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ASOPA: A history which deserves to be told


SYDNEY - In its day the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) was an important institution, as was the International Training Institute (ITI) which succeeded it.

ASOPA was established after World War II as a place where ‘the right type of people’ could be trained for post-war work in the colonial administration of Papua and New Guinea, later adding teacher training to its functions.

As part of my post-graduate research writing a history of ASOPA, I am compiling the histories of people who were involved in any capacity, whether as staff or trainees.

I’m finding that, although there is a great deal of material on ASOPA, it is scattered amongst different private and public archival collections.

I am looking for anyone who may be interested in sharing their story of their time at ASOPA or ITI and how this period shaped their experience in PNG and beyond.

I discovered PNG Attitude a year ago as a Sydney University honours student investigating Pacific history.

Finding the Blatchford Collection on the blog led to me contacting Loch Blatchford, who was able to provide access incredibly interesting material which ultimately lead to my honours thesis on the intersection of anthropology and education in PNG pre-1960.

The more research I did on PNG education the more I discovered about ASOPA.

It was an institution I had not heard of before and, over the course of last year, I became fascinated with the history of the institution and the people who attended it.

I found that very scant history has been written on ASOPA beyond IC Campbell and Geoffrey Gray’s work, which focussed on the founding years in the1940s.

I think this is a history that deserves to be told and I am excited to see if there is any potential to do so.

I’m particularly interested in your time at ASOPA and PNG and how these experiences shaped your consequent career.

My invitation includes all the men and women who attended ASOPA - not only those who trained as teachers but all courses.

Thankfully I did well In my honours year and I am now applying to take on PhD studies.

As part of my post-graduate research in writing a history of ASOPA, I am compiling the histories of those who were involved in any capacity.

I am reaching out to see if you would be interested in sharing your story as part of this project.

I do hope there are people who wish to speak to me and look forward to hearing from you if this is something you would be interested in.

If you are interested in being interviewed or have photographs or private papers they could share, like to share, please contact me here.

And feel free to pass on my contact details to anyone you think may be interested and send me an email if you have an questions.

I look forward to revealing the different stories which emerge.


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Bill Sanders

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust today (14 March 2023) released a plan for the redevelopment of the area around ASOPA:


While the future of ASOPA as buildings is assured, there is little mention of what happened there - just a vague reference for training:

"This extends to training that took place at Middle Head / Gubbuh Gubbuh at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) for work across the Pacific, reflecting Australia’s close engagement with the region in the post-war era."

A memorial to the 29 Kiaps who trained at ASOPA but who did not come home was suggested to the Harbour Trust in 2022 but does not appear in the plan.

For anyone wanted to comment on the redevelopment you have until 18 April 2023.

Richard Jones

No, I didn't encounter Rowley at UPNG. But there were a couple of other memorable characters. I recall especially Dr Sione Latukefu and Dr Bill Standish. Both have now passed. on.

Sione kindled in me a love of Pacific history as his lectures and tutorials centred in on pre and post-colonial goings-on in the Solomons, New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) with its peculiar joint French-British administration and Samoa.

He was also well versed in the pre-World War I German administration in Rabaul and Kavieng.

Bill was a memorable character, clad in what he hoped passed for a kiap uniform. Dressed in rumpled khaki shirt and shorts - the shirt with epaulettes sometimes unbuttoned - Bill held forth on politics, one of my majors.

The lectures where he wore the kiap clothing were clearly based on PNG ructions, pre-Independence. He was greeted with howls of laughter from my PNG undergraduate comrades as he entered the lecture room stage left!

Chips Mackellar

I also responded to Alexandra's invitation, commenting on my year at ASOPA in 1957. But my comments could not have been very interesting as they did not rate a reply.

Thanks for mentioning that Chips, and for seeking to participate in the project. I would hope that Alex would acknowledge people getting in touch with her even if there is no immediate need to call upon their services.

And I’d bet a brewery to a brick your comments were the deadset opposite to banal - KJ

Richard Jones

I've replied to Alexandra as requested about those ASOPA years back in the early sixties.

Made mention of my fascination with the lectures delivered by the late noted anthropologist Dr Ruth Fink-Latukefu, even though some of our year mates weren't terribly interested in the academic side of things.

I also mentioned I was hard pressed to get any assignments set by art and craft specialist 'Handy Andy' completed and handed in. You'll recall his actual name KJ.

By November 2023 it'll be 60 years since we left Middle Head.

ASOPA boss Charles Rowley, the principal, was another lecturer whose talks were mesmerising.

But I don't recall attending any of his lectures at UPNG when he was appointed professor of politics even though I was an undergraduate there in the early seventies.

Handy Andy's given name was Norman Foster. Rowley was an eminent Australian academic whose life's work focused on Indigenous Australians. As Richard wrote, we encountered him again after he was appointed foundation professor of politics at UPNG. He led my star-studded politics honours class in 1975 whose eight members included two future prime ministers, two premiers and a couple of MPs. I think I was the only one who went on to be defeated at the polls. But that wasn't the fault of Rowley, a learned, insightful and compassionate man - KJ

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