Two Pacific strong men attend phony forum
Sir Michael Somare tells his side of the story

Brandi memories – drama of the right kind


SchoolI TAUGHT AT Brandi High School from 1971-74 and in those days it was already well established and well respected having been running for about 20 years.

It was located on a fine surfing beach with good sports fields and plenty of room for agriculture. It was noted for its academic achievements and very active in art, drama and music.

Sepik designs were painted on classroom walls and silk-screened on tee-shirts and fabrics. There were many choirs and lots of singsings, and Sepiks are great actors!

In 1971 Brandi had over 500 students from Form 1 to Form 4, and 20 expatriate and seven national teachers. The expatriates were a great mix of ASOPA-trained teachers and others from various parts of Australia and beyond.

Sadly, many only stayed for a couple of years. They came with their young families for an interesting few years in PNG then returned to their respective areas for their children’s sake or for to pursue their own career paths.

Brandi was handy to Wewak, which had a good marketplace. The adventurous could spend holidays on the Sepik River, which is those days was still relatively untouched by western ways.

Brandi Beach After years of struggling to teach poorly motivated European children in Sydney and London, I found it was most rewarding, at Brandi to be teaching classes of highly motivated, clever, hard working students, who achieved excellent academic results.

Another highlight of my time at Brandi were the dramatic presentations. Science Master Jon Hughes was a talented actor and drama director. In 1971 he directed the students in a production of This Man, a moving symbolic dance drama by Francis Bogutu from the Solomon Islands.

It depicted the mental turmoil experienced by men in countries like PNG in their search for their own identity in a changing society with conflicting cultures. Two male actors represented the dual personality – the traditional man and the modern man.

In 1972, at the end of Term 2, the four Form 4 classes presented plays they had written themselves and there was a Drama Festival and an Inter-school Cultural Festival.

Nigel Gregory wrote and produced some excellent plays on PNG themes and some were performed at Wewak for other schools to appreciate.

In July 1973 the Sepik Drama Group again put on a great night’s entertainment in the Brandi Hall  with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury and excerpts from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.

The 1973 Speech Night was another wonderful show. First a moving play Hello Out There by William Saroyan, loosely adapted to a local PNG setting. This was followed by some of the Form 3 music students playing traditional Sepik flutes which they had made themselves.

Then to top it all, there was a very polished production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber, complete with excellent costumes and microphones for the lead singers. What a contrast of cultures!

Threepenny Opera_Sepik Drama Group '74In 1974 the Sepik Drama Group produced The Threepenny Opera [right] with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht and music by Kurt Weill. The cast included 16 staff and some students and was presented in the Brandi Hall over three nights.

Looking back, what a feast of culture! Oh, I forget to mention, we played a lot of sport, too, and there were Cadets and Scouts and stuff like that …


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Wally Trueman

Taught at Brandi in 1960 and early 1961 before disagreeing with the DEO who punished me by posting me to Dreikikir where I spent three years before giving up. As a 21 year old I was acting principal for three months while the senior staff went on leave. The first kids from Telefolmin arrived in Brandi in 1960 and the ring leader of the '1952 or 53 killings of Zarca and Harris was in the Wewak prison. His name was Femsip and he was a tiny man. The kids knew him and pointed him out. Don Gaffney introduced rugby league to the school and a combined teacher/pupil team competed in the Wewak competition. No bridge over the river in those days. We built two canoes in 1960 and the coastal kids provided a ready supply of fish and turtles. The principal at the time used instruct me to take a social studies lesson out to sea whenever sea food was desired. Lots of stories. Just touching on them here.

Brian Takoboy

Hi there;
Would you have any pictures or information of the Brandi School Cadets.

Would be interest to know a bit more on this.

With thanks


Barbara Short

Hi Doug,
Great to hear from you.
My name is now Barbara Short but I used to be Barbara Neasmith.
I had tried to locate you a few times, without success.
I'm now back in touch with lots of the old Brandi students on one of their social media groups, the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum on Facebook.
Brandi has just got a new Mess. The old one rotted away!
If you are interested in joining contact me at [email protected]
I am in touch with quite a few of the old Brandi teachers too.
Best wishes...

Doug Lillyman

My name is Doug Lillyman. I taught at Brandi from 1968 to 1973. We had two children whilst in Wewak.

These were the best teaching years of my life as I had the opportunity to establish a farm at the school: poultry, pigs, cattle, bees and growing most of the fresh food for the boarders' kitchen.

Dave Keating was the most progressive headmaster I served under. A great experience, great students and a beautiful location. I hope to visit again in the next two years.

Ian Willis

It's great to read these comments on what happened at Brandi HS in the 1970s.

We had the good fortune to be there in middle to late 1960s, when Brandi was rapidly taking shape as one of the new high schools. They were some of the best years of our lives.

Our Headmaster was the late great Jeff Keast (1922-90), an unsung hero in PNG secondary school development. He not only helped us grow up, but he was instrumental in establishing the school's enduring reputation.

He was a great talent spotter, knew how to scrounge and effectively apply scarce resources, gave us ample latitude but expected high achievement in return.

We look back on these years fondly as being foundational for our subsequent professional careers. Our years at Brandi were rich and joyful. We made lifelong friends there among both staff and students, many of whom took leading roles in the post-Independence nation.

On reflection, they taught us as much as we ever taught them.

If any of our colleagues of 1967 should read this, best wishes to Alan West, Brian Pell, Ian Macraild, Ron Reisener, Paul Somerville, Stirling Henry, Max Medcalf, Cathy Burrow, Nalden Matautu, Chris Batterham, Adrian Hughes, Eleanor Keneally, Carol Thomas and Ugia Nawia.

And warmest regards to all our former Brandi students, whom we feel privileged to have taught.

Posted by Ian & Margaret Willis and Pieter & Deirdre Degeling.

Ed Brumby

I recall many a pleasant weekend sojourn during 1966-7 at Brandi where the plywood desk tops made fine boogie boards for body surfing and the camaraderie among teachers and students reflected a wonderful school culture.

Dawn Francis

My name is Dawn Francis (ne Griffiths) and I was a student in the 1967 trial where graduates intending to teach in PNG spent a couple of days at ASOPA as part of their Dip Ed.

I would like to receive news of students that attended at that time or anyone who taught in Moresby or Goroka in the years 1967-72.

I did a PhD in 1991 focusing on Port Moresby In-Service College. To do this I spent three years at the college following interactions between expat and national staff.

I also returned many times in my years at James Cook University to coordinate many in-service programs for teachers and lecturers on curriculum construction, interpersonal communication and working in groups.

I drafted the modules for the In-Service Home Economics subjects. I truly value my time with PNG people as the best in my life.

You can contact Dawn at [email protected]

Barbara Short

Yes, Brandi High School was built on the old Brandi Plantation, next to the Brandi River.

When I was there 1971-74 there was still plenty of shrapnel in the trunks of the old coconut palms left standing after the war.

There appeared to have been a hospital in one of the narrow valleys behind the girls' dormitories and we were always digging up "medical rubbish".

The school had a fine collection of Japanese helmets, rifles, bombs, shells, old mess tins, water bottles and some guns. There was also an old Japanese searchlight and old anti-aircraft guns.

Sometimes when the students were clearing land for new gardens they would come across an unexploded bomb, usually well embedded in the ground. The students were trained to recognise them and not disturb them.

The bomb disposal squad would then be called in from Moem Army Barracks nearby and, if it was an unexploded live bomb, the whole school would be evacuated behind one of the many hills and the bomb would be blown up.

Des Martin

I believe that Brandi is the same "Brandi Plantation" in Dove Bay near Wewak.

If so how it has changed since the time when I was involved in the landing there in May 1945 to cut off Japs leaving Wewak.

The old plantation was of course ruined by bomb blasts and shell fire and was a bit of a wilderness at that time.

Trevor Freestone.

In 1963 I spent a short time teaching at Brandi. They were a great bunch of students.

I was lucky to be given the task of accompanying some of them to their homes on the Sepik River on the Government Trawler 'Rouna Falls'. It was a great experience

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