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.
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