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49 posts from October 2007

Ours was the year that was: 1959-60

Stuart Woodger 

We came from many parts of Eastern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru to answer our first ASOPA roll call. Vic Parkinson called it in the classroom; roadside end, adjacent to the Army Intelligence barracks. Twenty-two eager beavers had arrived ready to do their bit. A few made an impression even at that first gathering. Bob Turner cracked at least two, unsolicited jokes: he would prove to be the Class’s irrepressible personality, good natured and quick witted. Jack Busby dazzled with his stories, smiling his slow smile and tweaking an RAAF moustache. Brian Davis, a younger starter, felt compelled to ask, “Are there prizes at the end of the course?” All were pretty much in awe and anticipation of what we had signed up to do - worth £9 pounds a week, an enormous wage to most of us.

ASOPA wasn't all work and no play! The other way around would be closer to the truth. For a small sum, the Class bought a 1924 Dodge with four days registration. Driving around the Mosman streets late one afternoon (no lights, no radiator cap, a windscreen that required the front left passenger to hold it in place), a policeman asked to inspect the vehicle. He chose to open the front right door to let the driver out, and the door came away in his hand to the delight of all passengers. The good copper told us all to go home and “get that thing off the road”. I am sad to say that's what we did: that thing went over the edge of the road leading to the Clifton Gardens pub. Young people! What was wrong with them in those days?

It appears that those of us still living have gone forth, done their bit, done their best and are still at it. Some have experienced significant public success; some have had to overcome disappointing moments. However all harbour the fondest memories of their cadet years at ASOPA.

Howie_toms_austin Photo: For relatively well paid ASOPA students, second hand cars (usually with two wheels in the grave) were de rigeur. Here Howard Ralph [Class of 1962-63] disports himself atop of John Toms' Austin.

Ours was the year that was: 1958-59

Eric Johns

After being rigorously interviewed by WC Groves, our intake of Cadet Education Officers arrived at ASOPA in January 1958 to find out what this ‘Career with a Challenge’ was all about. We were the first group to complete the education course entirely at ASOPA and were a mixed bunch: fresh-faced school-leavers; experienced workers; university students; even a Nauruan prince. Principal Charles Rowley made us welcome, saying we had been chosen for a difficult but special task, one that Minister Paul Hasluck said he’d approve of for his own children. We were given the impression our careers in PNG would last for the rest of our working lives.

After such an impressive introduction we were happy to find that preparations for our arrival were incomplete and, for several weeks, there were no lectures to attend before midday. This arrangement suited most of us because those who didn't sleep in had plenty of time each morning to stroll to Obelisk Bay or Balmoral Beach, kick a football on the oval, gossip in our rooms or play table tennis in the common room.

Asopacrest_2 There was a general feeling that CEOs were a privileged lot; a sentiment that led to some of our group buying blazers, a logo and bird of paradise, designed by David Lewis, sewn onto the pocket. We thought they looked great but the Patrol Officers never approved and said they would never be seen dead in them! It took a while before we were fully accepted by the POs, but their respect improved after our team defeated them in one of our two rugby league challenge matches.

The lecturers were world class and we all had our favourites. Dick Pearse was our mentor and friend; James McAuley showered us with insights; and we watched Peter Lawrence practising yoga in rubber-stilt shoes while enlightening us about Rai Coast cargo cults. Charles Rowley was more distant but we now know he used his time well, arm-wrestling with the Department of Territories mandarins about the status of ASOPA and producing such classics as The New Guinea Villager and Australians in German New Guinea.

Dick_and_dianePhoto: “One Friday night there was a party on Obelisk Beach below ASOPA. I couldn't get over how the lecturer's treated us like adults instead of big kids”: Diane Bohlen [Class of 1962-63] shown here with Dick Pearse, widely admired as a good lecturer and a good bloke.

Sprucing up the ASOPA PEOPLE blogsite

Our more observant readers may have noticed recent changes to the design, style and content of our site. In addition to its flasher appearance, a number of more substantive improvements have been made.

In the left hand column we’ve introduced ASOPA People Extra, which includes a history and chronology of the School as well as stories and yarns from ASOPA and beyond that previously appeared only on the ASOPA website. Most importantly, we're also publishing the monthly newsletter The Mail on the site. All of this year's issues to date are now available.

Also in the left hand column is the syndicated Newsvine World News, produced in Seattle in the US. Newsvine publishes stories from established media organisations like AAP and ESPN as well as news from individual contributors from around the world.

In the right hand column we give pre-eminence to readers’ Recent Comments which, of course, you are welcome to make at any time by left clicking the ‘Comments’ link at the bottom right of each item. Where necessary, I edit these comments for relevance and legality but within very broad bounds you have free rein.

The right hand column also contains a section called Categories. Every post made on ASOPA PEOPLE is archived in these 16 sections, so by selecting a category you can go right back to the earliest material that appeared on the site.

Beneath Categories is the Blogbar search engine that you can use to search the ASOPA PEOPLE site or the entire Internet if you wish.

You may also have noticed that we’ve changed the description of the site to include “ex PNG chalkies everywhere” in an effort to be more inclusive about whom the site is for. Overall, the changes provide the site with more functionality and content. And, of course, each day we’ll continue to bring you news and information about ASOPA PEOPLE.

PhilippinesPhoto: Jackson Wells Morris recently entertained a visiting group of Philippines public relations practitioners in our Sydney boardroom. Front: Keith Jackson, delegation chief Romy Virtusio, John Wells and Trevor Cook. Notice the Kauage copper beating on the wall at right. It was presented to me by the PNG National Broadcasting Commission in 1976 when I returned to Australia.

50 years on, Taurama Base does it tough

Pt_moresby_general Port Moresby General Hospital at Taurama celebrated its 50th anniversary last Friday at a ceremony attended by 1,000 medical staff and members of the public who witnessed the colourful ceremony highlighted by a traditional singsing. Chairman Sir Brian Bell, described the hospital's efforts as astounding despite many difficulties caused by lack of funds. Prior to October 1957, the so-called ‘native hospital’ was at Ela Beach before it was developed as a multiracial hospital, still referred to as ‘Taurama Base Hospital’ when my eldest son Simon was born there on 21 October 40 years ago.

Sir Brian said Port Moresby General, the biggest hospital in PNG, doesn’t have the funding that would allow it to sustain the high quality service it wants to achieve. “It’s frustrating for doctors and nurses to face this situation on a daily basis … but patients, unfortunately, are the ones who suffer the most. The hospital should run on an annual budget of K40 million or more but we are given just 50% of this”. He said it was difficult to run the hospital when funds were delayed for weeks or when drugs were not available.

We’re working to improve media training

I find it remarkable how ASOPA training from 40 years ago continues to be of use. For the last couple of months, a small group of us has been working with the University of Queensland to develop a self-instruction program to build the skills of media trainers. It’s designed to address that well-known problem where professionals, although highly competent themselves, encounter great difficulties passing on their skills to others.

Scan0006 Associate Professor Martin Hadlow, Director of the University’s Centre for Communication for Development, was commissioned by UNESCO to develop a self-instructional CD ROM to meet this challenge. He put together a team comprising my wife Ingrid, Phil Charley and me. We worked with the technical boffins of the University’s Teaching and Educational Development Institute to produce ‘My Media Trainer’ in just three months.

The basic edition of ‘My Media Trainer’ includes content on identifying learning needs, setting the climate for learning, developing media training courses, and module design and evaluation. The kit also includes competency indicators for the five core media areas of radio, television, Internet, print and public relations.

‘My Media Trainer’ guides users in how to teach media skills to others, whether through formal classroom activities, on-the-job or in specialist workshops. Being a self-instructional tool, users can learn at their own pace and in their own location. By the end of the program, users are be able to identify the needs of adult learners, plan courses and implement successful, outcomes-based media training experiences.

Mmt "UNESCO approached me with the idea at the end of last year," Prof Hadlow [left] said. "What you tend to see, particularly in developing countries, is mid-career professionals being put into training positions even though they may have no teaching experience. This product is intended to teach people how to teach. It includes information on different etaching aspects such as how to set up a training course and how to evaluate students.

"Prof Hadlow said it was common for people without etaching backgrounds to adopt a school-like approach to adult training. The CD provides a guide to adult learning which is interactive and user friendly," he said.

Martin Hadlow is currently in Paris at the UNESCO General Conference where he has given a presentation on the new kit. “I’ve already had people coming to me asking for copies,” he says. And even though ‘My Media Trainer’ has not been officially launched, its already appearing in UNESCO work plans. We now hope to test the CD in the field before working on a second edition. In the meantime, as Martin Hadlow says, “We feel that we have produced a competent, professional and useful teaching resource.”

Oz wildlife rescuer takes cause forward

1962-63 Asopian Dr Howard Ralph (along with Allan Jones, in class once mysteriously referred to by famed geographer Edgar Ford as an “ignorant oaf”) is a very unusual person. He’s a gently humorous beanpole of a man. After a diet of kaukau, brown rice and tinned fish at his highlands school enabled him to save at ramming speed, he quit teaching early to pursue his passion for medicine. Initially, he became a veterinary surgeon, and a good one – celebrated for his expertise in treating Australia’s native animals. Later he undertook medical training and became an anaesthetist. But Howard and wife Glenda continue a love affair with the Australian bush and its wildlife.

Now they’re setting up Southern Cross Wildlife Care as a non-profit organisation that will rescue, care for and rehabilitate wild creatures from the Australian bush. “Our work will involve anu situation in which wildlife need assistance because they are distressed, in danger or under threat,” says Howard. These creatures may have suffered injury, illness, road trauma, cruelty, loss of habitat or have been orphaned.”

Southern Cross, with Howard as its Director, will work closely with the various wildlife rescue groups that already use Howard and Glenda as the go-to people when wildlife need assistance. It will also provide continuing education for rescuers, carers and the community. This undertaking is totally reliant on the commitment of volunteers.

Wildlife_inviteThree weeks from now there’s going to be a fundraiser at Mosman in Sydney for Southern Cross. Cost is $75 a person and you should contact Joan Pearson (02 9960 2229 or 0411 044 739) if you’d like to be there.

Stan’s life recipe – active, balanced, caring

Classic My father Stan Jackson OAM is 94 today. He’ll get out of bed at about 8.30, greet his partner Helen, brew a pot of tea, and wander out to the gazebo he built a couple of years ago - overlooking the vegetable garden - to eat his porridge. The gait is a little stiff now, after two knee replacements, but the posture remains ramrod straight. Later he’ll wheel his bike out of the shed and cycle to the Lane Cove shops to buy a few groceries.

For most of the rest of the day he’ll sit in front of a word processor, two-finger typing the plan for his next project, an organisation called Planet Earth Partners – which he’s financing. “Its message is simple,” he says. “It’s ‘Be ABC’ – keep active in body and mind, whatever your age; keep in balance with your health and with Nature; and cooperate with the community by supporting it”. Planet Earth Partners (PEP, get it?) will launch with a bike ride through the mountains of Hokkaido in Japan next year. “I still ride; at 95 I’ll do what I can,” says Stan.

Stan was awarded the Order of Australia in 2000 for “service to the community through the Oam promotion of the concept of ‘fitness for life’ by undertaking marathon bicycle tours, and to environmental conservation”. He took up long distance bike riding in 1976, after the death of my mother, and kicked off with a Sydney to London epic, repeated in reverse in 1988 to mark the Australian bicentenary. He’s ridden the length of Japan, up the Rockies from the Mexican border to the Canadian border and from Melbourne to Sydney with a group of Japanese senior citizens, taking a detour to Canberra from Batemans Bay to talk with some politicians about the declining state of the planet.

Japan_press_5 Even though he fought against the Japanese with the British Army in Burma in World War 2, Stan has a special affection for the Japanese people and their culture and is a regular visitor to Japan, where he lectures on his philosophy – quasi Buddhist in nature – to school kids, media, mayors and whoever he can get a hearing from.

His most recent book, ‘What’s Wrong for Our Young’ was published in English and Japanese two years ago to advise parents, as Stan puts it, “to use the fair-go concept familiar to all children to get them exploring their potential – giving themselves a fair go, giving the community a fair go and giving their Earth Home a fair go.”

Happy birthday dad, and don't slow down just yet.

Middle Head’s light was shining

Dick Pearse

Dr Richard ‘Dick’ Pearse was a popular figure around ASOPA in the fifties and sixties. We knew him as our Lecturer in Native Education before it euphemised into Education in PNG. He was (and remains) a quietly spoken, unpretentious and gently humorous man and his lectures, rehearsing us in the theory and practice of our new profession, seemed – in that vague way students perceive things - relevant for a group of young people who dimly understood that, before long, irresponsible scholarship would transform into fully blow pedagogy. And not just common or garden pedagogy; but teaching in Australia’s territories in often the most professionally difficult and personally challenging conditions.

In a way I knew about the collection of wooden buildings on Middle Head a long time before I was appointed to ASOPA in 1958. As a kid during the war in 1942, I’d been with my Dad at our fishing camp at Dobroyd Point, just to the north of Middle Head. When we went around the rocks in a blackout, the army searchlights would illuminate us. Whether to help us find the way or to check who we were I never discovered. So early on, whatever was there on Middle Head was the shining light for me!

Dick_friends_2 My first visit to the ASOPA buildings followed a phone call from registrar Vic Parkinson who asked if I would take a call from principal Charles Rowley. Parkinson said I’d been recommended by Prof Bill Connell of Sydney University and he wanted to know if I would be interested in a position of lecturer in Native Education.

The call was a bit of a bolt out of the blue for a young primary school teacher, just married, and with a new honours degree. If I was interested I could come in for an interview. That seemed to be the selection process. Had I been aware at the time of the illustrious nature of the staff at ASOPA, I may have run a mile. As it was, the light from Middle Head beckoned and I embraced the job.

The first task was to get out a good atlas. The next, to invent some ‘orientation lectures’ for experienced teachers on their way to PNG. No written materials existed from my predecessors, time was short and my only source of material was ASOPA’s Hallstrom Pacific Library. Then I had to figure out what might comprise the content of ‘native education’ and use it to design a course.

This was never something that became fixed and it took me a while to shape something satisfactory: Dick_kids_2 part history, comparative policy, analysis of Australian policy, current administration, appreciation of traditional education systems, issues in child development, cross cultural communication, and practices in teaching English as a second language. Pretty soon the issue was what to leave out rather than what to put in.

Extracted from the publication 'ASOPA Years'. A longer version will be in November’s issue of the chalkie’s newsletter, ‘The Mail’. For a free subscription send me an email by clicking the link under my photograph.

The Agarabi Quartet goes home

There’s a section of the E-Course website that provides a brief glimpse of each member of that first historic teacher training program in 1961. The note on Siebrand ‘Siep’ Petrusma reads: “Holland and Taswegia. Cut short a honeymoon to join E Course to tackle educational mission in the highlands.”

Siebrand_family_late_64 Siebrand and his new wife Carol ended up at Agarabi in the Eastern Highlands, where they stayed until 1964 and where four of their six children (including the first of two sets of twins) were born. The family left PNG in 1972: “years full of challenges and reward,” says Siebrand.

Siebrand and Carol returned to Tasmania, where he became the CEO of Siebrand_petrusma the Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind and later Publisher and Marketing Director for the Bible Society in Australia, retiring in 2002. “Carol and I had planned and booked a further trip to PNG in March, this time taking our four older children,” Siebrand told me. “Sadly, this was not to be.” On 2 March, his “wonderful mate of 47 years” died.

Siebrand_agarabi “After the dust settled a little following her death, the family and I considered that Carol would wish us still to go and for me to re-introduce our family to the people among whom we lived. To return to those people, and finding many who remembered us, was an unforgettable experience for the family and me. The folk welcomed us back with great excitement.”

Siebrand lives at his home at Lauderdale, near the beach where – among other commitments like being treasurer of the Council on the Ageing in Tasmania – he writes a blog entitled Samtingbilongmi. Click through to it here, you’ll be glad you did. Especially read the six-part series, ‘The Agarabi Quartet Returns’, which is a nostalgic and pictorially rich account of the Petrusma family’s epic return journey to their highlands home. Siebrand is not a proponent of the view that PNG is not a place to visit.

Siebrand’s donating to me his collection of Pacific Islands MonthlySiebrand_somare_bust magazines, which I wrote for when I was in Bougainville and Moresby in the early 1970s. He plans to be in Sydney next January. Do you reckon there might be just a little reminiscing about those far off golden days in the highlands?

Photos: Top - The Petrsuma family 1964. Centre right- Siebrand and Carol. Centre left - Siebrand back at Agarabi. Bottom - Siebrand with my good mate sculptor Hal Holman’s bust of Michael Somare.

Dave & Elissa on the road in the Mid East

Dubbo Dave KesbyJordan

Amman, Jordan: Writing this sitting at Amman airport en route to Dubai. Elissa is at a separate check-in being frisked by a woman in uniform behind a black curtain. Jordan is a great country and the people very friendly. The highlight was Petra, a hidden city discovered by a Swiss bloke in the early 1800s when he tricked the Bedouins into leading him in to look at it. The pic shows us lookin’ over Jordan: on the road with son Pete and fiancée Beau on top of a monastery path in Petra with a view to Israel. We’re off to Dusseldorf today on Pete's flight, God willing, or as they say here, Enshallah.

A group to be reckoned with: 1969-70

Peter Comerford and Vicki Walshe

1969. One small step for mankind, one huge step for a motley group of idealistic, bank clerks, drycleaners, missionaries, actors, insurance salesmen, cardsharps, bar workers, postal sorters, labourers and exotic dancers who came together, to be whetted and honed over the next two years under the zealous eyes of our lecturers. Describing it as a most interesting and formative two years that would shape our lives forever would be an understatement.

Linguistically we were challenged by Professor Elkin and the scales fell from our eyes with the realisation that there was more than a subtle difference between a pekpek and a pukpuk, a longlong and a longnek, a liklik wei and a longwei liklik.

All part of the preparation, a progressive evolvement from student to teacher, enabling us to cope with the challenges of unique educational situations in a new environment. Recognising that the large wriggling object held by a student was an intestinal roundworm and not an overly large earthworm. Dealing with sorcerers could be tricky. If conditions were right you could catch a lot of fish during National In-service Training Week. Explaining that the human skull in the classroom ceiling didn't get there by magic. Being in charge of the school mess driving home the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

The challenges were many and varied, as in the case of Gavin Swallow who, after the umpteenth arson attempt on his school in the Highlands, was surrounded by some very angry villagers. After threatening to rearrange parts of his anatomy, they threatened to burn the school to the ground. All those valuable years of ASOPA education and training came to the fore. Gavin gave a calm and wry smile, casually kicked the dirt a couple of times, hitched up his pants and then, looking the main aggressor directly in the eye, threw him a box of matches.

We were indeed a group to be reckoned with.

Bill's blockbuster ready for viewing

Bill07 Bill Bohlen’s DVD of the ASOPA Cadet Education Officers’ Brisbane reunion dinner is now available. It covers all the speeches - talks by Ken McKinnon and Clarrie Burke on behalf of Joe Pagelio and each of the feisty Class presentations, including Val Murphy’s uproarious account of his orientation to New Ireland. The DVD, 136 minutes in length, is introduced by Henry Bodman and contains additional footage of the pre-dinner cocktail party. If you've not previously ordered the DVD, you can now do so by sending $12 to Bill Bohlen at 45 Highview Terrace, Daisy Hill Queensland 4127. Don’t forget to include your name and postal address.

Captains, my captains, my heroes...

Dick Arnold

Dick_arnold This is a tremendous occasion. I am overwhelmed. The Queensland Chapter of Asopians has been working towards this weekend for many months. And, no matter how much thought and effort we directed towards this project, it would all have come to nothing without the massive support we have received from everyone here tonight.

Tonight we are all equals. To achieve this status I have the pleasant duty of promoting everyone - ex-CEO's, ASOPA staff, partners and friends to the position of Honorary Director of Education. This appeals to me on two counts. I've been a CEO before, but never the CEO of a huge organisation. It also saves me from the unpleasant duty of having to demote the Oodnadatta Kid down to my level.

My carpe diem philosophy. This weekend, like life, should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body. But rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming: ‘Woo, hoo, what a ride!’

A sincere heartfelt welcome to this gathering on behalf of the organising committee. Finally, many of my heroes, younger and older than I, are seated before me tonight. I should like to salute you as a class once saluted its teacher… Captains, my captains.

[Extracts from Dick Arnold's welcome to the ASOPA CEO's reunion on behalf of the Brisbane organising committee. The full version will be in the November issue of 'The Mail']

Reunion's conversational glimpses

Bill Welbourne

The conversation turned to cats … the love of their lives. Val [Rivers] recently inherited two 20 year olds - that’s about 140 years old in human terms - both on their last legs if they could stand up straight. To keep them comfortable while she was at the reunion, Val had an automatic heater set up to protect them from the desert cold of Burra. She also had a series of plastic bags ready for a daily inspection by a kind neighbour. One was for food, another for kitty litter and there were two larger bags should mortality occur to ease the shock and pain of the good neighbour. Just slip them into the bags and let the garbo attend to in their final dispatch.

During Val’s interview for ASOPA she was asked, “And what do you think of ‘self-determination’?” She retorted, “Oh, I’m a very self-determined woman. I never give up.”

Val told us of her wedding mishap. She went ‘South’ to select a fashionable gown and accompanied the precious cargo back to Lae. Val, a devout Catholic, struck up a conversation with a fellow traveller - a nun - who had an identical port. Guess who got the habit and who had the wedding dress? The nun was tracked down in Wewak. But the gown, now stored among Val’s prized collection of period costumes in Burra, arrived the day after the wedding.

[Bill’s full article will be in the November issue of ‘The Mail’]

Farewell to Fitzie, PNG media giant

Richard Jones

Former PNG Post-Courier managing editor John Fitzgerald was farewelled at a funeral service in Melbourne on Friday. Universally known as Fitzie, John was also known for his roles as chief-of-staff and editor of the Melbourne Herald and later as managing director of PR outfit International Public Relations.

Fitzie played an important part leading up to independence in PNG in 1976. He took over as the top man at the Post-Courier in Moresby’s Lawes Road when all sorts of political pressures were building.

He was a stickler for the correct use of English and had a passion for ensuring journalists spelt people’s names properly. “People might not know a lot of things, Richard, they might not know much at all,” he thundered. “But they sure as hell know their own names and how to spell them. So in a story, for God’s sake, make sure you spell the names right.”

Something I’ve never forgotten. Even when interviewing Jack Smith. “Now is that S-M-I-T-H, Mr Smith?’’ I intone, using the Fitzie logic.

Fitzie conducted himself with a unique style at public functions. At an international boxing tournament in Papua, where I was MC, Fitzie was to present the winner of the main bout with his prize. Before the action got underway there was a glitch with the tape-recorded PNG and Filipino anthems. The music trickling from the PA sounded like something from Star Wars. At ringside everyone tried to stifle sniggers, but Fitzie retained his composure. It was, after all, an international contest.

At Fitzie’s funeral in East Malvern, his old mate Kevan Gosper of the International Olympic Committee presented one of the eulogies. Gosper had flown back from Beijiing. Everyone who worked with Fitzie knew Gosper’s Christian name was Kevan, not Kevin. You could almost hear Fitzie in the background. “For God’s sake, spell it right.”

PNG expat websites: (2) Ex-Kiap Network

We continue our occasional series on websites developed by Australians who worked in Papua New Guinea in colonial days. Peter Salmon’s Ex-Kiap project was the first of these, launching in February 2003. It has 185 registered users, mostly ex-Peter_salmonkiaps, who have posted a total of 2,385 articles on the site. It has developed as a true mine of information about colonial PNG and events thereafter.

Peter [left] is fortunate to have a number of correspondents who post frequently and often controversially, and who offer informative and provocative reading. Arthur Williams from Cardiff in Wales has posted 394 Paul_oatestimes. And Paul Oates [right], from Boonah in Queensland, with 402 posts, is  a most prolific and entertaining correspondent, as well as being a damn good writer. Try this for size:

"Quickly my young friends called me down to where they stood in about two feet of water on the sandy top of the reef. At first, all I saw was a brown thread, corkscrewing through the water. Then the water was alive with them. As the tide came in and the water came up to my waist, hundreds and then thousands of worms arrived until they clouded the water. Some worms were as long as a foot and some only three to four inches. The worms were about one sixteenth of an inch in width and came in two colours. Some were rusty brown and some azure blue. I could feel the worms sliding around my body and as it was not a pleasant feeling, I joined a young team in a nearby canoe."

The commanding heights of discussion on the Ex-Kiap Network are in a section entitled, in that perfunctory kiap-style way, ‘General’. This is defined as “critiques, commentary, discussion, dissertations, dummy spits, essays, memories, opinions, personal reflections (don't worry about the selective memory syndrome kicking in), public affairs, reflections, sprays, theses, thoughts”. Anything but ‘General’, you’d think. There’s also an ‘Editor’s Corner’ for Peter’s occasional effusions, a useful ‘Books & Publications’ section, obituaries in ‘The Last Patrol’ and plenty of news (mainly about reunions) and photographs (many of them rare and well worth a look).

The tone of the site is conservative, most of the more prolific writers blame many of PNG’s problems on Gough Whitlam and seem to imply Australia should still be in charge today. But this is a vastly entertaining and informative site and is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in PNG – past and present.

You can click through to the Ex-Kiap Network here.

Songs Of The Volcano free online

Songs_of_the_volcano Ingrid Jackson

Bob Brozman and Phil Donnison went to villages in East New Britain to record five different Tolai string bands for the music on the CD, Songs of the Volcano. Bob, an accomplished guitarist, is Adjunct Professor of Music at Macquarie University, while Phil, an Asopian of 1969-70 and son of the renowned Norm Donnison, is a musician and filmmaker. One purpose of their mission to the Gazelle was to record this fragile music before it disappears.

Stringband Rabaul is a town that has had its share of hard times. In the same century it was destroyed twice by massive volcanic eruptions and once by a devastating war. The Tolai people suffered greatly from these natural and manmade disasters yet always managed to bounce back.

Rabaul is the location where guitars first arrived in PNG, and the music has an innocence and beauty reminiscent of what guitar music may have sounded like in Hawaii and Mexico in the mid nineteenth century. Most music travelled across the Pacific on boats, with sailors leaving behind instruments and ideas to percolate in isolation. Hence, the songs on this album sound both exotic and familiar.

You can find Songs of the Volcano at this website.

Anne seeks her Namanula birthmate

Anne Foldi was born on 15 December 1964 at Namanula Hospital in Rabaul. Her grandfather, John Foldi, was District Commissioner in East New Britain in the early 1960s. Anne left Rabaul when she was three months old.

Anne’s father, Ian Foldi, had gone back to Rabaul to manage a copra plantation after schooling in Charters Towers. Ian was tragically killed in a light plane crash in NSW in February 1976.

Anne, who was christened by the renowned Father Franke, says there was only one other baby, a girl, born at Namanula at the same time she was. “I am very curious and would love to know who she is and what her life has been like,” says Anne. “I would appreciate any ideas you might have to help me locate her.”

Now I know that many of our ASOPA colleagues were in the Gazelle at the time Anne was born. Can anyone assist? If you’d like to get in touch, you can contact Anne Foldi here.

Permanent mementoes of a memorable night

Photos of the Great Reunion Dinner are now available on the internet. You can find them here (type 'ASOPA' into the 'Global Search' space) and order the ones you want online.

If you missed out on getting one of Bill Bohlen's marvellous souvenir DVDs, 'Images of PNG and the NT', you can obtain a free copy by sending an email to Diane Bohlen here or phoning her on (07) 3208 3729.

DVDs of all the action at the reunion dinner are being produced by Bill and you can order them at Diane's  email address. The DVDs are just $12 each and you can pay for them by sending a cheque to WE & KD Bohlen, 45 Highview Terrace, Daisy Hill, Queensland 4127 - or contact Diane to make other arrangements.

Ours was the year that was: 1957-58

Sue Ward

Sue_ward I’m the only half-century relic who managed to totter along to this august anthropological gathering of Cadet Education Officers. I tried to rally a few more, but to no avail. I managed to contact Paul and Rosemary Kelly, who had no memories of either Bathurst or ASOPA. But they fell in love on Day One of 1957 and remain steadfastly married today – a symbol perhaps of the stamina and resilience we needed for what we were about to do.

Another colleague, Neville Hatton asked me to pass on to Dick Pearse that, as a result of an ASOPA assignment, he built two basketball courts at Tusbab. Neville was my boss at Sogeri Senior High in 1969, when it became the first national high school. Whilst I was overjoyed for Neville, this was not a happy event for I was reminded that, once married, women in the PNG Education service had little value, lacking the right equipment for promotion.

While the traits of our fellow cadets are fading from my failing memory, it is worthwhile thinking what distinguished our Class from those that were to follow. Well, we were the first at ASOPA, and certainly distinguished ourselves as being the start of something big.

We were never tempted to rest on our laurels. When I look around the room tonight I see that we all extended ourselves. The room is dripping with degrees and qualifications. We had huge levels of inner resource – there was no other.

This raises the question: if we had not gone down our distinct paths after PNG, if we had remained educators, and if we had been let loose en masse on the Australian education system, what might we have achieved? The mind boggles. But that would be another story.

Ours was the year that was: 1962-63

Richard (Dick) Jones

Dick_col Fellow reunionistas. Our 1962-63 group lays claim to an ongoing love of these reunions – this is the third for us. The first two celebrated at Port Macquarie in 2002 and Sydney in 2005.

Our group lays claim to a couple of notable firsts for ASOPA. We produced the only two issues of Vortex magazine. Some of our group still have copies of this estimable publication, but not only do I not possess a copy I have virtually no recollection of what appeared within its covers.

However, as a prelude to a 30-year journalistic career I wrote an article about our 1st year versus Val Murphy’s 2nd year rugby league ‘biffo’ match for the first edition of Vortex. It took the promptings of other 1962-63 course members, plus the irrefutable proof of a hard copy of the aforesaid article, to jog my memory about the rugby league match report.

Our group also staged a revue at the Mosman Town Hall in 1963. The Natives Are Restless caused the Reverend Bomford of the Anglican parish of Mosman to remark: “We don’t want our Christian work in this parish undone by you people at ASOPA.”

No doubt representatives of other years will say that they, too, have developed a special camaraderie down the years. Nevertheless I would like to state publicly that we have a unique bond thanks to the efforts of our organising committees for the first two big reunions in 2002 and 2005.

In closing I would like to remark that as excellent an experience as was ASOPA, it was really only the entree. Papua New Guinea served as the main course. For my own part and along with a number of my course colleagues I racked up 13 largely very happy years there.

[Photo: Richard Jones with Col Booth]

The chalkie legacy – we were nation builders

Dr Joe Pagelio is Secretary of the Department of Education in Papua New Guinea. He was not able to attend the recent Brisbane reunion, but he submitted some wonderful words that were read by Dr Clarrie Burke. Here’s a brief extract…..

Pagello Let me explain how I see your legacy in PNG. Your legacy is that you were nation builders. I believe you were aware of the bigger picture at the time. As you worked alongside your PNG colleagues in the education system, and as you involved yourself in the community, you contributed to the building of the independent nation of PNG.

You must draw great satisfaction when you consider the number of young boys and girls you taught, and the number of PNG teachers you worked with, who went on to become future leaders in politics, Government, private enterprise and PNG society more generally. For this you will long be remembered. This is your legacy.

There will be a full account of Joe's remarks in the next issue of The Mail. To subscribe, free, email me here.

The ALP and me – a slice of personal history

On page two of today’s Australian Financial Review is this statement:


An article on page 17 on August 24, ‘Contractors lobby for regulator’, referred to the PR company Jackson Wells Morris. The AFR accepts that Jackson Wells Morris are not spin doctors for the Liberal party and that it is a long-standing company policy not to work for any political party.

The AFR also accepts that JWM did not write a report that aimed to persuade Labor to keep the building industry regulator. The client’s requirement was for an honest and unbiased view of industry opinion, which was provided.

There’s a back story to the strength of my feelings about my company being falsely characterised, by a piece of lazy journalism, as a Liberal Party puppet and a skewer of research. And here it is.

In 1971 the late Tom Burns, then general secretary of the Labor Party in Queensland, visited Bougainville with a Federal Parliamentary delegation, which included Paul Keating, not long elected to the House of Representatives.

I had wanted to join the ALP for some time, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. There were no party branches in PNG and, indeed, even to inquire amongst my Administration colleagues – many of whom made Genghis Khan look like Milly Molly Mandy - seemed to me a risk not worth taking. As station manager and news editor at Radio Bougainville, however, I was able to be with the delegation during its visit and seized the opportunity to ask Burns how I could join the ALP. He duly enrolled me in the Queensland head office branch.

Thirty-six years later I am still a member. I’ve been a Federal candidate, conference delegate, electorate council president and campaign director. I don’t always agree with the party and was never enticed into joining a faction. But I stick with it because I regard the ALP as the party of real reform and I like its long suite in social concern. I also don’t approve of the decline in public morality in this country since the Howard government took office in 1996. To make that perfectly clear, I don’t like being deceived and lied to.

I’ve been out of the Labor Party a couple of times. In 1977, when I ran 2ARM-FM in Armidale my party membership conflicted with a local current affairs program I hosted and I stood aside. Then, in the eighties, when I represented the ABC in Canberra and spent a fair bit of my life fronting Parliamentary committees, I thought it would be unhelpful to the ABC to remain a party member, and stood aside then as well. But I always came back. I pick and I stick.

So when the Financial Review referred to my company as “Liberal Party spin doctors” and then sought to suggest we’d cooked a survey to bring pressure on the Labor Party, I choked on my muesli. Then I ensured my company applied the greatest pressure on the newspaper to correct the untruths.

The AFR didn’t want to play at first. A lot of people in the media don’t like to admit they get things wrong. They don't seem to understand the paradox that admitting error builds trust. But our complaint to the Press Council got the editor off his backside. And we got our correction. End of story.

Bernie takes Hinchinbrook by storm

Bandaid “Life has changed!” writes Bernie Williams, author of the book ‘I need a bandaid for my brain’, which chronicles her battle against a major clinical depression and which I plugged at the Grand Reunion Dinner on Saturday night.

All hell broke loose after Bernie was interviewed about the book by the Herbert River Express a couple of weeks ago. She’s been swamped with requests for advice, to address meetings, to start a new organisation and to meet the mayor. “I have met so many people and am just so thrilled. I never imagined a ten line email to this little local paper about International Week for Mental Illness would lead to this.”

“I have travelled this journey for a reason,” says Bernie. “Instead of mourning the loss of teaching, I’m using teaching organisational and planning skills to educate the wider community on an issue that is still ignored in this day and age.”

This week is the inaugural meeting of the Hinchinbrook Anxiety Depression Awareness Group and representatives from schools, police, ambulance, hospital, medical centres, Hinchinbrook Shire Council and the general public are attending. The goal is to organise a program to develop community understanding of people suffering from mental illness.

Copies of Bandaid are available for $20, including postage, from Don and Bernie Williams, PO Box 29, Taylors Beach, Queensland 4850. Two dollars from the cover price goes to the Beyond Blue depression awareness and research organisation.

Well-run schools managed by Australian teachers

John_fowke John Fowke [left], ex kiap and ex cooperatives officer, spent nearly 50 years in Papua New Guinea. Here are some extracts from an article he wrote for Quadrant magazine. The full text can be found here.

As the 21st century opens, PNG is being forced through a process of massive social adjustment more intense than that experienced by almost any other nation. A simply-structured tribal society is becoming, willy-nilly, an incredibly more complex one….

Australia laid solid foundations in terms of a wide appreciation of democratic ideals and principles among the educated of PNG, who are themselves largely the creation of Australia.

There are many of these who remember the era of their elevation into literate, numerate adulthood in well-run schools managed by Australian teachers, with great gratitude – people who resent the fact that such a facility is no longer available for the benefit of their own children….

Noted Australian poet and friend of PNG, the late James McAuley once said something to the effect that what Australia achieves in its relationship with PNG will come to define Australia as a nation. When we think of Australia’s own history as the prison colony of Great Britain and of the ambivalence many Australians of the ’20s and ’30s of last century felt regarding Australia’s growing role as a colonial power in PNG, McAuley’s statement has great resonance, and as well, great meaning for the future.

PNG’s ongoing social crisis is not just today’s problem; nor is it just PNG’s problem; substantial assistance is needed and it will come from nowhere but Australia. This is as it should be. But in the manner of its giving, Australia must be much more insightful and much more cognizant of the causes of the problems of its close neighbour and ally.

[Source: John P Fowke, Getting it wrong in Papua New Guinea, The National, 8 January 2007, reprinted from Quadrant, December 2006]

McKinnon: Olympics should be organised by teachers

Mckinnon07 Ken McKinnon writes: Wantoks. Now that Sue and I are home again in Sydney, recovered from the ravages of your marvellous Asopan reunion, I write to say how impressed we were with the whole event, especially your detailed and effective organisation. You have reinforced our long held conviction that the Olympic Games should be organised by teachers and ex-teachers. The way in which you were able to trace and contact former students and the number that turned up was indeed impressive.

Apparently without exception, former Asopans had a wonderfully challenging and satisfying period in PNG (I thought I was the only one!) at perhaps the most interesting and exciting time in its initial development. It's a part of our lives we will all cherish to the end.

At any time speaking to a group of enthusiastic, responsive people is gratifying. Reminiscing with this group was even more fun. And I renewed some former friendships, if only briefly. Thank you for inviting me.

Three-quarters of PNG kids miss out or drop out of schooling

Parents’ difficulty in paying for school fees is keeping nearly half the primary school age children in PNG out of school. And, of those who do to enrol, nearly half drop out. Unicef zone chief in Goroka, Dr Arnold Calo-oy said there were other contributing factors that caused disruption to schooling including security issues, lack of proper water supply, sanitation, early marriage and teacher’s attitude.

[Zachery Per, Scores of children are not in schools, PNG National, 17 October 2007]

Bananas without worms

This is an abridged version of Janine Paterson’s remarks to the ASOPA reunion dinner on Saturday night.

Barry_janine What are the most memorable years of your life? I represent the ASOPA Class of 1963-64, very poorly represented here tonight. This makes me think my Class might rather consider their years at ASOPA as being ones they would rather forget, not the most memorable.

However we feel now, each Class came to the School having accepted a ‘Career with a Challenge’. It was a decision to step out of the mould, change boundaries. Life in our comfort zone wasn’t enough. We wanted more – adventure, challenge. ASOPA meant a major turning point ves.

Indeed it might have been the first significant decision we made and that makes it memorable. We rejected a normal humdrum existence, left home and met up at ASOPA. Perhaps we wanted to ‘touch the real’. And, as Peter Plummer has said, we all took ‘the road less travelled’ not the broad highway like our most of our friends. And the first steps along that road were at ASOPA.

At ASOPA they taught us well. We learned about monogamous, polygamous, matrilineal and patrilineal. We realised the endless permutations and combinations of rules and traditions in societies. The numerous combinations of words, sounds and tones in languages that formed in all parts of the mouth. We took delight in making strange sounds. We learnt not to call our cat ‘Puss’ and if we did, never to call it at night.

At the end of two years we continued on the ‘road less travelled’ and went to PNG. Now, after many years, we are back in Australia, for tonight anyway. Have you rejoined the broad highway? Or are you back home but still out there on the ‘road less travelled’, ‘touching the real’ and taking up the challenges? We’re not in PNG any more, but for me, I have the next best thing. FNQ – same climate, same scenery. And bananas without worms.

[Photo: Janine and Barry Paterson]

The docs comment on the great weekend that was

There will be plenty of opportunities over coming days to reflect on the outcomes of last weekend’s Brisbane reunion – an event that exceeded all expectations – but here are a couple of reactions from participants.

Dr Clarrie Burke writes: “I know there were teams behind you which all toiled with intelligence to make the SUPER ASOPA REUNION happen. I'm sure you will share these sentiments so that they feel appreciated, too. Can I say that it was a magnificent evening - even if the speakers had their own sense of time. But that was of no consequence. Cutting some slack made for more spontaneity, I think, and allowed the show to rollick along - and rollick along it did!

“For Gail and me, the fact that we were able to finalise sales of Meeting the Challenge at the function added to the euphoria. It all seemed destined to come together at the finale. I hope you saw the evening in similar fashion. A great tribute to all contributors to the lead-up as well as final staging of the event. Take a bow!”

And from Dr Warwick Raymont: “What a fantastic weekend! And sincere congratulations to all of you for the exceptional effort and dedication that made the weekend such a success! Les Peterkin looks just great for his age! Ruth Fink-Latukefu is still an amazing woman ... I could go on for ever! The whole weekend was fantastic, all you guys made me feel so much at home and I am really, really looking forward to the next one!”

Brisbane reunion a great success: participants

Brisbane, Sunday: The only controversy of the Grand Reunion Dinner was whether former ASOPA students ought to be referred to as Asopans or Asopians. The triumph of the night was the homage paid to a now long gone youthful endeavour, the enduring friendship and comradeship it gave rise to and the still rich memories that trigger wonderful stories at the drop of a thought.

The dinner was attended by nearly 200 people at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane last night. There were many good moments and many good lines and over the next few weeks ASOPA PEOPLE will offer you the pick of these. One of the highlights was the 'cavalcade of the Classes' as former ASOPA cadet education officers from 1957-58 to 1970-71 provided insight and anecdote about their experiences. The reunion weekend - with still a day to go - is already a success and people are beginning to speculate about the next one.

Keithy's network is in business

Brisbane, Friday: I like the look of that headline. They're Henry Bodman's words. And they relate to a slight blending of my personal and professional lives. Tou see, we've been trying to secure a little publicity for the historic ASOPA reunion, which starts this evening in this fine city.

And when I say ’we’, I refer to the public relations company I chair, Jackson Wells Morris, and the account executive who’s securing some publicity for the reunion, Daniela De Lucia.

“4BC has just done a five minute interview with me, which they'll play in the next 24 hours,” says Henry in a message to the faithful. “Keithy's girl [that’s Daniela] is gingering things along and should be able to get the time it might be aired. I'll let you know when I know.”

Henry adds: “Interest in other places too - Channel 10, possibly Channel 7, and a couple of print media outlets.” All sounds good to me. To Henry too, who reckons his performance on 4BC was first rate as he talked with the station about the ASOPA legacy in Papua New Guinea.

Meanwhile the reunion kicks off at 6 pm today with a bunch of ‘meet & greets’ at the Sofitel and Novotel hotels.

Brisbane here we come

This morning Ingrid and I are flying to Brisbane for what promises to be a busy and pleasurable weekend. The organisers have worked for 18 months to design and plan what already is an historic event: being the largest gathering ever of former cadet education officers who trained at ASOPA to teach in Papua New Guinea, Nauru and the Northern Territory.

I'm not sure whetehr the dynamics of the next few days will permit some time off to contribute to ASOPA PEOPLE (I'm quite preoccupied preparing for the exacting role of MC for the grand reunion dinner on Saturday, for which we have a great line-up of speakers). But if I'm able to steal a few minutes a day at an Internet cafe, you'll certainly see the results here.

Meanwhile, cheers!Sp_green

The power of reunion

I wrote a version of this article in August 2002 on the eve of the reunion of the ASOPA Class of 1962-63. It has strong resonances for the Brisbane reunion this coming weekend.

Grouphenry20and20boys The idea of reunion is intriguing. Many years later a group of by now much older people come together to reflect on a distant past, inform themselves of what’s happened since and examine each other. It is, in essence, a relationship rebuild. But why? Presumably because the relationship remains of value.

When I first read about the 2002 reunion, my reaction surprised me. Over the previous 40 years I had not much reflected on ASOPA. When the letter triggered me to do so – and the people and events of those times re-emerged through the mind’s haze – I felt a profound sense of nostalgia. I realised this had been an important time, storybook stuff - 17-year old country boy commences life’s work. But mainly I was curious to find out what had happened to people I once knew so well. I became eager to reconnect with a group that, when I pondered the matter, had a remarkable cohesion and harmony and lacked anything approaching unkindness.

I became impatient to find out more about these people and felt a strong need to see them again. By now I was in regular email contact with the organisers and it was clear that two days at Port Macquarie would not make up for 40 years of separation. Thus began the ‘six-month reunion’.

A rewarding reunion would require the achievement of four goals. First, a successful search for former classmates: a daunting task after 40 years. People had scattered. Few had kept in touch. It took five months of searching phone books, electoral rolls, government archives and the Internet, supplemented by hundreds of telephone calls, to ascertain the whereabouts of the 56 people eventually located.

There was the goal of physically reuniting these people. That was a psychological as well as financial challenge. Not everyone initially shared an enthusiasm to get back together, nor for revisiting the past. The task was to demonstrate this would be a worthwhile, perhaps a unique, experience. And this meant its value had to be evidenced. Most people were persuaded and became enthusiastic. Good Samaritans were found for those who could not afford to regroup.

Then there was the goal of intimacy. A friendship is only as strong as its candour. We needed to tell what had happened to us. Reveal what cards life had dealt. Establish the sort of people we had become. We had to remind ourselves of shared experiences in order to redefine their importance in the present. This required some kind of contact. Which implied the need to communicate.

And communication became the fourth and final goal. It was achieved through phone, letter and email. It was organised into a newsletter. It was not intended to be weekly, but as the information flow accelerated and the stories multiplied it seemed neglectful not to share them. The newsletter Vintage (26 issues) grew into The Mail (116 issues so far) which spawned ASOPA PEOPLE (this is its 310th post).

And so the process rolled on. Increasing numbers of people joined in sharing information and relating experiences, and a long gone chapter in our lives re-emerged with new clarity and understanding. My own feeling of nostalgia turned to one of pride. I now realised I’d been a member of a group of young people who, in choosing to start their careers in a most unusual environment, had done something exceptional. It did not seem exceptional then. It did now. I found myself not only re-evaluating the past, but valuing it the more because now I recognised what had shaped who I had become.

And on to Brisbane. The preliminaries are over, the preparation is almost done and we are on the eve of another reunion. There will be stories of earthquakes and volcanoes, scorpions and snakes, fights and flights, guns and roses, drinking and eating, and marriages gone wrong. There will be reflections, too, on a lifestyle replete with frustration, deprivation, danger and fun and excitement. It’s going to be good, very good.

Reflections of ASOPA from the beach at St Helen’s

My old ASOPA buddy JJ ‘Joe’ Crainean and his new wife Kathryn are just back in Brisbane from an epic journey to Far North Queensland in a new, although by now slightly road-soiled, campervan they purchased for expedition.

While exploring coastal Queensland they called in at St Helen’s Beach and caught up with Marie Burns, our erstwhile colleague from the School in 1962-63 - that's Joe and Marie in the pic. Marie’s health tends to the indifferent and her mobility is limited these days, so she won’t be at this weekend’s reunion.

Joseph_marie_burns_2A few year’s ago I asked Marie about the significance of ASOPA in her life and this is what she wrote:

“The notion of a Career with a Challenge stayed, though the ASOPA experience itself didn’t loom large. The path I chose was always challenging, occasionally ground breaking in a minor way. Those years at Middle Head were the first step

“We came together from all over Australia and PNG – bright eyed and bushy tailed. Some outstanding resources were thrown our way – Rowley, Parkinson, Ford, Fink

“Most of us in the big smoke of a city for the first time. Then we were dispersed to PNG and NT– energetic and with a missionary-like zeal to make a difference. But the real difference was to us – to be part of a community most of us had never imagined before. The long term expats with their personal agendas and colonial traditions. Our agendas and motivations challenged by locals. The attempt of the McKinnons and Bricknells to have us conform to the programs of the Admin – like it or lump it was the ultimatum. Some of us stayed, others left but all were changed forever. The colonial system of obligatory servants – it allowed time for extensive leisure and grogging on - the ethics of such a system were muted by the personal advantage to us

“The McCarthyism fear of reds under the beds of the fifties continued into the sixties and some of us paid very dearly for the ‘sins’ of our parents with continual surveillance and thick ASIO files

“Who knows if we made a positive difference, or if in hindsight what else we could have done. Rowley certainly predicted the urban drift, the break down of the traditional culture. Did we seek to have our tune danced to, rather than hear and enhance the local drums?”

Interesting stuff.

Weekend weakened as Brisbane organisers pull out all the stops

Richard_and_henry_discuss_issues Forget Kevin 2007, this is ASOPA October. With the countdown to next weekend's gathering of 200 former ASOPA personnel remorselessly entering its final few days, the Brisbane organisers are dotting every 't' and crossing each 'i' to ensure the success of the event. There is no weekend. There is no perfect night's sleep. There is only pressure. In this first shot, Dick Arnold and Henry Bodman, in the words of the reporter, "discuss issues". To me that's always a very serious matter. Let's hope Dick and Hen sort things out.

Meanwhile, table engineering has dominated Colin 'Huggiebear' Huggins waking hours. Here he's Col_and_jade_finalising_seating_at_ shown in deep discourse with Sofitel go-to person Jade to ensure that, at the Grand Reunion Dinner, lifelong enemies are seated together, people with prostate problems are placed half a day's walk from the conveniences and former lecturers are forced into positions where they have eye contact with students they failed with comments like, "I cannot see you making a go of life". In this way the true spirit of a reunion is brought to the fore. Nostalgia, neuralgia, this is a time to settle old scores.

Col_joe_and_kathryn_check_bowthai_2 Now let's move down the road to the Beau Thigh, where the final Sunday night drinkalong will float by in a meandering stream of 'where did the last two days go, let alone the last 40 years'. In this pic Kathryn and Joe Crainean are making a splendid effort at pretending to understand Huggibear, who has come from the Sofitel at warp speed because he heard free drinks were on offer. Colin is saying, "This speck on the menu was left by a gnat". It is little wonder it will be at least another half hour before true understanding begins to occur around the words, "See you next weekend".

In this snapshot taken at the Whistlestop Bar ('best roast in the world' etc) , Kathryn and Joe have Testing_the_lunch_at_the_whistle__2  been set up by ASIO in a desperate attempt to show they are personally tackling the problem of Australia's wine lake. While Colin and Jade have been set up by Actors Equity in an equally desperate attempt to show they only need a Federal government grant to get on top of global warming. Just out of the picture on the right is John Howard with a barrowload of money.

Joe_col_and_tshirt Finally, Joe and Colin pose with the only known example of the reunion tee-shirt. Everyone attending the reunion will be allowed to wear it for three minutes. One photograph will be allowed. Fortunately the shirt on display here is about the size of a pup tent, solving the problem of a number of participants who have failed to book their Brisbane accommodation.

[Photos: Diane Bohlen]

Bernie’s story – battling the black dog at Taylors Beach

Bernie_don Don [ASOPA 1964-65] and Bernie Williams live at idyllic Taylors Beach, a small north Queensland hamlet midway between Townsville and Cairns. To the east is Ingham and to the west, across azure waters teeming with those fish that make Don’s pulse race, is Orpheus Island national park.

When Don and Bernie met in the late eighties, they were both teachers in the Northern Territory. Don soared through the NT education system to become a school principal. A couple of years before, seeking a new challenge, Bernie had thrown her car on a freight truck in Adelaide and headed north to Darwin.

They discovered Taylors Beach while on leave and by the early nineties were ready to move from the desert to the coast. They built a house at the beach and Don completed a Master’s degree in education. Both worked as school counsellors, gradually easing back on the throttle with part-time work as retirement loomed. Life was good.

Then in 1999 IT happened. Bernie calls it IT. And IT is the major depression and anxiety disorderBandaid  she still battles. Depression is a subject Bernie’s come to know well – and now, after a long struggle, she’s written about it in ‘I need a bandaid for my brain’ - an honest, gritty and uplifting story of her fight against a debilitating condition that cut through her life – and Don’s life - in the most devastating way.

Bernie wrote Bandaid to share with other people who have depression, who know someone with the condition or who just want to know more about IT – from the inside. Her psychiatrist Michael Likely unhesitatingly recommends the book, and says: “Bernie is a credit to sufferers of depression. I consider it an honour to have met Bernie Williams”. And Bernie has dedicated the book to Don for “the beautiful wonder of unconditional love and support”. That is a wonderful sentiment; it is so perfectly shaped.

Bernie won’t be at the Brisbane reunion – but she’s doing OK. My old mate Don, well, he always does OK, too.

Copies of Bandaid are available at $10, which goes towards further printing costs, from Don and Bernie Williams, PO Box 29, Taylors Beach, Queensland 4850.

A week to go – let’s preview the reunion highlights

Brisbane’s changed. When I first visited in 1969 to enrol as an external student at Queensland University, it was like – and this was a cliché at the time – a big country town. Red traffic lights performed the same function as Christmas lights: a bit of razzle-dazzle without noticeable impact on the passing parade. Brisbane’s now a sophisticated and beautiful city, with its river - once regarded with no more affection than a stormwater drain - now the focal point of a first class metropolis.

I visit Brisbane many times a year and, along with Sydney, it’s my favourite Australian city for walking. Whether through the Botanic gardens and across the footbridge past the Maritime Museum to South Bank, or downriver along the floating boardwalk and eventually to the Breakfast Creek Hotel for a well earned beer. The ASOPA reunion kicks off a week from now and I must say I’m looking forward to Brisbane as much as I’m looking forward to the event itself.

Highlight 1 - The Friday meet and greet. “Who are these old people,” you ask yourself. “What are they doing here and where are the fresh faced mates of my youth?” I have a theory that the eyes never change. People say their name and you look into their eyes and, yep, that’s them. Another marvellous thing. Even with people you haven’t seen for 40 years, there are no awkward pauses. Class and rank and social status count for nothing. This is the relationship you haven’t had for 40-years renewed as if you’d been at the Goroka Club together last night.

Highlight 2 - The Saturday river cruise aboard Lady Brisbane and the subsequent lunch at South Bank. By now the shock of the new is truly gone and the anecdotes and reminiscences flow like fountains. The old friendships have been ignited and are on fire.

Highlight 3 – The Reunion Dinner. The Sofitel ballroom is the venue for a program focusing on our shared history and experiences as well as providing a continuation of the day’s celebrations. Ken McKinnon speaks and we hear a message from PNG Secretary for Education, Joe Pagelio. A gift for PNG schools is presented. And representatives from each ASOPA intake reflect on what it was that made their cohort special.

Highlight 4 – A lazy Sunday sitting around and yarning, culminating in the Bow Thai farewell. It seems the weekend has evaporated. Or it has gently burst, puffing out a warm bubble of nostalgia. This is when the real schmaltz sets in: when it’s time to say goodbye.

Brisbane will never feel the same again.

PNG expat websites: (1) The E-Course

There exists a small number of websites developed by Australians who worked in Papua New Guinea in colonial days. From time to time, ASOPA PEOPLE will feature one of these.

Ecourse_site The E-Course site was established by Graeme O'Toole on 9 January 2006 and he edits it from Darwin. Graeme was on the 6th E-Course and there is a fascinating extract from the 6th E-Course magazine The Magnet, which is alone worth a visit to the site. And there are some irreverent sketches of staff by RJ ‘Spud’ Patterson, also a member of the 6th, as well as the story of Maria von Trapp - of Sound of Music fame – a member of the 4th E-Course.

The site provides a selection of historical articles by Dr Sue Gelade - whose contribution to recording the story of education in PNG has been invaluable – and by Dennis McLaughlin and Tom O'Donoghue. As you’d expect there’s a contact list, still capable of further development as the site attracts more visitors, and a rollcall from all seven courses except for some reason the 3rd.

As you’d expect there are the usual news (Toktok), photos and reunion info sections. And there’s a growing collection of articles by E-Coursers, including some wonderful reminiscences about PNG.

You can click through to the E-Course site here or email Graeme O'Toole here. Alternatively send him a note at PO Box 1666 Darwin NT 0801.

Graeme’s done his former colleagues, and history, a great service by establishing this site. I hope more people will use it and that more of his E-Course comrades can be located.

New Dawn FM funded and ready to hit the Bougainville airwaves

The National newspaper in PNG has reported that Bougainville will soon have a home-grown radio station to promote peace and development on the island. Martin Hadlow, Phil Charley and I have worked with a group of Bougainvilleans for a couple of years to design and find funding for this project. Now the station, New Dawn FM, has been licensed and UNESCO has provided it with the $US20,000 it requires to purchase equipment an take to the airwaves.

Project manager Aloysius Laukai says the station will transmit on a frequency of 95.3 and operate to educate, inform and entertain. He says New Dawn FM will provide news and current affairs, general information, educational programs and free community announcements and programs for village people.

An interim board with a balance of expertise covering broadcasting, journalism, executive management and financial management has been established to manage station operations.

According to  UNESCO, “the station will serve a number of towns and villages in the area around Tinputz and Buka Passage in the north of Bougainville, a province which has gone through an extended period of civil insurrection that has left countless thousands of people dead, injured or internally displaced. The project will contribute to establishing a public sphere, enabling discourse and giving a voice to a community dispossessed by civil insurrection and now seeking to rebuild a democratic society.”

The chapter meets for the last time (for now)

Diane Bohlen writes: Two years ago a group of ex ASOPA cadets education officers who live in and near Brisbane got together to organise a third reunion for the Class of 1962/63. We called ourselves the ‘Queensland Chapter’ and met every few months at a different member’s house. Besides business, the meetings became an enjoyable Sunday with friends including a scrumptious spread.

After a few meetings it was suggested we open up the reunion to CEOs from other groups. Then the fun began. Henry Bodman (a self proclaimed reunion junkie) and his vast network of friends have managed to find ASOPA people from all over Australia and beyond. Nearly 200 are coming to the Brisbane reunion next week. The job has been done and the last meeting to wrap up loose ends was held at our house last Sunday.

Treasurer Dick Arnold is happy that we can cover all the payments for theLast_meeting  dinner and river cruise. He and wife Josephine have organised souvenir tee-shirts and name badges. Colin (Kolin von Lederhosen) Huggins (looking forward to Oktoberfest) reported on final table arrangements.

Henry gave an account of progress on the souvenir booklet. He has been busy goading people into writing their memories of ASOPA YEARS, which is what we’ve named the booklet. He has a story from almost every Class attending. I designed a few alternative covers for the booklet and people voted for the most suitable.

I also reported that we have enough passengers paid for the River Cruise to pay the hire of the Lady Brisbane. There is plenty of room for more passengers so no one will miss out. There is a bar and tea and coffee will be available. Maps of South Bank will also be available on board.

Henry_and_i_last_meeting Bill Bohlen reported the Reunion Dinner will be filmed by a young man who is a student at the Film and Television School. Bill will edit and produce the video. Bill also catered for the meeting, preparing Chäschüechli, Flieschchrügeli, and Schpinnatpflüder for the final spread and I threw in oysters, prawns and Moreton Bay bugs. All washed down with red wine.

We all hope you enjoy the reunion weekend as much as we have enjoyed organising it. See you there!

[Photos (above right) Bill Bohlen, Colin Huggins, Henry Bodman, Diane Bohlen, Josephine Arnold (above left) Henry Bodman, Diane Bohlen, Josephine Arnold]

PNG govt moves to control media: ‘play by my rules, you’ll be a winner’

The PNG Information and Communication Department has been asked by its Minister, Kokopo MP Patrick Tammur, to come up with guidelines to regulate the media.

The review “is important so that the rules of engagement for the media industry and publishing houses are clear. We must ensure that the media industry abide by professional ethics,” said the Department’s secretary, Henao Iduhu.

“We must ensure that they play the game within guidelines set out by the Government and not allow them to move the goal post. Everybody plays to our rules, to ensure that everybody is a winner.”

Mr Iduhu said if the media plays its part and report fairly, accurately and responsibly, there would be no cause for alarm.

PNG’s two major newspapers, The National and the Post-Courier, have recently had Prime Minister Michael Somare under pressure over the report of the inquiry into the Moti affair, which had implicated Mr Somare and recommended his prosecution.

Any crackdown on the media is likely to have serious implications for PNG’s already strained relationship with Australia.

Milestones in the history of ASOPA

1925 - Australian Government announces establishment of a cadetship scheme in which five or more Cadet Patrol Officers, after a period of practical training in PNG, are selected each year for further training by the Department of Anthropology at Sydney University

1941 – Alf Conlon joins the Australian Army from his job as Sydney University's manpower officer, selecting or exempting students from military training. The Army Signals Unit constructs the huts on Middle Head that will become the ASOPA campus. They use land cleared for a golf course

1942 – On 11 February civil government in PNG is suspended and the Cadet Patrol Officer training scheme managed by Sydney University ceases. Conlon appointed chairman of Prime Minister John Curtin's Committee on National Morale “which carried some vestige of the authority of the PM, whom Conlon knew”. Conlon, now a Major, appointed to head the Army’s Research Section. John Kerr joins as Assistant Director

1943 - Conlon transferred to the staff of the Army’s commander-in-chief, General Blamey, who reconstitutes Research Section as Directorate of Research. Blamey seeks Conlon’s advice in handling intricate political relationship between the high command and the Federal government. Conlon's propensity for informal contacts, deliberate avoidance of regular channels of communication and command, and neglect of proper procedures and records leads to his activities and the Directorate being regarded with suspicion and dislike by official bodies. “People of irreproachable good faith denounced him as a charlatan. Yet, he remained Blamey's confidant”

1944 - Conlon becomes Director of Research and Civil Affairs: “It had an uneasy relationship with the military”. Army announces Army announces it will establish the School of Civil Affairs under Conlon to train service personnel in colonial administration in PNG. Hon Camilla Wedgwood joins Directorate as an anthropologist: “On army bivouacs in PNG, where she served intermittently in 1944-45, when offered a cigarette by her young cadets her reply was: 'No thanks, I roll my own'”. She died of lung cancer in 1955

1945 - School of Civil Affairs established at Royal Military College Duntroon. Conlon persuades External Territories Minister Eddie Ward to ensure School continues after the war. On the first course staff outnumber students 47-40. Conlon has made many enemies and his influence wanes as war ends and the Directorate is disbanded. He’s promoted to Colonel just before going on the retired list. Kerr is appointed Chief Instructor at the School, which moves to Holsworthy. Meanwhile, the Army Signals Unit buildings on Middle Head that will become the ASOPA campus are used to house Italian internees who are employed as maintenance workers

1946 - Civil government is restored to PNG. Federal Cabinet approves the interim establishment of ASOPA. Colonel John Kerr is demobilised and becomes Principal

1947 – On 12 April Cabinet approves the permanent establishment of ASOPA. PNG Administrator JK Murray tells Eddie Ward (Minister for External Territories) that ASOPA should have a research function otherwise Australia will have nothing more than “mid Victorian colonial administration” in PNG. ASOPA moves to temporary premises in two Quonset huts at George’s Heights and then to Middle Head. Kerr says: “The idea of ASOPA was opposed, and opposed in influential quarters. Attempts were made to bring the whole academic venture to an end”. It is taken for granted that ASOPA’s destiny is to become part of ANU. In December, Eddie Ward visits ASOPA and says the government realises the need for thorough training of all administrative personnel in New Guinea. He says ASOPA is now on a firm footing. Kerr decides to resume practice at the NSW Bar and resigns as Principal. It is likely he smelt defeat over proposed ASOPA legislation that would see it cut off from academia: “[He] lost the will to fight the bureaucracy”

1948 – The first civilians enrol at ASOPA, training for patrol officer and magisterial duties. PNG Administrator Colonel JK Murray addresses the School: “Time is moving faster in New Guinea than the Europeans. Our aim and obligation in native administration is to work ourselves out of a job”. In PNG these liberal views are rewarded with the soubriquet ‘Kanaka Jack’. Conlon is appointed acting Principal for 12 months. “Even [his] staunchest supporters later agreed that this appointment was disastrous. The man who at his best was a creator of big ideas and a ‘hidden persuader’ in getting them acted upon was hopeless as an administrator” Conlon is interested in a permanent position as principal, which he hopes will give him continuing influence over PNG policy. He complains that “the colonial leathernecks who try to tell us that the School is no good at any rate ... do everything in their power to prevent us from getting the necessary authorities to take such reasonable steps as would make the School into something we would all want to see”

1949 – The Papua and New Guinea Act gives ASOPA statutory recognition. Teachers are being orientated at the School. Reg Halligan, Head of the Department of External Territories, reviews ASOPA and criticises its research aspirations, its ambitious educational goals, its cost and its pretensions. He concludes it is a self-serving institution. He writes of ASOPA staff: “Not understandable how so many experts in teaching Territorial Administration were produced in such a short time with no background”. Conlon loses interest and scarcely takes any part in the affairs of the School for the remainder of his term as acting principal, and thus ends any influence he may have exercised in New Guinea affairs. In September Conlon’s principalship ends: “an unsuccessful and unhappy principal of ASOPA”

1950 – Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, proposes to move ASOPA to Canberra. Nobody hears of this idea again. After Alf Conlon’s forced departure, Harry Maude OBE, long-serving Gilbert and Ellice Islands Administrator, is offered position as ASOPA Principal. He knocks it back and, in November, Charles Rowley gets the job

1951 - ASOPA's pretensions to be a research institution are officially knocked on the head and the School concentrates on training officers to serve in PNG

1952 – ASOPA’s occupation of part of 10 Terminal ends and the campus is relocated to the timber-framed huts of the previous Army Signals Unit camp

1953 - Hasluck gives the PNG Education Department the task of providing a universal primary education within a policy of ‘considered gradualism’

1954 - ASOPA begins to train Australian teachers to assist develop primary education in PNG. Ken McKinnon, later Director of Education, is one of them. Courses are offered to teachers recruited for Special (Aboriginal) Schools in the Northern Territory

1955 – The PNG Administration in Port Moresby rules that English is to be the language of instruction in PNG schools. On 17 May Camilla Wedgwood dies at Royal North Shore Hospital. James McAuley dedicates his poem ‘Winter Nightfall’ to her

1956 - ASOPA cadets begin to train at Bathurst Teachers College: “The provision of courses at Bathurst in 1956 was costly and a heavy drain on the limited academic staff of the School” says the ASOPA Annual Report

1957 - Dr Peter Lawrence begins lecturing in Anthropology at the School. His obituarist later writes: “His first and enduring passion was teaching at ASOPA”

1958 - Bathurst training is abandoned. Balmain Teachers’ College begins providing teacher education services for Cadet Education Officers training at ASOPA. The NSW Education Department agrees to award of the NSW Teacher’s Certificate to ASOPA graduates with three years successful inspection reports. Male ASOPA students are permitted to wear shorts with long socks

1959 - Cadet Education Officers move to Middle Head; 21 students enrolled

1960 - Hasluck’ s policy of universal primary education in PNG has led to 77,000 students enroling in recognised primary schools and another 112,000 in unregulated mission schools but a UN report on educational advancement suggests Australia is not doing enough to create educational opportunity. Australian press advertisements call for the E [Emergency] Course: a six month, condensed, practically-oriented program conducted in PNG for people qualified to teach only in PNG. 1,600 people apply and 60 are selected. Meanwhile there are 58 students in the CEO's course at ASOPA. Prime Minister Robert Menzies asks State Premiers to support education in PNG and obtains 20-30 seconded teachers a year from the State Education Departments. James McCauley leaves ASOPA to take a position at the University of Tasmania

1961 - Woollahra Colleagues Rugby Union Football Club, “the finest Burke Cup team ever to play for the club”, defeats ASOPA 36-5 in the grand final at Woollahra Oval. Les Peterkin arrives at ASOPA as physical education lecturer

1962 - UN Mission to PNG under chairmanship of Sir Hugh Foot focuses on educational development and urges Australia to disengage from its colonial role in the near future. The revised syllabus for Primary T Schools is published by the Department of Education in Port Moresby. Charles Rowley reflects on ASOPA’s educational philosophy: “Nearly all the students of the early fifties were ex-servicemen. Many had served in ANGAU, 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 rethink conclusions which they had formed of the proper role of the Australians in New Guinea.” First issue of Vortex magazine is published

1963 - Dutch New Guinea becomes the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya. Australian government perceives that Australia is vulnerable to Indonesian expansion in the Pacific. Second issue of Vortex hits the streets. ASOPA stages a revue, ‘The Natives Are Restless’, at Mosman Town Hall for a two-night season

1964 – Charles Rowley’s principalship ends. Jack Mattes takes over. Report of the Commission on Higher Education in PNG accelerates the establishment of the University of PNG. ASOPA asked to provide junior secondary training instead of primary. Revue ‘If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em’ at Mosman Town Hall

1965 - Last  PNG primary teachers graduate, although ASOPA continues to provide primary teacher training for NT schools

1966 - Largest ever CEO intake for PNG, 89 students in first year. Last long course for PNG Patrol Officers

1967 - PNG Director of Education Ken McKinnon unsuccessfully asks Canberra to reinstate E Course as PNG teacher training cannot keep pace with demand. One-year course commences for PNG senior local government officials

1968 – ASOPA hosts first of two three-month English courses for members of the PNG House of Assembly. ASOPA staff strike in support of NSW Teachers’ Federation, infuriating Balmain Teachers’ College Principal Greenhalgh, who can do nothing

1969 – A fire at ASOPA destroys many documents including all the policy papers up until 1949 and many student records

1970 - WJ (Jock) Weeden, a member of the ASOPA Council, makes recommendations about the future of the School. As a result of his report, the role of ASOPA changes so, instead of training Australian expatriates, it “takes on the new role of training Papua New Guineans as part of the overall program of accelerated training to prepare PNG for self government and independence”. First continuing course designed wholly for Papua New Guineans. Northern Territory primary teachers course extended to three years

1971 - As a result of the Weeden report, ASOPA's emphasis changes from training expatriates to training Papua New Guineans. Cadet Education Officers are to complete their programs but are the last teacher trainees at the School. First year Northern Territory trainees finish their course at Canberra College of Advanced Education. In December, the Mattes principalship ends and John Reynolds takes over

1972 - Teacher training ends and the last CEOs graduate. PNG administrators begin training at the School. Mattes estimates that 1,500 students have passed through ASOPA since 1947 with a maximum of 230 students at any one time. In teacher education, a total of 918 students enrolled, and 715 were certificated. Effectively, ASOPA's role has come to an end

1973 - PNG becomes self-governing. ASOPA is formally disestablished as a responsibility of the Minister for External Territories and statutory recognition under the Papua New Guinea Act in 1949 ceases. The International Training Institute comes into existence and is formally linked to the Australian Development Assistance Agency

1974 – The final group of Northern Territory field officers graduates

1975 - PNG becomes Independent

1983 - Jack Mattes completes compiling the laws of PNG

1987 - ITI closes and campus proclaimed as AIDAB Centre for Pacific Development and Training

1997 - Hallstrom Pacific Collection handed over to the University of New South

1998 - Centre for Pacific Development disestablished

2006 - A forum of the Australian Institute of International Affairs hears a suggestion that re-establishing ASOPA, possibly in Townsville, would better prepare Australians for work in PNG and the Pacific region

2007 – A paper of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says: “An earlier and largely forgotten Australian model in this regard was the Australian School of Pacific Administration... While the ASOPA model is not appropriate to current situations for obvious reasons, it was an innovative and successful response in its time and there is much that we can learn from it. The problems in the so-called arc of instability surrounding our shores are not going to disappear anytime soon. Arguably they will get worse in the immediate future. While as a country we might not be able to claim unique expertise or knowledge in respect of every place where international assistance is required, we surely ought to be able to make this claim in respect of countries with which we are so inextricably bound by reasons of history, geography, sentiment and national interest”

If you know of other significant ASOPA events not listed in the chronology, please forward them (with a citation if possible) to me here.

Political turmoil looms in PNG as Somare asked to quit

Sir Michael Somare arrived in Port Moresby yesterday from an overseas trip and was hurried away from Jackson’s International Airport amid heavy police protection. Officials decided to abandon the usual official welcome for security reasons.

Pcfront Meanwhile the PNG Post-Courier says it stands by its report that soldiers had planned to arrest the Prime Minister. Editor Blaise Nangoi says the report was “based on information from very credible sources that there is a plot to arrest the Prime Minister by soldiers unhappy with his handling of the Moti affair.”

Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta and New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan have called on Sir Michael to resign while the justice system pursues the recommendations of the Moti inquiry report. Sir Mekere told reporters the Prime Minister had been implicated in the report which had recommended his prosecution. Sir Julius said there were signs of a collapse in authority in PNG. “Parliamentary democracy is now in question. I think the worst is yet to come,” he said.

[Sources: ‘The National’ and ‘PNG Post-Courier’]

Make sure you get your reunion Mail

Mail116oct_01 I’m putting the finishing touches on a special reunion issue of The Mail, which will be circulated at about this time next week. It features an investigation into the mysterious office that gave rise to ASOPA and profiles James McAuley and Charles Rowley. There’s an interview with Sue Ward, a member of the group of CEO’s who moved from Bathurst to ASOPA for the first two-year education course at Middle Head. Inspection reports archived at Kingsgrove in Sydney provide fertile information for an article on how we qualified for that prized NSW Teacher’s Certificate. The Mail also offers an abridged ASOPA dictionary. There’s much more - including news, the full Brisbane program and the latest reunion roll call. Make sure you’re on the email list by contacting me here.

Australia failed to provide primary education in PNG: academic

Graham Pople, an occasional correspondent from his home in PNG, reminds me of an ABC radio program a couple of years ago that’s still causing ripples. The program produced by the social history unit sought to ‘examine the history of Australia’s relationship with our nearest neighbour’. In doing so it made many dubious claims about PNG’s time under Australian administration, motivating journalist Geoffrey Luck, who spent many years in PNG, to complain about the errors. Without success you may not be surprised to learn. The ABC, like most media outlets, doesn’t believe in admitting fault.

One of the more startling statements in the program came from formerHelen_hughes  ANU academic Prof Helen Hughes [pictured], now a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, who felt able to say, with a degree of incoherence, “Australia failed to provide primary education for PNG or to establish a central Department of Education and make sure that Papua New Guineans could read and write and speak English. The village schools were largely left to the missionaries, the whole education system…we just failed Papua New Guinea on education before independence.”

As regular readers of ASOPA PEOPLE might have seen on this site recently, as early as 1960 – when the big primary education push was just getting started – there were 77,000 students enrolled in administration primary schools in PNG, each one learning English from Day 1 of their education, and another 112,000 in mission schools. Further, how much research would Prof Hughes have to do to establish that there was indeed “a central Department of Education”. And the ABC felt it could avoid admitting error. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Rumours of Somare arrest grip Moresby

Peter_ilau The PNG Defence Force commander, Commodore Peter Ilau [left], has denied reports that disgruntled soldiers plan to arrest Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare upon his return to the country from an overseas trip where he attended the UN General Assembly. If Mr Somare was arrested, it would throw PNG into crisis.

Police are on full alert following reports that the national security advisory committee met over the weekend to discuss the threat. “We are not leaving anything to chance,” an official said. Police Commissioner Gari Baki confirmed police were on full alert and were treating as “serious” rumours of the soldiers’ secret plan.

Unsubstantiated reports of PNGDF soldiers arresting the Prime Minister for treason over his alleged role in helping Solomon Islands Attorney-General Julian Moti escape extradition have been circulating in Port Moresby for the last two weeks. Commodore Ilau said the 2,000-strong PNDF was loyal to the Government-of-the-day and an internal army investigation had uncovered nothing. He described the media reports as “rubbish”.

The Opposition and civil organisations appealed to the Prime Minister to step aside after he made an unsuccessful attempt in the National Court recently to quash the proceedings of a PNGDF board of inquiry into the 2006 Moti incident. The PNDF report incriminated Sir Michael, senior bureaucrats and highly-ranked soldiers over their alleged role in Moti’s clandestine escape to the Solomon Islands using an army aircraft. While Sir Michael sought court orders to quash the report, the application was unsuccessful and the report was made public.

Sir Edward Hallstrom

Monument Sir Edward Hallstrom [1886-1970] founded Taronga Zoo Park and directed it from 1941-67. It was in this capacity he gave lectures at ASOPA in 1962 on ‘Capturing of Wild Animals’ and ‘Wild Life in TPNG’, the latter disappointingly offering no advice on how to deal with outstation social excesses let alone activities at Port Moresby’s bottom pub.

As a young man he exhibited an adventurous spirit. In December 1909, he transported one of Australia’s first aircraft, a glider, to the sandhills at Narrabeen Beach and flew it as a kite to make sure it was stable and would support a man.

He had left school at 13 to be apprenticed to a cabinet-maker and studied using the Harmsworth Self-Educator, encyclopaedias and scientific magazines. Intelligent and hard working, he soon had charge of a furniture factory which made innerspring mattresses – the first in Australia. He quit after trying to interest his employers in kerosene-powered incubators. The mattress makers couldn’t understand the leap in logic at all.

In 1923 Hallstrom produced his first Icy Ball absorption refrigerator, a chest model run by kerosene, which he sold around the outback. He then took his idea a step further, adapting the power unit to manufacture Australia’s first electric refrigerator, the Silent Knight. It launched in 1935 and made him a very wealthy man indeed.

By the mid-1940s Hallstroms Pty Ltd was turning out 1,200 refrigerators per week and employed over 700 people. He subsequently invented a machine for refrigerating anaesthetics which he presented to Sydney Hospital.

By this time Hallstrom could afford to indulge two passions—a love of birds and animals (a childhood obsession) and philanthropy. With the proceeds of the sale of five hundred kerosene refrigerators in Africa in 1937, he bought two rhinoceroses which he presented to the Taronga Zoological Park Trust. These were the first of many gifts which gave him extraordinary influence. In 1941 he was appointed a trustee of the zoo which he was to dominate for the next 26 years. As head curator, Hallstrom controversially did away with the miniature railway, elephant and camel rides and performing seals saying, “It’s a zoo, not a circus”.

Davey_hallstrom_namatjira From 1966 he was also under covert surveillance for illegal trafficking in rare Australian fauna. In 1970, 35 people were convicted and it was thought Hallstrom may have used his influence to have his involvement concealed. The 1993 book, Smuggled, accused him of doing so, but Hallstrom was long dead and the allegations was never proven. Sir Edward died in 1970, aged 83, disspirited by the criminal investigations and with his loss of control over the zoo.

The Hallstrom Pacific Library, established from a £10,000 gift he made to ASOPA, was transferred to the University of NSW upon the demise of the campus in 1998. When ASOP transformed to ITI, the library steadily built a collection of hats donated by students. It was an unusual tribute to Sir Edward Hallstrom, who himself collected the hats of famous men, including Chaplin, Churchill, Truman, Eisenhower and Menzies.

[Lower photo: Jack Davey, Hallstrom and artist Albert Namatjira on Davey's radio show c 1950]