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.