HENRY MacDonald Bodman, who died in Brisbane yesterday afternoon aged 77, began his career as a school teacher in Papua New Guinea and, upon returning to Australia after independence, emerged as a successful entrepreneur.
He was one of the ‘old men’ (at 23) and leaders of the 1962 intake at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) and, after arriving in PNG in late 1963, spent the next year teaching at Tavui Primary T School, near the submarine base in Rabaul.
This began a distinguished career in PNG education including three years as headmaster at Kabagap near Kokopo and five years in the high pressure position of headmaster of Hohola Demonstration School in Port Moresby.
During this period Henry was also a member of the curriculum development committee, chairman of the Port Moresby Primary Schools Sports Association and a charter member of the national executive of the PNG Teachers Association.
From 1973-75 he was assistant director (localisation) in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
“I wouldn’t have missed any of these experiences,” he was to recall later, “but Kabagap was a nose in front.”
He returned to PNG many times, particularly during his period as Rotary district governor of a region encompassing south-east Queensland, PNG and the Solomons.
Upon leaving PNG in 1975, Henry established a successful refrigerated warehousing and transport business in Queensland before, in the late 1980s, moving into wholesaling and retailing fruit and vegetables.
They were tough industries to be in but Henry was a tough character and he was also to apply his strength and organisational abilities to his activities in Rotary, an organisation to which he gave much and with great effect.
One of the highlights of his PNG years was his voluntary role as inaugural president of the PNG Australian National Football Council based in Rabaul. He also became president of the Port Moresby Australian Rules Club and had a playing career which saw him represent PNG in Cairns, Mt Isa, Alice Springs, the Gold Coast and Darwin.
Upon completing a degree course at the University of Papua New Guinea, he claimed he had embarked on it “to stop teachers’ college lecturers suggesting anyone without one couldn't speak the real language of education”. That was vintage Bodman.
As his long time professional and Rotary colleague Murray Bladwell wrote to me overnight: "Henry will be remembered by his mates for his well known and constant challenge to the world... I'm Henry Bodman and I don't care who knows it!"
Henry said of his period at ASOPA in 1962-63: “As the best paid cadets in Australia, domiciled in the Mosman-Middle Head areas of Sydney in the early sixties, full of what makes young bulls young bulls, and an intriguing mix of personalities with the eventual challenge of PNG teaching - can anyone find a time in recorded history where Heaven came as close to Earth - and was available to peasants such as us?”
Henry resolutely battled multiple myeloma for seven years; as Murray Bladwell said, "participating in life, as he always did, to the fullest, no holds barred."
He is survived by Janelle (who he married while at ASOPA) and children Simone, Kent, Marcelle and Drew.
Funeral details are yet to be announced.