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39 posts from March 2008

1955: things are bad, time for a plan

By 1955, ASOPA and the PNG Education Department under Bill Groves were still struggling to find answers to the challenge of establishing a decent school system in the Territory: the major educational problem being the supply of qualified teachers.

The most recent analysis of documents in The Blatchford Collection [see ASOPA People Extra] shows that six Cadet Education Officers had been appointed in 1954 for the first year of a two-year course and another eight in 1955, numbers not large enough to count as even a drop in a bucket.

Groves was pushing for 25 CEO recruits in 1956 – to be spread across Bathurst, Wagga and Sydney teachers’ colleges. He also proposed that cadetship be extended from two to three years, with the third year divided between ASOPA and the Territory. This was an idea that seemed more likely to add to Groves’ problems than ameliorate them.

Groves himself was jaded, nearing retirement and growing increasingly disenchanted and uninterested with his role. He wrote to ASOPA Registrar Vic Parkinson in August 1955 that after four months leave he was about to take: “I will not personally be greatly concerned with the [posting of Cadets], since I will be approaching retirement age by then – or may perchance have moved myself off to some other sphere where I will no longer be directly concerned with the Department of Education in Papua New Guinea.”

Of the CEOs themselves, he wrote: “As I have reviewed the reports received on them, I can see that they will need a lot of in-service training and supervision after they have taken up duty here [and] that it will not be possible to regard them as fully effective as teachers and to give them much responsibility in their respective postings for at least two years after they commence”. It was far from a ringing endorsement.

In October 1955, GT Roscoe – by then acting Director of Education - told the Arbitration Court that the Department was 8,300 teachers short of the number required. The Department employed only 100 European and 200 local teachers and the wastage rate was more than 10 percent a year. Housing was poor, said Roscoe, and the Territory was a professional backwater.

In December, Territories Minister Paul Hasluck approved 26 Cadet appointments. Groves wrote to Roscoe: “We may get 20 ultimately. But by the time they’re trained we’ll have lost just as many: and in any case I’ll be just about on my way out then – so I can’t be giving much thought to them.”

Undaunted, but also under pressure from PNG Administrator Donald Cleland, Roscoe proposed a development plan that aimed for a good primary school in every village by the end of 1963, an efficient post-primary school for every area, 8-10,000 trained teachers, a good primary school for European, Asian and Mixed-race wherever there were 12 prospective pupils, at least ten secondary boarding schools, adequate facilities for technical education and a University College affiliated with the University of Queensland, to commence operations by the beginning of 1960.

In 1955 this seemed like a bold plan indeed; excessive in its optimism. By the mid 1960s, however, it was surprising how much of it had been achieved.

Govt considers School of the Pacific

Dkerrpngschool I received a letter yesterday from the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr [seen here visiting a school in PNG], stating that the School of the Pacific concept is to be considered by the Federal government.

Responding to my submission proposing how such an institution could operate to address critical issues and improve relationships in the region, Mr Kerr said that, under the government’s Pacific Partnerships policy, models like ASOPA will be taken into account.

“The Government is committed to implementing long-term partnerships for development and security with Pacific island countries,” Mr Kerr said. “These partnerships will give the Government scope to … consider the role and effectiveness … of previous models like the Australian School of Pacific Administration.”

Mr Kerr, 56, worked in PNG from 1983-85, where he was Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Papua New Guinea and Legal Counsel Ombudsman, advising on anti-corruption matters and issues related to administrative law.

The School of the Pacific concept has been publicly supported by a number of prominent individuals including PNG Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow of the University of Queensland, Phil Charley OAM and former PNG health educator, Bill Wilson.

Boxing: Martin Beni put PNG on the map

Richard Richard E Jones

The PNG House of Assembly rose early on 26 September 1974. Chief Minister Michael Somare shelved his plans and drove the short distance to Port Moresby’s Sir Hubert Murray stadium to see PNG boxing hero Martin Beni contest an international bout. The 23-year-old motor mechanic from Waima village matched against Colin Cassidy, the Australian lightweight champion.

Fight promoter Phil Harris had worked feverishly leading up to the big night. His loudspeaker van touring Moresby’s suburbs and neighbouring villages urging people to support Beni in his most important bout. On fight night 9000 patrons turned up.

Beni started the fight without apparent nerves and set a brisk pace. By the third round, though, Cassidy was on song. Three stinging rights from the Australian had ‘The Chief’ Somare squirming in his ringside seat. Towards the end of the third, Beni took a Cassidy uppercut before landing a right to the body and a shot that started a Cassidy nosebleed. The hometown fans sensed an improvement. Beni was now consistently landing overhand lefts and rights to Cassidy’s head.

The Australian looked wobbly as the fifth began and ran into a battery of Beni punches but summoned a last burst of energy mid-round. He trapped Beni in the corner and landed a flurry of body punches. Then Beni landed five chopping rights on the Australian’s jaw. Cassidy slumped to the canvas, clinging to the ring’s bottom rope. The roar of the crowd drowned out the sound of the bell.

A savage 60 seconds awaited the Aussie lightweight champion in the sixth. Beni’s short arm blows hammered Cassidy but this time there was no bell to save him. He crumpled forward on his knees and his head fell to the canvas. The referee counted him out as the crowd roared its delight. Beni was on his way to a Commonwealth ranking in pro boxing.

So, just 12 months before independence from Australia was proclaimed, Martin Beni had put PNG on the sporting world map.

[With thanks to Mike Ryan and staff at Australia’s old Fighter magazine]

Richard Jones’ full account of this historic moment in PNG sport will be published in the next issue of Una Voce, the magazine of the PNG Association of Australia.

Moresby ASOPA? No. Let’s try Canberra

Just a couple of years earlier, the Australian Government had mooted moving ASOPA to Port Moresby but, by the end of 1954, there was a new enthusiasm to relocate the School in Canberra. The wobbly governance of ASOPA by its political masters looked like shuddering off in quite another direction.Hasluck_paul

Territories Minister Paul Hasluck [right], speaking at the annual award of diplomas on 14 December, said he wanted to broaden ASOPA's efforts to: “concentrate more effectively on the training of public servants for the Australian Territories and to make the School’s courses available to a wider range of officers in those services.”

Underpinning Hasluck’s announcement was an apparent bid by ANU to get it hands on the School. “ASOPA is funded by the Commonwealth Government as is the Australian National University,” said Hasluck. “The ANU has commenced research which will have a direct bearing on the problems of Territorial administration.”

He assured his audience that “ASOPA is to continue as a separate institution with its own principal and staff. This involves the rejection of various other suggestions which had been advanced for linking it with other institutions. As soon as possible ASOPA should be transferred from Sydney to Canberra.”

At the same time the long course for Patrol Officers was to be reduced from two years to one: “due to the high standard of recruits” was Hasluck’s weasel-worded explanation.

The announcement followed a year in which long-suffering PNG Director of Education WC Groves had continued to fight for more funds to expand and improve the government education system; additional funds much demanded by the UN, much promised by the Australian Government and seldom delivered. By the end of 1954 the South Pacific Post editorialised that “the Administration has made little progress in the field of education and is pursuing its dangerous policy of educating a handful of natives at secondary schools in Australia.”

It seemed that Canberra was spending much effort on trivial issues like where ASOPA ought to be located rather than unlocking the Treasury and providing the funds for the massive expansion of education that the Territory urgently required.

From ‘The Blatchford Collection’. The 1954 summaries are now available in ASOPA People Extra.

A great ASOPA mystery still unresolved

We were at this place before, and The Blatchford Collection has brought us right back again. The story so far: In the more than full year between the day upon which Alf Conlon was unceremoniously dismissed from his service as ASOPA Principal in September 1949 until the day Charles Rowley took up the office late in 1950 (and then only because a hard boiled colonial official named Harry Maude didn’t want it), who was Principal of ASOPA?

There are men still strong amongst us, like WT (Bill) Brown, former District Commissioner in Bougainville during the tough days of the early seventies, who frequented ASOPA in the late Arthur_wilfred_woof forties. Bill is customarily forthright in claiming that Wilfred ‘Woof’ Arthur [left], a World War II RAAF ace, had occupied the principalship in the interregnum between Conlon and Rowley. Bill can remember this as clear as yesterday.

But what still evades us is evidence. Now this is a small not a big mystery. But it is no less intriguing for being Lilliputian. In fact, it the more enthralling because Loch Blatchford has documents from this time and the documents reveal - nothing. This Principal, if indeed there was a Principal, was stoic in his silence and dogged in his resolve not to leave his name imprinted on anything.

Provoked by Loch, Ruth Fink Latukefu has searched her library and found Wetherell and Carr-Gregg’s biography of Camilla Wedgwood. On page 206 is mentioned the revolt against Conlon, led by the poet McAuley towards the end of 1949, when staff decided teaching would cease unless Conlon left. (ASOPA PEOPLE has documented John Kerr’s account of this dramatic interlude. See ‘The first dismissal: How Kerr got Conlon out of ASOPA’ here.)

So to the contemporary reminiscence. After Conlon left, Camilla Wedgwood wrote, she was taking large classes in “a school without a Principal, without an adequate staff and without any Council or indeed real existence”, as ASOPA had no statutory functions till the passing of the Papua New Guinea Act of 1949.Rowley_asopa

The School, however, continued to take students, including Bill Brown, and seemed mightily  relieved when Rowley [right] arrived to take charge of things. By the way, in a letter to Raymond Firth, Wedgwood described Rowley as “a very pleasant sound man as Principal (not brilliant and temperamental, thank goodness) who knows his own mind but is wholly without any desire to become a dictator.”

Ruth’s conclusion is that “there was no other Principal between Conlon (August 1948-September 1949) and Rowley’s appointment late in 1950.”

But this is another conjecture and so our small mystery remains.

Academic urges Kerr to back ASOPA idea

Cd_rom_2 The Director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of  Queensland, Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow [left], is the latest in a growing list of influential people who have asked the Federal Government to support the ‘new ASOPA’ concept.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, Duncan Kerr, Prof Hadlow says the proposed School of the Pacific would emerge as a “resource base and centre for a range of educational, training, capacity-building, cultural and political initiatives”.

“Such a School would enable our Centre to engage more fully with our Pacific neighbours in supporting the positive role of communication in development, not to mention encouraging freedom of expression, good governance, independent media and other important human rights activities,” Prof Hadlow writes.

Prof Hadlow’s experience includes two years in PNG and four years in the Solomons on communications development projects. In addition he has undertaken consultancy work in many other parts of the Pacific and Asia including two years as Unesco head of mission  in Afghanistan.

Stunning Papuan images go on display

Frank Hurley is undeniably Australia's most renowned photographer but it is not well known that he made two expeditions to Papua from 1920-23. Now 84 of the 700 photographs Hurley sold to the Australian Museum for £100 in 1927 are about to go on show in an exhibition curated by Dr Jim Specht.

Hurley_lake_murray Like everything Hurley touched, the Papua photographs were cloaked in controversy. Moral questions were raised about the circumstances in which Hurley took the photographs. He was accused of theft, bullying, duplicity and unethical behaviour. Specht says Hurley was largely innocent. Not that he minded the accusations. There was always a Barnum and Bailey side to Hurley. And if a bad headline swelled the number of people paying to see his slide shows, Hurley would milk it for all it was worth.Sago_making_1921

The photographs are extraordinary and include scenes of mission life, landscapes and the first aerial photographs taken of Papua. There is a magnificent a four-frame panorama of a Papuan village which has never been seen before. But mostly there are portraits - dozens of haunting photographs of people who had never seen a camera but were persuaded to pose despite their obvious apprehension.

The cause of much controversy were photographs Hurley took of his party carrying guns in the remote Lake Murray district. “They had been told to carry guns by the Lieutenant-Governor because Lake Murray wasn't under government control,” says Specht. “But a missionary saw a photo and immediately drew the conclusion there had been violence. There was absolutely no evidence of that.”

Hurley’s subsequent slide shows were a huge success, with tours of the US and Britain. His book ‘Pearls And Savages’ became an international bestseller, encouraging him to return to the region to make two feature films, which Specht dismisses as “horrible silent melodramas”.

Tovei_village_1921 By 1927 Hurley was going through difficult times, forced to take a desk job. He decided to sell much of his Papua collection of glass-plate negatives and lantern slides to the Australian Museum.

Source: ‘Drama that followed Hurley into the wild’ by Steve Meacham, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 March 2008

‘Frank Hurley:Journey into Papua’ is at the Australian Museum, Sydney, from 29 March 2008 – 15 March 2009. Admission is free after general Museum entry.

Photos: Upper - Expedition party at Lake Murray, where a week was spent photographing and collecting objects. Frank Hurley, centre, holding rifle. Middle - Sago making, 1921. Lower - Tovei village, 1921. Photos: F Hurley.

A couple of blokes & a couple of notes


Oates_paul Thanks for your newsletter that I read with great interest. The Internet can be an amazing vehicle for getting and keeping in touch. Two of my posts on the Ex Kiap site have resulted in the sons of old PNG friends getting in touch with me, sometimes years after I first put the post on the website.

In regards to recreating ASOPA, there are really three main issues that I can see:

1. To recreate ASOPA or a similar entity at Middle Head would require the Federal government to resist selling off the asset

2. The links with past colonial administration would have to be overlooked by say, the present crop of PNG leaders, and

3. The cost of bringing those people from the Pacific to Oz and being housed here would have to be worth the benefits of not enacting the training locally.

From a cultural perspective, you would no doubt be aware of the 'melt down' occurring to our near north. The 'Melanesian way' is unfortunately, very susceptible to promoting graft and corruption without any accountability. To train people here and then release them back into an environment where the training will have no real impact, is like trying to put a bandaid on a dying man and hope it may help.

I was heartened by the support for the concept being shown by the PNG Governor-General who clearly wants to do something positive for his country. There are a number of people I know who would want to do the same, merely because we have enormous regard for the country and it's people. The essence of the trouble is, DFAT and the current PNG leadership have every reason to keep the status quo in place and almost no reason to change. Throwing more money at the 'slow train crash' that is happening before our eyes will only help 'grease the tracks'.

What's the answer you may well ask? Well, clearly it's not more of the same. The nub of the problem is the need to have responsible and accountable government. Until you get that in PNG, there won't be any change, apart from some temporary and cosmetic filling of the visible pot holes and putting up self congratulatory signage. The rot starts from the top. If the collective will is there to actually achieve some dramatic and long lasting change, I for one would be very happy to lend all the support I can. I know of others who would also feel the same way.

Keep up the good work.



Thanks for you note, and I appreciate greatly your sentiments and support. I also appreciate your thoughtful and provocative contribution to the Ex Kiap website, which helps keep discussion about PNG alive amongst the many friends that country has in Australia and elsewhere. Friends who, you and I are both aware, regard with dismay the state of this wonderful place that, in our youth, offered and gave us so much.

The 'new ASOPA' idea is just that. It's not a solution. It's one way of trying to make tangible the notion that, at the end of the day, if we don't interact with good will and firm purpose, nothing of value will be achieved.

I'm alive to the view that what I've proposed may be seen to be a bit of a 'talk shop' - but I think talking is OK so long as the discussion is about matters of mutual concern and how these may be mutually addressed and how it's pretty good to be talking in a directive way about serious matters that need resolution.

There hasn't been nearly enough of that between PNG and ourselves for a very long time. Certainly not at the level of interested citizens who feel a bit of PNG in our blood - and who see the relationship as personal and important. In 20 years time most of us who have a first hand feeling for PNG will be gone. And I think with us will go a lot of passion. And perhaps a lot of the promise of a really close relationship.

So, for me, the 'new ASOPA' is an opportunity. There will undoubtedly be others that pop up from time to time. It's fine for Heavy Kevvy to sign a 'Port Moresby Declaration' but, at another level, I feel we must create avenues to say to those people we thought we knew so well at the time we lived among them: ‘We're still here; we're willing to lend a hand. Forget about government, this is personal.’

With very best wishes.


ASOPA & the education crisis of 1952-53

In late 1951 the PNG Department of Education reported that it employed 117 people. Not many in a land where the Australian government claimed to be promoting education as a development priority. One month later, in January 1952, PNG Treasurer, HH Reeve, firmly in Canberra’s thrall, let the educationists know that “a strong view is held that the overall restriction in finance will prevent Departmental progress and expansion.” And the South Pacific Post lamely editorialised: “The stock answer to requests for schools is ‘No funds’.”

Despite it being apparent that the nascent education system was starved of funds, the then PNG Public Service Commissioner felt able to write to the Administrator, Donald Cleland: “I desire to advise that I have had no confidence in the organisation of the Department of Education.”

And Acting Administrator Cleland, very much Bob Menzies’ man, advised CR Lambert, the Secretary of the Territories Department in cosy Canberra: “I share [these] view, not only in regard to the organisation and functions of the headquarters staff but also as to the effectiveness of the Department in the field.” And Cleland had only been in PNG five minutes.

In June, the Director of Education, WC Groves, obviously seen by Cleland as a ‘JK Murray man’ and therefore in the gun, wrote to a colleague: “We have not been entirely idle here. The job grows bigger every day, with too few people to handle it. I think I can say with truth that I personally have never worked so continuously hard at any job that has fallen to my lot before.”

Sensing that Groves was in trouble, Murray wrote to him in July that he should “hold on” if attempts were made to ‘narrow’ the concept of education. He gave Groves some good strategic advice, including to preface his Budget Estimates submission by stating ‘the essentials’ of education policy in PNG.

Cleland hadn’t finished with his attempted demolition of Groves. When the new Administrator opened Mission Conference in November 1952, which Groves was supposed to chair, Cleland told the gathering, “…pick your own [chairman], no feelings will be hurt.” Groves left Port Moresby on the MV Murkur in early December on four months leave.

Why there was a war being fought against the Department of Education when the United Nations was urging greater Australia action in schooling might have been due entirely to personality conflicts, but we will have to leave it up to historians to provide a definitive answer.

What we do know it that, in the following year, Territories Secretary Lambert was emboldened to suggest: “the possibility of devising a two-year Sydney Teachers’ College Course to include by way of alternative and optional courses the special subjects required by the Director of Education and provided by ASOPA”.

In other words, ASOPA should be closed. Lambert said his suggestion had been discussed with the principal of the Sydney Teachers’ College, Dr I Turner, obviously greatly impressed by the prospect of expanding his empire. There was no mention of the views of ASOPA Principal Charles Rowley.

Dr Turner was magnanimous in accepting his new role. “[Turner] said that he would be willing and able to provide a lecture room in which members of the ASOPA staff could give lectures to ASOPA Cadets, provided that these lectures were given after 4 pm … Dr Turner said that unfortunately he would not be able to provide any place for ASOPA staff to work or leave material [and] it would probably not be possible to keep all the Cadets in one student group. It was felt that this was probably a good thing, since the Cadets would get a wider range of experience if they were in different classes, and that they would intermingle more easily with the other students.”

Fortunately, this preposterous suggestion, and Turner’s mean and grasping response to it, never saw the light of day. But it was another of many incidents in ASOPA’s journey which saw the School come close to closure.

Based on ‘The Blatchford Collection’ [1952,1953] in ASOPA People Extra.

School of the Pacific is on govt agenda

A senior official in the Department of Foreign Affairs has indicated that the School of the Pacific concept will be considered by the Federal government as a possible option for training Pacific public servants.

Coleletter In a letter [left] to former ASOPA student Bill Wilson, the assistant secretary responsible for the Pacific Branch of the department, Patrick Cole, previously Australia’s high commissioner to the Solomons, said that, under the government’s Pacific Partnerships policy, previous models like ASOPA will be considered.

“The Government is committed to implementing long-term partnerships for development and security with Pacific island countries,” Mr Cole said. “These partnerships will give the Government scope to … consider the role and effectiveness … of previous models like the Australian School of Pacific Administration.”

This is the first official comment on the ‘new ASOPA’ idea. So far Duncan Kerr, the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, has remained silent on the issue.

It's not too late to urge Duncan Kerr to take up this idea. Read the full three-page proposal here and write to Mr Kerr here:

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

The dismissal of ‘Kanaka Jack’ Murray

Murray_jk_1954 After Robert Menzies was elected Australian Prime Minister in late 1949, JK Murray, the Labor-appointed Administrator of PNG, was regarded with great suspicion. A major rift occurred in 1950 when Murray disagreed with an order from Canberra that Papua New Guineans should not speak directly to a visiting mission from the United Nations.

Murray had tried to pursue a ‘new deal’ for Papua New Guineans, establishing village courts, village councils, cooperative societies, extension courses in agriculture, aid posts, training indigenous medicos and moved the workforce from indenture to free labour. The local white establishment also found Murray’s attitude to Papua New Guineans scandalous. When the Murrays invited Papuans to functions at Government House, the functions were boycotted by whites and Murray was dubbed ‘Kanaka Jack’.

He caused a stir when he addressed the RSL in Lae, saying, “I do not expect all to agree with me, but I give it as an informed opinion that the IQ of the native people of this Territory is not greatly different from that of a cross-section of Europe…what the native people have lacked is opportunity.”

He further scandalised the white community by commenting, “I do not think it would be unfair to suggest that what is sauce for the goose may also be sauce for the gander and if we prohibit native people without passes being present in Port Moresby after 9 pm similarly we might prohibit Europeans, Malays etc. being in Hanuabada Village after 9 pm.”

In April the ASOPA magazine South Pacific quoted new Territories Minister Paul Hasluck as saying the PNG administration would become increasingly centralised in Australia and the same month the South Pacific Post published a news item, Hasluck in ‘Routine’ Visit. The visit was anything but routine, and within weeks Paul Hasluck publicly dismissed Murray without offering him the opportunity to retire or resign, and replaced him with Liberal Party operative Donald Cleland.

The South Pacific Post editorialised: “The ‘resignation’ of Labor-appointed Col Murray just a few convenient months after the arrival of Liberal-appointed Mr Cleland is just a further indication that Canberra regards this Territory as no more than a political playpen.” The newspaper said that Murray would be remembered “as an Administrator who was too much of a gentleman to betray anyone, even the Canberra nincompoops to whom he gave complete allegiance.”

In June Murray wrote in a personal letter to James McAuley at ASOPA: “On a previous occasion, it was proposed that I should leave the Administration, and I succeeded in staying on, as I really hoped to complete the period of service up to 30th June 1954; but this is not to be…. I have been disappointed in what we have done in health and education, but this has been due to factors which were mostly out of the control of the Heads of the Department concerned: not that they haven’t done great work, but I hoped that the situation would have been firmer and less subject to buffeting and depredation of funds as a consequence of political factors … procrastination and an unwillingness to make decisions at the Canberra level.” There was a strong implication that Canberra had starved Murray out.

Finally, in July, Murray commented on his dismissal in an article in the South Pacific Post headlined ‘Hasluck Impertinent, Absurd – Murray’. The former Administrator accused Menzies and Hasluck of removing him from office saying they had “organised a ‘war of nerves’ and created bottlenecks in Canberra.”

From The Blatchford Collection 1952. More in ASOPA People Extra.

Ruth Fink Latukefu

In 1960, Dr Ruth Fink, the 28-year old daughter of German Jewish refugees, came to ASOPA. The illustrious anthropologist, Professor AP Elkin, whose course she took over, had referred her. Ruth’s research background was among the Wajarri Aboriginal people of the Murchison region, 450 km north of Perth and an hour’s drive inland from Geraldton.

Ruth was an instant success at ASOPA, where she lectured Cadet Education Officers and Patrol Officers in Anthropology – although, as the following extract from a letter of November 1964 shows, she was a little awed by the hard living kiaps:

“This year lecturing to the Patrol Officers for the first time has made me feel more confident, as they are a very tough group of young men and I expected they would resent having a woman lecturer. They proved very charming and well behaved, even though they are hulking masculine types who drink and swear and lead a rough life.

“A lucky thing happened early in the year, which helped me a lot with them. I had set them an essay and discovered that they were plotting a hoax. Several of them referred to a Dr CJ Blunge, supposedly a famous Belgian anthropologist, who had worked not only in New Guinea but also in Siberia. I started to get suspicious when he was quoted in a number of the essays I was marking and I thought it was a test to see if I was actually reading them.

"I said nothing, but for the next assignment, on their notice board I listed books that they should consult, and scattered among them were several new papers by Herr Blunge (which I had made up). Later I told them that Dr Blunge had been branded a Communist and no further works by him were to be kept in the ASOPA Library.”

Wedding In 1965, Ruth took up an appointment at Sydney University. She had by then met her future husband, Sione Latukefu, a Tongan Methodist Minister who later became a noted Pacific historian.

By 1967 Ruth and Sione were living in Port Moresby and teaching at the new University of Papua New Guinea. Ruth says: “We remained for 18 years... Our time in PNG was an unforgettable part of our lives.”

The full story of Ruth Fink Latukefu can be found in the March issue of The Mail [see ASOPA People Extra].

Australian media is failing PNG

Headshot The Australian media has failed in its proclaimed watchdog role in PNG and the Pacific, says leading journalist, Sean Dorney, a long-term regional correspondent for the ABC. Speaking in Port Moresby, Mr Dorney said the Australian media does not take the Pacific seriously and, except for the ABC and AAP, no correspondents have been based in Port Moresby since the 1980s. He said this had resulted in the Australian media’s weak understanding of the region.

“There are one or two journalists who try to report on the region from Australia but they get little support and find there is virtually no funding for trips to the Pacific unless there is a coup or a burning down of Chinatown. I find this incredible considering the amount of money Australia now spends in PNG and Pacific – hundreds of millions a year.”

Dorney added that PNG does itself no favours in the way it treats Australian journalists. “Journalists wanting to come to PNG have to apply for a $220 journalist’s visa. This can take weeks to secure, if it is approved at all.

“Most Australian journalists, after being put through all these difficulties, are in no mood to write positive stories,” Mr Dorney said. He also remarked there are not many Australians who understand the diversity and differences within PNG.

Dorney lived and worked in PNG for almost 20 years and, in an unusual double, has been both deported and awarded honours by its Government.

Source: ‘Aust media failing as watchdog: Dorney’ by Harlyn Joku, The National [PNG], 17 March 2008

How ASOPA nearly ended up in Moresby

Students The Blatchford Collection for 1952, now in ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA along with The Mail for March, reveals a determined push to get ASOPA moved to Port Moresby. The suggestion originally came from the Department of District Services and was enthusiastically adopted by the South Pacific Post which, under the headline ‘A Costly School’, editorialised in late February that “officers at ASOPA should bear the cost themselves or better still transfer a section of the College to Port Moresby and use correspondence lessons for the rest.”

In August of the same year, the acting director of PNG Education, GT Roscoe, wrote to the Secretary of the Department of Territories: “The present arrangement is for Cadets to spend one year at the Sydney Teachers’ College and another year at ASOPA. The Principal of ASOPA considers the short course at Sydney Teachers’ College to be unsuitable and proposes that Cadets should study at ASOPA for eighteen months [and] should complete their training by spending the ensuing six months in supervised teaching practice in the Territory, preferably with Native classes.”

But Roscoe didn’t like this idea and recommended instead “that the system of training for Cadet Education Officers be amended to provide for a two-year course of professional training in a Teachers’ College to be established in Port Moresby and operated by the Department of Education.”

History tells us, of course, that this idea didn’t get off the ground, although it was to be another six years before the full two years of CEO training were provided on the ASOPA campus at Middle Head.

PNG – implementing a new beginning

The Australian newspaper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, who you might not always agree with except to agree that he’s an informed and perceptive observer, writes in his column today, and I select extracts:

Greg_sheridanKevin Rudd wants a new beginning with the South Pacific, especially with Melanesia.

The four big nations of Melanesia - PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji - are each in a version of their own long-running crisis.

Rudd and his team believe they have a chance just now to make a difference in Melanesia. This is partly simply because they are a new Government. A harsh hostility had arisen between PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare and John Howard.

This was not a result of any particular mismanagement by Howard but because Somare was opposed to the Enhanced Co-operation Program through which Australia inserted personnel into PNG to try to improve the delivery of basic services and to bring some control to the endemic corruption in PNG.

As was evident in his effusive welcome, Somare doesn't have the same hostility towards Rudd. But whether the new goodwill amounts to anything, with Canberra's efforts to make aid to PNG accountable and to limit corruption, remains to be seen.

Rudd's speeches and press conferences in PNG and the Solomons were important and under-reported. They followed his policy in Opposition and begin the process of giving greater flesh to the Pacific Partnerships for Development that his Government will construct with the South Pacific nations.

Rudd deserves praise for recognising the urgency of the problem and giving it priority when no other part of Australian civil society is really doing likewise. However, there is scant prospect of Australian success in Melanesia.

This is not because of any particular weakness in the Rudd Government but because of the sheer, bloody intractability of the problems.

You can read the full article here.

Source: Melanesia on our radar by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor, The Australian, 15 March 2008

‘Papa Bilong Chimbu’ is must-see TV

John_niles In 1936 a young German Catholic missionary, John Nilles (1905-1993), arrived in the PNG Highlands of. There he remained for 54 years, living with the Chimbu people, learning their way of life and language (he translated the Bible into Kuman), and introducing them to his God and Western culture.

Father Nilles’ work reached beyond his role as a missionary. A trained anthropologist, he envisioned a way to marry Chimbu beliefs with those of Christianity. As a linguist, author, politician and citizen of PNG he became a local leader and a true Chimbu. Late in his life, he unexpectedly left PNG for Germany and there he died. But the Chimbu people claim his body should be returned and buried amongst them.

Through Nilles’ extraordinary archive of photos, diaries and letters, as well as interviews with those who knew him, filmmaker Verena Thomas has compiled a portrait of this fascinating man. Her award-winning documentary will be screened on ABC-TV tomorrow night [see below].

John Nilles was well known to many readers of ASOPA PEOPLE. Leo Carroll, who gave me the heads up about the TV program, mentioned that Nilles’ had baptised his daughter Lisa at the Anugl Mission church. For many of us, Papa Bilong Chimbu is a must-see television event.

‘Papa Bilong Chimbu’, Compass, ABC 1, Sunday 16 March, 10.15 pm

Just one of Bomana’s 3,000 stories

Bomana Kevin Rudd walked to the giant cross at Bomana war cemetery’s to lay a wreath for the 3,376 Australians buried here. He was flanked by his entourage as he moved amongst the carefully trimmed rows of headstones. He chatted with Colonel Luke Foster, Australia's defence force commander in PNG.

Then Rudd separated briefly from the group and stood alone, staring at a single tombstone. The journalists hung back, respecting a moment in which he appeared to want some space.

Ten walked up to the Memorial to the Missing, a stone rotunda overlooking Bomana. He wrote In the visitors’ book: “For all the fallen, we honour them for their service to Australia, and to honour the personal memory of Lt George Parkinson.” He signed it, ‘Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister’.

The 25-year-old lieutenant was killed in action in August 1943 fighting the Japanese at Buna. The girlfriend he left behind in Australia would later marry and have children. One of them was Kevin Rudd.

Source: Tim Lester, Political Correspondent, National 9 News. With thanks to Paul Oates for drawing this poignant moment to our attention.

The Governor-General's collection

Sir_paulias Sir Paulias Matane, born on the Gazelle Peninsula in 1931, has been Governor-General of PNG since 2004. He has been a teacher, school inspector, member of the Public Service Board, Secretary for Business Development and Ambassador to the US, UN and Mexico and High Commissioner to Canada. By any measure this has been a very distinguished career.

One of Sir Paulias' passions is writing (he's published 44 books and is easily PNG's most prolific author). A related pursuit has been inspiring other Papua New Guineans to write. "Up to now," he says, "due to my encouragement, 32 people have had their first books published here and overseas."

Now ASOPA PEOPLE is proud to be able to offer readers access to the Matane Library. Twenty-eight titles are available through the charitable Paulias Matane Foundation. Look for The Matane Library under ASOPA People Extra at left where you can find book descriptions by Sir Paulias himself and an order form.

By purchasing these books, which are offered at very reasonable prices, you can delve deeper into the issues that interest Sir Paulias while at the same time assisting charities in PNG. Never before have the Governor-Generals's books been offered in Australia.

Meanwhile, here's a taste of what's on offer in the words of Sir Paulias. I think you'll agree that even this small sample represents a splendidly eclectic collection. By the way, all prices includes postage and packing).....

Humour: The Papua New Guinean Way. "Humour is the quality of something that makes it funny and evokes laughter. What makes humour distinct is the environment and quality of life of the people in a particular region. Papua New Guineans are generally among the happiest people on earth. They live a carefree life and smile and laugh a lot. This book has 100 jokes that will make you laugh and make you happy and healthy."

The Time Traveler. "This book contains a collection of my popular and much sought after weekly columns in The National from 2000-05. It was published to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Papua New Guinea's political independence."

Ripples In the South Pacific Ocean. "This is the longest historical novel ever written by a Papua New Guinean. It was first published in 2003. The novel portrays the development in the village life and culture of Papua New Guinea. It is an eloquent portrait of Aimbe, who, by his attributes of courage and compassion, becomes a leader of his community after his father's death." [318 pp]

50 Golden Years: Saga of True Love. "This was my 40th book. It's in colour and black and white photographs and was published just before Lady Matane and I celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary on 20 January 2007. The book narrates the story of our true love and how we have remained united for such a long time. It addresses important questions like what true love is, the pressures of work on married life and what it takes to make enduring relationship in marital life. Contributors to the book include our three children, grandchildren, adopted and those we helped to raise when they were children." [211 pp]

Kenneth E 'Mick' Read

Mick Read was born in Sydney in 1917 and succumbed to cancer at his long time home in Seattle in 1995 aged 78. He was Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington.

Mick was born into the privileges of an upper class Australian country family and grew up in the outback, which coloured his values and gave him a love of nature, but forever made him over-sensitive to light and prone to cancer. His father was a wealthy grazier near Boggabri.

High_valley Read's undergraduate degree was taken at the University of Sydney. During World War II he served in the Australian Army in New Guinea. He spent two years in the Markham Valley, largely isolated from his comrades, and it was here he first became acquainted with village life, reporting that in the last few months he was dependent upon villagers for daily handouts of food to sustain him. He completed his PhD in Anthropology after the war. In his first and best known book, ‘The High Valley’, published in 1965, Read thanks Ian Hogbin as ‘my first teacher in anthropology (who) introduced me to the people of Melanesia and New Guinea’.

Read returned to the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University and returned to the PNG Highlands for two years (1950-52) to study the basic elements of social structure, religion, and social change following the war among the Gahuku-Gama people.

It is claimed by many that Mick Read opened Highlands anthropology as a culture area to the anthropological imagination, through the combination of his intensive theoretical and ethnographic studies. These were capped by his articles ‘Nama Cult of the Central Highlands’ in 1952 and two years later the landmark piece ‘Cultures of the Central Highlands’, both of which constituted initial reading for all serious students of New Guinea for a generation to come.

Read's career took him from ANU to Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the ASOPA in 1953-1956, where he taught culture and language. Here he made contact with some of the most influential names in the history of colonial New Guinea, including the Leahy brothers, who became friends. He moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1957.

Source: From an obituary written by Gilbert Herdt

Matane backs 'New ASOPA' concept

New_era PNG’s Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane has said he supports the vision for a ‘New ASOPA’ that has featured in ASOPA PEOPLE recently. And he has said of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s visit to PNG last week: “A better relationship between our two nations has now been established.”

“We are very happy with his views," Sir Paulias told ASOPA PEOPLE. "Mr Rudd’s first call after his arrival in Port Moresby on Thursday was on me at Government House before his meetings with other PNG leaders. We were all impressed with his views; and much more so to work in partnership with us, not to dictate anything to PNG.”

Sir Paulias expressed pleasure that Mr Rudd had appointed “the well-known Hon Duncan Kerr" as Parliamentary Secretary for the Pacific . "It was good to see him here,” he said.

Photo: PNG Post-Courier front page shows a cheerful Sir Michael Somare and Kevin Rudd in Port Moresby last week.

Leading PNG entrepreneur hits kickbacks

In an extraordinary attack on corruption in PNG, one of the country’s leading businessmen, Sir Ramon (Ray) Thurecht claims that a syndicate of bureaucrats and politicians demand a front-loaded payment of 30 percent of contracts before awarding work.

Thurecht told the PNG Post-Courier that business could not speak out because of fear of retaliation by bureaucrats and politicians.

“Our biggest challenge now is to work with the Government. Unfortunately, with the graft and corruption that permeates both the bureaucracy and political level, it is extremely difficult if you win a contract to get your money. This happened to us,” he said.

Thurecht_kt Thurecht is managing director of HR Holdings Limited and former chairman of the PNG Manufacturers’ Council. He has lived in PNG for 50 years and is the long-term owner of PNG Printing.

Thurecht fears the ’30 percent syndicate’ will curtail business growth. “We win the contract and they just stonewall the payment for whatever reason. They were asking for 30 percent. Some of the bureaucrats were asking me for that (so) they’d let the money flow through. This is just killing the initiative and incentive to work.”

He said this had happened to members of the Manufacturers’ Council: “Ya! It has happened to some of my members. But no-one wants to speak out about it because if you speak about it, then it would open up a mess of possible retaliation against your company. That happened to me when I was with the Chamber of Commerce. I found that if I said something that could be derogatory to government, all of a sudden my company was not getting any work from the government.”

He also noted that the syndicate was responsible for the collapse of Talair, the country’s flagship third-level airline which closed in the 1980s. “Why did Talair pull out? Because he (Sir Dennis Buchanan) hit the same stonewall that I told you about-not being able to get his money. The politicians were stonewalling him.”

Photo: Ray Thurecht is knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in October last year.

Paulias Matane – educator, author, leader

Sir_paulias_close Sir Paulias Matane, a former Director of Education, has been PNG’s Governor-General for the past four years and has served the office with great distinction. Sir Paulias is a sprightly 76 - he walked part of the Kokoda Trail last year – and he tells me that since he ‘retired’ from the Public Service (“not public service,” he adds) at the end of 1985, he’s been very active.

“I went home and continued to work hard for communities, wrote books, weekly columns for one of our dailies, produced weekly EMTV Chit Chats, and travelled the world,” he writes. “I have been to all seven continents on earth.” In 2004, Sir Paulias was ‘forced’ by the PNG leadership to take up vice-regal office, where he remains today.

One of his passions over the years has been writing (he’s published 44 books) and another pursuit has been encouraging other Papua New Guineans to write. “Up to now, due to my encouragement, 32 people have had their first books published here and overseas. Five have written their second books. This shows me that there are capable people here who can write. I am pleased with their interests.”

Sir Paulias’ latest writing has been a Foreword to a new 419-page book entitled: ‘Major Religions of the World’ by Indian author Mohan L Ahuja. The book is virtually a mini encyclopedia and covers all major religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahai’i Faith, Confucianism, Jainism, Shintoism, Taoism, and Zoroatrianism. If you’re interested in this book you can email the author here.

We’ll be providing a full list of Sir Paulias’ books together with prices and ordering information in a future ASOPA PEOPLE.

By the way, each of Sir Paulias’s emails is signed off with the delightful words, ‘Serving with Love from Government House!’

Results of our first readership survey

Our ASOPA PEOPLE survey received 44 responses, about 20 percent of the estimated regular readership of the site. Which is not bad in this type of survey. The results show that the number of people who visit the site each day or on a few days a week is roughly equal to the two other main groups of readers, who visit the site weekly or monthly.

The results in detail, responding to the question ‘How often do you visit the ASOPA PEOPLE website?’…..

Daily                             18%

A few days a week     16%

Weekly                          27%

Monthly                         30%

Rarely                            9%

Thanks to all of you who participated in the survey. It’s good to know that over 60% of our potential readership touches base here at least once a week.

Know him? I can barely digest him!

Loch Blatchford’s summary of the 1951 documents in The Blatchford Collection again provides a fascinating insight into the pressures and issues surrounding the fledgling PNG Education Department and the two-year old ASOPA as, monumentally under-resourced, they wrestled to establish a schooling system in the Territory. In 1949 ASOPA had narrowly avoided premature demise and in 1950 its affairs were stabilising under Charles Rowley’s principalship but by 1951 the Liberal Government - Bob Menzies at the helm - was doing what all new governments do: applying a budget squeeze. And in Moresby and at Middle Head, the pips were squeaking.

Loch’s 1951 summary can be found under ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA at left, and there are many highlights. But this note reflects on just one: an address by JT Bensted to the Pacific Islands Society in December 1950. It was an intriguing and humorous presentation entitled ‘Sir Hubert Murray as I Knew Him and Papua as I Knew It’. Bensted had gone to Papua in 1899 as a government official. His speech records impressions that are well worth repeating here:

Bensted on sport. “In the earliest days there was no organised sport but later we had cricket and drinking for the men and tennis and quarrelling for the women.”

Bensted on intimate relationships: “A native, when asked if he knew a particular man, replied ‘Knew him, I knew him well, I ate him.’”

Sir_hubert_murray Bensted on Sir Hubert Murray I: “Sir Hubert was a bad writer, and actually used both hands to guide the pen, and his writing was very difficult to decipher at times. A very fine linguist and I would not like to say in how many languages he was proficient. But rather strangely he did not speak to any native in any language other than English. Probably for the reason that the Government policy was to make English the language of Papua.”

Bensted on Sir Hubert Murray II: “A man of great learning and intellectual superiority. One could not help feeling amused to see (Sir Hubert) on a hot night in the lounge of Government House, crouched reading in a chair with heavy walking boots on, socks pulled up over his trousers (and it was said that he wore two pairs at times); coat collar turned up to protect his ears and neck; and an old felt hat on his bald head. And all the time feeding small chips to a stinking sandalwood fire in a dish beside him.”

Photo: Sir Hubert Murray (National Library of Australia)

ASOPA archives ready for rummaging

We’ve kick started the ASOPA Archives with fourteen articles and papers about ASOPA, education in PNG and matters of general interest about PNG that otherwise might not find a home elsewhere

You can find this new department in ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA at left. Each article is accompanied by a brief summary providing something of its flavour and is available to you in a downloadable PDF file.

As new pieces that match the interests of this website come to light, we’ll add them to the Archives.

A bit of housekeeping after a big week

It’s been a big week here at ASOPA PEOPLE, what with the continuing flow of new and intriguing historical information from The Blatchford Collection, a record number of hits on the site (1,400) and our first readership survey beginning to yield useful data. This week also marked our second birthday.

Loch Blatchford is summarising PNG education documents he’s archived as part of The Blatchford Collection. This past week, documents from 1949 and 1950 made their appearance and issues related to ASOPA figured very prominently. I draw your attention to the summaries so far included in ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA and to the stories from 1949 and 1950 that we ran earlier this week.

By the way Loch is interested in any ancient documents or materials you might have relevant to PNG education, especially in the period up to and around Independence. Contact Loch here if you’ve got items of interest.

During the week we also added another fascinating document to the site – extracts from a magazine that marked the demise of ASOPA in 1972. You can read  ’25 Years of ASOPA’ in The ASOPA Archives at left.

The survey is still open for business and I’d encourage you to take a few moments to record your response here.

New items were added to Missing People this week. You might like to visit the column here to see if you have information that can help locate some colleagues from our past.

Finally, the PNG Association of Australia is holding a lunch on Sunday 27 April at the Killara Golf Club in Sydney. I’m organising a couple of tables so, if you’d like to attend, contact me here. The cost is $42.50 a person.

ASOPA 1950: The coming of CD Rowley

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).

Percy_spender 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.”Rowley_asopa

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.

PM on 1st official PNG visit in 11 years

Welcome_kevin Accompanied by a 20-member delegation, Kevin Rudd arrived in Port Moresby at 10 o’clock morning on an Australian Defence Force jet, the first official visit by an Australian prime minister in eleven years. He was welcomed by PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal and singsing groups from the four regions of the country.

“The visit is an important statement by the Rudd government in terms of our relationship,” said Mr Abal. “It shows PNG is right back on the radar.”

Mr Rudd inspected a guard of honour before heading to Government House to meet the Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane. A planned protest by 500 Koiari landowners over the Kokoda Track issue was aborted when the National Security Advisory Committee warned them against it. Intelligence sources reported a foreigner was involved in instigating the protest, but the situation has been contained.

Mr Rudd is expected to canvass support from PNG to impose further sanctions against the Fijian military government, including a sports boycott to force rugby obsessed military leader Commodore Frank Bainamara to respect human rights and return the country to democratic rule.

This afternoon Mr Rudd has met Sir Michael Somare and his cabinet ministers and Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta and his deputy Bart Philemon. He will later visit Bomana War Cemetery to lay wreaths on the Cross of Sacrifice. Tomorrow Mr Rudd will fly to Goroka to visit the Institute of Medical Research and meet with representatives of the Save the Children and Appropriate Technology Projects.

He will also observe a coffee-tree-to-cup display, and view a traditional mumu before looking around Goroka Hospital and the Daulo district administration before returning to Port Moresby.

Sources: PNG National and PNG Post Courier. Photo: PNG National

A reminder for you to complete our ASOPA PEOPLE SURVEY [at left]

A memento of ASOPA’s final golden year

25_years_of_asopa In 1972, Phil Trenorden, then president of the ASOPA students’ representative council, wrote in an editorial in the magazine, ’25 Years of ASOPA’, that the last Cadet Education Officers were about to graduate from the School. As he noted, it was the end of an unusual era of teacher training for Papua New Guinea and the Northern Territory.

ASOPA PEOPLE today reproduces the substantive part of that magazine [see download link below]. It contains a wealth of material: Vic Parkinson writes about ASOPA in war and peace; Jack Mattes, then celebrating 20 years at ASOPA and ending his tenure as principal, provides a personal retrospective; Margaret Westwood offers a tribute to Charles Rowley; and there is a savage indictment by Ralph Watson of the Australian government policy that ended teacher training at ASOPA. And, for that matter, ended ASOPA.

’25 Years of ASOPA’ is one of the many papers now assembled in The ASOPA Archives section of ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA at left.

How a home-grown discipline was forged

Cautious_silence When I met Dr Ruth Fink Latukefu in the common room at the Macleay Museum last week, she was brandishing a copy of Dr Geoffrey Gray’s latest book, ‘A Cautious Silence’. It was, in the circumstances of an exhibition featuring the first generation of Australian anthropologists, an apposite choice of reading.

In this book, Geoff, who will we hope later this year begin work on the first definitive history of ASOPA, explores the foundations of modern Australian social anthropology, examining the forces that shaped it and revealing the struggle to establish it as an academic discipline.

He argues that to achieve this position, anthropologists had to demonstrate that their discipline was the predominant interpreter of indigenous life. Having done this, they were able to assist government in the control, development and advancement of indigenous peoples especially in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Indeed, it is arguable that, without an Australian Anthropology, there may have not been an ASOPA – although this is my conclusion not Geoff’s.

You can find out more about ‘A Cautious Silence’ and also read a chapter from the book by visiting this website.

‘A Cautious Silence: The politics of Australian anthropology’, Geoffrey Gray, Aboriginal Studies Press, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, August 2001, paperback, 304 pp, RRP $39.95

1949 – the year ASOPA was up for grabs

Jkmurray1954 The summaries of The Blatchford Collection documents from 1949 that are now on this website afford fascinating insights into the thinking of the PNG Administrator, JK Murray [left, in 1954], at a time of great turbulence for ASOPA and indeed for Australia. In August there was a conference to decide on ASOPA’s continuation. In September Alf Conlon left the principalship of the School under duress. And in December Bob Menzies’ Liberal party defeated the Chifley Federal Labor Government. Here are some extracts from Murray’s correspondence of that year.

26 March - Murray writes to James McAuley and tells him it would be undesirable to have ASOPA move to the Territory. Murray muses “whether we over-emphasise the bad living conditions, the drinking habits, the discontent and low morality of Moresby.”

19 August – A relieved Murray tells RD ‘Panzee’ Wright that a conference about the future of ASOPA unanimously recommended to the Minister that it be continued. Murray later confides in FB Phillips: “[This] takes a load off my mind. I thought cadets might have to go back to Sydney University taking courses not designed for them”.

10 October - Murray writes to ASOPA librarian to Ida Leeson: “I do not know quite when he [Conlon] left the school, or the circumstances under which he did it [but] I am quite sure that Alf did a good job there, even though there was some friction at the finish. Someone said to me, not so long back, that he has more streaks of genius in him than any other person he knew, but that occasionally the machine could not keep up with the fast pace”.Eddie_ward

22 October - Murray tells External Territories Minister EJ (Eddie) Ward [right] that: “It is now essential to finalise details with regard to the School so that the staff know precisely what their engagements are.” Murray says James McAuley has been there for six years on a year-to-year basis and that ASOPA could lose him and Camilla Wedgwood. The home for the School is also presenting a lot of difficulty and Murray asks for a Cabinet decision on the matter.

4 November - Murray says to Ward: “I do hope that you will, before the hurly burly of the election and despite your heavy duties, be able to give decisions concerning the ASOPA so that it will have the stability that it has not yet had, and which it needs so much … Apparently the continuance of the School on its present site has been arranged … Middle Head has not much to be said for it.”

20 December - Murray writes to Lucy Mair: “We have just had a change in Government, really a political landslide … So much to do [in PNG] that our achievements still look rather small.”

Do you have old documents about ASOPA or education in PNG before or around Independence? Tell us about them. And see our story here.

PNG looks to revive Australia relations

Kevin Rudd flies to PNG on Thursday, and Michael Somare wants to use the visit to erase bitter memories of the Howard years, when the relationship between Australia and PNG reached a new low, with some commentators expressing fear that Australia would impose sanctions against PNG.

The Somare Government now sees a new beginning.  Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal yesterday appealed to all Papua New Guineans to embrace the visit by Mr Rudd. He said the March 6-8 visit “has the potential to reshape the scope and spirit in which Australia and PNG conduct the existing bilateral relationship”.

“This visit builds on the momentum both our leaders started in Indonesia last December, so let’s give it the chance it deserves,” he said . More than 1,000 school children will form part of the welcome proceedings in Port Moresby and Goroka. On arrival, Mr Rudd will inspect a guard of honour at the airport, before paying a courtesy call on Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane. He then meets Sir Michael. The two prime ministers will then hold a joint media conference. Sir Michael will host an official dinner at Parliament House that night.

On Friday, Mr Rudd will be the guest of honour at a breakfast organised by the PNG Australia Business Council. He will lay a wreath at the Bomana War Cemetery before leaving for Goroka where he will visit two AusAID-funded projects. He overnights in Port Moresby before departing on Saturday for the Solomon Islands. Details of what is to be discussed between Mr Rudd and Sir Michael have not been released.

Source: PNG National

Time to review your old PNG documents

I believe this is one of the most important posts I’ve made to this website. I hope you’ll read it and feel able to take some action on it.

After Dr Geoff Gray indicated his intention of focusing his research on ASOPA, probably later this year, and since Loch Blatchford’s extensive collection of documents and other materials relating to PNG education came to public notice in the past week, there’s been a real buzz around ASOPA PEOPLE.

There can be no doubt that the prospects have increased enormously of securing a definitive history of ASOPA – in its district administration, education and other formulations - at some point in the next few years.

And this is where Loch and I reckon you can help. If you have documents related to PNG education in the pre-Independence period – whether they be ASOPA related or more general in nature – perhaps you could consider offering them to The Blatchford Collection as a medium-term repository. As Loch says: “At least we will find out what is out there and where it is. As material comes to light, it could be added to my collection until we identify a one stop shop of research material on PNG education.”

Just in the last 24 hours Rodger Philpott in Perth has advised he has a collection of PNG education information (about 1.5 cubic meters in volume and very deteriorated) including documents and audio tapes on the development of legislation for the 1969-1970 PNG education reforms.

Rodger also holds several thousand original data response forms to a 1968 nationwide survey of teachers and education administrators about preparedness for managing the education system after Independence. In addition, he has information on the early days and work of the Planning Section within the Department of Education, the Teaching Service Commission, the Office of Higher Education, the National Education Board and the Teachers Association.

Like Loch, Rodger knows that this material is at risk as the years go by if it is not collected and stored appropriately in a central repository. “I have not been able to find a suitable long term home,” he says, “as the items are not an organised collection and require very substantial work. I am sure there are many people with similar work life collections that will invariably be lost for want of a suitable home.”

Well, the starting point is to let Loch Blatchford know what documents are in your possession that may be lost to history if not identified. In the first instance, simply let Loch know what you have. We’ll keep track of this important project, and refer to it frequently, in the months ahead.

So, time to start rummaging through your old papers. Prepare a summary of what you have. And make sure you email Loch here.

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.

Rudd to visit PNG this week

With_rudd_2 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will make his first vsiit to PNG as prime minister starting Wednesday. The two-day visit will be a further step in restoring relations between the two countries, which have been distant in recent years.

Mr Rudd will be accompanied by parliamentary secretaries Duncan Kerr, who handles Pacific affairs, and Bob McMullan, in charge of development assistance. He will fly first to Port Moresby to meet Sir Michael Somare and other senior ministers.

“Australia has a strong and close relationship with PNG,” Mr Rudd said. “We want to see a strong, growing and stable neighbour to our north.”

A key focus of talks will be the future of the Kokoda Trail, where 600 Australian soldiers died in World War II. Australia wants the site listed on the World Heritage register. But an Australian mining company is seeking the renewal of an exploration licence to explore gold and copper deposits in the area.

Discussions will also be held on a range of bilateral issues including Australian aid, the Defence Cooperation Treaty and the Enhancement Cooperation Program.

Mr Rudd will also visit Goroka to inspect Australian-funded aid projects.

Prior to winning government, Labor pledged to work more co-operatively with its Pacific neighbours. Mr Rudd reaffirmed his commitment to make the relationship more of a partnership. “I will use the visit to underscore Australia's commitment to work in partnership with our friends and neighbours on regional challenges, including economic sustainability, effective development and climate change,” he said.

Blatchford Collection now on site

Loch Thanks to Loch Blatchford [shown here deeply embedded in his own filing system] we have been able to post the first tranche of summaries of the Blatchford Collection of documents and other material on the development of public education in PNG. You can find the new section in ASOPA People Extra at left. The Blatchford Collection section will be added to as Loch continues to summarise the contents of his extensive archive of materials.

Blatchford archive opens research door

Loch Blatchford has done the cause of researching the educational history of PNG a great service by accumulating a fine collection of books, documents and other material covering the development of education in PNG from the earliest years of government schooling in the then territories.

The bulk of the Blatchford collection is letters and documents copied from the files of the PNG Department of Education to 1977. This is supplemented by material from other PNG departments and also documents from the private collections of Bill Groves, John Gunther, Geoff Roscoe, Les Johnson, Ian Howie-Willis, Dick Ralph and Dick Pearce. Material from Hansard. Reports to the United Nations and relevant clippings from PNG and Australian newspapers are also included.

Loch searched every government department archive at the PNG National Archives in Waigani, copying everything relating to education. He says the ABC, through Tim Bowden, was very cooperative and provided tapes and interview summaries from the 'Taim Bilong Masta' and 'Imperial Australians' projects.

The collection includes biographical material on approximately 300 people associated with PNG. Loch was given full cooperation by officers and departments in PNG and by private individuals in Australia. But the Commonwealth Archives proved recalcitrant: access to the Department of External Territories files were denied.

“I am obligated to Ken (McKinnon),” says Loch. “I was his special projects officer in PNG and he gave me the authority, encouragement and freedom to collect the material. He also arranged for me to spend a year on full pay at Queensland University and another at Sydney University plus a further two  years for collecting material - so I owe!”

Loch is working on more summaries like the one below ('Tasty morsels promise a grand feast'). He’s almost finished summarising 1947 and we’ll feature this on ASOPA PEOPLE soon. He’s also preparing a chronology of his collection to assist researchers such as Geoff Gray. “In the meantime,” he writes, “if you or others require information, feel free to ask and I will see if I have it.”

“The aim is to help researchers locate appropriate documents quickly so that they can spend their time analysing and writing rather than collecting and wading through lots of irrelevant material. I envisage that eventually researchers will be sent a CD or hard copy itemising the collection.”

This is fine work by Loch. Generations of researchers will be grateful to him – and to Ken McKinnon – for their foresight in getting this material together while it still could be put together.