NOOSA – It looks like the heritage of Australian School of Pacific Administration, ASOPA, will be bulldozed in the NSW government’s enthusiasm to monetise and commercialise the valuable public land at Middle Head in Sydney where it once stood.
More than any other institution in the years after World War II, ASOPA provided the personnel that accelerated Papua New Guinea’s road from a colony to an independent nation.
At the end of the war, the visionary Colonel Alf Conlon (once known as the most hated man in the Army) pressed the Australian government to establish a permanent centre where an expert team would train officers to undertake civil administration in PNG and other developing countries and provide advice on aspects of development.
The government agreed and in 1945, Colonel JK Murray became the first Chief Instructor of the School of Civil Affairs, located at the Duntroon Military College in Canberra.
The next year, Murray was assigned to PNG as Administrator of the colony, the School of Civil Affairs was redesignated as the Australian School of Pacific Administration and lawyer John Kerr became its first Principal.
In 1947, ASOPA was relocated to the group of unassuming Army huts on Middle Head, which today are under threat.
You can link here to my detailed account of the history of ASOPA.
Today, the Headland Preservation Group is fighting to conserve “the natural, indigenous and military heritage of Middle Head” to which we could well add ‘historical heritage’.
Jill L'Estrange, president of the group, believes that the government-appointed Harbour Trust is not acting in good faith in dealing with the community about the future of the land which includes what was once ASOPA.
She says recent information about the future of the Middle Head site is “deceptive”, “lacks critical information” and “does not cover the complexities of the proposed changes” provided in a master plan.
“We need to get the planning right for this valuable public asset,” she says.
“The period allowed by the Harbour Trust for consultation is indecently hasty; the community has only weeks to assess and respond to the complex report.”
On Tuesday 18 April the consultation ends and “the Harbour Trust will implement its final master plan without recourse”. This will end community involvement in the process.
L'Estrange said what has been presented to the community “is an architectural vision statement not a draft master plan” which does not “respect the natural, indigenous and military heritage of Middle Head.
“The Trust’s consultation process was flawed and rushed,” she said.
“The community deserves the opportunity to review and respond to a complete and detailed middle head master plan.”
She is urging people to attend a public meeting on Wednesday 12 April at 6 pm in the Mosman Senior Citizens Centre at Mosman Square.