Rudd to visit PNG this week
Time to review your old PNG documents

Blatchford archives spur huge interest

The Blatchford Collection of documents has stimulated a great response from readers of ASOPA PEOPLE over the last two days. Loch Blatchford's summaries of documents gathered in his research into public education in Papua New Guinea contain many revealing insights into the times. Each year from 1944 to 1948 is now summarised in  'ASOPA People Extra - Blatchford Collection'.

Here are a few vignettes to pique your interest:

1944 - In May, ANGAU is planning an undenominational and secular central school for 200 students near Port Moresby. It is anticipated that perhaps 50 percent of the students will become teachers. The site is available and so are the buildings, but there are no students. The call goes out to the missions for boys 15 to 17 years old who have completed Standard V and have a working knowledge of English.

1945 – In September WC Groves sends a telegram to JR Halligan, Secretary of the Department of External Territories, applying late for the position of PNG Director of Education. He also rings Halligan to explain the circumstances: until a couple of days ago he was uncertain if he would apply as his 17 year old daughter is dying in hospital. Groves is offered the job in March the following year and takes it up in June after hanging out for “more money and a couple of education officers to assist him”. Meanwhile JK Murray is appointed PNG Administrator. His salary is £2,000 pa plus £500 entertainment allowance and 20/- a day travel allowance in PNG. No tax is payable.

1946 – The syllabus of the ASOPA education officers short course is published: there are lectures in Comparative Colonial Education, Anthropology, Geography, Tropical Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Scientific Method, Elementary Medicine, Practical Administration, Law and Government, Machinery of Administration, Pidgin English and Papuan Languages. In June JK Murray forwards an article to John Kerr for a new ASOPA journal. Murray writes: “The almost universal acceptance of the idea that the interests of the natives are paramount … is found to be lip service.” And he says of the educational situation: “‘There has been no development of greater consequence in the history of the Territory (to meet this need) than the formation of ASOPA.”

1947 – In January JK Murray writes to Lucy Mair that there is pressure for ASOPA to be situated within the new National University (now ANU). Arriving in Brisbane he tells reporters “there is a labour shortage in PNG because the natives have gone home to repair their houses” which the Courier Mail headlines ‘Fuzzies Short of Houses’. By April WC Groves says he plans to recruit 20 CEOs a year and wants places obtained for them at State teachers colleges at start of 1948. Throughotu Australia there is a teacher shortage. Both Murray and Kerr want ASOPA to be equivalent to a university and award degrees and diplomas. Groves’ plan is that CEOs will spend 3 months at ASOPA, some time in the field in PNG and then one year at a teachers college. Kerr adds that two-year trained CEOs could return to ASOPA to complete a further 2 years for a degree.

1948Kerr expects CEOs to attend Short Course 10 in June. There are 12 applicants but by June all have withdrawn except one. Groves thinks the ₤500 surety and four-year bond are probably the reason. The bond was Groves’ idea but he now wants it scrapped. Alf Conlon writes to JK Murray and is very critical of Groves. By the end of the year PNG Education is calling for 50 CEOs.


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