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Peter Tatterson, kiap & local government officer


WHATEVER DIFFICULTIES might currently be facing Australia's former Territory of Papua New Guinea, there was a band of Australian officials committed to pre-independence nation-building. Peter Tatterson was one of them.

A former patrol officer and senior officer in Gippsland local government, Peter has died in Melbourne after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 66.

Peter was a man who enjoyed travel and adventure, a drink and a laugh, and who loved to socialise and engage with people. He was born in Traralgon in 1944.  At Morwell High School, he was swimming champion, a success at athletics and a leading member of the Light Opera Society.

But by 1962 his sights were on bigger things and he left the valley to become a kiap in PNG. There were 35 cadet patrol officers on the 1962 course. There was to be a very high attrition rate; by the end of four years, only about 10 of the original group were still serving.

Tatterson's first postings were to Angoram on the banks of the Sepik River, and then Imonda on the then PNG/Dutch New Guinea border.

Daily life centred on foot patrols lasting from two weeks to three months, dealing with issues such as health, law and order, and political education. In this period, he helped establish local government at Imonda.

He returned home briefly most years, most importantly in late 1966 to marry his high school girlfriend Merrilyn Bond. Then it was back to PNG, when the couple were stationed on Karkar Island. Tatterson was adviser to the local council and played a major role in having it recognised as one of the most responsible and effective in PNG.

His next posting was to Rabaul, where he ended up at Vunadidir Local Government Training College as a lecturer. He left there and returned to Madang in late 1973 as an adviser to the Ambenob Local Government Council.

By 1974-75, PNG was approaching self-government and the Tattersons decided to return to Australia, where Peter took up a role in charge of administration at Morwell Shire before moving on to the then Rosedale Shire as chief executive.

He later became chief executive of the new South Gippsland Shire after councils throughout Victoria were amalgamated. Peter’s bright disposition and people skills came to the fore as he blended and led a new management team.

A final relocation to Melbourne suited his passion for sport, and it was no coincidence that he lived within walking distance of the MCG. The premiership triumphs of his beloved Bombers were high points, as was the 2007 World Cup cricket tour to the West Indies.

Peter is survived by Merrilyn, three daughters - Shannon, Abbey and Holly - and five grandchildren.

* Gary Tatterson is Peter Tatterson's brother and Peter Colton is a friend and former patrol officer in PNG.

Source: The Age, 10 February 2010


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Greg Teese

I attended Morwell High in 1959. My family moved from Melbourne to run the mixed business in Savage Street that year.

Peter Tatterson, as Form 4 captain had the task of orientating me to the school and we became good friends for that short time, before we returned to Melbourne in early 1960.

I saw him just a few times after that. I hope Merrilyn is well. She may remember me - I would certainly like to be remembered to her and give her my condolences.

Peter deserved the very full life he obviously had. I am very sorry to hear of his early passing.

Ron & Elaine Staples

It was sad to read of Peter's passing. Ron was a colleague on Peter's course, and worked with him at Vunadidir.

We remember Peter visiting us in Canberra with another colleague, Eric Young, and our daughters amusement at the old codgers' enjoyment of life.

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