was two and his mother supported him by working as a domestic servant. Murray later wrote he found it 'impossible to pay an adequate tribute to her'. His mother saved the money that enabled him to enter St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, in 1904.

He graduated from Sydney University just after the start of World War 1 with a BScAgr, BA and, after service with the Sydney University Scouts, a diploma of military science. In 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and, after service in France and post-war agricultural studies, he was demobilised in 1920.

In 1923 he became principal of the Queensland Agricultural High School at Gatton and later took up a concurrent appointment as foundation professor of agriculture at the University of Queensland. Gatton, severely run down, was transformed under his direction and Murray became a leading figure in Queensland affairs.

In 1940, at the age of 51, he rejoined the Army as Colonel and was given command of the 25th Battalion, Darling Downs Regiment, spending the next three years administering army training establishments. He looked the part: fit, wiry, of middle height and upright bearing. He wore a full moustache, clipped at the ends.

In February 1944, Alf Conlon appointed Murray as chief instructor at the School of Civil Affairs in Canberra, the precursor to ASOPA, where he trained personnel to administer Australia's territories. As PNG returned to civil control after the war, Minister for External Territories Eddie Ward wanted an Administrator who would pursue his reformist aims for the territory. Murray was sworn in on 16 October 1945.

Murray dealt with problems of reconstruction, paying special attention to the plight of the people in villages devastated by war. Each year he spent months visiting outlying districts, talking with village leaders and missionaries, encouraging his staff, and restoring confidence in the Australian administration. He obtained from Canberra neither policy direction nor decisions. He believed action could best be taken in Port Moresby.

In pursuit of a 'new deal' for Papuans and New Guineans, Murray supervised the establishment of village courts, village councils, cooperative societies, extension courses in agriculture, aid posts, training of indigenous medical officers and orderlies, and moved the workforce from an indenture system to one of free labour. The local white establishment found Murray's attitude to Papua New Guineans scandalous. When the Murrays invited Papuans to functions at Government House, whites boycotted them and Murray was dubbed 'Kanaka Jack'.

As a Labor appointee, Murray was regarded with suspicion when Robert Menzies was elected in 1949. A major rift occurred in 1950 when Murray disagreed with an order from Canberra that Papua New Guineans should not speak directly to a visiting mission from the United Nations. In 1952, new Territories Minister Paul Hasluck dismissed Murray, not offering him the opportunity to retire or resign, and replaced him with Liberal Party operative Donald Cleland.

Murray lived in retirement at St Lucia, Brisbane. He was a member (1953-68) of the senate of the University of Queensland. In 1959 he was appointed OBE and he was knighted in 1978. He died on 10 December 1979 at Jindalee.

JK Murray focused and epitomised reform in postwar PNG. While he was Administrator, change was the central issue. By the time he was removed from office, the pattern had been set, and the best policies of the following decades flowed from those he had supported and proposed.

[Source: Brian Jinks, 'Murray, Sir Jack Keith (1889 - 1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000]

Of DC's daughters and DC raincoats

David Westover broke a lot of hearts at ASOPA when he married Lorraine Bell (who remains the first Mrs Westover). David is a quiet and unassuming a bloke, a real solid citizen, who sails his “very fat” (as Lorraine calls it) 42 ft ketch Moana solo when he can’t get crew. After ASOPA he went on to executive education positions in the Northern Territory and South Australia and was Director of Education in Nauru for a period. When David turned up for the CEO’s course at ASOPA in 1962-63, he’d been there five years before. But David can tell the story.

“I first attended ASOPA in 1957 as part of a short orientation program for service in PNG. The program was split between Mosman and Moresby and was intended mainly to reduce the effect of culture shock.

"The lectures at ASOPA introduced us to place names like Mount Hagen and Green River and to personalities like the Morobe District Commissioner Horrie Niall and Jim McAdam, famed for his exploits as a coastwatcher and my boss in the Forestry Department until his untimely death in Queensland while on leave. Later, in PNG, it wasn’t DC Niall who made the impression on the young fellows but his daughter, Lois.

Dc4_mascot “We flew to Moresby for the first time in a DC4, which remains the only time I’ve been issued with a raincoat on an aircraft. The plane passed through heavy storm activity off the north Queensland coast – and leaked so much so the hostess felt these young characters up in first class should have some protection.”

David’s full story, and some of his original 1950s PNG photos, in a future Mail.

Collector’s item will be reunion dividend

Bodman Henry Bodman may be, in his own words, “a bit flustered at the moment” as Brisbane planning hits the final furlong, but one of the many projects he’s working on looks like being a beauty. It's billed at present under the working title, ‘The Souvenir Program’, which, under a much sexier brand, will be sold to reunionistas for a modest price in order to cover production costs.

Amongst many other features, the program will include the full no-holds-barred story of how ASOPA came into being – a fascinating yarn of intrigue and outrage at the batch of civilians who, without any military experience, were made half Colonels in a unit that was one of the cushiest little numbers in World War 2.

Dr Dick Pearse, former ASOPA education lecturer, looks at the institution from a staff perspective; there’s a profile of Ken McKinnon’s splendid career from Oodnadatta school teacher to chairman of the Press Council via a little gig in PNG; ‘We came from far and wide’ looks at the many roads that led to Brisvegas tonight; ‘Ours was the year that was’ is seeking to provide a complete list for each ASOPA class (a wonderful and complex research project in itself) and, the real highlight, the story of each Class – as Henry puts it “a study in contrasting approaches”.

There will also be a full program of the night’s festivities. In all, a feast of reading for anyone who was at ASOPA or is interested in its era. Onya, Henry, yours is really a very significant project.

Download your own Cadet Education Officers' Certificate

I don't know what happened to your ASOPA certificate. Maybe it got eaten by cockroaches during that horror posting on the coast. Maybe your spouse got custody of it after your first divorce. Maybe you donated it as a raffle prize  at a fundraiser for the One Australia candidate for Palm Island.

There are many threats that can overwhelm a proud old certificate over a period of forty years. But never fear.  As a bold experiment in the applications of the Internet, ASOPA PEOPLE is pleased to offer you the opportunity to download a replacement Cadet Education Officers' Certificate.  Download asopa_certificate.doc   Complete it at your leisure. Hang it on your wall. Admire it with teary pride.

Ida Leeson

Ida_leesonc1932 Ida Emily Leeson [1885-1964] attended Sydney Girls High and Sydney University, graduating with a BA in 1906 and finding a job as a library assistant. In 1909 she transferred to the Mitchell Library and by 1919 occupied one of the Library's senior positions, principal accessions officer. Over this period she developed a great interest in Australian and Pacific materials. In 1927, during a visit to Britain, she discovered, in the Public Record Office, the missing third volume of Matthew Flinders’ 1801-08 log.

In 1932 Ida Leeson became the first woman to be appointed Mitchell Librarian, but only after a public controversy about whether it was appropriate to appoint a female to such a senior position. The trustees reorganised the library's senior management, reducing the status and salary of the Librarian - a move criticised in vain by feminists such as Jessie Street.

Under Ida Leeson's direction the Mitchell Library consolidated its position as the pre-eminent repository of Australian and Pacific documents. Numerous important collections were acquired and the library's role expanded. During World War 2, while regular library services were curtailed, the establishment of General MacArthur's headquarters in Melbourne in 1942 led to frequent requests of the library for intelligence information about the Pacific. Ida Leeson was the right person to go to.

In April 1944 Alf Conlon secured her secondment as a research officer in ASOPA’s predecessor, the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs. As Major Leeson she became a key member of Conlon's team which included people like John Kerr, James McAuley and JK Murray. Later she referred to Conlon as a “life-changer”. She did not return to the Mitchell after the war, preferring instead to become the first ASOPA librarian. In 1949 she moved to the South Pacific Commission where she worked until 1956.

Leeson_book Ida Leeson was a diminutive and forceful person who resisted easy classification. She became a trailblazer for women and for librarians and was a champion of the lively literary culture of Australia in the 1930s and 1940s. She was a close friend of Walter Burley Griffin and for some time Ida and her partner Florence Birch lived as part of the Griffins’ bohemian enclave in Castlecrag.

In her later years Ida Leeson continued to research for universities and other bodies and was generous with advice and assistance. She died on 22 January 1964.

Sources: [1] Baiba Berzins, Australian Dictionary of Biography’, vol 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986. [2] Sylvia Martin, ‘Ida Leeson: A Life’, Allen and Unwin, 2006

Australia-PNG hostilities thaw

The captains and the kings have departed from Sydney, the barbed wire fences are being dragged down and sanity is slowly returning to this great city (with the possible exception of the police force, who’s efforts to talk up violence were certifiable).

Sam_abal But the unexpected good news from this bizarre week is the reported easing of the hostile relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, has agreed with his PNG counterpart, Sam Abal [left], to resume annual ministerial talks that were cancelled when relations between the two countries went into a nose dive last year. Among other things, the verbal hostilities led to development cooperation being slowed.

The Sydney Morning Herald says Sam Abal last night remarked pointedly that he was not “into discussing issues through the media which can be quite distractive”. This referred to public criticism by Downer and John Howard of PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, over the Julian Moti affair, still; a matter of great controversy in PNG. Australia is expected to continue to seek the public release of the PNG report which implicated Sir Michael in the operation to get Moti out of the country. Although Somare stood beside Howard during APEC’s final photo shoot, the two did not hold discussions during APEC.

Coincidentally, I was having lunch with two senior Liberals a couple of weeks ago and they commented that Downer’s performance as Foreign Minister had been “outstanding”. “I won’t enter that debate,” I replied,”except to mention that in our own neighbourhood, the South Pacific, it’s been pathetic”.

Were the first CEOs chucked out of Bathurst?


Did ASOPA education cadets end up at Middle Head in 1958 because they proved too much of a handful for the Bathurst Teachers’ College authorities? This fascinating question has emerged from an article written by Sue Ward, who will be the only original trainee teacher at ASOPA to attend next month’s Brisbane reunion.

The 19-strong Class of 1957-58 spent its first year at Bathurst and was summarily despatched to Mosman for the second year in circumstances that were rushed; embarking upon an academic program that appeared to be hastily thrown together.

Each member of the Class who arrived at Bathurst in January 1957 had been hand-picked by Bill Groves, then PNG Director of Education, who was one of the group that hatched the idea of universal primary education in PNG.

“We were found to have the required nous and spirit of adventure, a prerequisite for the job,” says Sue. “But these very qualities were to be held very much against us in our first year at Bathurst.”

Groves had done well. It was a brilliant group of students. Dawn Young was dux of the year – and the other 18 cadets finished in top 25 of this large teacher training institution. The cadets also ran the most significant college clubs - literature, theatre, sport and religion. The group also recorded the highest marks in practical teaching assignments.

“But most of all,” says Sue, “we received an allowance, which allowed the boys to have a couple of beers and smoke, and others to dine every Saturday night at the Continental, a wonderful Italian restaurant.”

None of this would have gone down well with the teacher training authorities at the time, stern and authoritarian figures used to dealing with docile kids just out of high school, not mature adults preparing to take on the difficult challenges of New Guinea.

Seemingly at the behest of Principal LJ Allen, the cadets were expelled from the college en masse at the end of 1957 and sent to ASOPA for their second year. And, when they reached the old Army huts on Middle Head, they found an institution pitifully ill-prepared for their arrival.

Sue Ward's story of the first education cadets to be trained at ASOPA is one of enthralling incident and absorbing insight. You will be able to read her account in the souvenir program being produced for the Brisbane reunion and also in an interview I did with Sue for the next issue of The Mail.

The chalkie diaspora grows, and grows

Some overdue housekeeping on The Mail’s database today – it's been growing like a reverse mortgage - and some interesting (if you’re easily amused) statistics. Most importantly, the newsletter now emails to 190 people and Cobb’n’Co’s to another seven, 160 of whom are former ASOPA cadet education officers.

Things took off this year when the organisers made a bold and far-sighted decision to involve as many former ASOPA chalkies as wanted to show up at the Brisbane reunion. The result has been a resurgence of interest in ASOPA, and particularly in the relationships that developed at Middle Head in the fifties and sixties.

The best Class representations on The Mail’s distribution list are 1962-63 (39), 1961-62 (31), 1964-65 (29) and 1960-61 (27). We’re not in touch with anyone from 1967-68, 1970-71 or 1971-72 but other Class numbers are also low.

By the time the reunion comes around, we’ll be up to Mail 116, but if you include the first effort before the first 1962-63 reunion – called Vintage, which ran to 26 issues – 142 newsletters have been published since early 2002.

ASOPA PEOPLE is also turning in some useful numbers. Most days range from 40-100 visits when I post regularly. The hits drop to 20-40 when I don’t. Yesterday, for example, we had about 80 visits, but I’d been posting like a man with six letterboxes.

Sp_green If you know someone who might appreciate being added to The Mail’s distribution list, send me a note by clicking here. Also ask them if they’ve caught the blog recently.

I’m awarding myself a greenie because all this adding up's tiring.

Tee-shirt model caught in flagrante

Dick_arnold In the marketing game, there’s a long tradition of industrial espionage. Unveiling your competitors’ new model car before it’s officially launched. Stealing the chemical composition of the latest hair restoration therapy before Shane Warne’s had a chance to use it. And, of course, obtaining that furtive snap of the new season’s fashion item.

And, readers, we have that snap. The image is in our possession. We have it before You Tube. Before Kevin Rudd has announced it (in Mandarin). Before Johnny Howard has had a chance to intervene in it. But the exposé does not come without an attendant difficulty.

If I can put it plainly, the critical problem that ubermodel Dick Arnold has is this. Now the new vogue has been so cruelly revealed on a global basis going forward at this point in time, everyone will want it, they will want it NOW and they will want Dick to showcase it. No one else will do. He’s the man. We want him to strut his stuff.

I fear the organisers have bitten off far more than they can masticate with this one.

Organisers get down to business

Organisers_9 It’s good to see the true traditions of ASOPA being maintained. And, as this candid shot shows, they are being maintained ferociously at reunion organising committee meetings. I need not remind readers that it is a strategic verity that any objective will be attained more expeditiously with many bottles of wine of both hues and a table groaning with seafood.

When we speak of maintaining traditions, of course, we go as far back as the Great Paediatrician of ASOPA, Dr Alf Conlon. As Peter Ryan writes of the Colonel whose steely determination brought ASOPA into this world: “Quite unconcerned by personal appearance, when he put on uniform he cut a most unmilitary figure. He smoked, drank and ate liberally, avoided fresh air and shunned exercise; he declared that he was not interested in a long life, and he did not have one.”

Billy Welbourne chuckles into the camera as Bodman removes the succulent flesh of the prawn in three easy strokes and Huggins searches amongst seafood detritus and empty bottles for a lost list. Men who, contrary to the Conlonian philosophy, are interested in a long life and are making sure it’s a good one.

Dorothy Shineberg

Shineberg Professor Dorothy Shineberg [1927–2004] was a legend among Pacific historians, described as “wise, humane and sagacious” and “an ornament to the discipline”. She wrote They Came for Sandalwood (1967), the pioneering and definitive account of the 19th century sandalwood trade in Melanesia, and in retirement completed her long project The People Trade, a sharply focused study of imported Pacific Island labourers in New Caledonia.

After graduating from Melbourne University she was recruited by Alf Conlon in 1948 to join the staff of ASOPA, where she taught Pacific History, hitherto an unknown discipline. Her subsequent teaching career spanned four decades mainly at ANU where she developed the first stand-alone university course in Pacific History.

They Came for Sandalwood is the work for which Dorothy Shineberg will be best remembered. It was original in presenting history in a way that incorporated Melanesian perceptions, while at the same time avoiding a romanticised view of Melanesian culture. It also set a standard for close, documentary research - not always easy in the investigation of the activities of nineteenth century Pacific traders.

To her lasting regret, Dr Shineberg was never appointed to a permanent research position at ANU. It was the tragedy of her professional life, a tremendous disappointment to her and a loss to scholarship. She was channelled instead into undergraduate teaching, which she did remarkably well. She would have been the first to admit that she was not a flamboyant or entertaining lecturer. But what was lacking in presentation was made up for in careful preparation. Her reputation as teacher was widely bruited by her students; and her Head of Department (Manning Clark) spoke for everyone with the observation that she ‘brought grace and wisdom to the teaching of Pacific history’. The self-reliance that her mother instilled carried over into her teaching: she expected her students to show initiative as well as enthusiasm, and took early retirement when they started asking for a bunch of photocopied articles as a substitute for their own research.

Dorothy Shineberg once said that she felt fortunate in having all her life known so many interesting people. She herself was intensely interesting and very good company, noted among other things for her robust sense of humour. There were other sides to her life besides being an academic historian, including an informed appreciation of classical music. Like many academics from Melbourne she was passionate about her football club (Collingwood). She was an equally ardent, and knowledgeable, follower of the Australian cricket team, although disliking the boorishness of some of the players. Not least were her concern for social justice, a product of her precarious upbringing, and her love for her family. She was described as a lioness—‘and no lioness,’ said her daughter Susan, ‘defended her cubs more fiercely’.

[Source: Obituary by Doug Munro, The Journal of Pacific Studies, vol 27 no 2, 2004]

Read Dorothy Shineberg's account of how she landed at ASOPA in the latest Mail, out today

The Mail has escaped

115blog_1 The 115th issue of the ASOPA chalkies newsletter has winged its way to 150 inboxes around the world. It contains the usual Toktok Gris and lots of news stories - ‘One of our DC3s has been found’, ‘Find your inspection report’, ‘Somare edict grounds Dr Joe’, ‘The dominie of Beeps’ and more. There are some first rate features: a wonderful autobiographical piece by Denis Murrell and the first person story of how Professor Dorothy Shineberg came to ASOPA in 1947 and proceeded to found the discipline of Pacific History. There’s also Brisbane notebook and a surprise ending. Email me here to get on the mailing list today.

This was the beginning, such a good beginning

Rob Dehaan, on the yacht Arita, wrote the following – and more – for his erstwhile ASOPA classmates. ASOPA PEOPLE reproduces this small slice of Rob's wonderfully crafted prose. It really deserves to be shared.

Streetsign It was only yesterday I walked into the common room at ASOPA between lectures to see Haggis and his clan playing cards on that low coffee table as they always did, laughing and joking. During the lunch break I walked down the road past the Navy barracks to sit on the edge of the Hawkesbury sandstone cliffs overlooking the breakers, marvelling at the power of the ocean as the waves bombarded Middle Head.

It was only yesterday, my head still in the clouds and dreaming of the wild places I’d see in New Guinea. I’d always wanted to go to New Guinea, as my dux book prize at my high school graduation in Wollongong attests. You know that book, the one by Colin Simpson, Plumes and Arrows, full of feathered highlanders. Magic colour with none of the odour. I was wrapped before I attended even my first lecture in Anthropology.

It was only yesterday I’d jump in my car with the last lecture done and head to Balmoral and Walton’s boatshed and rent a Tupperware sailboat for a few hours. Go screaming to the Spit Bridge and back again just for the thrill of sailing, wind in my hair, salt water in my face. Yesterday I was probably as crazy as today, but life was just awesome. It still is. A little hard to believe forty years have slipped by. I guess I was too busy to notice.

I flew to PNG to be confronted at Moresby airport by a trillion look-alikes with fuzzy hair and temperatures straight out of the microwave. From there I went to paradise. To the patrol post on the Duke of York Islands. Travelling by speedboat in crystal clear water, over coral reefs, diving for fish, learning Pidgin, making a mess of it, night in local villages learning culture and customs, all the time being paid real money. Life is so fair.

Those who were there at the end... talk

The last time I heard from Rob Cuttell [ASOPA 1969-70] he was correcting an error of mine in a lachrymose report on the death of his ASOPA buddy John ‘The Beag’ Beagley. When he left ASOPA, Rob was posted to Iarowari for a year and Goroka for another year before deciding Christmas Island was the place to be. After three years there, he returned to Australia and has lived and taught in Canberra since.

Rob reports that, since Peter Blessing and others began organising the 1968-72 ‘Greek Club’ section of the Brisbane reunion, emails have been flowing thick and furious. This enthusiasm for reconnection has motivated Rob to set up a website and a blog to cater to the good people – all secondary trained teachers – who were present during the final years of the fine institution we’re proud to have been associated with.

Book_house And while on the subject of places to go, however virtually, I want to draw your attention to the Pacific Book House, run by Bill McGrath at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast. “New Guinea is our speciality,” brags Bill and – having recently tested out that claim – I can assure you it’s not an idle boast. Bill’s been pursuing his interest in the Pacific, and particularly PNG, for the last 23 years. If you’re interested in books (new, rare, out of print) about PNG, get in touch with Bill. And, no, this is not a paid advert. Or an advert.

Update: Brisbane reunion program

Novotel FRIDAY 12 OCTOBER   12 noon: Whistle Stop Lunch • Reunionists hitting Brisbane before check in time can adjourn to the Sofitel Whistle Stop Bar for the best roast in the city. Advise Colin Huggins here or at 07 3357 1883    6 pm: Meet and Greet  • 60/61 at Novotel pool deck area  • 62/63 at Sofitel Chez Bar and Bistro  • 66/67 at Sofitel Chez Bar and Bistro • 68/72 at Greek Club, 29-31 Edmonstone Street, West End • Others - choose the Class group you want to be with

Sofitel SATURDAY 13 OCTOBER   10 am: River Cruise • Meet in Sofitel lobby at 10 am • Walk or ride to Riverside Dock to board Lady Brisbane for 2 hour cruise of Brisbane River • Time to renew acquaintances over a coffee or glass of bubbly • Take in the sights of thriving Brisbane and enjoy the history and scenery between Hamilton and South Bank • No sharp heels please    12.30: Lunch at South Bank • Disembark and explore the delights of South Bank • You will be provided with a map to locate the many restaurants and attractions • Visit useful websites here and here  Suggestions • After leaving the boat, walk left along Clem Jones Promenade to the first selection of riverside restaurants • If you continue onto the boardwalk, there are more restaurants • Alternatively, when you leave the boat, walk from the promenade to the Arbour, a sculptured steel pathway blanketed in bougainvillea. You will come to the central cafes, lifestyle markets, Arbour cafes and bars • We haven't booked a restaurant for lunch but choose one of the many at South Bank • After lunch, explore the attractions and make your way back to the hotel by CityCat, ferry, bus, train or foot • If you have time, a must see is the new Gallery of Modern Art located by walking along the promenade under the Victoria Bridge past the old Art Gallery and the State Library    7 pm: ASOPA reunion dinner • Meet for pre-dinner cocktails outside Sofitel Le Grand Ballroom 3    7.30 pm: Dinner in Sofitel Le Grand Ballroom 3 • Guest speaker Prof Ken McKinnon, former PNG Director of Education • Brief reminscences from representatives of each Class • Dress smart casual [ladies can dress up] • All guests must have left the ballroom by 12 midnight • Chez Bar remains open until 3 am

SUNDAY 14 OCTOBER Churches of various denominations within easy walking distance of Sofitel and Novotel    11 am: Guided walk • Meet Judith Duggan (60/61) in Sofitel lobby for  guided walk around city    Other suggestions • Walk to Riverside and take in the markets • Hop on a CityCat and visit Bulimba; there are many boutique restaurants in Oxford Street just a short walk from the CityCat terminal • If you like walking, there are kilometres of walking tracks along the river edge on both sides • If you like shopping, the CBD is adjacent • Sit in the bar and chat to old mates • Roma Street Gardens well worth seeing • Other Brisbane attractions on this website    6 pm: Bow Thai Banquet • Walk or taxi to restaurant • Enjoy the hospitality and a sumptuous banquet as you say farewell to old friends until next time

Ian Hogbin

Ian Hogbin [1904-1989] belonged to Anthropology's heroic age. Recruited by AR Radcliffe-Brown, mentored by Bronislaw Malinowski and a member of the brilliant generation - including Raymond Firth, Reo Fortune, Margaret Mead and Douglas Oliver - who pioneered modern field research in the South Pacific.

Hogbin Like many anthropologists in World War 2, Hogbin served as an adviser to the armed forces, lending expertise to problems of indigenous populations overtaken by the upheaval. Controversially, he maintained that when the Japanese occupied New Guinea, the people had no alternative but to do as they were told. He argued they “couldn’t be counted as traitors even if they were Japanese village policemen or worked for the Japanese... The government of the day were the Japanese, the Japanese had conquered the country”. Hogbin’s view was not accepted by ANGAU and New Guinean ‘traitors’ were publicly hanged or otherwise punished.

At Sydney University after the war, he inspired a new generation of anthropologists with his enthusiasm for field work and the absolute importance of clear writing. Hogbin was remarkable for the extent of his research and the volume of his writings: he worked in no fewer than five Pacific communities and published nine books. By the outbreak of   the Pacific war, he had completed studies in Malaita, Guadalcanal and Wogeo. He travelled extensively in the Solomons and PNG during the war, and made a final study of Busama in the late 1940s.

Hogbin was well known for his perceptive and sensitive approach to field work. A Solomon Islander remarked, “At last we have found a European who is a black man, even if his skin is white”.

After the appearance of his last monograph, The Leaders and the Led, in 1978, Ian's friends hoped he would commit to writing the stories with which he had often entertained them over the dinner table. Regrettably other commitments and a degree of reticence prevented him undertaking the task until he found himself physically unable to write.

[Further reading: Jeremy Beckett, ‘Conversations with Ian Hogbin’, Oceania Monograph 35; Oceania Publications, University of Sydney]

WW2 Higaturu connections sought

John_hucknell John C Hocknull JP writes: “The ABC has been on to me to try and track down anyone who was at Higaturu during World War 2 or any living relatives. People can contact me by email at [email protected] or on 07 3392 7997 and I'll pass on the info to the ABC.”

John is also doing a fine job in helping the children of the Tari Basin in PNG’s Southern Highlands. The object of the exercise was to find as many school resources as possible to assist recently reopened primary and secondary schools in the area. The school libraries had been ransacked when schools were abandoned due to civil unrest. More about this story in the forthcoming issue of The Mail – out next weekend.

A tough life if you don’t weaken

Bill_1960 Bill 'Adonis' Welbourne [pictured] blames Murphy's Law for almost missing the penultimate meeting of the Brisbane reunion organising committee, citing “an unfortunate senior forgetfulness” as a fallback excuse. Bill’s usually an efficient type. Going shopping he loads the garbage into the boot to carry it 400 metres to the entrance of his Mount Cotton property. But by the time the car roars through the gates Bill's forgotten the garbage and “I still have it with my freezer when I return from the supermarket.” Same with golf. Forgetful. “When it's my turn to putt out, I'm two holes away. Except if I'm nearest the pin.”

Bill had arranged with the nearby Bohlens and their beautiful red BMW for a ride to the reunion meeting – at Henry Bodman’s globally recognised (Bush stayed there once) “leafy Fig Tree Pocket”. On the night before the morning in question, though, Bill had spent much valuable sleep time mopping up water from a recalcitrant dishwasher. This followed a few late night Tia Marias with son Tony, just returned from overseas. The dishwasher became Bill, who brought to the arrangement a sponge mop,  a tea towel and a hefty desire for clean crockery.

“Finally to bed at 0100. Too much tea and wine forced me to an 0430 stroll. At that moment I heard a loud hissing. [That's 'loud hissing'.] The dishwasher hose had escaped and water was again flooding the kitchen.”

Despite all that excitement – a year’s worth for your typical senior – Bill and the Bohlens were only 15 minutes late for the meeting. But Henry was unimpressed and smarted, “Good afternoon! You're 15 minutes late!” To which Bill retorted, “Yeah, but that's better than half an hour ... and we didn’t get lost!” Bill can be very cruel to Henry, who was only doing his best to maintain order and decorum.

Hugginsponders But all was forgiven. “Suffice it to say Henry was the perfect host on this occasion,” crawls Bill, “and we enjoyed an outdoor setting in the best weather we'd had after a week of unseasonally heavy rain. We gorged on Henry's seafood basket and he demonstrated the three move trick of peeling a prawn.” And that's how the organising committee got down to serious business.

Colin Huggins [pictured] comments: “Please observe how thoughtful one can become at an organising meeting. Ninety percent business followed by ten percent prawns and oysters. Odd drink thrown in for good measure.” Oh yeah. [Photo: Dick Arnold]

Our ASOPA chronicle resumes

Just back from Noosa and a flying visit to Brisbane, where I’m doing some work with Queensland University on a media training program. While on the Sunshine Coast, which lived up to its name despite a brief flood (over-egged in the press), I received an enthusiastic phone call from Leo Carroll following the first reunion of the ASOPA Class of 1961-62, 45 years after graduation.

Leo was still on a high after the event, professionally organised by David Keating OAM and a small team. He was particularly taken by the gift pack of six SP stubbies and totally overwhelmed by the fellowship and goodwill of the three days. “It was like the 40 years was the briefest of pauses in our conversation,” he told me. I've now received a copy of the well-compiled 'reunion commemorative book', which I hope will be lodged with the National Library as a permanent record of the journey of the Class of 61/62.

So, for me, it’s now back to those nasty four letter words (work, rain and Bush) as Sydney battles with APEC in one of the greater over-reactions to an event since the man from Ironbark had a shave. They should have had Dave Keating down here doing it.

Anyway, it means ASOPA PEOPLE will get the attention it deserves over the next while. There’s a lot in the mailbox that ought to be shared. Speaking of which, The Mail will be distributed next weekend.