On meeting an ex-student after 40 years
Meeting Bill Groves, PNG educn pioneer

After 4 decades, it was a great re-uniting

David Weeden

The story of the reunion of the ASOPA Cadet Education Officer Class of 1967-68. Maroochydore 17–19 October 2008

Forty years after they graduated from the ASOPA CEO course for secondary teachers, the majority of that intake celebrated a memorable reunion at Maroochydore on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The impetus for the reunion was the disappointing attendance from this group at the general CEO’s reunion in Brisbane in October 2007.

After a mammoth effort extending over a six-month period, all but six of the group were subsequently found through good old fashioned networking, stored memories of where particular students had come from or last been heard of, contacts with ageing parents, searches of electoral rolls and the Internet and sheer chance.

Sadly, three (Bruce Owner, Gary Poppleton and Ross Westcott) were found to have died some years ago. All but four of the remaining 34 attended the reunion, which most claimed to be one of their best weekends ever as old friendships and memories were rediscovered and renewed. All up, including spouses, partners, a beloved former lecturer (Maurie Saxby) and a few CEO’s from other years, over 50 people attended the reunion.

Ahead of the reunion, all 34 contributed to an electronic publication in which they recalled their favourite memories of ASOPA, their time in PNG and what they have been doing since. Ex ASOPA staff (Maurie Saxby and June Whittaker) and friends, and family of the three deceased classmates, also contributed to a riveting collective history and show of affection for both ASOPA and PNG.

The organised activities included: a dinner at one of Maroochydore’s favourite restaurants (part owned by a son of the 67-68 group); a boat cruise on the Maroochy River; the main reunion dinner at a local hotel; and a barbecue brunch by the beach on the last morning.

Five of the class volunteered to take a digital photographic record, including photos of each of the Maths/Science and General Studies classes in exactly the same positions as in the official class photos 40 years ago. Each person attending the reunion (and the four who couldn’t make it) subsequently received a CD containing over 700 photos of the event.

Forty years is half a lifetime. With few exceptions, most of the class had not seen each other in all those years. Predictably, therefore, the reunion was characterised by loud greetings of recognition (or, in some cases, bemused non-recognition) and raucous and uninhibited behaviour not normally associated with late 50s to mid 70 year olds. The re-establishment of long lost friendships has been reinforced by an Internet and phone network through which these CEO veterans have been communicating regularly with each other since mid 2008.

The following table is a list of all who were ‘found’ plus several others who attended the reunion. Readers wishing to contact anyone on the list can do so by emailing David Weeden at [email protected]

Jeff Alexander [Blue Mountains] Kerevat, Badihagwa & Iarowari High Schools, Bomana Police Training College & Correspondence School, Education H/Q Port Moresby

Jo Argiro [Melbourne] Cameron High School, Alotau

Peter Baartz [Sydney] Utu & Kokopo High Schools

Peter Best [Canberra] Hutjena High School

Peter Blackburn [Hobart] Alotau High School, Police Training College, Bomana, Igam Barracks, Lae

Russell Connors [Melbourne] Kerowagi High School

Peter Fanning [Jakarta] Malabunga High School, RPNGC Port Moresby

John Frize [Newcastle] Port Moresby, Iarowari, Rabaul & Badihagwa High Schools

David Green [Brisbane] Brandi & Marprik High Schools, Port Moresby

Grant Hamilton [Sydney] Bugandi High School, Private Enterprise, Lae

Greg Holden [Adelaide] Kerowagi & Kimbe High Schools

Bill Jollie [NSW Central Coast] Mendi High School, Goroka & Rabaul

Glynn Kelly [Brisbane] Buin High School

Mike Logan [Blue Mountains] Brandi High School, Wewak

Col Madden [Canberra] Manus, Kerevat & Kokopo High Schools; Department of Education, Rabaul

Margaret Martin [Goulburn] Kerowagi High School

James McBrien [Sunshine Coast] Daru & Badihagwa High Schools

Ian Morton [Melbourne] Hutjena & Kerema High Schools

Bruce Owner [Deceased] Bugandi High School, Siassi Islands, Port Moresby

Geoff Pardew [Kuranda] Kerema & Daru High Schools

Lorraine Parker [Sydney] Daru & Mendi High Schools; Henganofi

Jacqui Parry [Sunshine Coast] Cameron High School, Alotau; Private Enterprise, Rabaul & Lae

Barry Peek [Adelaide] Mt Hagen High School

Garry Poppleton [Deceased] Buin High School

Despena Rizoglou [Greece] Kila Kila High School

Janice Robinson (Frape) [Blue Mountains] Private enterprise, show society and civil defence, Lae; Port Moresby

Alan Rowe [Melbourne] Utu, Medina & Bugandi High Schools

Ron Ruitenschild [Gold Coast] Manus High School

Ian Schumacher [Sunshine Coast] Kila Kila High School

Margaret Scowen (Jollie) [NSW Central Coast] Mendi, Goroka & Kokopo High Schools

Ivan Searston [Herberton] Kerowagi High School

Sister Gabriel (now Sister Margaret Tisch) [Sydney] St Mary’s Girls High School, Bougainville

Simon van der Valk [Gold Coast] Kar Kar, Aitape, Tusbab, Daru & Manus High Schools

Dianne Walton [Gulgong] Medina & Tusbab High Schools

David Weeden [Canberra] Kila Kila High School; Education H/Q, Konedobu

Doug Werrin [Crookwell & Sydney] Bugandi High School

Ross Westcott [Deceased] Bugandi High School, DASF Port Moresby


Jan Milton (68-69) [Canberra] Kila Kila High School

Ros Sharp (61-62) [Southern Queensland] Primary T Schools: Green River, Kokopo, Pomio & Goroka

Maurie Saxby [Sydney] ASOPA staff member and frequent PNG visitor

June Whittaker [Tumbarumba] Long time ASOPA staff member and frequent PNG visitor


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Roselyn K Pasen

I was a student of two people in your group, Alan Rowe and Diane Walton at Medina High School in New Ireland (1969-1972).

I would like to thank them both and everyone that took up teaching in PNG before independence.

The most notable aspect of this is the standard of English that is spoken by those of us that were taught by you. I have had people asking if I went to school overseas and I always tell them that I was taught by very good Australian teachers.

Students nowadays speak very broken English.

Thank you once again Mr Rowe and Miss Walton. Regards Roselyn Pasen nee Kavulik Pilokos.

Note: Can I have the contacts for the two ex teachers please?

David Weeden

Hi Leo (Hagenson). I often wondered what happened to you. Please call me on 0438 581 805. Cheers David Weeden

David Weeden

Hi John (Leah) - just saw your entry on this blog. I remember you well from my time at Kila Kila High. Cheers David Weeden Ph 0438 581 805

Atkerria Painap

Hi, I'd like to get in touch with Simon van der Valk.

Corney Korokan Alone

This is an excellent story with names of educators in PNG. Thank you to you all.

Leo Hagenson

I taught at Kila Kila 1969-74 and Gordon High 1974-75 - great years.

Two nationals on the teaching staff at Kila Kila in 1969; two non nationals at Gordon High in 1976. Times changed quickly.

Elizabeth Yip, the first nati.onal headmistress, was the Boss at Gordon.

She was from New Ireland. I believe both she and her husband John have passed away.

Obviously I have not and live in Kingscliff after a long stint in Lismore NSW.

Bill Reinhardt

Hi - I am Bill Reinhardt and went to ASOPA in 1968/69 group. I would like to contact others in my group or those from 1967/68.

Could someone provide this information please.

John Adams

My first encounter with John Leah was in April 1965 on a harbourside landing in Sydney Harbour. He was berating a fisherman for slicing pieces for fish bait from a live octopus.

After graduating in 1966 he was posted to Kwikila with three other CEOs Phil Burns, Vlad Cizauskas and Pat Haysman.

I was posted there in May 1965 as a Cadet Patrol Officer and we finally met.

John Leah

A little update with my new email address as my old computer finally crashed, taking with it some precious addresses. No backups! Sloppy!

Thinking back in the light of the current cat fight over the PNG Prime Ministership, with that thin line between the separation of powers being all but shredded, but somehow (so far!) surviving...

After my stint at Kwikila, which I loved, I was shipped to Kila Kila which was a totally different kettle of fish but just as wonderful an experience.

One sweaty day, probably about 1970 I think, a special assembly was called and the students were introduced to a bright young Papua New Guinean named Michael Somare who gave the students a stirring talk on how he was forming a political party and that he hoped to lead PNG to independence. You could have heard a pin drop.
The applause was polite, but not enthusiastic.

Later, in the classroom, my students were of one accord, "Ehhh Meestah Leeeaaah, we don't want indeependeeence. We are not ready. We are scared"...

We junked science that day and just talked about how they should grab the opportunity with both hands. Well, I did at least.

I hope some of them thought about it later, but I guess it showed how backward Australia had been insofar as the very thought of independence was frightening.

Sounds like they have it by the horns now but I do hope they have the nerve to kick around the democratic and parliamentary systems a little (while maintaining the rule of law and the separation of powers) to better reflect their own culture!

Cheers to all ex Asopans. And that address:
[email protected]

Mary Fishburn (nee Ligo)

I stumbled on this site whilst surfing on another matter and am so thrilled to see that the teachers who taught us then surely reap their rewards.

I was a student at Kila Kila High School (I will be 60 this year), am married to an Australian and live on the Gold Coast.

A lot of my class mates also married to Aussies living in Queensland. We often communicate and reminisce about our school days and often talk about our favourite teachers!

I can tell you, you guys did a fantastic job and I wish this kind of assistance continued as the education is not of a good standard especially at the local level. Private schools differ.

Thank you and I certainly enjoyed your site very much.

Craig Hand

I was wondering if you had contact details, phone numbers, etc for Daru High School on Daru Island in PNG.

I googled for information and your site came up. I have started a charity with my website www.friendsofpapuanewguinea.org and have started a child sponsorship program and need to have contact with this school.

I will appreciate any help that you can give me.

You can call Craig on +61 404 283 250 or visit his website at
www.friendsofpapuanewguinea.org - KJ

Ire Olewale

I would like to get in touch with anyone who would have taught with my late father, Sir Ebia Olewale, at Kilakila High School in 1966/1967. I am researching information for a biography on my late father.

Aircraft hangar doors

I recently came across your blog and have been reading about Aircraft. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

John Leah

Reeling from the shock of Keith's resignation, to which I hope to make a considered response later, I stumbled on the details of the 1967/68 Cadet Education Officers' Reunion.

Wow! Had no clue it was on or I might have gate-crashed it as my intake was the one before this and for me, the aircraft doors opened on the oven of Jackson's Strip in November 1967 (or was it December?). It was year's end in either case.

They drove us up the Rouna Pass in an old bus that stalled from engine overheating on a steep stretch just before the major hairpin bend. It started to roll back, brakes unable to hold it, and the driver unable to swap down to first gear to slow the backwards roll as the synchro gear box (if indeed it had one!) was unable to cope with a swap from a gear box running backwards (driven by the propellor shaft) and stationary drive gears.

The hand brake had no effect, despite of the Herculean efforts of the driver. With the precipice to our left, I was out the door in a flash, but the rest just sat there, which shows what a coward I was and what faith the others must have had! Or did Beryl Richardson jump out too? Was she there that day? Memory Babe... Shades of Kerouac and tropical boozing have fuzzed the synapses.

Fortunately, the driver, a PNG national, displayed a cool head and steered the bus back towards the cliff face on the wrong side of the road where it crunched to a halt with minimal damage. Clever bugger probably made the greatest single-handed contribution to PNG education that day!

Eventually, water topped up and engine sort of firing again, we spluttered to the top and to Sogeri High for a fascinating final teaching 'prac' and a live induction in the classroom. Had we failed the 'prac' I wonder if they would have sent us back to Oz? Guess they were pretty sure of us by then.

Meanwhile, Year 67/68 back at ASOPA was studying away, presumably awaiting the trip in the backwards-running bus on the Roana Pass the following year... A PNG initiation perhaps.

Anyone who jumps out gets Kwikila or some other 'remote' outstation high school (Kwikila was not that far out, but nobody had it as a first preference. A pretty dry old place that one learns to love in any case).

So our groups overlapped for a year and I remember many of those names (and people!) quite well. Ended up teaching at Kila Kila where some of them also taught - Ian, Despena, Jan, David. Remember Wayne Gurba and Catherine? And to see June Whitaker's name there - and Maurie's... What incredible days... what an amazing experience we all shared.

My greetings to all!

Colin Huggins

Congratulations on a wonderful report.
Hopefully other years will have get togethers - it is a marvellous but sometimes a frightening experience - what are they now like etc, after so many years ? Have I done all the homework ? Will it work out in the long run?
We have all gone through the same concerns - 62/63 - Port Macquarie in 2002, the easier Sydney 2005 and by 2007 for our year, well easier, until we decided to to "up the bar" for all ASOPA CEO's.
We have noted that Bob Cochrane's year of 58/59 have had a reunion, David Keatings year of 61/62 have got together in 2007, at Nerang, and now after 2007, David moved for his year at Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast. Some other years 63-65 are looking to a 2009 gathering in Cairns.
Let us keep the reunions going and hopefully a big bash - a la Brisbane may again happen. Where - those interested - consider - accessibily ( easy) - and cost.
Not terribly difficult if you do your homework.

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