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17 posts from January 2008

Territory continues to weave magic spell

Siebrand Petrusma: I had a great time with you and the others at Mido on Tuesday. It was very special to meet up with the Donnisons after almost 47 years and I very much appreciated their coming. There is still much to catch up. It never ceases to amaze how even a few months of Territory association leaves lasting friendships. There obviously is something very special about these associations. Look forward to ongoing contact.

Keith: Norm Donnison, the famed ASOPA education lecturer, had two sets of twins in his six children. Norm was accompanied by his young family when setting up the first E Course in Rabaul in 1961 and they befriended the Petrusmas, who also went on to have two sets of twins. The other day the two families met for the first time in all those years: Siebrand and the Donnison kids Phil and Suzie (twins) and Gwennie (half a twin).

Colin Huggins: As you have noted since you first introduced the Vintage newsletter and then The Mail, there is something about Asopians. The emails of good wishes I received before going to hospital for back surgery were amazing. I truly was overcome with emotion. Please convey my heartfelt thanks to all.

Keith: Colin had speculated that “oysters, prawns and smoked salmon are not on the hospital menu - not to mention the absence of wine” and I sympathetically responded that it was “possible the enforced diet will be good for you, but remember, a man cannot live on anaesthetic alone.” Other people clearly had more empathetic ways of bringing tears to the eyes.

Diane Bohlen: It has been raining all day, so here comes another ASOPA video to watch on YouTube. It’s called ASOPA Classes 1958-75 and is a collection of old class photos. Unfortunately I haven't got every year. Hope you enjoy.”

You can find the latest ASOPA addition to YouTube right here.

The man who took Jeff Kennett’s seat

Bob_stensholt “Greetings from the past,” the communication from Bob Stensholt begins. And then, “I remember Mosman with some fondness.” The Mosman Bob refers to is the International Training Institute, ASOPA’s successor organisation. Bob was a frequent visitor to Middle Head during the eighties, when I was there, latterly as acting principal, in his role as assistant director general of Australia’s aid agency, AusAID, from 1984-97

But for Bob, as for the rest of us, life has moved on. He is now a Labor member of the Victorian State Parliament, having taken Jeff Kennett’s old seat of Burwood in what he terms “dark blue Liberal territory” eight years ago.

Before politics, Bob had a diverse career as a diplomat, manager, company director, university lecturer, teacher, community worker and international consultant. He now chairs the Parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee and is a frequent parliamentary contributor especially on economic matters. He continues to nominate international development issues as one of his major interests.

Bob had stumbled upon the ASOPA website and if you want to stumble over his, you can find it here.

Beautiful woman, two men & a baby grand

Siebrand Petrusma - veteran of the first E-Course, former CEO of the Bible Society and thorough gentleman – made it to Sydney from Tasmania this past week. And he brought with him a fascinating story about his late wife Carol, a baby grand piano and the most famous of Australia’s classical composers, Peter Sculthorpe.

Carol_petrusma Carol, from a Tasmanian family of long vintage, and an accomplished musician and singer, went to PNG with Siebrand in 1961, leaving her baby grand with mum and dad. While Carol and Siebrand were fighting the good educational fight at Agarabi in the Eastern Highlands, mum and dad, finding themselves short of a quid and needing a new motor vehicle, flogged the piano. Or to be more precise, they put an ad in the paper advising the community that said piano was for sale. This intelligence was not communicated to Carol, perhaps for obvious reasons.

A 30-something Launceston boy – who, as a child had been severely reprimanded by his piano teacher for not practising, so took to writing music under the bedclothes with a torch – saw the ad, saw the piano and concluded that “it was asking me to play it”.

The young man was Peter Sculthorpe, now approaching 80, one of Australia’s 100 Living Peter_sculthorpe National Treasures, one of only four Australians to be made life members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and much honoured in this country as perhaps our greatest composer ever. He has composed at Carol’s piano since.

This morning Siebrand visited the Sculthorpe home in Sydney to see the baby grand. And Peter Sculthorpe sat at the keyboard and played for Siebrand the first piece he had ever composed on it.

Photos: Carol Petrusma with twins Tim and Heather at Taurama Base Hospital, Port Moresby, 20 March 1969 [PNG Post Courier]; Peter Sculthorpe [University of Sydney]

The growing ASOPA–YouTube library

Diane Bohlen’s been busy, very busy, ensuring that the visual history of the Class of 1962/63, together with its attendant hangers on, is recorded for posterity in a modern 21st Century form.

The latest addition to YouTube is Friends Forever, which you can find here under the title Friends For Life, a collection of pics from the latest Sofitel luncheon of the Brisbane Chapter of seafood and vin rouge aficionados, which cannot let go those friendships so firmly cemented during the planning and organisation of the Brisbane ASOPA reunion.

Friends Forever joins a rapidly growing library of ASOPA YouTube video content: 2007 Brisbane Reunion (Parts 1 and 2), Port Macquarie 2002 (Parts 1 and 2), ASOPA Buildings and Grounds, Class of 62/62 Brisbane 2003, Dianne’s ASOPA Days, Sydney Reunion 2005 and Brisbane River City. Well worth catching up with on a lazy afternoon.

And drop Bill Bohlen an email here if you’d like to add your own content to the ASOPA program on YouTube.

Ex PNG folk honoured on Australia Day

Freshwater_boat_race_jan_2008_18 It really was a quintessential Australian summer’s day. Hot, sunny and bright. An embryonic sea breeze wisping up. Ingrid and I took a bus, alive with chatter and thick with the aroma of suntan cream, from Cremorne to Manly, and then walked along the beach promenade from South Steyne through North Steyne, and then up the Queenscliff headland. Down below at Freshwater there was a surf carnival.

Simon_freshieThey’d finished the belt and reel and were lining up the surfboats, which began to race as we watched. You understand clearly what it feels like to be an Australian at such times. The surfboats were racing nine at a time, and the surfers at the northern end of the beach were being herded away by inflatable rescue boats (or ‘rubber duckies’ as my son Simon  [left], IRB Captain at Freshwater, calls them, providing the correct technical appellation). Freshwater has hosted a surf lifesaving carnival for clubs from beaches throughout the continent each Australia Day since 1912, Club president John Swan told me.

The morning papers were laden with the names of people receiving Orders of Australia, and I was pleased to see some former PNG colleagues receiving honours. Both, as it happened, had been at theDiane_langmore_13 University of PNG. Prof Alan Gilbert, now at Manchester University, was awarded an AO for services to tertiary education, including the promotion of learning in developing countries. And Dr Diane Langmore [right], now a senior fellow at ANU,was awarded
an AM, specifically for her editorship of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which I have drawn on heavily from time to time in researching the lives of a number of ASOPA identities.

As a footnote, I might add that Ilona Lee of Rushcutters Bay also received an AM, in her case for community service. I mention her name because she was nominated by my wife Ingrid, who was as delighted by her friend's success as the recipient herself.

Fellowship in Brisbane as party continues

Bill Welbourne

The Booths in BrisVegas for an Australia Day retreat was the flint for party animal Colin ‘Huggiebear’ Huggins who rounded up those of the Brisbane Chapter who could not find their way out of town. Key members had flittered to other commitments … Bodmans to a Victorian wedding; Craineans to the yeehaaa country music festival in Tamworth.

Colin recommended the Wednesday seafood fest in the new Thyme restaurant and I found myself surrounded by plates of oysters, banana prawns, sliced salmon and goblets of reds … and that was just for starters. One look under the table revealed a sight my mother once warned me of. ‘Beware of men wearing yellow socks’. Huggiebear’s favourite.

To my right Dick and Josephine Arnold, whom I readily relate to as we trade discourse on personal training programs. To my left Wendy and Colin Booth, getting full value from their seasonal Accor card and planning to give it a flogging when they visit Hong Kong. Conversation dart back and forth, broken only by frequent trips to top up our seafood concoctions.

Making up our quorum of eight are Bill and Diane Bohlen. Dianne is relishing her newly planned freedom called ‘retirement’ and smarting at Dennis Burrell’s unwillingness to give up the chalk and duster. Diane’s new lease of life has been put to good creative use. Apart from attending to her personal website and assisting with Bill’s YouTube activities, she has produced a fabulous photographic CD of the 2007 Reunion. I think you have to attend one of these post-reunion events to get your free copy!

My son Tony, who recently retired from the Navy and now lives in Melbourne, has been visiting my wife Pam, who's now in a permanent care home due to blindness and other disabilities. Colin Booth told me he will forever remember Pam for an incident at Rabaul Post Office one evening, when she went to collect the mail. Her VW had a flat battery and needed a push start to get it going, so Pam rounded up some willing native boys and in limited Pidgin announced to her startled helpers: ‘Mi laik liklik puspus’. The fellas were last seen heading for the hills! Colin says he weaves this mistaken interpretation as a conversation piece to top any rival speechmaker.

ASOPA 1964-65 on the march again

Sue Ellison

At last I'm getting my act together to start the ball rolling for our 2009 reunion in Cairns. Gabriele Litfin, my co-organiser (the one who got me into this situation!), and I have come up with the following dates: Tuesday 29 September - Friday 2 October or Wednesday 30 September - Saturday 3 October.

The second option gives us Friday night, which may offer greater flexibility for entertainment. The dates coincide with school holidays for those who may still be teaching. September is a good time to visit the north.

As well as our ASOPA 1964-65 group, we’d also welcome people who attended ASOPA in 63/64 or 65/66 I would appreciate that information as well - the more the merrier!

Hopefully, you have not planned for 2009 yet, how about booking September/October for the reunion. The north is a great place for a holiday so why not stay longer and have a good look at the Atherton Tablelands and other scenic spots up and down the coast. Gabriele and I live on the tablelands.

I don’t have current email addresses for: Rex Thomas, Ken Wilkins, Robyn Edmonds, Sue Hall, Joy Halpin and Rob Linton. If you can help, contact me here. If you don't know email addresses but have post or phone contact that would also be useful.

A rich repository of PNG history

Fryer_library The Fryer Library is one of 13 branches of the University of Queensland Library. It has special relevance to anyone with a PNG or Northern Territory link because of its extensive historical collections of publications, manuscripts, rare books, research theses and photographs of life in those regions acquired over the past 80 years.

You can access the online reference to the Fryer collections here but let me give you a taste of what it contains.

Diaries, correspondence, reports and photographs relating to John J Murphy's pioneering Book of Pidgin English. The bulk of the collection relates to Murphy's service in the Australian administration of PNG in a number of official positions between 1936 and 1969.

Photographs, typescript articles, correpondence, diaries, notes, ephemera, documenting personal experiences of colonial administration in Papua New Guinea. This collection was assembled by Dr Peter Cahill, from material donated by members of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia.

Slides, 16mm film and black and white photographs taken by Kate Vellacott-Jones, a Canadian journalist in PNG during World War II and later the PNG administration public relations officer.

Rare book found for proud daughter

Arek Early last year Elizabeth Arek in Brisbane wrote to Jim Toner in Darwin seeking information about “a thin paperback book about the war heroes of PNG”. Her father, Christian, featured in the book.

Christian Arek was a Northern District policeman. As a constable, he took part in the first skirmish with the Japanese invaders at Buna in July 1942 and, in 1943, retrieved the remains of Lucian Tapedi, the Anglican martyr, for burial.

Ten years later, as an honoured and bemedalled Sergeant-Major, he was in London marching with the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary contingent in the Coronation parade.

On 13 June last year, ASOPA PEOPLE put out an all points alert to see if a copy of the book could be found. Now, Eric Johns (ASOPA 1958-59) has located a copy of the book, which he is sending to Elizabeth. There are only two known copies of the book held in Australian collections.

Elizabeth writes: “Just got off the phone with my daughter, Renee. I am thrilled to know that I can get a copy of this book about my dad Christian Arek. Please extend my gratitude to everyone who made this possible.” Happy ending.

Smokin' Joe's Moresby encounter

Richard Jones

The Muhammad Ali movie Ali starring Will Smith rekindled some old PNG boxing memories for me. There will be sports nuts among our ASOPA membership - that straggly line of greybeards who tottered down Brisbane streets to board the riverboat three months ago - for whom this piece might spark some recall.

In the mid 1970s Muhammad Ali's greatest opponent Smokin’ Joe Frazier and entourage visited Port Moresby. They were in town for a few days and Joe went a few exhibition rounds at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. His opponent that night was James ‘Digger’ Annand, a noted rugby league player for DCA.

The fit, blond Annand towered over the former world heavyweight champion who was of stocky build but with enormous thighs (he had to have specially tailored boxing shorts).

Digger poked out long, left leads as the ex-champ bobbed and weaved. Mercifully Joe didn't throw the famous left hook which sent Ali sprawling to the canvas in their first bout: the 1971 world championship at Madison Square Garden.

The Moresby stadium was packed on that balmy evening more than three decades ago. As the ring announcer, I recall a number of Papua New Guineans bursting from their grandstand seats, pushing through the security cordon and throwing a few choice words Frazier's way from ringside. "Joe Fraz-ee-yah. You not in the same class as Muhammad Ali,'' was the refrain before the interlopers were hustled away. Frazier might have been a great fighter, but for the PNG boxing fans, Ali was their man.

Una Voce: Little journal tells a big story

Judy Cannon

The PNG Association of Australia has been keeping former PNG residents in touch since the late 1950s with its quarterly newsletter, Una Voce. From a small beginning, the publication developed into a journal of substance. For researchers, it is a classic example of how the regular collection of a serial publication can build into a historical resource.

Early issues of the newsletter were primarily concerned with practical matters, as expatriates met the challenge of an old life gone and a new one to settle into. Gradually, however, Una Voce included more reflective articles and reminiscences of funny and anxious moments, even if, one has to suspect, some are burnished for the telling and wrapped in a little nostalgia.

The June 2000 journal includes an item from Bob Cole, a former assistant district officer. In the 1940s a senior delegation led by the administrator arrived on a fact-finding mission in Bougainville. Cole wrote, ‘I was horrified to see these senior officers so ill equipped for bush work and was a little taken aback when the administrator moved in on my table, chair, bed-sleeve and tent-fly, which he used for the next three days.’

The Snakepit, a Port Moresby bar demolished in 1981, gets a mention in the March 1986 issue, when Des Large wistfully remembered a piano-playing medico who, while sipping ‘a sample of the good stuff’, was asked by a patron what to do about prickly heat. The medico replied: ‘Have you got two quid on you?’ When the patron had put two pounds on the bar, the medico turned to him and said: ‘Scratch the bloody stuff the same as I do!’

Read the entire article here and find out more about Una Voce by visiting the PNGAA website here.

Source: ‘The time of their PNG lives’ by Judy Cannon, NLA News, National Library of Australia, vol 12 no 5, February 2002

Editor at leisure and at large

An explanation is due for my dilatory approach to ASOPA PEOPLE of late. I've been disporting myself at Noosa in a vain attempt to meet the rich and famous and have not been receiving any information that may interest this blog. Which is your fault entirely.

Later this week, Ingrid and I are travelling to Tamworth for the (yeehaw!) Country Music Festival. There we'll meet up with Joe and Kathryn Crainean, who will provide the elementary courses in yodelling and spur clicking so necessary for a full appreciation of this event.

In the sixties and seventies - and, for all I know, still - country music was vastly popular in Papua New Guinea. Slim Dusty was a national hero. The Radio Bougainville top ten hit parade was chockers with country songs. Hank Williams' Your Cheatin' Heart stayed at number one for a whole year: "But sleep won't come the whole night through / Your cheatin' heart will tell on you".

Time for a reprise.

Christian Arek and Woof Arthur

Jim Toner

The Mail last year reported an enquiry of mine regarding a PNG schoolbook which mentioned the old hero, Sgt Major Christian Arek. Eric Johns (ASOPA 1958-59) came up with the money - of the only two copies of the book held in Australian collections, one was here in Darwin at the University. Eric holds it ready to despatch to Arek’s daughter, Elizabeth, but we do not have her address.

Could Brisbane chalkies advise if they have any knowledge of Elizabeth? Presumably she is married but her surname is not known. It is a long shot, but there are all sorts of unknown networks operating. I am also checking with the Gold Coast Wantoks club as she may have ties there. It is a shame to have to leave the job unfinished when people have put in a bit of effort.

Re Woof Arthur….. I am sure you have noted that Patrol Officer Gordon Steege was on a course at ASOPA in the second half of 1947. Since he had been a pilot in Arthur's squadron in Syria and North Africa during 1940 he would have known if, in fact, Arthur's position at ASOPA at that time was as Acting Principal. Whether he could be able to help you with the ASOPA 'mystery' who can say.

If anyone can help locate Elizabeth Arek, contact Keith Jackson here.

Sydney celebrates pioneer anthropology

Jude Philp

Jude_philp This year from 1 February – 8 June the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney is holding an exhibition with many ties to ASOPA. It’s called People, Power, Politics: the first generation of anthropologists at the University of Sydney and it looks at the period between 1923 and 1947.

In 1923, the International Pan Pacific Science Congress, meeting at the University of Sydney, resolved that the need for anthropological investigation was both pressing and a necessity for our region. Three years later Prof AR Radcliff-Brown took up the Chair of the first Anthropology Department in Australia.

This was the time when many future ASOPA lecturers learnt their trade, and the exhibition includes aspects of the lives of Camilla Wedgwood and Ian Hogbin. While the ASOPA story, of course, deserves an exhibition all of its own, here we can only touch on the ways that anthropology at Sydney initially focussed on practical and applied purposes of the discipline.

Using images and objects taken by the first wave of anthropologists in the cultures they visited, this exhibition focuses on the department in its early years when its members went into Australian Aboriginal and Pacific Islander communities to investigate and test the latest theories and methods of modern anthropology. No longer bound by ‘armchair’ theories, these men and women divided their time between their work as leaders in anthropological sciences and as initially ignorant, if powerful, recorders of other worldviews.

If there is a group who would like to come on a special ‘ASOPA Day’ I’d be happy to organise a curator’s tour – or perhaps add to the oral history record and record reminiscences.

Dr Jude Philp is the senior curator at Macleay Museum. You can contact Jude on 02 9036 6486 or email her here.

Winning swimming was tough in PNG

Richard Jones

PNG produced many fine athletes during the 1960s and 70s, but few swimmers of note. Unlike disciplines such as track and field, weight lifting, the football codes, softball, boxing and even lawn bowls where leading competitors mushroomed, the ranks of top class swimmers were decidedly slender.

Prime among those late sixties aquatic competitors who did excel in the pool were breaststroker Toby Tovitolon, freestyler Oala Moi and the Mae Verave sisters from Marshall Lagoon in the Central District. Tovitolon captained the PNG swim team at Moresby’s South Pacific Games in 1969.

Since then there have been a number of outstanding swimmers representing PNG at international meets, not least Ryan Pini who won gold in the 100m butterfly at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

It was always a surprise to me that PNG didn’t produce more local swimmers of note. On any given day in the country’s coastal areas, scores of children of all ages could be found leaping in and out of the sea.

But pool swimming demands real discipline. Countless hours of training. It’s a demanding sport and, as I wrote in a Post-Courier feature in December 1976, perhaps the required strict training regimen discouraged many potential PNG swim stars.

Dedicated coaches can train youngsters in basic stroke skills and techniques, even for something as demanding as butterfly swimming. Once those techniques have been mastered thousands of laps need to be swum so that fitness and durability can be built up. The long, hard training grind might have been just too much for many aspiring PNG teenagers.