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Don’t forget Sunday's important open day at the old ASOPA site


THE Open Day at the former Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) on Sunday 22 May – organised by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust – will provide a great opportunity for people with a Papua New Guinea connection to look over the old site and also hear about options for its future.

During the Open Day, which will run from 10am to 2pm, representatives of the PNG Association of Australia will be present (look out for them) to welcome you and discuss the PNGAA’s ideas for the establishment of a Centre for Pacific Nations.

This would be a place to actively engage the community and comprise a library, a living history centre -where PNG and Pacific memorabilia can be displayed - and a venue where talks, writers and artists workshops and other activities could take place.

You can find further information about Sunday’s activities, including how to get there, here.

In 1947 the Australian government approved the establishment of ASOPA at Middle Head in Sydney and gave it teaching and research duties. From its early years ASOPA played an important role in the development of Papua New Guinea.

From 1948 it offered a number of refresher courses, short courses and two year diploma courses to train Australians as administrators for Papua New Guinea.  Students were originally selected from the armed forces.

Over the years, ASOPA trained many people who made a notable contribution to the development of PNG and it became known for its association with a number of notable academics and administrators: Fred Kaad, John Kerr, James McAuley, Alf Conlon, Charles Rowley, Camilla Wedgewood, Peter Lawrence, Harry West, David Marsh, Bill Brown and many others.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, ASOPA grew in stature, size and significance.  In 1954 it started to train Australians to become teachers in PNG primary schools in addition to the training of patrol officers.  Teacher training was further extended in 1960 to include training of teachers for Aboriginal Schools in the Northern Territory.  In 1967 ASOPA commenced a course for senior local government officials.

By 1970, the Australian government realised that, despite its goal of making PNG independent, there was no adequately trained public service of indigenous people in the country. 

In 1971, ASOPA became a training centre for Papuans and New Guineans, preparing them for impending self-government.  In addition, candidates for short courses could now come from other developing nations in the Pacific or elsewhere.

In 1973, ASOPA was integrated into the structure of the Australian Development Assistance Agency and became known as the International Training Institute.  The institute ran short and refresher course in education and middle management.  The former Principal, Jack Mattes, remained on the grounds to compile the laws of Papua New Guinea, a task which took ten years.

ITI operated until 1987.  At its height in the 1980s, the Institute was conducting 23 short courses a year of up to three months duration.

In 1987, the Institute was proclaimed as the Centre for Pacific Development and, until its closure in 1998, it continued to receive strong demand for its education and teaching.

For 51 years ASOPA was a highly successful institution which provided continuing academic excellence and quality teaching and research.  In 1993 a brief history of the Centre stated that there was ‘no other institution quite like it in the world’.


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Andrea Williams

It was a brilliantly sunny day in Sydney yesterday with a fabulous turn out from the PNG/Australia community - thanks to everyone for the wonderful support!

There were at least nine support groups with people travelling from Darwin, Canberra, Brisbane, Central Coast and Hunter - there were kiaps, teachers, ITI attendees - people attending from PNG, Chinese and Australian networks.

It's an exciting concept and wonderful seeing this community collaboration. It will be hard work to get this up but we're looking forward optimistically.

Ed Brumby

It'll always be ASOPA for me ....

Michael Dom

That's just dumbass trying to change the name of a place described as ‘no other institution quite like it in the world’.

Might as well change Australia to United States of Sahul and get it over with.

Paul Oates

Totally agree with Chips and Phil. Let's not let the PC police change the name of the place just for the sake of being seen to do something new.

Hopefully there will be enough of those who attended the old school turn up on Sunday to make a difference and support Andrea Williams and the PNGAA.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Hear! Hear! Chips.

Chips Mackellar

Why call it "The International Training Institute," or "The Centre for Pacific Development," or "The Centre for Pacific Nationals" or any other politically correct gobbledegook name?

As Keith said, "There was no other institute quite like it in the world," and it became so as The Australian School of Pacific Administration.

That is how it will always be remembered, and in my opinion, that is what its future name should always be. So that henceforth and forever more, it will always be known as ASOPA.

Doreen Bauloni

The US sent Peace Corp Volunteers to teach at Wesley High School in Milne Bay as well as other high schools in the 1990s.

I wonder if the Australian teachers sent to these schools were from these agencies (ASOPA/Centre for Pacific Development), any light on this?

There were some, but I remember Mr Ian Shepherd, Ms Lori Lesly and Ms Margaret Wilson.

Bill Brown

The man at the head of your list, Frederick Peter Christian Kaad OBE, known to all as "Freddy", deserves to be there more than anybody. Fred, now 95, attended the 3rd Long Course at ASOPA in 1952-53.

After serving in the Australian Army in Papua New Guinea during World War II, Fred joined the Administration as a Patrol Officer in 1946, rising to District Commissioner in 1960.

A plane crash whilst on duty near Madang in 1964 left him a paraplegic with extensive burns to his legs and continuing neuropathic pain. Nevertheless, he completed a Masters degree through New England University and became a lecturer and then course director at ASOPA's successor, the International Training Institute in Mosman, Sydney, until his retirement in 1985.

The wheelchair-bound Fred - always a popular figure - taught project management to students from Papua New Guinea and other developing countries in Asia, the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean.

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