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27 posts from February 2008

Tasty morsels promise a grand feast

Loch Blatchford (ASOPA 1961-62) writes he’s heard I’m interested in the history of ASOPA. “I don't know what you have or in how much depth you want to go to,” says Loch, “but I have a fairly extensive collection of material on PNG education (8 linear metres). Mostly post War to 1977.” Loch attaches a summary of some of the documentation from 1948, which ranges from the ASOPA calendar for that year to a letter from PNG education director WC Groves explaining why only one CEO attended a short course and the rest withdrew.

I advise Loch that my role is very much as a mere reporter of some of the more interesting aspects of ASOPA history through The Mail and this website, but that I've taken the liberty of forwarding his information to Dr Geoff Gray, the pre-eminent researcher of this era who, later this year, expects to embark on a book about the history of ASOPA.

The extracts from Loch's papers that I've seen so far offer many tasty morsels and promise a grand feast to follow. we'll try to get this material on ASOPA PEOPLE as soon as possible.

The road to ASOPA: lecturers tell

The Macleay Museum yesterday provided four former ASOPA lecturers and me with a guided tour of the People, Power, Politics exhibition that celebrates the first generation of Australian anthropology at Sydney University. ASOPA, and its predecessor, the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, loomed large in that first generation of local anthropologists because of the strong mutual interest in the Pacific and especially PNG. So the exhibition has a powerful ASOPA connection.

With me were Dr Ann Prendergast (history), Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu (anthropology), Dr Dick Pearse (education) and Roy Clarke (science). Before viewing the exhibition, we sat around a long wooden table with curators Jude Philp and Rebecca Conway while the ex staff members reminisced about their ASOPA years.

Each remembers their first experience of the School as overawing. What especially struck them was the staff room conversation, with figures like Peter Lawrence, James McAuley and Charles Rowley engaging in pyrotechnical discussion and debate about Pacific affairs and the great political issues of the day.

Each also clearly recalls the unorthodox way in which they came to teach at ASOPA, Charles Rowley's selection techniques were as unbureaucratic as those of his predecessor, Alf Conlon. Nothing as pedestrian as an advertisement in a newspaper or the Education Gazette.

Ann Prendergast was recommended to the School by Norm Donnison, already teaching there, who had lectured her at Wagga Wagga teachers’ College and been a fellow evening student at Sydney University. Ann's interview went very well until at the end, with a wry smile, Rowley leaned across the desk and asked: “And what do you know about ethnomusicology?” Nothing, replied Ann, who got the job anyway.

Roy Clarke, as a bright young science teacher, had been promoted to lecture at Balmain Teachers’ College. He spent two tortured hours in the company of the notorious and belligerent principal Athol Greenhalgh before Greenhalgh told him to get himself over to ASOPA. “That was the only time I spent at Balmain,” says Roy, “and it was two hours too long.”

Dick Pearse was a primary school teacher, just married and with a new honours degree. He took a call from Rowley  who asked is he’d be interested in a position of lecturer in an arcane subject called Native Education. “That seemed to be the selection process,” says Dick who, having been given the name of the subject, moved on to create the syllabus and content.

For Ruth Fink, who as a young anthropologist had been mentored by Dr AP Elkin, it was Elkin’s departure from ASOPA to undertake fieldwork in PNG that precipitated her arrival on campus. Elkin simply recommended her to Rowley.

Ann Prendergast tells the story of Edgar Ford’s recruitment. Already a famed geographer, Ford’s credentials were well established when Rowley asked him to make the move to ASOPA. Ford had one condition: “ I will - but there will be no signing of time books.” There never was at ASOPA.

People, Power Politics: the first generation of anthropology at the University of Sydney (until 20 July). Macleay Museum, Gosper Lane off Science Road, Sydney University. Phone 02 9036 5253

Hal Holman tells of PNG flag controversy

Crest The story of how the striking Papua New Guinea bird of paradise national flag came to be designed has been cloaked in controversy these past 35 years. Now Hal Holman, the man who designed the PNG crest and who had a significant input into the design of the national flag, has told his story.

In his unpublished autobiography, The Phoenix Rises Eternal, Holman tells how political correctness and sheer deceit for many years prevented him from getting the recognition he should have received.

Here’s an extract…..

“You have some new work to show us, Mr Holman?”

“Yes, Mr Chairman.”

“You may show it to us then.”

After a short preamble I revealed the design of the crest. A murmur of approval sounded around the table. John Guise jumped to his feet. "Gentlemen, that's it! That's the crest our country needs!”

With that he marched up to the illustration and saluted. The design had the unanimous approval of the Committee.

You can read the full story of how the PNG flag and crest came to into being in The ASOPA Archives at left. 

‘Insider’s story: How PNG got its flag’, an extract from ‘The Phoenix Rises Eternal’, an unpublished memoir by Haldane Sinclair Holman OAM

Support for 'new ASOPA' from India

Colin L Yarham

The redevelopment of the ASOPA site in the manner suggested in the February issue of The Mail is enthusiastically supported. As one person indicated, to justify the cost of redevelopment of the site, apart from the think-tank periods, use of the facility could be extended for training courses for overseas and indigenous personnel.

In addition, there is a wide ranging number of NGOs operating out of Australia attempting to undertake overseas work, who really need training of in-house employees in the realities of the work attempted.

The one thing that would be a requirement is the development of the old ASOPA innovative, open, can-do attitude that so pervaded the old institution.

Colin_yarham I was formerly a lecturer at ASOPA [1966-69]. Norm Donnison had lectured me in teachers’ college and, like everything else he did, he also was a very enthusiastic and competent rugby league coach. Warmly remembered.

I work with health literacy in developing countries. I’m currently working in cooperation with the Tamil Nadu state government to develop a comprehensive health, life skills and social development syllabus for Grades 1 to 12 called the Schools Total Health Program (STHP). It is reaching some 14 million children and youths.

Two Russian professors declared STHP to be 'the best program in the world' and, at the invitation of the Education Minister, I was sent as World health organisation adviser to the Russian Federation to initiate the program there.

The Union Government in India now wishes to introduce the program to all states and is financing its further development.

UNICEF also wants to introduce the program in Kyrgyzstan and an invitation from the Guidance, Counselling and Youth Development Centre for Africa conducted by the Ministers of Education of 32 African Countries has resulted in a co-operative venture commencing in that continent from the Centre in Malawi.

Dr Yarham is director of Health Education & Promotion International Inc. He is currently based in Chennai, India.

Photo: Colin Yarham handing over the manual that has helped educate more than 14 million Indian Children to Lee Evans. Picture: Samantha Emanuel, North Shore Times

If you support the redevelopment of ASOPA as a national and regional development studies centre [see February’s The Mail under ‘NEWSLETTER – THE MAIL’ in the left hand column], please send a letter of support to Hon Duncan Kerr, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Parliament House, PO Box 6022, Canberra ACT 2600.

Passion, ideas, idealism, treachery – the beginnings of ASOPA

The Pacific war brought to the fore a generation that saw the chance to introduce change into Australian political life and thinking. This was seen in organisations like ASOPA’s predecessor, the Army’s Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs under the leadership of Alf Conlon. Dr Geoff Gray has documented a fascinating insight into the Directorate in his journal article 'Stanner's War'.  DORCA’s staff attempted to bring about a new deal for a post-war Papua New Guinea. In fact, their ambitions were greater: they envisaged an Australia responsible for British territories stretching from Borneo to the British Solomon Islands.

This period, 1942–49, was a short moment in Australian colonial history but full of hope and idealism for the people of PNG, partly prompted by a sense of obligation for their participation in the war against Japan. These hopes were largely unfulfilled owing to a change of government and ineptitude on the part of some of the DORCA leaders, particularly Alf Conlon and John Kerr.

Older_in_library The main character in Geoff Gray’s paper, Bill Stanner [left], had hurried home soon after war was declared in Europe. He was 34, had recently completed his PhD at the London School of Economics and was eager to find a place for himself in Australia. But his views, as they emerged, were in stark opposition to the prevailing mood in DORCA. Geoff Gray’s rivetting paper, which adds greatly to what we know of the early days of the institution that was to become ASOPA, traces the nature of the conflict, the way it was played out and the outcome, which favoured, in the end, neither Stanner nor DORCA.

You can read the complete paper in The ASOPA Archives section at left.

‘Stanner’s War: WEH Stanner, the Pacific War, and its Aftermath’ by Geoffrey Gray, The Journal of Pacific History, vol 41, no 2, September 2006

New Dawn: we invite you to wish it well

A group of ex PNG broadcasters – including Martin Hadlow and Phil Charley – has been working these past two years to identify funding and otherwise assist establish a community radio station to serve the people of north Bougainville.

Lutz_ketsimur_2 New Dawn FM, as its progenitors have felicitously named the station, is moving rapidly towards going to air, thereby assisting to rebuild the shattered province through the dissemination of informational, educational and cultural programs.

The top photo shows New Dawn FM chairman Carolus (Charlie) Ketsimur, former news director with the National Broadcasting Corporation of PNG, signing an agreement to fund the new station’s transmitter. Alongside him is Germany's ambassador to Australia and the Pacific, Martin Lutz.Temp_fm_studio

The lower photo shows the temporary studio at New Dawn FM, at present used for training. The old equipment shown here will soon be replaced by new gear purchased with funds provided by UNESCO.

I’m sure, through the ASOPA PEOPLE website, we can put together a collection of good wishes to launch New Dawn FM on its important mission. Why don’t you click the comment link below, type in a few words and give the people of Bougainville a boost. We’ll make sure your fine words get to their destination.

Photos: Aloysius Laukai

Pre-ASOPA cadet training – the facts

Dr Geoff Grey is a Research Fellow with the Canberra-based Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and an Honorary Research Associate of the School of Historical Studies at Monash University.

Anyone interested in ASOPA and PNG has reason to be very grateful to Geoff for his research into PNG and Pacific history including the era of the old Directorate of Civil Affairs and the vivid personalities and lively controversies that attached themselves to and surrounded the subsequent development of ASOPA. The story thus revealed has been revelatory, even to people who thought they knew much about those times.

Geoff has written: “On your the ASOPA web page under the heading ‘Chronology’ is the following:

‘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’

“I don't mean to be a pedant (or tell you how to break an egg)," writes Geoff, "but this simplifies the establishment of a Chair of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Radcliffe-Brown arrived in Sydney to take up the position in June 1926 and the first cadets arrived in the following year. PNG, as a political entity, was not in existence. The Australian Territory of Papua sent some officers but abandoned the idea and the League of Nations Mandate Territory of New Guinea continued to send officers and cadets from 1928 to the beginning of World War II.”

Well, the Chronology is now corrected and there’s additional good news because Geoff tells me he’s planning to do some research and writing, which he’ll be happy to share with us, on ASOPA towards the end of this year. Perhaps we can look forward to the complete and no holds barred ASOPA story.

By the way, you can find out more about Geoff’s latest book, ‘A Cautious Silence: the politics of Australian Anthropology’, at the AIATSIS website here.

Gold & treachery: Andi Flower & the Mt Kare affair

Gold“The mob was yelling and screaming behind us, carrying bush knives and spears. It wasn’t a good time to stop, so we kept driving, keeping a couple of hundred metres ahead of them. Then the chopper squeezed between the trees and landed on the road. I scrambled aboard. It had been a close call, and my non-smoking resolution fell by the wayside yet again.”

ANDI FLOWER arrived in Papua New Guinea from New Zealand in 1965 and found he had little time for the expatriate community.

He had a flair for trading and developed a special affinity with the Huli people of the Southern Highlands.

Continue reading "Gold & treachery: Andi Flower & the Mt Kare affair" »

Hal Holman puts phoenix to bed at last

Portrait In a long career as jackeroo, soldier, ad man, artist and sculptor, Hal Holman OAM has lived a rich life. As a young commando, he fought in the New Guinea campaign in World War II beginning an association with PNG that continues to this day. It is a relationship that has yielded a strong cultural outcome: he designed the PNG national crest, sculpted larger than lifesize bronzes of every PNG prime minister since Independence and contributed significantly to the design of the PNG flag.

Hal has now completed the long task of writing his autobiography. The book focuses both on the making of the artist and the trials and tribulations that seem an inevitable part of the artistic life. Here's an extract from the book, ‘The Phoenix Rises Eternal’…..

We spread out again until I began to doubt that Jack would tend toward the furthermost signal fires. From earlier conversations I knew that he would head for the saddle on the eastern side of Mount Wilhelm. That would keep him more toward the two fires we had passed. In view of this I also surmised that Jack might have treated the five shots as a Japanese ploy. I also realized it was possible that he might be dead.

My gut feeling was that a repeat volley of five shots was needed to affirm that there was someone here who was not afraid of being heard. So I fired another five rounds at measured intervals. The echoes seemed to go on and on.

A great hush fell on the carriers. Then a shot rang out within a reasonable distance!

The team had been ordered to remain silent in such an event and they all converged on me to seek my instructions. I addressed them when all were accounted for. In subdued tones I instructed them about the folly of rushing to the origin of the shot in case it came from the Japanese. I took two carriers with me and we approached the site with stealth. If it were Jack I would let the carriers know. With that I left with two men; the others were to hide in the bush to await our return.

You can read the full chapter in The ASOPA Archives at left.

‘The search for Private Jack Dellar’, from ‘The Phoenix Rises Eternal’, an unpublished memoir by Haldane Sinclair Holman OAM

New Dawn’s light begins to shine bright

Aloysius Laukai

Sunrise Unesco funds have finally reached us to purchase the equipment to start an alternate voice on Bougainville’s airwaves. The first $US16,000 was received through our bank and the transmitter and its components have been packed and will be loaded on to ABG's new boat that will leave Port Moresby next week on its maiden voyage from the Philippines.

Thank you indeed for all the hard work to persuade Unesco to approve funds to get New Dawn FM off the ground. We will definitely need your continued support as we move forward with this project. Chairman Carolus Ketsimur will write to you personally but I wish to sincerely thank you for coming this far with us.

We hope to test the new signal on 95.3MHZ as soon as the equipment arrives in Buka. In due course we would like to invite both Martin Hadlow and Keith Jackson to visit and assist us with some broadcasting training.

I have already secured a lot of companies to sponsor programs. As 2008 is Weapons Disposal and Reconciliation year, we will also be carrying out a lot of awareness announcements funded by UNDP and other non-government organisations.

I am fully committed to see that what we have started grow from this very humble beginning continues to grow. Our intention is to get an experienced overseas manager to work with us so, as we begin this journey and start raising funds, we will need your help to find somebody suitable for our radio station.

Aloysius Laukai is a director and acting manager of New Dawn FM, a community radio station being established to assist north Bougainville recover from the ravages of the recent civil war.

Photo: Dawn over the Buka Passage

People, power & politics in anthropology

The politics of early anthropological study in Australia are explored in a new exhibition at the Macleay Museum. ‘People, Power, Politics: the first generation of anthropologists at the University of Sydney’ opened recently and explores the methods and studies of Australia's first wave of anthropologists from 1923-47.

Sydney University’s anthropology department and ASOPA had a very close relationship until the 1960s and next Wednesday the museum will host a special guided tour for a group of former ASOPA lecturers including Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu, Dr Ann Prendergast and Dr Dick Pearse.

Hogbinpic_2 The exhibition gives insights into the experiences of the early anthropologists, the politics of their encounters and exposes the influence they had in determining early Aboriginal policy.

The first Department of Anthropology in Australia was set up at Sydney University in 1925 after the Federal government was impressed by the urgent need for the study of Aboriginal and indigenous people of the Pacific region. According to exhibition curators Rebecca Conway and Jude Philp this changed the face of anthropology.

“Anthropology went from being based on armchair theories - the British style popular back then - to active fieldwork where anthropologists spent months and even years studying and working with communities.

"These young anthropologists worked with communities to chronicle whole societies, documenting language, cultural practices and other aspects of daily life. They also documented the effects of European settlement and colonisation on these peoples' lives.”

People, Power, Politics specifically looks at the lives and work of ten prominent and respected Sydney University anthropologists - including Ian Hogbin, AR Radcliffe-Brown, AP Elkin and Raymond Firth - whose work became internationally significant.

The Macleay Museum is located in Gosper Lane near the Footbridge Theatre entrance to the University of Sydney. The exhibition closes on 20 July.

Photo by Ian Hogbin, Ontong Java, Solomons, 1928

Vale Les Hiatt – boxer & anthropologist

Les_hiatt Ruth Fink Latukefu reports that Professor Les Hiatt - respected anthropologist, former dentist and ex amateur boxing champion – died earlier this month at the age of 76. In his work, Les was characteristically iconoclastic and hard-hitting in his understandings and views of Australia’s Aboriginal people.

Lester Richard Hiatt was born in Gilgandra on 30 December 1931 and attended Hurlstone Agricultural High School and from there the University of Sydney where he completed a Bachelor of Dental Surgery in 1953. He practised dentistry in Drummoyne and Bourke before embarking on the study of anthropology in 1956. In 1963 he was awarded a doctorate from ANU for his thesis on the Gidjingali/Maringarr people of northern Arnhem Land.

From 1962-91 Les taught and researched in Anthropology at the University of Sydney. Other appointments during this time included Visiting Professorships at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard University.

He also held the honorary positions of president of the Anthropological Society of NSW and chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into the Role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee.

Les was a foundation member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and was the Institute’s president and chairman from 1974-82. From 1998 Hiatt was been an honorary visiting fellow at AIATSIS.

His publications included Kinship and conflict (1965), Australian Aboriginal mythology (1975), Australian Aboriginal concepts (1978), Aboriginal landowners (1984), Arguments about Aborigines (1996) and People of the Rivermouth (2002).

You get a lot less for murder, Albert

Sean Dorney

Today Last week, Albert Asbury closed his innings at the ABC after 50 years. Stories about Albert's exploits as a newsman in both Queensland and Papua New Guinea are legion. He went to PNG in 1969 and became the ABC's political correspondent. In late 1973, Albert was appointed the first news editor of the new National Broadcasting Commission.

Albert covered the early political career of Sir Michael Somare and became a trusted confidant of the major identities of the day including PNG's first Governor General, Sir John Guise. In September, 1975, Albert was amongst those awarded the PNG Independence medal. Years later, he sent me the medal and asked me to hand it back personally to Somare in protest at Sir Michael's disastrous appointment of a thoroughly unsuitable person as chairman of the NBC.

In his years as the ABC's political correspondent in PNG, Albert regularly flew around the country in light aircraft covering the news. PNG is one of the most dangerous places in the world to fly and on one occasion, Albert was on a media plane carrying Australian journos when the pilot became violently ill with food poisoning. They were flying from the Trobriand Islands to Port Moresby and Albert, with no formal flight training, took over the controls. He radioed ahead for an ambulance and with his nervous colleagues quaffing OP rum, Albert steered the plane over the Owen Stanley Ranges and with the guidance of some mumbled instructions from the semi-conscious pilot, brought it down safely.

Albert had a speed boat in PNG and entered his daughter, Ingrid, then only 11, in a water skiingDorney_bertram_asbury_lawrence  marathon. In practice for this Albert used me as his spotter. Unfortunately, one Saturday morning, his spotter, suffering from a severe hangover, fell asleep in the boat. We had shot out of Moresby's Fairfax Harbour and were in the open sea off Ela Beach. I remember passing a Japanese fishing boat and thinking about sharks before dozing off. Minutes later, Albert barked, "Where's Ingrid?" She had fallen off and was nowhere to be seen.

Albert spun the boat around and, after a frantic dash, we found her about two kilometres back. Ingrid, now a Queensland Industrial Relations Commissioner, has, amazingly, forgiven me. She says at the time she could not believe it. She was waving and waving but the boat just keep going until we disappeared in the distance.

Before leaving PNG in 1975, Albert filled in for several months as the ABC's correspondent. Back in Queensland, Albert became the news chief of staff, a job he filled with distinction for the past 32 years.

[Photos: Top - Albert Asbury today. Lower - Port Moresby newsroom early seventies – Sean Dorney, Bruce Bertram, Albert Asbury and Bob Lawrence.]

Missing People column is launched

I’ve found that one of the frequent uses – and, as it turns out, benefits – of The Mail newsletter and this internet cousin ASOPA PEOPLE – have been their role in reuniting lost people, finding lost objects and, from time to time, shedding light on lost causes.

So now I’ve decided to establish a permanent MISSING PEOPLE column in ASOPA People Extra [see left] and you're more than welcome to use this facility either as a searcher or a finder or a voyeur of who can be lost and whether or not they can be found.

Why don’t you visit the column occasionally, just on spec.

The spy who ran into me

Martin Hadlow writes: “This morning I was in a Harvey Norman shop in Brisbane and recognised one of the customers. I approached him and asked: ‘Are you John from Kieta?’ It was he - John McGregor.”

John_mcgregor In the middle of the computer store, both men got down to some serious reminiscing. John [left] regaled Martin with tales of his time as an intelligence officer in Kieta in the early seventies and boldly revealed his nickname of the time, 006½. Distant days from the time in 1972 I accosted John in a Kieta tradestore, hailing him with a loud “monin tru 007”, whereupon said spy ducked for cover behind boxes of tinned meat, wildly flailing arms cautioning me to silence.

John ‘went finish’ to north Queensland in 1975, buying a large boat and spending the next 25 years carting tourists around the Barrier Reef. He’s now managing director – and has been for 19 years - of a Brisbane-based computer firm mischievously named Smallpond, which among many other things hosts the Ex-Kiap website. Smallpond's marketing blurb is pure ex-kiapitan: “The Captain’s Web [see logo, right] prides itself in honest Captain assessment of your internet circumstances - this may not be advice you wish to hear, but it will be based on 19 years of practical experience.”

John is now contemplating a return north to live in a small village in the Cairns hinterland. He remains married to Julie and they have three children. Martin comments: “John is now grey of hair (aren't we all) and, clearly, judging by his girth, has been continuing to put away more than a few beers.” Haven’t we all.

Good to hear news of our erstwhile comrade.

Commemorating our contribution to PNG

You can help secure a future for the old ASOPA site on Middle Head; a future that is productive and which commemorates its history as a place of learning and a training institution. This is the time to make your views known to the Australian Government through Minister Duncan Kerr. Here's Bill Wilson's submission.

The Hon Duncan Kerr SC, MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House

Dear Sir

I believe an approach has been made to you to redevelop the former School of Pacific Administration at Mosman as a training institute for Pacific Islanders to assist them to make culturally appropriate decisions on matters of major concern such as economic needs, climatic change, health services, and local and regional political issues. Such a development would assist Pacific Island opinion leaders and government officials to further develop their capacity to make vital decisions about their future needs without domination by major world powers. This is in line with Australian policy, which recognises the rights of Pacific Islanders to manage their own affairs, free of domination and political/economic blackmail. I strongly support this approach having had many years of contact with Pacific Islanders and being sympathetic to their concerns about their collective futures.

This form of assistance would also enhance Australia’s reputation as a friendly and supportive nation willing to help its neighbours without attempting domination and interference in internal affairs.

I also see the proposed training institute as being of value in the training of leaders of Australian indigenous groups to meet the problems being faced by their own people. This would be in line with past activities of the ASOPA in providing training for Northern Territory field staff.

I would like to see that the proposed institute be used to commemorate the contribution made to Papua New Guinea by young Australian field officers who gave up their youth, risked their health and wellbeing, and gave up alternative career and education opportunities to assist the indigenous peoples of TPNG and the Northern Territory. These officers included agricultural officers, education officers, medical assistants, nurses and patrol officers who made major contribution to the indigenous peoples and communities they worked with. In discussions with international students with whom I studied at London University, the dedication of Australian field staff and their policy of care and compassion clearly exceeded that experienced by indigenous populations in Africa and Asia.

The concept of recognising the merit of Australians working overseas is already accepted in relation to personnel in the armed forces and in police groups assisting to maintain law and order in 3rd World nations. It is timely that the field staff who served more peaceful purposes in TPNG before independence were given equal recognition before illness and old age wipes them and their historic memories out – much to the loss of this nation.

I make this submission not as a ‘do gooder’ but as a proud Australian who experienced at first hand the dealings of Australian field staff in TPNG and later in the Northern Territory. I hope that you will give careful consideration to this proposal and the submissions of support you will certainly receive. If I can be of any service to you on the issue please contact me.

Yours sincerely

WT Wilson

Georges Heights planning open day

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is preparing a draft management plan for the Georges Heights precinct including a landscape plan for the adjoining bushland. This weekend you can take a guided tour, discuss ideas for the site with Trust planners and have a say in the preparation of the plan.

Where: Harbour Trust Offices, Building 28, Best Avenue off Suakin Drive, Middle Head, Mosman.

When: 9 am, 10 am or 11 am Saturday 16 February.

RSVP Jessica Sartor before 4 pm Friday 15 February by phoning 02 8969 2100 or emailing

I'm sure you can write a letter like this...

The Hon Duncan Kerr SC, MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House

Dear Mr Kerr,

I wish to support the proposal by Keith Jackson AM for utilising the old ASOPA site at Middle Head, Sydney, for the establishment of a “School of the Pacific”.

This is an excellent idea for the overall integration and improvement of this region.

I had nine years in Papua New Guinea (1970–79) training indigenous people in the field of radio broadcasting. Then, as Radio Training Supervisor at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (1985 – 90) I was involved as co-lecturer in several training courses in  radio and television management in the Philippines, Indonesia and Fiji. These courses were organised by Martin Hadlow of UNESCO. My wife and I also worked in Tonga for AESOP in the field of educational broadcasting. So I feel I have a good understanding of how helpful short courses, as proposed by Keith Jackson, can be.

Please give this proposal your favourable consideration. It could do enormous good for the South Pacific/South East Asia region.

Yours sincerely,

Philip N Charley OAM

School feedback offers some great ideas

ASOPA PEOPLE scored a record 307 page views yesterday and among the readers were some prepared to add value to the proposal I’ve made to Duncan Kerr, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, for the Federal Government to consider revivifying ASOPA as The School of the Pacific.

For example, Bill Wilson of Canberra says the School should also be established as a “practical memorial commemorating the work of all field officers who gave up their youth, health and career opportunities to serve and assist the people of TPNG”. Bill as one of those people, although he continued on with a wonderful career in Australia as a health educator.

And Henry Bodman of Brisbane proposes that the Hallstrom Pacific Library should be regrouped and relocated to its original site on the Middle Head campus. While I think there may be some difficulties in extracting acquisitions from those universities and other institutions that now house them, it’s certainly an idea worth pursuing.

There were also many other proposals about making sure the heritage and story of ASOPA (and ITI) are appropriately commemorated. In all, a wonderful response.

If you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to read the proposal and communicate your thoughts to Duncan Kerr at this address.

You can read the full three-page proposal here

The Hon Duncan Kerr SC, MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House

Living the Pacific life, and singing its song

Most times I came back to Sydney on leave from PNG in the sixties I’d meet and talk with an old family friend, schoolteacher Frank Topham, who with his wife, Berta, had migrated to Australia with my family on the ramshackle SS Georgic in late 1949. Meeting Frank was as regular an event as strolling into the New Guinea Bar at Ushers to get a quick shot of reality from whatever wantoks were clustered there on the day.

Frank was a dedicated Pacificophile. Every time we met he’d pump me for information and description of life in PNG. He yearned for the islands – and it was always his intention to visit, if not to work, there. But he died too soon, only in his forties, without realising his dream. It strikes me only now that I should have taken him to the New Guinea Bar; but that might have destroyed it all.

Nonetheless, Frank lived the islands life vicariously through the pages of the Pacific Island Monthly and whatever he could lay his eyes on in the daily press. And, from time to time, he put his thoughts in writing. I just ran across an extract from his droll poem, ‘Give Me Back My Daydreams’, when I was rummaging through an old PIM for June 1967.

Lithe-hipped doe-eyed maidens
With flowers in their hair;
Sun-kissed palm-fringed beaches
Magnolia-scented air;
Endless days of languid pleasure
Love and laughter without measure,
All I’ve longed for since my birth!

But now I read of education,
Labour strife and arbitration,
Airstrips, cartels, market prices,
Social service, rise in vices
Mining beaches, exploitation,
Independence, legislation!

By the way Frank’s son, also Frank, sort of shares a profession with me. He’s the long-time government affairs and strategic communications manager with Caltex Australia. And he was delighted that I was able to pass on to him his father's thoughts and feelings from 40 years ago.

Huge response to School of the Pacific

The proposal to establish a regional think tank at the old ASOPA site – an institution which maintains the traditions of ASOPA in a 21st century context – has caught the imagination of people who have a strong association with PNG and the Pacific. ASOPA PEOPLE has been deluged with more than 500 hits on the matter in a little over 24 hours.

I shouldn’t really refer to the proposal as promoting a ‘think tank’: a somewhat derogatory term for a place designed to bring together people from the region, including Australians, to address the great regional issues they face and to develop solutions to these challenges.

In concentrated four-week programs, participants will address some of the most pressing problems in the region - for example, global warming, migration, terrorism, health, education. They will receive high-level briefings from Australian experts and then consider the subject in depth over a period of two weeks, through research, dialogue, analysis, modelling, solution development and decision-making.

It is then intended there will be a public conference based around the subject matter where participants and other experts will present papers. Finally, there will be a report produced, including actions that participants will commit to.

The School of the Pacific is expected to bring together people from different nationalities to acquire and share knowledge on critical matters affecting the region and their own countries. They will form new relationships, including with Australian professionals, and develop new networks in their areas of professional activity or expertise.

You can read the full proposal here.

Can we establish an ASOPA successor?

The forthcoming Ideas Summit announced by Kevin Rudd yesterday stimulated me to fire off a missive Kerrto Duncan Kerr [pictured], the new Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs. And the letter contained a very big idea indeed - a rough operating concept for a notional ‘School of the Pacific’ to be located on the old ASOPA site at Middle Head.

The objects of the School will be to run short programs to address critical issues in the region and to strengthen Australia’s relationships with the region and especially with South Pacific and South-East Asian nations. Attendance at the School will be through Australian Government fellowships to political, government, business and NGO leaders.

The programs on offer might cover subjects like: environmental integrity in the Asia Pacific region; the impact of global warming in the South Pacific; using the mass media as a means of development; economic development and migration in the South Pacific; and promoting educational opportunity through regional cooperation.

You can read the full three-page proposal here

I urge you to add your voice to this concept for an exciting new use for the ASOPA site by writing to Mr Kerr at this address:

The Hon Duncan Kerr SC, MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House

Lynn claims golden staircase discovery

A gruelling section of the Kokoda Trail, dubbed by sardonic Australian troops as the ‘golden  Charlie_lynnstaircase’, has been rediscovered. NSW Liberal politician Charlie Lynn [right] says he and a team of PNG locals made the discovery with the aid of global positioning satellite technology, World War II survey maps and local knowledge.

Time has destroyed the 3,000 metre-wide wooden steps that presented exhausted soldiers with a final obstacle before heading into battle at Imita Ridge, where commanders ordered them to repel the Japanese or die trying.

“This is a very significant find,” Lynn said. “The staircase was the last stand for the Aussies, where they prepared to fight to the death. When you see the terrain, it’s just incredible stuff.”

But Kokoda Trail historian Soc Kienzle – whose father Bert helped organise and maintain the lifeline provided by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels – said he’d heard similar claims before. There’s been all sorts of varying claims, about varying tracks. I’ll check this out with my maps,” he said. “But I welcome anything Charlie does to reopen the original war trail.”

“The golden stairs consisted of steps varying from ten to eighteen inches in height. The front edge of the step was a small log held by stakes. Behind the log was a puddle of mud and water. Some of the stakes had worked loose, leaving the logs slightly tilted. Anyone who stood on one of these skidded and fell with a whack in the mud, probably banging his head against a tree or being hit on the head with his own rifle. Those who had no sticks soon acquired them, not only to prevent falls, but allow the arms to help the legs, especially with the higher steps. After the first half dozen steps, it became a matter of sheer determination forcing the body to achieve the impossible. It was probably the weight more than the climb, though the climb would have been enough to tire even a lightly loaded man. The rear companies, where the going is always hardest, took twelve hours to complete nine miles” - WB Russell, 2/14th Battalion

Eric Miller and Father Franke

Philip_selth Philip Selth OAM [left], executive director of the NSW Bar Association, is writing the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Eric Stanislaus Joseph Miller QC (1903-86), a prominent NSW Catholic barrister in the 1940s-60s.

Eric Miller defended his cousin John Joseph Murphy when Murphy was court-martialled in Lae in 1946 for providing information to the Japanese while a prisoner of war. Murphy was honourably acquitted.

At some time, possibly when in PNG for Murphy’s court-martial, Miller met Father Bernie Franke in Rabaul and subsequently arranged for Faher Franke's catechisms to be translated into Pidgin. Miller was at some time also briefed by the Commonwealth on two occasions to defend native police officers on Nauru who had been charged with murder / manslaughter.  Both were acquitted.

Philip Selth is seeking any information he can lay his hands on about Eric Miller, and especially about these matters. He says he will appreciate any help you may be able to provide.

You can contact Philip by email here.

AFP's Keelty undermines open society

Ken McKinnon

Ken We do not want a closed society, Mick Keelty. We need more, not less, openness. In a democratic society the public has a right to know what is being done in their name, whether by government, police or the courts.

The views the Australian Federal Police commissioner advocated at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday night, that there should be a blackout on reporting of trials involving terrorism suspects "until the full gamut of judicial processes has been exhausted", reflects similar sentiments about a desire to muzzle the media made during his 2006 Press Council annual address. They are still wrong. Since he continues to express them even more strongly, the council must speak equally strongly in response.

Our freedoms must not be destroyed in the name of defending freedom. We have open courts so that citizens may be assured by attendance or media reports that their freedoms are being preserved. Only in the most extreme circumstances should courts be closed. The public interest is the standard by which matters investigated and reported by the media should be judged.

Source: ‘No need for a media muzzle’, The Australian, 2/3 February 2008. The full text of Ken McKinnon’s article can be found here.

Ken McKinnon [ASOPA 1954], former director of education in Papua New Guinea, is now chairman of the Australian Press Council.

Keating takes over athletics in Qld

David Keating OAM (ASOPA 1961-62) has been elected to the prominent office of chairman of Queensland Athletics, capping an outstanding career as an athlete and in athletics administration. The organisation David chairs started as the Queensland Amateur Athletic Association way back in 1894 and in addition to its development role, its job is to ensure Queensland is well represented at Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Bill Welbourne (ASOPA 1962-63), a distinguished athlete himself, congratulated David, adding: ¨I always tried to avoid the administration, so good luck.”

Bill himself is now back in training. He ran a record in the 300 metres hurdles at the Pan Pacific Masters 18 months ago and is thinking of one last hurrah at the World Masters in Sydney next year. “But age is catching up,” says Bill, “and I sustained a bruised heel last weekend at the Nathan track. I’m limping, so it will put me out for the rest of the season. Oh well, it’s back to golf!”