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36 posts from January 2009

Reformers bring new hope to PNGAA

The formation of the PNGAA Reform Group in Brisbane this week brings new hope for an Association that in recent times has never been particularly close to its membership, and a new opportunity to enhance the relationship between the people of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

If it wasn’t for Una Voce, the Association’s journal edited by Andrea Williams, and the untiring efforts of long-serving committee member Ross Johnson, it is arguable that the PNGAA would have had difficulty surviving this long as a viable organisation.

Headshot   Now a Brisbane-based group has appointed respected Queensland businessman Phil Ainsworth [left] to lead a reform effort aimed at instilling a new spirit in the Association, especially to promote and encourage a close relationship between the people of Australia and the people of Papua New Guinea.

Within the first 48 hours of this group forming, PNGAA members from across Australia had offered to join its cause and more supporters are sought. You can email Phil Ainsworth here or email PNG ATTITUDE.

Phil has made it clear that a reformed organisation will be representative of all members, including people who need support and who want to avail themselves of fellowship and social networking as well as those who want to promote and encourage a close relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“We want the PNGAA to commit to necessary reform, to be a broad church and to operate in a harmonious way,” Mr Ainsworth said yesterday. “It is imperative that the Association embrace the interests of all its members.”

And, in a move that promises to change the face of the Association for all time and which many members would see to be long overdue, Mr Ainsworth has said the organisation must encourage Papua New Guinean residents of Australia to join and become an important part of the Association. One of the aims of the Reform Group is to include Papua New Guineans on the committee to be elected in April.

The Reform Group also wants to make the national committee a body that is representative of the broad membership of the PNGAA irrespective of factors of geography, vocation and demography. At present, the committee is entirely Sydney-based.

And, in a gesture to current committee members, Mr Ainsworth has encouraged those who “feel comfortable in joining this group to do so.”

The Reform Group is committed to adopt and implement new objectives proposed for the Association, presently formulated as:

·          to strengthen the civil relationship between the peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea;

·          to foster and encourage contact and friendship with Papua New Guineans and promote friendly association among members;

·          to foster and maintain an interest in contemporary and historical events in Papua New Guinea;

·          to provide appropriate financial, material or intellectual assistance to projects of benefit to Papua New Guinea as an Association individually or in conjunction with other agencies;

·          to publish journals, magazines, newsletters, websites, books and other media to inform and educate people about Papua New Guinea and to provide a means of communication among members of the Association and others;

·          to encourage the preservation of documents, historical and cultural material related to Papua New Guinea, including the production and recording of oral and written histories;

·          to continue to safeguard and foster the retirement conditions of superannuated members of the former services in Papua New Guinea.

PNG ATTITUDE encourages readers to show their positive support for the Reform Group’s objectives by contacting Mr Ainsworth, contacting this blog or leaving a comment on this site.

Val Murphy – in a league of his own

Headshot There are some who spurn, others who yearn and the ones who earn, and Valmore Murphy is the latter. Val, just awarded life membership of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League for his major contribution to the game’s development, has been an outstanding advocate for rugby league in Western Australia and has, over many years, ensured that players have been given every opportunity to develop and play at the highest level.

Val is best known in the context of these Notes for his own rugby league playing prowess at ASOPA [1961-62] and, while teaching in Papua New Guinea, for his sporting endeavours there as well as his initiatives in organising and managhing tours: NSW Combined High Schools to PNG 1967-76 and a PNG tour of NSW in 1973.

Val – already a life member of the WA Rugby League - has been an Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League delegate for Western Australia since 1999 and was the State’s team manager from 1994-2002. He was also the Affiliated States’ team manager in 1999, 2002 and 2003. And, in 2007, inaugural team manager for the Combined Affiliated States team. All of this contributed hugely to raising the profile of rugby league in Western Australia and in other non-traditional rugby league states.

As Principal of Aranmore Catholic College, Val established the Rugby League Academy in 2001. This supported new pathways to elite rugby league players from Western Australia. The number of players who travelled to the eastern states to pursue rugby league is a testament to Val’s work. The College also toured Great Britain in 2000 and South Africa in 2001.

The citation for Val’s life membership describes him as “a man of great integrity and wit [who] has always been a strong advocate for Rugby League, both in Western Australia and at ASSRL Council. He is truly worthy of this awarding of ASSRL Life Membership.”

And so say all of us.

Reform group to contest PNGAA election

A group of members of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia has been established to reform the Association and contest the annual elections due in April. The convenor of the group is Phil Ainsworth, formerly an economist with the Central Planning Office in PNG and now the managing director of Queensland industrial and commercial property company, King & Co. The group was established at a meeting of PNGAA members in Brisbane on Wednesday.

“We want the PNGAA to commit to necessary reform, to be a broad church and to operate in a harmonious way,” Mr Ainsworth said in Brisbane this morning. “It is imperative that the Association embrace the interests of all its members. These includes people who need support and who want to avail themselves of the fellowship and social networking functions as well as those who want to promote and encourage a close relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

“I am also keen to see many more Papua New Guineans join the Association and this will be a major proposition that Reform Group candidates will put to the membership in the run-up to the April election.”

Mr Ainsworth said that many prominent PNGAA members had already offered their support to the group and he encouraged all members to indicate their interest by emailing him here.

“The Reform Group supports in full the new objectives proposed for the PNGAA and wants to make the national committee a body that is truly representative of all members,” he said.

The text of Mr Ainsworth’s letter to Ann Graham, PNGAA Secretary, is reproduced here:

Dear Ann,

I am writing to advise the Committee of the Association that I have been appointed to convene an informal group of PNGAA members from throughout Australia which is interested in reforming and stabilizing the Association and ensuring that the proposed new objectives are adopted and faithfully implemented by the incoming PNGAA Committee to be elected next April.

The aims of the Reform Group, as they were accepted by members on 29 January, are:

(1) To instill a spirit of reform in the PNGAA which will support the proposed objectives of the Association, especially the objective of strengthening the civil relationship between the people of  Australia and the people of Papua New Guinea.

(2) To nominate a panel of candidates who will agree to give effect to these objectives and who will seek election to the national committee of the PNGAA at the April 2009 election.

(3) To ensure that the panel of candidates is representative geographically, demographically and vocationally of the broad membership of the PNGAA.

(4) To include on the panel of candidates some PNG residents of Australia or, if this is not possible, to ensure that as soon as possible following the next election such people are included.

In advising the Committee of the establishment of the Reform Group, I would like to invite any current Committee member who feels comfortable in joining this group to contact me by email indicating this.

On behalf of the organizing members of the Reform Group, whose names will be disclosed in the near future, I also ask that the Committee, at its meeting on Sunday 1 February, resolve as follows: “That the 2009 election for PNGAA committee members be conducted by a postal ballot of all eligible PNGAA members and not by a proxy system”, or words to this effect.

As I understand there will be a timely pre-election issue of Una Voce, it is suggested the postal vote papers may accompany its issue to save postage. Incidentally, when are the future deadline dates for the Journal?

Could you please communicate to me by Monday 2 February whether the committee has seen fit to agree to a resolution along these lines.

Yours sincerely,

Phil Ainsworth
Member No. 2795

PNG ATTITUDE will provide more information about the policies, approach, membership and activities of the Reform Group over coming weeks.

Diane's blog records life in the slow lane

Blog_Image Diane Bohlen’s Adventure Before Dementia blog is a homely and warm place to visit. Diane blends spare prose, often with a PNG theme, and great pictures. You can visit ABD here.

“There are people all over Australia who used to work and live in Papua New Guinea,” Diane writes in her latest post. “Some of them have joined the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia. We sometimes get together to rekindle friendships, reminisce and discuss ideas for the future. Colin (Mr Mellow Yellow) organised a lunchtime get together at Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane. He arranged for us to meet in the Whistle Stop Bar at Central Station. Then we adjourned to the restaurant for a buffet lunch.

“When we all had our fill we went to the coffee lounge and discussed ideas about the future objectives of our Association. Among other things we would like to strengthen the civil relationship between the people ofAustralia and Papua New Guinea. After coffee it was time to roll our big bellies home.”

Do Papuans have rights to citizenship?

This is an unusual one, and I throw it over to readers for comment. A Papuan correspondent writes (and some of his contentions are incorrect although his broad argument is intriguing):

“This matter is a very sensitive one and involves the Australian Government. The story goes like this. The Papua Act of 1905 made Papua the seventh state of Australia, thus the seventh point on the Australian Flag, meaning Papua the land and its people are citizens of Australia.

“In 1975, PNG became Independent. Papuans who are citizens of Australia and are supposed to sign two forms to become PNG citizens: [1] renunciation of Australian citizenship; [2] declaration of loyalty to PNG as stated in Section 64 and 65 of PNG Constitution. I never signed any of those two forms to renounce my Australian citizenship. I was born before 1975.

“Part of Australian government benefits include free university education for all Australians. I got a degree from UPNG and enrolled for Masters with an Australian university as external student. Completed one unit and took other two on credit. The university did not allow me to continue because I still owe them some money.

“My argument is that Australian government should pay my UPNG fees and the MBA fees. I have all the documents with me which i will use to support this case. How to prove I am an Australian: 1. Genealogy. 2. Birth Certificate from the Australian National Achieves. 3. Papua Act 1905. 4. Section 64. 65 PNG Constitution. 5. Australian Migration Act 1948 and 1958. 6. Citizenship Act (Aust) 2007.

“Any advice you provide will be highly appreciated.”

Over to you.

Brisbane, you really are a good old town

I don’t suppose you’ve heard of Huggins Global? Most people haven’t. Until now, that is. But I warrant more will be heard. It’s begging to be heard. Colour – yellow. Theme – yellow. Design – yellow. Temper – mellow. I’ll say this for Huggins Global. The eponymous Huggins in the bright yellow shirt sure knows event management.

Let me explain. It’s one of life’s real joys to hunker down for a while with old acquaintances: to learn what they’ve been doing since last time; then to quickly figure they’re the same people they always were, just a bit more battle-hardened.

My day trip to Brisbane yesterday had a number of highlights, of which being there was the best. In the Whistlestop Bar at Central Station, we swapped recent history. In the Sofitel dining room, we reminisced. And, later, in a quiet corner of the hotel, we drank coffee and made plans.

So what does this have to do with PNG Attitude? Well, quite simply, it is the PNG Attitude. Working together to a common goal. Enjoying the process and challenge as much as the outcome. Robust and candid, but never offensive. Respecting harmony and the art of compromise. Appreciating that others know more than you about stuff. And you know more than them about other stuff. Sharing the vision. Understanding the myriad ways to get there.

The lessons of Brisbane are good lessons. They engender hope and optimism.

[This has been a community service announcement on behalf of Huggins Global, No Liability, No Regrets – a Joyful Corporation]

Yes, indeed, it is a great day for lunch

Andfriends010808 As a pink Sydney dawn sneaks over the horizon heralding another brilliant summer’s morning, I prepare for a day trip to Brisbane to meet with as good a body of people as you would encounter in a very long march.

By way of couture, I will be wearing an approximation of yellow so appeasing the wishes of meeting convenor Colin Huggins. Colin [seen left in, er, yellow], despite his predilection in tints, has fallen into the role of Brisbane’s go-to man for matters relating to the PNG expat diaspora, and he does a fine job of work too.

Oddly, the origins of today’s pleasantry lie in failure. Some months ago, a small PNGAA group, established in Brisbane to discuss whether Queensland should form a branch of the Association, decided it should not. After contemplating this outcome for a short time, Colin decided it should be reviewed - only to have me pull the pin on my PNGAA presidency.

Undeterred Colin decided to proceed anyway, to provide Brisbane PNGAA members with a forum to discuss developments – and to discuss anything else they chose for that matter. Even though my own circumstances had changed, I decided to honour my commitment to attend as an observer. So it is that Colin assembled a group of nearly 20 people, all of whom are well known to me, and I look forward to seeing them again. In one case this will mean a gap of 33 years between drinks.

It is with this event in view that Loch Blatchford’s letter [see Recent Comments] calling for reconciliation in the PNGAA assumes great pertinence. I have corresponded separately with Loch (and with Colin who remarked to me in an email that what Loch wrote “makes the most sense of all”, which it does). I thought I should share the substance of my responses to Loch and Colin with PNG ATTITUDE readers.

In the normal course of human interaction, what Loch says makes absolute sense. In fact, what Loch proposes (that there should be room in the PNGAA for people who wish to pursue a range of different interests relating to PNG) is precisely the ‘broad church’ approach I adopted to my presidency of the organisation. I canvassed this approach before being elected and continued to pursue it until the day I resigned.

Unfortunately there’s a (mostly Sydney based) rump of PNGAA members, fairly small in number but long-standing in the organisation, who do not see the PNGAA in these terms. They see it as theirs, to be used for the purposes they proclaim and for no other. Anything else, and anyone who is not them, is fought against. This group is particularly and vehemently opposed to initiatives aimed at building the Australia-PNG relationship.

So, even when we boosted the quantum of PNGAA activity in areas in which these people were interested, like the expat story in PNG, they were not willing to make the trade off that would harmoniously allow the PNGAA to move into other areas such as those aimed at enabling the Association to work at building the Australia-PNG relationship.

When these people understand that the essence of social life is the ability to make trade offs and compromises, the PNGAA has a fighting chance of becoming a great organisation. If  not…..

It’s a great day for lunch.

Revisiting the E-Course troubles of ‘63

While the E Course – the 6-month ‘emergency’ teacher training program launched in PNG in the early sixties - has been justifiably lauded as delivering great educational outcomes for the then Territory, at the time it was regarded with suspicion by expatriates, the South Pacific Post editorial writer and even by some people within the Education establishment.

Things settled down, however, and graduating E-Course teachers went on to serve with distinction alongside their two-year trained counterparts as part of the Australian Administration’s Herculean effort to prepare PNG’s 800 tribes for nationhood.

But by 1963 other storm clouds loomed over the E-Course. As senior education official Don Owner later wrote to the Public Service Commissioner: “It was evident upon the arrival of recruits for the Sixth 'E' Course, that applicants had misconceptions regarding the conditions of service. These caused several immediately to return to Australia, and it is feared that others who might have burned their bridges, are simply waiting for a propitious moment to do likewise.”

Owner’s response was to propose that future recruits be provided with a summary of conditions before their selection interview. It seems the points he listed were those that had caused such consternation in the 6th intake. They were:

§          No permanent appointment – six to fifteen year terms of service.

§          No superannuation.

§          Successful graduation does not confer eligibility for employment in an Australian State Department of Education.

§          You may be supervised by an indigenous officer.

§          You are charged £7/7/0 per week for board and lodging whilst at college.

Loch Blatchford, from whose files this intriguing documentation has been drawn, comments: “The prospect of indigenous supervision seems a funny one to put in. Perhaps Owner felt he had to mention it because of the push for indigenous executive development. I can't imagine the trainees being concerned at the prospect.”

Nor can I. But a number of the other points, especially as they learned about the service conditions of other expatriate teachers in PNG, probably would have struck the trainees as being quite discriminatory.

Tourists' first contact patrol – oh yeah?

Richard Jones

There are still villagers living in Papua New Guinea’s Duke of York islands who have never seen white people before.

No, it’s not me making this claim but a senior crew member on an up-market cruise vessel which sailed PNG waters in recent months. Reporting on the phenomenon in Saturday’s Traveller lift-out in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, writer Craig Tansley lets slip this amazing snippet.

The cruise ship’s marine biologist, no less, imparted this piece of wisdom to passengers. “Most of the people around here haven’t seen white people before. You imagine if a spaceship landed in your suburb at home and all these funny looking aliens came out with their funny little gadgets - what do you reckon you’d do?”

Tansley_Craig Now, as I said, this was not a remote western highlands valley, nor the deep jungle border separating PNG from the Indonesian province of Papua. It was said to have happened in the Duke of York islands.

Someone should point out to Mr Tansley, and certainly the cruise vessel’s marine biologist, that German planters, missionaries and beachcombers were well ensconced in this picturesque locality decades before World War I.

This aside, Tansley’s article, accompanied by some excellent colour photos, painted a glowing picture of coastal PNG. Similar to blog editor Keith and Ingrid Jackson’s voyage aboard the MY Orion in late 2006, Tansley and fellow travellers visited a number of spots - the Duke of Yorks, east New Britain, the tiny atolls of the Luscanays and thence to the D’Entrecasteaux islands and Alotau in the Milne Bay Province.

But even here Tansley strays into dangerous territory. Describing an idyllic white-pebbled beach scene in East New Britain, he mentions that it’s in the Jacquinot Bay area of “New Britain’s unexplored east coast.”

What? Our intrepid kiaps - not to mention planters, missionaries and World War II troops - never set foot on New Britain’s east coast or its beaches?

Again, the travelogue suffers from lack of research, preferring to paint glowing word pictures of maritime communities and PNG’s wealth of flora and fauna.

Nevertheless the travel yarn does give PNG a bit of a profile and, in these economically straitened times, that can’t be a bad thing.

Photo: Craig Tansley again in dangerous territory near Gallipoli [Sydney Morning Herald]

The true short story of a short presidency

“We do certainly need to move on and Keith has given us some good directions to follow, although perhaps at a lesser pace so that as many as possible may see the value of the changes” – Riley Warren, in a note circulated to PNGAA Committee members, 17 January 2009

Let me take this as my text for today, St Paul’s Day, on which Anglicans and Catholics celebrate St Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus.

Riley Warren is a good man but the tentative supposition in his note to fellow members of the PNGAA Committee that ‘moving at pace’ was the reason why some members fermented and fomented during the eight months of my presidency is, I believe, flawed, representing neither a good description nor a fair analysis of my period as President.

There are a couple of compelling reasons why I don’t want this mythology accepted: first, its perpetuation will do nothing to solve deep seated problems in the Association caused by a rancorous rump of members; secondly, the problems these members seemed to be experiencing was with future direction not with pace - which was modest.

Before my election as President (the Association’s first contested election in which the ‘old guard’ put up a candidate who lost badly), I was informed that Committee meetings were nasty and acrimonious affairs, typified by disruptive behaviour from two or three of the 17 members.

When, at the annual general meeting, veteran committee member Fred Kaad OBE referred to this misbehaviour in a speech farewelling outgoing President Harry West, it became clear how entrenched it was - and how staunch Harry had been.

With this in mind, from the outset of my presidency I made sure committee meetings were efficient and businesslike but I  tolerated no disruption. Where there were attempts at disruptive behaviour, and there were, they were stopped firmly but politely, including when one portly gentleman told me to get out and start my own association.

I also made sure the committee got on with the business members had elected it to do.

At the first meeting I chaired, I established five sub-committees - as I had promised before being elected – and I ensured that competent people were appointed to chair them. These sub-committees were to be the driving force of PNGAA activity. In a structural sense, they were also imperative to the Association's sustainability and, in a managerial sense, they provided a line of succession for the PNGAA.

The PNG Relations sub-committee was established to help maintain the civil relationship between Australians and Papua New Guineans. Throughout 2008 it was moved cautiously but steadily to do this. Chair Robin Mead developed an action plan and began building a network that would be helpful in establishing the Association’s role in this area. Meanwhile, I also contributed by building a greater presence for the PNGAA with the Australian and PNG Governments, the Australia PNG Business Council and other organisations like the Sydney Wantoks. I also managed the fundraiser that, late in the year, was able to provide over $9,000 to the Oro Community Development Project.

Riley Warren’s History and Scholarship sub-committee was moving gradually, somewhat restrained by Riley’s many commitments in his final half-year as headmaster of Macarthur Anglican School. Nevertheless, a good plan was established for 2009 and I worked hard to assist the Kiaps Recognition Project, the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee and to bring the weighty Kiaps’ Compendium to publishable form on the PNGAA website. Meanwhile, planning was moving ahead under Riley's stewardship on a major project to identify private collections of PNG documents and other materials in the hand of PNGAA members, with the aim of ensuring that valuable archival materials would not be lost to the future.

The chair of the Fellowship and Caring sub-committee resigned early in my presidency because previous committee disputation had left her tired and dispirited. Soon after, with the probable intent of making my life difficult, sub-committee members Nancy Johnston, Joachim Nitsche and Pamela Foley chose a committee meeting to abruptly quit the sub-committee. I quickly replaced them with a new chair from outside the committee, Harriet Troy, and new sub-committee members. This group efficiently and harmoniously organised the biggest PNGAA annual luncheon ever held in December 2008.

The Publications and Communications sub-committee is chaired by Andrea Williams, a marvellous contributor to the PNGAA and best known for her role as editor of Una Voce, which continues as the great binding force of the Association. This sub-committee established an innovative plan for 2009 and also administered a major revamp of the PNGAA website, transforming it from a largely static to a very dynamic and interactive site under the management of a new webmaster, Nick Booth, who I recruited to the task.

The Finance and Membership sub-committee, to be chaired by Ross Johnson, a PNGAA stalwart, never got going – although Ross and I were working on this when I resigned. Ross has indicated that he wishes to move on from the Treasurer’s role, and he has earned that right after years of effective service. I’ll miss working with him to build a good team in this area.

There is another activity I need to refer to here: constitutional change.

The PNGAA constitution clearly requires updating – its objectives, for example, do not refer to anything like the full range of activities now conducted by the Association. At the last meeting I chaired, the full committee unanimously agreed to present a set of new objectives to vote by the membership. The dissidents didn’t have the courage to vote against them in committee, preferring to operate covertly outside the committee to undermine their intent.

There were other deficiencies in the constitution relating to election and voting procedures that need to be refined to give all members a say in the PNGAA. These, along with other changes, were to be put to a vote of all members in April 2009.

I had also floated other ideas – such as initiating different classes of membership to raise more funds for the PNGAA – but these proved somewhat divisive and I decided to drop them from further consideration.

Steering committees were established in six States and Territories to consider whether a branch structure would be a useful innovation in the Association. The committees in Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide thought local branches would be successful. This proposal was also to be put to the vote in April.

Each idea for constitutional change was subjected to a six-month consultation process before going to the committee for consideration. (This was to have happened at the next meeting on Sunday 1 February.) All proposals were to be voted upon at a special general meeting in April.

My present concern is that any injunction to “slow things down” will in fact be a euphemism for abandoning some of these necessary initiatives. I hope the committee does not do this.

I walked away from the PNGAA presidency because the conflict was not to my liking and, as distinct from my opponents, I did not want to engage in micro-political process to enable a new direction to be established. The numbers were there to win, but to use them would have been divisive on my part and I did not want to preside over an Association in this state. There are people in the PNGAA who seem relaxed about ripping the organisation apart to get their own way but I’m not one of them.

As I stated at the outset of this Note, I do not want my short presidency of the PNGAA to become steeped in myth. Let the words here stand as a true account. The committee now needs to create a PNGAA in which the old enmities can be set aside for the good of the organisation.

But caving in to the wishes of dissidents who by their own words have no interest in Papua New Guinea as it is today cannot be part of a proper solution.

As for me, I believe I can make an effective contribution to PNG without having to struggle with some pretty ordinary people every step of the way.

Great PNG document source identified

Christchurch. On the eve of departing an unusually sweltering Canterbury region for Sydney’s fair harbour, I hear from Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow who writes that PNG ATTITUDE readers, PNGAA members and old ASOPA hands might not be aware of materials available from the Historical Documents Unit of DFAT. You might like to investigate the many declassified documents available here. As Martin says, they make for interesting reading. In searching the site, it’s best to put in the words ‘Papua’ and ‘New Guinea’ separately.

Martin adds: “May I tantalise your readers as to what kind of material is available. For example, Document 12 of 1947 (Cabinet Submission by Hon Eddie Ward) suggests various names for the newly combined Papua and New Guinea. One suggestion was “Australian New Guinea”. However, TPNG was also put forward and, of course, became the favoured outcome.

Document 480 of 1949 (Tom Critchley to the Department of External Affairs) talks of the status of “Northern New Guinea”. Inter alia, the report mentions that the Indonesian delegation insisted that it be included in Indonesia. Interesting to read that a “condominium status was suggested”.

Elsewhere on the web-site there is a wealth of interesting declassified (from Top Secret) correspondence relating to World War II and the defence of the South West Pacific (e.g. Curtin to Churchill, MacArthur to Curtin), while a quick search under ASOPA brought forth a couple of items, including this one that you might like to check for yourself.

David Speakman, ex kiap, dies at 71

David Speakman, an ex kiap and one time Clerk of the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly who pursued a successful career in England after leaving PNG, has died there aged 71. There is a wonderful pictorial and prose tribute to David by his sister Diane Bohlen on her Adventure Before Dementia blog, which you can link to here.

We do reconnect severed relationships

Rotorua. Things are good in Rotovegas, the cultural heart and Geyser Capital of New Zealand. I’m visiting relatives (my daughter-in-law’s folks who are into fast cars and fast boats), and who are as fine and good-hearted a couple as you would find in either hemisphere. Being in such a positive relational mood reinforces with me (as if I needed reminding) that good friends are one of the great things about being alive.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to this piece. One thing PNG ATTITUDE does fairly often, and with some success, is to bring former PNG associates together – often when they have not been in touch for many decades and the only thing they remember is a name. This feel good thing is mostly consigned to the MISSING PEOPLE column at left, which happens to be one of the most visited parts of this blog.

So let’s see how well you, the collective readership, can do in meeting these first two requests to locate missing people in 2009.

Firstly, Jim Humphreys. Ed Brumby is trying to locate Jim, who was an E course graduate (the first E Course, which produced so many teachers of great merit), maths curriculum specialist at Education HQ (Konedobu mid 60s), gentleman punter, raconteur, former Army officer and representative athlete. “He fronted the Temlab rollout in 1968,” says Ed, making it sound like a tank attack on Dien Bien Pho. Ed thinks Jim is possibly residing in the Windsor area in NSW.

Like Ed I knew Jim, and his best buddy Wal Kapper, very well. Wal, also an ex Army officer and aficionado of the track and the bourse, is long gone. It would be good to catch up with Jim again. He was a hard man and sometimes it’s the hard men who teach you the most important lessons in life.

If you know anything about Jim’s career after PNG or, and this would be a real boon, his present whereabouts, contact Ed Brumby here … [email protected]

Second, from Terry Patten who, unlike Ed, I do not know. Terry is looking for Des Chow, and he writes: “I wonder if you could advise me as to how I can find out where an old friend would be now. I was working for the Bank of NSW, Rabaul branch, in 1959-60 and became good friends with Desmond Chow, who along with his parents owned a trade store and I think a copra plantation. On returning to Australia, I lost contact with Des and another friend - Jack Seeto.”

If you can help Terry, who now lives in Western Australia, you can call 0409 113 686 or email [email protected]

PNG reminiscences: Yokomo and me

Ed Brumby

One of the many responsibilities I inherited when appointed editor of the PNG Education Department’s School Papers in early 1969 was the custody and development of that rascal-cum-hero, Yokomo. (And I use both terms here in the broadest and gentlest of senses).

But first, and for those unfamiliar with the School Papers, let me explain. The School Papers were a set of monthly, 16 page magazines published 10 times a year for Papua New Guinean primary school children. One was for upper primary classes (Standards 5 and 6) and the other for lower primary classes (Standards 5 and 6). A sister publication was Our World, a social studies magazine for upper primary classes. Yokomo was a regular feature of the Upper Primary School Paper.

Having inherited our hero from Frank Hiob and Keith Jackson who had established Yokomo as something of a celebrity, and knowing the delight of my own former charges in the East Sepik when they read of Yokomo’s exploits and travails, I assumed custody with no illusions as to the magnitude of the responsibility I was taking on: the expectations of tens of thousands of young readers must be met, or exceeded.

And for five years or more, through a mix of serendipitous creativity, even more creative cross-cultural plagiarisation (every culture has its own Yokomos) and not a few ideas from teacher colleagues and others, we kept Yokomo alive and kicking against the traces. Not so, alas, Omokoy. Somewhere between Keith’s departure and my arrival, poor Omokoy was lost, stolen or eaten by a pukpuk or some such.

The School Papers were established in the early 1960s (and here I rely on a faulty memory and, in truth, not a lot of knowledge) to provide supplementary reading material in PNG schools – and remember, back then, Frank and Lois Johnson were still labouring furiously to complete that fabulous Minenda English program which featured the much-loved Raka and Ranu and which served us teachers and our charges so well.

Indeed, I recall having to rely on dog-eared copies of


readers for African children during my first year in the


as we waited for the upper class readers to come off Jacaranda’s presses. It is an understatement that there was a dearth of reading material available or PNG children, and the School Papers helped fill that.

It seems PNGAA is now at the crossroads

Rotorua. Let no one tell you any differently: New Zealand is the great escape and New Zealanders are the great escapees. Now to business. Margaret Komarek, a contributing PNGAA committee member, has asked where now for the Association [see Recent Comments]. Well, when the committee next meets in Sydney on Sunday 1 February, that question should be top of its agenda. One thing’s for sure, committee members know where I stand on the question.

The ‘old guard’ committee members will have to decide whether they are builders or wreckers, because I don’t think there’s any plausible position in between. They also have to decide whether it’s proper for them to continue to adopt a position that essentially denies the Association a future.

It is worth noting that the ‘new guard’ committee members see themselves as both protectors and builders. Through initiatives under my presidency such as the History and Scholarship Committee and advocacy of projects such as Kiap Recognition and the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee, mechanisms have been created to protect and strengthen the recognition and maintenance of Australia’s historical connections with Papua New Guinea.

In addition, of course, the ‘new guard’ is also looking to the future – a dimension in which the ‘old guard’ seems not the least interested. The future involves redirecting the PNGAA, partly so it can take upon itself the role of contributing to Australia’s civil relationship with PNG. The ‘old guard’ – for reasons I shall explore at a later time – do not want a bar of today’s PNG. For example, when the Oro raffle was held recently, many of these members returned their unsold tickets as a protest gesture. A few even made sure the tickets were accompanied with derogatory remarks about PNG. This is the ilk of some of these members.

The schismatic behaviour of the ‘old guard’ (which I believe represents a rump of no more than 5-10 percent of the total PNGAA membership of 1,600) represents a serious problem for the Association. I doubt whether the committee can sort this out at its 1 February meeting. It is more likely that the matter will have to be resolved as a result of the next PNGAA election due in April.

A note about the conduct of this election. As president, I was advocating that, unlike in the past, future elections should be conducted by a postal vote of members. The proxy arrangements employed hitherto are totally incompatible with a fairly contested election. A significant right of membership must be the right to vote and this right should be positively affirmed and pursued by the committee for each and every individual member.

So the committee stands on the threshold of deciding whether or not it wants the Association to be in the vanguard of a new civil relationship between Australia and PNG or to be just a bunch of old fogeys fretting about the past. The meeting on Sunday 1 February will give us a strong indication of where the PNGAA is really headed.

Swimming 101: no champs, no chance

Richard Jones

Former champion swimmer Max Mowen has provided me with some clues as to why we didn't see many indigenous Papua New Guinean swimmers of South Pacific or Commonwealth Games standard in the 1960s into the 1970s. He notes that until the 50-metre Sir Donald Cleland pool was built for the 1969 South Pacific Games there were just three Olympic-sized pools available in Moresby. These were at the Army facilities at Taurama and Murray Barracks and at the private Badili Club.

Toby Tovitolon's father and the father of the Mae Verave sisters from Marshall Lagoon in the Central Province were both Army men. This allowed their children could train in the pools at either Taurama or Murray Barracks. "So it pretty much restricted anyone who wasn't a private member (at Badili) or part of the Army from competitive swim training," Max recalls.

He fondly remembers the 20-metre salt water pool at Ela Beach, which was available to the general public. "We used to race there on Sunday mornings," he says. Max was a noted butterfly swimmer back in the late sixties and early seventies and now works in a managerial role for a finance company in North Sydney.

Pursuing avenues likely to work

Auckland. New Zealand beckoned and so we flew across the dutch. One of the few benefits of modern air travel is that, just like that which we used to enjoy so much, it provides time to contemplate. Prompted by responses to a short reader survey that accompanied the most recent newsletter, I have been reflecting on the content of The Mail, and, indeed, of this blog.

There were only three survey questions, but even this appeared like overload to many of you! Replies have been coming in at only a trickle – 20 so far from our 400 or so readers. But what this response has so far lacked in weight, it has made up for in insight. “What you need,” my advisors suggest, “is a more current view of PNG and Australia from inside PNG.”

That’s a good thought because we Australians whose relationship with PNG is essentially historical, nostalgic or informed mainly by inflamed media reporting need something a bit better than that. And this can best be provided by insiders with a vested interest in the present and future of PNG.

PNG citizens like John Fowke, Aloysius Laukai and Graham Pople are occasional and always welcome contributors to these Notes, and their views and assessments are valued. Increasingly I want them to be joined by other voices and I am trying to recruit

The PNG Association of Australia may at present be a shaky foundation on which to build a more effective civil relationship between Australia and PNG but, until it gets its act together, there are other avenues – as groups like the Oro Project, the New Dawn radio station on Buka with which I've been associated and the very existence of PNG ATTITUDE demonstrate.

By the way, the three simple survey questions that readers can still answer by are:

1 – What do you like about The Mail?

2 – What do you dislike about it?

3 – How can we improve it?

Go to it. Email me.

NB Mr Rudd: time Kiaps were recognised

Dr Hank Nelson is one of Australia’s most eminent historians, and – when it comes to the history of Australia in Papua New Guinea – he’s clearly the most eminent. So when Hank Nelson tells an ex-patrol officer who is struggling to gain official recognition for the job his brother Kiaps did in PNG, that “you make a good case”, it’s a fair bet a good case has been made.

Viner_Smith_Chris Before I proceed, here’s the brief Chris Viner-Smith story. Chris [left] was a Kiap from 1961-71. Three decades later, in 2004, following representations from Chris, ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries wrote to Prime Minister John Howard seeking formal Federal Government recognition for the work patrol officers undertook in PNG. Howard did not respond. Not so much as a form letter. Irritated by this, Chris did what you or I would do – he wrote a book.

In August 2007, Australia’s Forgotten Frontier was launched in Canberra by Annette Ellis MP. The book describes in detail the life of a patrol officer in the sixties. It was a response to rebuttal. It was also a precursor to a renewed effort to gain for Kiaps the official recognition they merit.

And not just in their opinion. British war hero and one time Australian Governor-General Viscount Slim had said to Paul Hasluck in 1960: “I do admire what you have done in New Guinea... Your young chaps in New Guinea have gone out where I would never have gone without a battalion and they have done on their own by sheer force of character what I could only do with troops. I don’t think there’s been anything like it in the modern world...”

What Slim wouldn’t have done without a battalion, these young Kiaps did alone.

More recently, Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner has said: “The story of patrol officers is certainly an extraordinary one and one that deserves a higher level of consciousness than that which exists in contemporary Australian society.”

But he hasn’t said what he intends to do about this extraordinary story.

Let’s nail this down. Kiaps in the field, never numbering more than a few hundred, performed a momentous nation-building task. They made possible the pacification and unity of PNG and its peaceful transition to Independence. No less.

Kevin Rudd should understand, as John Howard didn’t, that patrol officers were given the responsibility to bring under governance and the rule of law vast tracts of a land inhabited by warring tribes. To their lasting credit, Kiaps did this with minimal loss of life while maintaining the cultures they encountered.

It was a tough job. Kiaps did it willingly and without thought for reward or their own well-being. But this doesn’t mean they should be taken for granted. Or that they should take themselves for granted. Their deeds were epic and they should be recognised by all Australians.

Thus, on 3 November 2008, Chris Viner-Smith delivered a submission to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd so starting a new phase in the battle for Kiap Recognition. But this time he had the backing of a host of organisations including the Papua New Guinea Association, the Police Federation, the Ex Kiaps Network, the Queensland Police Union and the Australian Peacekeeper & Peacemaker Veteran’s Association.

But let Hank Nelson have the last word. “It is difficult to know something of the work of the Kiaps without becoming an admirer of their work. I knew at the time, and recognise all the more now, that it was privilege to talk to Ivan Champion, Keith McCarthy and others. Australia was fortunate to have been served by them.”

Let’s hope our country recognises its good fortune through some form of official recognition of its former Kiaps.

Just a little bit of culture, please Senator

Fowke_John John Fowke has been around PNG a while. “I’m aged almost 70, and have spent 50 of those years in PNG, mostly at the coalface of the culture clash between tradition and the West; maddeningly frustrating at times,” he adds. “It has nonetheless been a life full of enjoyment and one which has yielded much of great value in terms of working relationships and personal friendships.”

For some years now, since 1998 in fact, John has been trying to engage the interest of Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department and its subsidiary agency AusAID in a discussion he hopes might better prepare young Australians who are sent to do important work in PNG and other Melanesian states. “I believe insufficient attention is paid to this [cultural understanding]; to their great loss, to Australia and to the client states,” he says.

Now, after receiving a polite brush off from Duncan Kerr, John has gone to the go-to man in the Rudd Government, Senator John Faulkner, the Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary.

John asks Faulkner to urge his Cabinet colleagues to at least consider authoritative training courses or seminars to inculcate a good understanding of Melanesian culture in young Australians going to do official work in PNG - street smart stuff, dos-and-don’ts, a bit of lingua francae... “Since the ANU embraced ASOPA,” he says, “the essential pre-departure and career-related studies of the culture to be encountered has lagged and to my knowledge no longer exists.”

It seems an easy enough proposition to accept - make sure our people sent to PNG carry with them some basic cultural understandings – but John’s found it very hard to achieve cut through for the idea.

And to demonstrate he knows his stuff, here are a few insights for new chums from a paper of John's, A Newcomer’s Guide to Papua New Guinea. This extract is about PNG’s political culture:

The Constitution is an exceptionally liberal document emphasizing the rights of the individual and providing a large measure of insurance against any tendency to despotism by a government. At the same time the rules firmly inhibit the exercise by a Prime Minister of what one might term statesmanship or visionary leadership; one of the many paradoxes which bedevil this young nation as it grows…

The establishment of party-based (and not regional-based national politics) has created a barrier of misunderstanding and disillusionment between the ordinary people and the politically active…

The people look upon themselves as landowning members of tribes, and feel no sense of identity with the parties, which remain as small, elite groups existing largely to advantage themselves...

Members of Parliament look forward to an insecure tenure, and tend to use their brief flowering as MPs to their own personal advantage, eschewing loyalty to the party or the electorate when it is in their interest to do so. In this situation the Prime Minister can never count upon solid support and must be able to ensure a flow of perquisites and appointments to keep enough Members on side to pass desired legislation, a situation that has had demonstrable drawbacks over the years…

Where the possession and defence against invasion of ones garden and hunting resource is the principal guiding life imperative, one learns with the ingestion of one's mother's milk to regard all but blood relatives as potential enemies. This early and very deeply imprinted imperative sits in the deepest recess of consciousness; even in the consciousness of the first-and-second-generation urban-born Melanesian person. From this flows an unconscious guiding moral and ethical outlook that dictates that crime is that which harms the clan. No other act is crime.

That’s what an acute appreciation of culture does. It smartens us up to the fact that our values and understandings are not always other people's. What we believe about how the world works doesn't necessarily count for much in a new environment.

It’s what the more aware expatriates always knew: they had to get culturally conditioned and this didn't often happen automatically. The new culture in which they were immersed needed to be understood to be responded to appropriately.

What  John Fowke wants, and is asking the Australian Government to do something about, is to adequately recognise this reality. It's time people like John - who are themselves immersed in Melanesian culture and have significant cross cultural expertise - were listened to. The effectiveness of Australia's relationship with PNG and the Pacific may depend on it.

Looks like guest workers down the drain

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that the much-vaunted trial to recruit guest workers from the Pacific Islands has hit the rocks. Six months ago the Federal Government announced that the first migrant workers would arrive in Australia with the onset of the fruit picking season before Christmas.

As part of the trial, 100 workers were to go to Griffith in the Riverina and Swan Hill in Victoria to pick and pack fruit, the first wave in a migrant labour force expected to grow to 2,500. Workers from Papua New Guinea were to have been included in the trial.

But now it seems bureaucratic bungling has gummed up the planning and that the scheme has been overtaken at speed by the global economic downturn. But in any event, PNG – which I was reliably informed was added to the scheme only at the last minute – does not seem to have been part of the planning process. The Government has signed agreements with Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu, but not with PNG.

Agreements or not, the scheme appears doomed. The Federal Government has declined to even offer a start date. And a Government source, probably not a million miles removed from a nervous politician, has also “cautioned” about the effect on the scheme of the economy, saying Pacific Island workers would be employed only where there was a proven demand due to significant labour shortages.

Opposition immigration spokeswoman, Sharman Stone, accused the Government of bungling. Dr Stone said fruit growers had been irked to see hardly any action on the guest workers when so many federal bureaucrats were involved in consultations. On occasion, more bureaucrats than residents had attended meetings, she had been told.

Ah well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Source: ‘Bungling stalls plan to import fruit pickers’ by Mark Metherell, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 January 2009

PNG moments from Blatchford 1963

Documents on the development of the PNG education system in 1963 are now available onsite in The Blatchford Collection [see ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA at left]. Here are some of the more interesting extracts…

“The seeds of widespread compulsory education were sown last week with Education Director Mr LW Johnson’s announcement Hanuabada had been declared a compulsory education area for all children born in 1957…” [South Pacific Post, 8 January 1963]

“The Public Service Commissioner today announced the examination results of the Public Service Scholarship holders studying for the Queensland Junior Certificate and NSW Intermediate Certificate. Most of those passing were from the Department of Education. The names included Kwamala Kalo, Seri Pitoi, Michael Somare, Tau Boga, Alkan Tololo, Ronald Tovue, Paulias Tonguna, Kila Onno, Nasson Waninara, Daniel Tenakanai, Thomas Ritako, Rome Kokiva, Noah Banam, Ronnie Benson and Samson Topatilui.” [Administration Press Statement No 11, 21 January 1963]

“Graduates of the first and second ‘E’ Courses are displaying a remarkable degree of enthusiasm. All intend remaining in the Territory after the period of their bond expires. The quality of their work varies, but in every case they are attempting to do something positive. All are planning to improve their academic status by in-service training assignments, by Matriculation studies or by courses leading to a University degree. They can form a core of enthusiasts whose good example can spread to hundreds of other teachers.” [Don Owner, Chief of Division, teacher Training, February 1963]

“The report that ‘political independence by 1972 is planned for Papua and New Guinea’ is sheer speculation by a singularly ill-informed person… We will stay in Papua and New Guinea as long as the people of the Territory need our help. No-one other than the residents of the Territory, can tell us when to go… We have refused to give target dates for political advancement because we respect the right of the people to choose.” [Paul Hasluck, 9 February 1963]

“KR McKinnon [Superintendent of Schools, Primary Education] has been awarded a Harkness Fellowship to attend Harvard University at Boston. His studies will include language development of children in primitive communities.” [South Pacific Post, 2 April 1963]

“We are commencing a period of widest expansion in all fields of Education. Students are now reaching matriculation level in Territory schools and we are giving close attention to professional training.” [DM Cleland, TPNG Administrator, Fourth Camilla Wedgwood Memorial Lecture, 14 May 1963]

“After fifteen years of muddling and frustration the education system of Papua and New Guinea seems at last to be in gear and making progress towards a definite goal… Mr Hasluck has been Minister for Territories for 12 years. Why did he wait until 1960 or 1961 before making this frontal attack upon village illiteracy? Mr Hasluck, of course, could not guess that Sir Hugh Foot in 1962 would demand self-government within five years, or that Soekarno would be turning handsprings on the western frontier in 1963.” [Pacific Island Monthly, July 1963]

“It is not desirable to have every school in charge of an expatriate teacher. Indigenous teachers should be given experience as Head Teachers. The main thing I am concerned with here is to ensure that promising Papuan and New Guinean teachers have a chance to develop a sense of responsibility and receive training in executive positions.” [LW Johnson, Director of Education, 8 November 1963]

 “My failure as Minister was that performance did not match intention and I did not get the Administration of the Territory to do all that I wanted to do…. When the Administration and the Department of Territories argued I made up his own mind and had to appear as a dictator to one or the other…. Many men were appointed to senior positions with little local knowledge…. Many Australian Government decisions were not getting through to the officers of the Territory – a gap between decision and action – most of the trouble was in the Territory. Policy was dispersed at the expense of firm direction and control. Files weren’t read…. Some sections of the Administration felt a separateness from Australia and regarded directions from Australia as being comments made by some outsider rather than as decisions to be put into effect…. The Administration shifted the blame for its shortcomings on to Canberra.” [Paul Hasluck, ‘A Time for Building’ on his leaving the post of Minister for Territories, 18 December 1963]

Deep musings from the deep north

Colin Huggins in Brisbane

Captain_Suvista  Not for the first time, congratulations on an excellent and entertaining Mail 131! People may see that number (131) and never take time to think the amount of time and effort over the years you have dedicated in producing news, views, historical references, social events, reunions and so the list goes on. I for one can't thank you enough.

It was good but yet sad ( for Paul Oates) that you have at last met face to face. I very much enjoyed the article of your meeting with Paul and the vista of his Boonah hacienda. Also that takes a bit of worry off me as none of us at the January 28th lunch to the best of my knowledge have laid eyes on Paul and Sue. So I will not have to be concentrating on who comes through the door at the Whistle Stop and will not have to be waving yellow articles of clothing for them to know who we are. God - just imagine what Bill Welbourne would have written if that had occurred!

When you made your startling resignation statement and I told people "look at the blog and make sure you are seated", I got a reply call from Peter and Margaret Lewis. As the Blog had become very much PNG orientated and no longer ASOPA (Vintage variety) they were nonlookers and had lost contact. Well last night as the Burrells arrived (who had been on the road and thus had no idea of recent events), Margaret downloaded all what has been written - how many trees would that be? - and they have all had their heads stuck down reading.

Who would have dreamt that all this started at Port Macquarie in 2002? Not me, never. Looking forward as always to seeing you, and comparing back wounds on the 28th. Should be a splendid occasion.

The 131st issue of ‘The Mail’ is now available on PNG ATTITUDE here. If you would like a copy emailed to you each month contact Keith Jackson here. The Brisbane PNG chapter meets on Wednesday 28 January. Contact Colin Huggins here for more information.

Photo: Suvista Captain will not be in Brisbane with owners Paul and Sue Oates. The Captain charges at  red but tends to flee when confronted by yellow rags.

A tropical life permeated by books

Mark Thomson

Good_Book My earliest memories of my father are permeated by books. They were an integral part of the daily rhythms of his life. Books arrived constantly in boxes or cardboard sleeves, by ship and by air to our tropical outpost [in Papua New Guinea]; they were forever being stacked or rearranged in hall cupboards as protection against the ubiquitous threats of pests and damp. During his waking hours he was happiest musing over book catalogues or perusing the literary gold within his latest acquisition. It was a highly infectious affliction that he willingly passed on to his son. [Looking for a Good Book] is his 'tale of a gentle madness', written by my father during his sixties and seventies, the story of a book collector thrown hither and thither by tumultuous events beyond his control.

To set the scene of a quest for the roots of 'madness' like no other, the author dwells on several dramatic episodes from history (the battles for Troy, Gallipoli and the Aztec empire) that cast light on the sometimes fickle nature of literary records of human folly, frailty and fragility. He ponders the vital role chroniclers of history and creative writers perform in enriching our appreciation and understanding of past events. We are taken on a whimsical exploration of the 'anatomy' of collecting, and asked to consider the pathology of this 'madness' through the lens of anthropologists, psychologists, logisticians and historical informants.

The author was born in Victoria in 1919. The memoir casts back over his childhood in Golden Square and Eaglehawk in the Bendigo region. He remembers key influences on his early development as a reader and on his lifelong passion for book collecting. He left school at thirteen to work in a series of jobs in rural Victoria, joined the YMCA, and enlisted in the Australian Army in 1941. I once asked him whether his parents collected books. He replied they had none but the family next door lent him books. This part of the tale provides a snapshot of growing up in a small rural Victorian township in the 1920s and 1930s. We are told of his apprenticeship as a butter maker, membership of the YMCA, and aspirations to become a journalist. His increasing interest in and knowledge of writers and books is woven into all aspects of retelling his story: 'The progress from a desire to read, to a similar urge for ownership, indicates the affliction is now gathering momentum'.

The author describes the years following his demobilisation, during which he gained admission to the University of Adelaide under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Scheme. On completion of a Diploma in Social Science he joined the colonial administration in Papua New Guinea as a junior education officer. In preparation for his colonial service in early 1949 he was admitted to the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) located in Sydney. His association with the school lasted for 24 years, both as a student and later as a sometime lecturer. The first-hand account of studying at the ASOPA is a highlight of the memoir.

In late 1949 the author began his long career in Papua New Guinea, where he quickly climbed through the ranks to serve with distinction in a number of positions including Executive Officer for Social Development and Director of Child Welfare. He describes journeys into isolated areas, indigenous communities he visited, his appreciation of the work of colleagues and his own role in key actions of the Australian colonial government. Writers on PNG are canvassed, several of whom were personal acquaintances of the author. He retired from the PNG administration in 1973. In 2000 he received recognition for his contribution in a 25th Year of Independence award from the Government of Papua New Guinea.

My father survived wartime injury and illness and dangerous journeys in post-war PNG, and throughout his long and eventful life, books have remained a passion. In this book he tells us of his philosophy of book collecting, the methodology he applied in putting his collection together and historical antecedents to his 'madness'. The book finishes as he started, with my father musing on the nature of this affliction. He quotes Holbrook Jackson to advise fellow travellers about the joys of reading and collecting books. The rich and varied library he has collected is a fine testament to his continuing search for a good book.

You can contact Mark Thomson here to find out how to get your copy of ‘Looking for a Good Book’.

Beyond the sunset, the memories survive


This is the view at dusk (towards Mt French) across Paul and Sue Oates’ property, Boonah Vista Farm, south-west of Ipswich. The shot, taken from their back verandah, invokes the style of a Hans Heysen painting, sans livestock.

Paul and Sue grow beef cattle (Droughtmasters) and, on their business card, refer to Boonah Vista Farm as “the home of Boonah’s boutique bovines” (although Paul reckons he’d prefer the more macho “home of Boonah’s best and biggest beef”).

I’d never met Paul in person before he visited Sydney earlier this week for the funeral of an uncle. He stayed overnight at our place and we used the opportunity for long and expansive conversation.

Paul is a prolific and thoughtful contributor to the Ex-Kiap website and to PNG ATTITUDE. He’s constantly contemplating what more Australia can do for PNG. And he’s more than a passing good writer. We’ve struck up a firm friendship over the internet.

We’ve also been working together – along with Chris Viner-Smith – on getting official Australian Government recognition for the services of Kiaps in the former Territory of PNG. This is a long process and, as regular readers of PNG ATTITUDE would know, we’re still hard at it.

The other morning I received an email from Bill Brown. Bill is one of the few surviving PNG District Commissioners and I’ve known him for 35 or more years, since we served together on Bougainville.

Bill is a person of tough demeanour and grand intellect. He doesn’t fully agree with the Kiap recognition project (I think Bill’s of the school that ‘we were sent to do a job and we did it’) but he doesn’t log roll. If Bill feels he can help, he helps. And this wasn’t the first time he’d held out a helping hand to the recognition project.

Bill’s email contained a list he’d compiled of Kiaps killed on duty, whose patrols had come under attack, who’d been involved in serious accidents. It represented the hard evidence that successful submissions to government require. You can find the list on the Ex-Kiap site here under the heading ‘Field Staff Casualties and Dangers’.

Captain_Suvista Now you may be able to contribute to this project. In your time in PNG, or in your reading about it, you may have come across incidents that illustrate the hazards that beset Kiaps. If there’s something you know, or even that you’ve heard second hand, you could drop Paul an email here and tip him off.

Lower photo: After Paul read this piece he was at pains to reassure me that Boonah Vista Farm has ample livestock. Meet Suvista Captain. Quite a sweet face, don't you think?

Sir Danny Leahy dies in Toowoomba

Pioneer PNG Highlands entrepreneur Sir Danny Leahy died in Toowoomba hospital surrounded by his family on Sunday.

Goroka Chamber of Commerce President Terry Shelley yesterday expressed sadness over Sir Danny's death, saying he was an avid believer in Goroka and the Eastern Highlands who pushed for better services for the people and had a firm belief in the coffee industry.

“Sir Danny was saddened later in life by the downturn in coffee production and continually advocated increased plantings through the school system,” Mr Shelley said. “He was a unique man. Although he was physically a powerful man, he would never be heard raising his voice in anger or resort to violence.

“In rugby league, he was totally dedicated to Goroka Lahanis, which won one competition under his sponsorship,” Mr Shelley said. “The people of Goroka, Eastern Highlands and PNG had been very fortunate to have Sir Danny live and work among them.”

The Managing director of Mendikwae Limited, Mathias Merimba, also expressed deep regret and sadness over the death of Sir Danny. “He was a true Eastern Highlander who made a significant impact in the economic, social, sports and spiritual developmentsin the province since the early days. He came to PNG as a young man and settled in Goroka and became a leading figure in business, sports, fighting against law and order.”

Mr Merimba said Sir Danny had lived and worked in the highlands for more than 50 years before he moved back to his birthplace in Toowoomba.

Sources: Murray Bladwell, PNG National, PNG Post Courier

PNG educn in ’63: dichotomy & dilemma

Loch Blatchford

It’s 1963. Universal Primary Education is no longer the goal. It continues to be a goal but other emphases are superimposed. Higher education, indigenous executive training and economic development continue to shape education.

The Currie Commission into Higher Education, and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development visit during the year. Madang Teachers’ College opens, Goroka is expanded and higher levels of technical education are introduced. Les Johnson had the DEO’s produce five-year plans for their districts. Targets are set. Targets are revised. And targets are missed.

Increasingly important is the development of potential indigenous education executives. The Senior Officers’ Course is started in Port Moresby and on graduation officers are posted as Assistant District Education Officers, Area Education Officers, assistant inspectors, teachers’ college lecturers and heads of large primary schools. The aim is to provide opportunities to develop abilities for executive positions in the Department.

Others indigenous officers are awarded scholarships to complete the Intermediate Certificate or Queensland matriculation to increase the number of natives able to undertake tertiary studies. More emphasis is placed on overseas trips. People like Tololo, Reva, Taviai and Forova spend three months in New Zealand, and Abana Gara and Tau Boga undertake the teachers’ tour of Queensland and NSW. Nguna tours the South Pacific countries, Amo attends the Territory Show exhibit in Australia, and Aisoli attends the Royal Shows in Adelaide and Perth.

Les Johnson is keen to promote these people, but they are unable to compete with the more experienced and qualified expatriates. To promote them preferentially would contravene the Public Service Ordinance.

Hasluck still sees primary education as essential to the development of the Territory. Attempts are made to recruit teachers from the UK and the E course is expanded. Courses are now held in Port Moresby, Rabaul and Madang and enrolment is open to mission personnel and married women.

There are attempts by Hasluck and Menzies to play down the rush for self-determination but it’s obvious, after Indonesia takes over West New Guinea and from the emphasis being given to higher education, localisation, and economic development, that Australia has realised time is running out.

But the problem is no longer Hasluck’s. On 18 December 1963 he hands the portfolio to CE (CEB) Barnes and moves to Defence.

This is an overview of the latest addition to The Blatchford Collection – summaries of the files from the PNG education system in 1963. It will soon be on site in ASOPA PEOPLE EXTRA.

Remembering the 'Herstein' scandal

Peter Jackson

I'm reading a book on the history of Australia and New Zealand troopships from 1865 through to Vietnam. The suffering many of the troops experienced on these ships almost makes you want to weep and is something that has, like the Montevideo Maru tragedy, received very little publicity.

Herstein There were several ships sent south from Rabaul in the lead-up to its fall in January 1942 that could have carried civilians. You may know the story of the Herstein, a Norwegian freighter that, after unloading military supplies in Port Moresby, went on to Rabaul to load a cargo of copra. It arrived on 19 January 1942. The deputy administrator, HH Page, sent a request to Canberra that the ship be used to remove civilians immediately.

Incredibly, he was told that no personnel were to be evacuated, and the ship was to be loaded as planned. Accordingly, instead of boarding 300 or more civilians and leaving the danger area immediately, Herstein remained at Rabaul overnight loading copra, and was still there next morning, 20 January, when Japanese bombers raided the town.

Herstein was hit repeatedly by dive-bombers and set on fire. It drifted across the harbour, ran aground and burned all night. I assume no one was ever brought to account for the missed opportunities (manslaughter really) in evacuating civilians from Rabaul.

By the way, I was unaware of the complete cock-up with the first convoy (Aquitania the troopship, Sarpedon and Herstein, freighters) to Port Moresby. The covoy carried 4,250 troops of the 39th and 53rd Militia Battalions and 10,000 tons of equipment and supplies. As a judicial commission later found, due to "gross carelessness and incompetence" in Sydney, all of the camping equipment needed by the troops was stowed at the bottom of the cargo holds. Thus, when landed the troops had no tents or other basic facilities.

To quote from the book: "Without tents, beds, mosquito nets, sanitary and cooking facilities, the men were in a very poor state, and even when the equipment was unloaded it was discovered that there were insufficient sanitary pans and mosquito nets. Many men came down with fevers, and there was general discontent, leading to an outbreak of lawlessness and a complete breakdown in discipline."

Much blame was placed on the unit commander, Major General Morris. But Morris was strongly defended by General Blamey who in turn put some of the blame on the "lamentably poor quality and discipline of the troops". These were the same blokes who went up to the Kokoda Trail.

‘Across the Sea to War’ by Peter Plowman, 2003, 504 pp, Rosenberg Publishing, Dural NSW, ISBN 1877058068

Do we need a new Australia – PNG body?

As you can see in the column at right, an avalanche of commentary in the main supportive of my decision to quit the PNGAA presidency has given PNG ATTITUDE a busy 24 hours. I hope by now most contributors have received a brief reply from me.

The substance of what I’ve been saying to people is that while the journey to strengthen Australia's civil relationship with PNG has been interrupted by my leaving the PNGAA presidency, it is far from over.

We Australians who care about Papua New Guinea, and about its people, and who want to do something tangible to maintain and improve the relationship, will continue along that path.

Meanwhile, I no longer have to deal with and try to manage the narrow attitudes of some PNGAA senior members like this one, who, in a recent submission to the Association, observed: “I doubt if many members would agree that this Association was for the betterment of the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship… I believe most members would agree that helping current PNG is low on their agenda. They are more interested in talking and reading about pre-Independent PNG and socialising with people of their vintage.”

This is a minority view, but in my opinion a corrosive one: because the people who hold it effectively deny an interest in Papua New Guinea as it is They are old colonials and they behave like old colonials. Like most PNGAA members, I’d hoped the Association might evolve as a primary vehicle in the development of a closer civil relationship between Australia and PNG but, as it happened, the old guard didn’t want this, they refused to accommodate it as an adjunct to their own social networking needs. However, demolishing these people in an internal political wrangle wasn’t to my taste.

So it seems that we who are truly interested in the Australia-PNG relationship have to try other routes. I’ve been deluged with over 100 emails and other communications in the last day - far too many to properly assimilate let alone analyse – and this blog has had well over 1,700 page views, easily a record. [In an average day we'd get 100-150.]

Many correspondents and callers have in one way or another mentioned that work should start on establishing a new organisation with the primary goal of strengthening the Australia-PNG relationship and the secondary goal of better informing Australians about this relationship. Both worthy ideas. But, as readers would appreciate, such proposals have to be subjected to scrutiny and reality-tested, and I am by no means convinced that this is the way to go. A decade or so ago an Australia-PNG Friendship Society formed, only to quickly die.

So over the next few weeks I'll think about this and related issues, and in consultation with PNG ATTITUDE readers (that’s you) and other people try to define what more can be done - or  should be done - in this area.

PNGAA extinction; so what says Nancy

A long-standing member of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, Mrs Nancy Johnston, has said that people who want to change the PNGAA should create another organisation.

Mrs Johnston said that “some members feel that another Association could have been created, perhaps taking over the members who were willing to accept the change and let the others be left in peace to enjoy their Association and what it originally stood for - friendship amongst themselves.

“There is an avenue for the President's ideas, but I feel they do not belong to our present Association,” Mrs Johnston said, adding, “Several senior members are disillusioned and are beginning to feel like ‘outcasts’... My feelings are that the membership and finances of the PNGAA were hijacked, and ideas introduced that are unwanted by many of the original and long time members of the Association.”

Mrs Johnston also believes that the PNGAA should calmly face the prospect of its own demise. “As for the Association facing extinction,” she says, “once its purpose has been served, so what!”

She also believes Papua New Guinea is a place that does not necessarily deserve the support of the PNGAA. “[The Association] was not created to provide a platform for politics or to interfere with welfare and external aid. I don't think people who have not had a REAL life affiliation with PNG are going to join an Association to support what is now a foreign country, when knowing there are other places, our own aborigines, and some of the South African countries, in more desperate need.”

“A very long time senior and well-respected member said only recently ‘but I wonder if the nation of PNG will appreciate any such venture on our part?’”, Mrs Johnston added, suggesting that Papua New Guineans are not interested about whether Australians care about them enough to provide assistance.

I resign from PNGAA presidency: letter

This morning I sent the following letter to the Secretary of the Papua New Guinea Association. Its contents may please some people and disappoint many others. But life goes on. And so does PNG ATTITUDE.

I would like the Committee of the Association to accept my resignation as President and as a Committee member of the PNGAA.

This decision has been made over a number of weeks and has been arrived at for the following reasons:

1. Despite what was said to me before I agreed to put my name forward as President last year about there being a mood for change in the PNGAA, it is clear that a vocal minority of people within the Association, and particularly within the former ROAPNG membership, are implacably opposed to change.

While I know there were serious divisions in the Committee before my election as President and subsequent arrival on the Committee, and while Committee meetings under my chairmanship have been conducted professionally and in a businesslike manner, I have no desire to preside over a voluntary organisation in which such divisions persist and in which such ill will is manifested to the person holding the office of President.

2. I believe that pressing ahead with the changes I believe are necessary to sustain the Association will, in the short term, exacerbate existing divisions. These changes are likely, also, to cause some members to leave. In my view, while such departures would not affect the long-term viability of the Association, they would make me feel that I had failed in a fundamental sense to have the Association operate harmoniously and in union.

While such disharmony and discord would be in large part due to the inflexibility, intolerance and, in some cases, intellectual dishonesty of some members – which in most circumstances would not deter me – I nevertheless feel compassion for these people, most of whom are ageing, and I also feel a sense of duty to the origins and history of the Association.

In other words I feel conflicted between what I know is in the best longer term interests of the Association and the reaction of some members to my prescription for the sustainability of an Association I believe is under threat.

Since I do not intend to preside over a body that may have a limited future, and since if in trying to provide it with a sustainable future my efforts cause the perpetuation of existing conflict, I believe I can best resolve this matter by stepping down.

While I do not believe my resignation will resolve the conflict, nor be of assistance in equipping the Association for the future, at least, at a personal level, I will not need to deal with what is essentially dysfunctional micro-political behaviour by some of our members, which I find both discomfiting and a waste of my time and energy.

3. I am chairman of a company that, while it has longevity and a good reputation, is nevertheless a small business. You would be aware of the prevailing economic climate and I am sure you will understand that I need to devote more time to my business during such a period. In circumstances where I feel the time I would devote to the PNGAA would more usefully be spent protecting and enhancing my firm, I choose to do this.

4. There are other personal reasons, which I do not intend to canvass here, that make dealing with the difficulties of the PNGAA even more burdensome on me at this time, and these factors have also influenced my decision.

I cannot write this letter without escaping the feeling that I am letting down a great number of people. I apologise to them and thank them for their support and kindness. But sometimes we must make decisions in our own best interests as well as in the interests of others, and this is what I am doing today.

My decision is irrevocable, it has been made alone, and I ask that you respect it.

I will continue to work on selected PNG-related projects that I have been undertaking, but will not do so as President or as a PNGAA Committee member.

My resignation is tenable as of today’s date.

Best wishes


Michael Jeffery continues with PNGAA

Headshot Former Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, AC, AO(Mil), CVO, MC (Retd) has confirmed that he will continue as a Patron of the PNGAA.

A few months ago, indeed on the day before his term as Governor-General ended and as he was putting the finishing touches on the move from Government House in Canberra, I spoke with Major General Jeffery about this and he modestly wondered whether this would still be an appropriate appointment given that his vice-regal role was over.

I assured him that there was much enthusiasm for his continuation as Patron and he expressed a desire to become more involved in Association affairs than he’d been able to as Governor-General. He also voiced his approval of mooted changes to the PNGAA Constitution, referring to them as “excellent”.

Major General Jeffery also believes that the PNGAA should be taking a more active role in building the relationship with PNG and says he's willing to work in any way he can to assist this goal.

Genera! Jeffery was born in Wiluna, Western Australia in 1937 and attended the Royal Military College, Duntroon. As an Infantry officer he served operationally in Malaya, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and Vietnam, where he was awarded the Military Cross and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

He retired in 1993 to become Governor of Western Australia, an appointment he held for almost seven years. On his retirement in 2000 he established Future Directions International, a not for profit research institute in Perth whose object is to examine longer term issues facing Australia.

On 11 August 2003 he was sworn in as the twenty-fourth Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, serving in that capacity until 5 September 2008. Since his retirement, he has accepted Chairmanships of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Future Directions International and Outcomes Australia, along with patronages of a number of other not-for-profit organisations including the PNGAA.

Major General Jeffery is a Companion of the Order of Logohu (PNG), a Knight of St John, a Citizen of Western Australia, a Paul Haines Fellow and an honorary life member of the Returned and Services League.

He and his wife Marlena have four children and seven grandchildren. General Jeffery enjoys golf, cricket, fishing, reading and music.

An epic account of a good life richly lived

In these Notes on New Year’s Eve, Colin Huggins mentioned meeting with Sue Hurrell, one of his former pupils at Wau Primary A School 40 years ago. The article mentioned in passing that Sue’s father is Lloyd Hurrell, as distinguished a PNG expatriate as they made them.

A few years ago, Lloyd, who's now 95, published an account of his PNG experiences in a book entitled Hurrell's Way. It's an entertaining and informative read by a former soldier, patrol officer, planter and politician.

Lloyd writes vividly of his experiences in war and in peace. He tells of his early adventures when he went to New Guinea in 1939 as a cadet patrol officer in the Rabaul, Salamaua and Morobe, which was followed by service in World War II, after being wounded, his subsequent return to New Guinea in 1945 and his years of ‘big bush’ patrolling.

Lloyd and his elder brother Les were members of the AIF’s first contingent who enlisted in New Guinea. They served with the elite 2/31 Infantry Battalion in the Middle East including Syria, and later in New Guinea in the Kokoda Track campaign, during which Lloyd won the Military Cross. Les was killed in this campaign. Lloyd fought in the Lae and Markham-Ramu campaigns before, on Bougainville, being accidentally wounded in the leg by a burst from a sub-machine gun. He spent a year recovering in an Australian hospital where one of his nurses was Margaret Crowther, who he later married.

After Lloyd's return to New Guinea, he conducted notable patrols in Bogia, Mumeng, Siassi and Finschhafen. His main feat was opening Menyamya station in 1950 in the then uncontrolled Kukukuku country.

Lloyd subsequently became a farmer and planter near Wau, entered national politics as a Member of the House of Assembly and served for many years as Chairman of the PNG Coffee Marketing Board, receiving a CMG and an OBE for his work.

Hurrell's Way by A Lloyd Hurrell. Edited by James Sinclair. 463 pages. Numerous photos and maps. $32.95 plus p&h $9.00 within Australia. Available from Crawford House Publishing, PO Box 50, Belair SA 5052 Tel 08 8370 3555 Fax 08 8370 3566 Email frontdesk@ ISBN 1863333169

A serologist’s reminiscences of PNG

Dr Peter Booth arrived in Port Moresby in October 1962 as the first Director of the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service. He was a serologist. His wife, Kitty, a haematologist. Between them, they knew everything about blood that could be known. When Peter arrived, the Blood Transfusion Service consisted of two nursing sisters in Port Moresby, one in Lae and one in Rabaul. When he left, shortly before Independence, there was a fully operational blood bank in all the major centres.

After some years in Christchurch running the Blood Transfusion Service, Peter and Kitty returned to Port Moresby to share a visiting professorship at the University of Papua New Guinea.

Well into his retirement, Peter was invited to deliver the inaugural Ruth Sanger Memorial Ovation at the Conference of the Australasian Society for Blood Transfusion in October 1990. He wrote the paper but died in February 1990 before he could deliver it. It was his 100th paper and, renamed the Peter Booth Memorial Ovation, it was read at the conference by his son Nick.

It is both an erudite and witty presentation (the original has slides, but it won’t affect your enjoyment of Peter’s prose), with many references to his work in PNG. An extract below and you can read the full paper, which is on the PNGAA website, here.

This is in fact the old hospital at Saiho, 18 miles and 18 rivers from Popondetta. Bush materials, flat swampy ground, a tropical paradise, and absolutely lethal. Infested by mosquitoes all full of talciparum malaria, not chloroquin-resistant in my day. The lab was much the size of an average garden shed, and, when it contained two burly Melanesians - Edward the technician and his mate - and myself, it seemed like WembleyStadium on Cup Final Day.

Reverting to Saiho old hospital, l had another picture to show you, but have mislaid it. It showed preparation of the patients' lunch: slices of bread being fried in pig grease on top of old 40 gallon drums. It smelt delicious, and l was even more envious after lunch with the Saiho Medical Officer He was a single man, with a mind well elevated above the humdrum, so he failed to notice that his housekeeping was being deplorably neglected by a handful of slovenly Papuan house-boys, who served up an abominable lunch.

However, an even worse meal from PNG is on record. It was served in 1888 at Government House, Port Moresby, to the Resident Deputy Commissioner, Hugh Hastings Romilly, who was living alone there, awaiting the arrival of the first Administrator, William MacGregor. When Romilly came to breakfast on his first day, he was confronted by a table covered with a dirty old blanket on which was arranged a bizarre meal.

Cockroach Cheese, One Dutch

Blue mould sardines, One tin opened

Bitten bread, One hunk

Brandy, One bottle

Whisky, One bottle

Office gum, One pot

Kuru pioneer Gajdusek dies at 85

Gajdusek_D_Carleton The controversial scientist Carleton Gajdusek, whose research into kuru led to important insights into brain disease, has died in Norway.

When Gajdusek was taken to an Amsterdam hospital two years ago for a check up, the young doctor who examined him identified his long-term congestive heart failure, obesity and diabetes and also concluded he must be psychotic. Asked why, the doctor replied: “He claimed he was a Nobel laureate, that he is one of the world's greatest neuroscientists, has trained many of the best in the world and says he must leave tomorrow to fly to Siberia where a conference is being held in his honour.”

It was all true, and so, too, was his imprisonment on a paedophilia charge a decade ago, which overshadowed his pioneering work into a new class of diseases known initially as slow viruses, and his lifelong study of child development in primitive cultures.

Daniel Carleton Gajdusek was born in New York and his experiments and early work on viruses helped lay the foundations of spongy brain infections - or prion diseases - that have latency periods lasting decades.

After working briefly with Sir Macfarlane Burnet at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne in 1956, Gajdusek was returning to the US by way of PNG when he decided to find out more about a strange disease called kuru in the Eastern Highlands. With none of the usual markers of infectious disease, and many siblings dying within families, often years apart, the condition was threatening to wipe out the 12,000 strong Fore tribel.

Kuru (Fore for shivering) was thought by the locals to be caused by sorcery and was incurable and untreatable with symptoms including staggering and body tremors. It led to certain death, from what Europeans referred to grimly as 'laughing sickness', within 18 months.

Gajdusek alerted the world to kuru in November 1957 and his blatant takeover irked Burnet. A flurry of uncomplimentary correspondence followed.

Gajdusek and colleagues proved that kuru and related diseases are transmissible. In 1967 his Australian colleague Michael Alpers showed that the Fore's cannibalism - eating dead relatives as a mourning ritual - had spread kuru to epidemic proportions. After the practice ceased  around 1960 the incidence of kuru decreased.

In 1976, Gajdusek was awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in medicine, which he shared with Baruch Blumberg.

He returned regularly to PNG from where he adopted more than 50 children, educating them in the US where he headed the laboratory for brain studies at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for more than 25 years.

In 1997 he served a year in prison for the sexual abuse of one of his adopted children and lived the rest of his life in exile, splitting his time between Amsterdam, Paris and Norway. In 2007 he attended the ‘end of kuru’ conference - held in Pidgin and English - at the Royal Society in London. It marked the end of the disease - the last autopsy being in 2003.

Source: ‘The laureate who read heads’ by  Jenny Cooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2009

Meeting Bill Groves, PNG educn pioneer

Reginald Thomson

Port Moresby, early August 1949. My first port of call was the Department of Education where, among those to greet me, was my wife-to-be, who worked in the office of the Administrative Officer, a weaselish man, with a tic, giving one the impression he was winking at you.

Then I met the Director, Bill Groves, who ran his Department from a modest office in a long shed with paper walls. This was the HQ of the department. Bill was a short, cherubic man who went to New Guinea in 1922 as the first European teacher at Kokopo (near Rabaul). He had served in the First World War and spent a long time as a POW in Germany. He majored in Anthropology at Melbourne University, from which he held an Honours Degree and a teaching Diploma.

His book [Native Education and Culture Contact in New Guinea – A Scientific Approach] was critical of any hint of elitism and advocated a system aimed at meeting the everyday needs of the villager. Unfortunately, in practice, this meant an exaggerated emphasis on ancillary processes to the detriment of basic educational skills. His educational philosophy caused a great deal of anguish both within and outside the Department. He resisted all attempts to expand secondary and further education, bringing down the ire of the Minister, Paul Hasluck, an academic, journalist and politician who, despite his many achievements, was never at the coal face like Groves.

Paul Hasluck, whom I came to like and respect, had little patience with those who disagreed with his Olympian pronouncements on all subjects. He was noted for his attention to detail, including the perusal of unimportant files, such as those concerned with the recruitment of base-grade clerks.

His [views] on Groves reflect his unfamiliarity with a discipline in which his only experience was a brief stint as a University lecturer… He was unashamedly centralist as far as politics in New Guinea were concerned, giving little support to those trying to establish a form of local government… In the end, Hasluck got his way by refusing to renew Bill’s contract and he left the country in 1958 embittered, but still certain his policies were right…

In 1949 all these things were in the future. I found Bill Groves kind and helpful but without any idea of my future path. He had surrounded himself with a strange mixture of enthusiasts, amateurs, and some downright no-hopers.

Extract from ‘Looking for a good book’ by Reginald Thomson, Chapter 9 - Journey without maps. You can order a copy [hardcover, 152 pp, $20 including postage] by contacting Mark Thomson here. Mark will tell you about payment details.

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