Death of the hero of the Battle of Kaiapit
Somare on the brink as PNG holds its breath

Brian Halesworth, school broadcast pioneer


I KNEW Brian Halesworth well. He was a shy, tall, balding, conservative, anti-cigarette smoking, 30-something who was my first boss in the ABC, out there at the Five Mile.

We all smoked cigarettes in 1967. All except Brian, that is, who (quietly) would remonstrate with us (rightly, we now know) and say he would never marry a cigarette smoker. Which meant, back then, that you would never marry. And he didn’t. Even the girlfriends were thin on the ground.

Halesworth_Tanya Brian was the ABC’s Supervisor of Education in PNG. He’d been at teachers’ college (in Wagga Wagga, I think) where, in 1955, he met and married a fellow student, the beautiful Tanya Halesworth [right].

Soon after, in television’s infancy, Tanya became an ABC newsreader. Back then she was everyone’s darling. Too many people’s darling, as Brian discovered. They divorced in 1959. Brian never got over it.

Furthermore, long after the divorce, he resented that Tanya would not relinquish his surname for her own maiden name – Kemp. Brian felt this was insulting.

"Marriage is an untenable state," Tanya said later. Adding that it was "entirely against man's instincts to be tied down to one woman". And vice versa one could add.

In any event, she later married Australian TV personality John Bailey and, despite a rocky time of it, remained with him until he died in 1998. Tanya herself died of cancer two years ago, aged 73.

Back to the story. Understudying Brian in ABC Education in Port Moresby, when I arrived there in 1967, was the late Lester Goodman [ABC designation - Education Officer Grade 2], a powerhouse in bringing the force of radio to education in PNG. And later to many other countries, including Indonesia and India, until he ended up as a senior officer with Unesco in Paris in a futile battle with the UN bureaucracy.

Lets Use English With me occupying the diminutive position of Education Officer Grade 1, the three of us produced hundreds of radio programs: instructing in English, current affairs, social studies, music, health and probably others I’ve forgotten. Like Teachers' Teatime.

As the total complement of ABC Education in the late sixties, Brian, Lester and I were close colleagues and close companions. At and after work.

And, not counting the newsroom, where David Prior and Albert Asbury held court, we were the second most boisterous and noisy production unit at Broadcast House.

Brian was the first person I knew who had a hair transplant. The frail fronds grew as small shoots from the pink plugs bored into his scalp. I had never observed anything like it. At 22, and with hair like a Mekeo, I did not fully comprehend it.

In those days we did everything to do with making a broadcast. Planned, researched, wrote, trained actors, produced, acted, did sound effects, edited, published books [above] and publicised.

Then we went into the sticks proselytising to teachers the techniques of using those broadcasts in the classroom. Not that we had to do much instructing. Radio, back then, was adopted enthusiastically as a vital part of the educational mix.

Brian Halesworth returned to Australia in the late sixties and spent many years in the independent school system. He had a kidney transplant about nine years ago, and a period of excellent health followed.

A few months ago, however, in Queensland, he caught pneumonia and died. He was 80.

Vale Brian Halesworth - an unsung pioneer of PNG educational broadcasting.

Additional credit: John Leah, another pioneer


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Denise Wallis

Deborah, how lovely to read your comments about Brian. I knew him well in PNG and would be happy to tell you about it if you are interested. My email is [email protected]. Denise Wallis

Geoffrey Luck

Tanya Halesworth was never an ABC newsreader. She was what was known as a Continuity Announcer, that is she was the pretty face who read the fill-in promo material before the 7pm news, and at other times.

In those days women were not allowed anywhere near the hallowed chair of the newsreader. James Dibble fought - often viciously - to keep even journalists out of "his" studio.

Enid Rose

Both Tanya Beverly Kemp and Brian Haleswoth were student teachers at Bathurst Teachers College in 1953 and 1954.

We were great friends until she died. A truly remarkable and talented lady.

Deborah Halesworth

How fascinating to read your comments of my Uncle Brian!

I can confirm that Brian was 80 and one month old when he died earlier this year in April; he leaves a widow Ana (Brisbane), a sister-in-law and two nieces in England. Brian's older brother, Douglas, died in September 1990.

I too remember the fascination when Brian visited us in about 1969 sporting the hair transplant; it was the organised rows that my sisters and I were drawn to - but daren't say anything about.

Brian was a dapper dresser, too, and on his trips to the UK to visit us enjoyed a day's shopping at Simpsons in Piccadilly, London: his trademark outfit was a pair of grey worsted trousers, a cream cashmere roll neck sweater and a smart navy sports jacket.

Having checked with my mother we're puzzled by the name of Brian's first wife - perhaps someone can help us here. We have a photograph of 'Beverley' in her wedding dress - was Tanya her professional name?

To the best of me and my mother's knowledge, Brian never made any reference to his feelings about Tanya retaining her married name so these comments we found quite intriguing!!

Thank you for your comments about Brian; we didn't see him as much as we would have liked and his sudden, unexpected death greatly saddened us.

I am quite happy to receive any further questions about Brian; although I would be respectful of the fact that he leaves a widow and would draw her attention to this link.

Ed Brumby

Your portrait of Brian is spot on, Keith, although lacking one minor detail: his endeavours on behalf of the Kone basketball team on the courts at Hohola.

Frank (Pritt) Hiob, the then mainstay of the team (and our former mentor and boss), recruited Brian more for his height than his prowess. He had no turnaround jump shot and I don't recall him ever slam dunking but, much as he did in his professional life, he made a steady and reliable contribution to the team's success.

He was, as you intimate, a gentle man and a gentleman, and all who knew him will mourn his passing.

As a postscript, I must take (gentle) issue with your description of the schools broadcasts as a 'vital' part of the education mix. The broadcasts that you, Brian and others produced were an ESSENTIAL feature of the daily routines in PNG primary schools.

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