BY KEITH JACKSON
THEY SEEM like a group of somber – not to mention sober – young men at Canberra’s Land Headquarters School of Civil Affairs. And the ladies are not nurses, they're waitresses.
The men in uniform had completed their training and soon would be bound for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, as Australia began the process of restoring civil administration in the closing months of World War II.
But a simple dinner menu and program provided to us by former District Commissioner Bill Brown MBE belies the rather stern appearance of these young kiaps.
I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a bit of history.
On 11 February 1942, with the Japanese already well entrenched in New Guinea, civil government in the Territory was suspended and the Cadet Patrol Officer training scheme managed by Sydney University ceased.
In 1944, Lt Col Alf Conlon, the Australian Army’s Director of Research and Civil Affairs, was appointed to head a new School of Civil Affairs to train service personnel in the art and skills of colonial administration in TPNG.
By 1945, the School was established at Royal Military College at Duntroon in Canberra, where the photograph above was taken.
On that first ‘short course’, the staff outnumbered the students 47-40; Alf Conlon was nothing if not an empire builder of rare talent.
In the following year, the School of Civil Affairs changed its name to the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and, in 1947, it moved to temporary premises in two Quonset huts at George’s Heights and then to Middle Head in Sydney – where the training of young kiaps, and later young teachers, continued apace.
And now, here are those pieces de resistance….