If 1949 was the year that ASOPA was let off the hook – history may well record that Alf Conlon’s erratic behaviour almost resulted in its premature demise – then, as the Blatchford Collection records, 1950 was the beginning of a stuttering recovery.
The year started dramatically in Australia. The Labor Government had just been defeated (outgoing Territories Minister Eddie Ward wrote to Administrator JK Murray “appreciate the cooperation of yourself and officers of the Administration during my term of office … which I am sure will have had an effect on the future welfare of the inhabitants”) and the Dutch East Indies had just become Indonesia (“the noisy Dr Soekarno – whom many experts regard as a Kremlin puppet – is threatening violence,” editorialised the South Pacific Post).
Meanwhile the fledgling PNG Department of Education was having its own problems recruiting teachers. WC Groves told new External Affairs Minister Percy Spender [left] that even though a plan had been approved three years previously, only four Cadet Education Officers had been put into training. Groves blamed the problem on the Department of External Territories.
The chalkies were also having problems with kiaps. “The chief inspector of schools was kept waiting outside District Officer’s office for 45 minutes while the DO gossiped and joked with his clerk,” Groves’ number two, GT Roscoe, complained. Adding: “The DO is not competent to inspect a school and should not take it upon himself to establish a school.” But later in the year Roscoe had to admit he was, “feeling disturbed at the view, apparently widely held among District Service personnel, that this Department is not measuring up to its responsibilities.”
Back at ASOPA, there was much toing and froing about the identity of the next principal: Harry Maude or Charles Rowley [right]. For much of the year Maude seemed to be the pea (“I have full confidence in his ability and his suitability otherwise for such a position,” wrote Murray, adding that Kohn Kerr, Camilla Wedgwood and ‘Woof’ Arthur agreed. But in late October Rowley got the job, and proved to be an inspired – if belated – choice.
Mid-year, Percy Spender in a Ministerial Statement on PNG policy said: “The broad objectives of the education program of the Territories are universal literacy and the development of the native people as a community within their own environ including all aspects of native culture. To this must be added such instruction as will assist the native to adjust his mode of life to the changed conditions resulting from contact with civilization and culture.”
Government education in TPNG was grinding to a beginning.
The complete summary for 1950 can be found in The Blatchford Collection - see ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA [left]. If you have any documents about government education in PNG that you think may be of interest to Loch Blatchford, contact him here.