Ours was the year that was: 1965-66
30 December 2007
I grew up in the eastern highlands of PNG and was later choofed off to boarding school ‘down south’. After completing school I had the option of a scholarship at Sydney University or a cadetship at ASOPA. The cadetship would get me home for a career in teaching.
From the cloistered life of a NSW country convent school I found myself thrust into the unstructured adult world of ASOPA where I recognised a number of the kiaps, which meant they could toksave long mi. Even the ASOPA buildings - temporary no-nonsense weatherboard - were reminiscent of the Goroka government buildings.
My memories are not of the rigours of academia. I learned to knit in the Ed Psych. I found Anthropology most interesting. Margaret Mead's Growing up in New Guinea made me sit up and take notice. I particularly remember Mr Donnison, our Education Principles lecturer, and later found myself teaching at Brandi High with his son Phil.
I befriended two very committed students whose worldly intellectualism appealed to my innocent immediate post-school vision of pure studentship. They were Charles Cazabon and Pieter Degeling and both breezed through the course with nonchalant ease.
My two years at ASOPA were punctuated with wildish parties and late nights at Taronga Park. My new-found independence was reinforced by the confidence of sharing accommodation with my sisters and some boyfriends. It came as no surprise to find myself on probation at the end of my first year at ASOPA. When, in the second year, my sisters returned to Goroka, I finally settled into the paperwork and preparation to meet assignment deadlines.
I got to know places like the Buena Vista, folk-singing spots at The Spit and amoral Balmoral. The lure of Sydney's pseudo beatnik holes in the wall made me an unreliable friend to people like Peter McKinnon and John Meyer who disappeared into PNG schools a year after I did.
Still only 19 years old on graduation from ASOPA, my posting was pre-ordained - into the bosom of my family in Goroka. There was still some seriousness about females needing to be 21 to go to PNG to work and so again three sisters were reunited in the same town.
ASOPA did prepare me for the career I chose to pursue. Teaching with limited resources, developing curricula, running boarding facilities and managing classrooms still being built whilst teachers attempted to teach, supervising the building of saksak walls, growing crops for the table, catching fish after parade and sending the students to cut the grass on the ovals with their sarifs. These skills are no longer part of my duty statement but they stand me in good stead to this day.