Death of PNG law education pioneer
$40M log kickback exposed in PNG

Of chillies, curfews & universal education

Call me a poor sad former chalkie if you will, but I’m enjoying my crawl through the latest 100 or so page summary that Loch Blatchford has compiled from his pre-Independence PNG education archives – the documents referred to as The Blatchford Collection.

The full summary for 1959, which was a big year for education in PNG, will soon appear in ASOPA PEOPLE. Geoffrey Roscoe had attained the Director’s job with the backing of Territories’ Minister Paul Hasluck and was attempting to force-march the Education Department to the great aspirational goal of universal primary education.

It was an issue much mentioned in the media and discussed widely at teaching conferences, seminars and in-service courses. But, beyond general agreement on policy and a few administrative changes, little progress was made. The same problems remained as had bedevilled the Education Department for ten years: no money, no materials and no men (or women).

But if that wasn’t enough of a problem, a UN visiting mission recommended that priority be given to secondary education and, adding to the pressure, Roscoe himslef informed Administrator Donald Cleland that it was time to start planning for a university.

Among the thousands of documents that comprise The Blatchford Collection, and which Loch Blatchford [seen here safely ensconced in filing cabinet] is painstakingly summarising for us, are many vignettes that – through the policy smoke and bureaucratic fog – shine through and bring alive those distant times of fifty years ago. Here are a few for today.....



Secretary for Law WW Watkins tabled regulations to abolish the ban on the beating of drums at night in towns and taking part in a singsing in town, at night without the approval of a District Officer.

The South Pacific Post, Director reported that GT Roscoe, back from a trip to Hollandia, wanted 200 tape recorders to help teach native children English. But the idea was in abeyance because it was realised there was no one to fix them when they broke.

There were echoes of Oliver Twist when Roscoe told Rev Fr Morrison that the Department could not provide further rations for boarding pupils in mission schools. “In Netherlands New Guinea the Dutch authorities have taught the people to grow new plant foods such as chillies and Brazilian cherries”, the Director helpfully added, drawing on his new found experience west of the border.

Finally, on 20 April 1959, Administrator Donald Cleland abolished the 11 pm curfew applying to Papuan and New Guinean inhabitants of the main Territory towns. “This action is being taken as one of the measures to withdraw discriminatory legislation,” he said. The abolition had been considered previously but was withdrawn until the Commissioner of Police confirmed “that the Police Force was adequate to maintain law and order and provide full protection for the general public.”


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