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April 2007



Keith Jackson

KEN McKINNON mulls over the title of his talk for October’s reunion. The Brisbane organisers suggest ASOPA - educating New Guinea: an episode of historical importance which resonates today. Heavy! I favour ASOPA: reflections, recollections, reminiscences. Light! Ken says he has in mind a talk offering his perspective on “the worth of all our efforts, including some of the earlier history that led up to cadet training at ASOPA, the initiation and development of the E course, and other developmental history in which I was involved.” Whatever the title, it sounds just fine to me.

COLIN HUGGINS is organising a rehearsal of the ‘River Cat Crawl’ to be offered as a reunion activity. The rehearsal is planned for Saturday 26 May starting from the Sofitel Whistle Bar on the Concourse of Central Railway Station where people will gather from 10.15 am for a bulk load of kilojoules before the Crawl starts at 11 am. There will be some walking, a River Cat experience and then lunch at Southbank. “The Crawl is open to anyone who wants an early mini-reunion and who own sneakers,” says Colin. Contact him on 07 3357 1883 or at [email protected].

HENRY BODMAN seeks photos for a video feature to provide a backdrop to the Grand Reunion Dinner. According to Henry “they should be graphic (stark teaching conditions), amusing (animal acts), high points (Dave Argent educates PNG prime minister Paias Wingti), group shots, plenty of ASOPA stuff...” Email photos to [email protected] or post to 37 Norman Street, Fig Tree Pocket 4069. After ploughing through hundreds of fading snapshots, Henry observes: “I can confirm there was a time when we were very young, earnest, pimply people.”

“YOU KNOW how it goes,” writes Peter Blackburn (ASOPA 1967-68). “Terry O'Keeffe passed it on to Michael Davies who passed it on to me.” Peter says he enjoys reading The Mail. “I am now located in Hobart (unlike most who opted for warmer climes) and am always happy to welcome ASOPA graduates for a meal and a glass of the necessary.”

ROB CUTTELL [ASOPA 1969-70] says the late John Beagley was a contemporary of his at the School, not a 1967-68er as recorded in The Mail. Rob says he last saw John in 1971 when he visited him on Buka. “I was at Iarowari High for a year and Goroka High for a year before going to Christmas Island for three years,” says Rob. “I then returned to Australia and have lived and taught in Canberra ever since.”

ALBERT MISPEL has wondered for some time what happened to John Hunter, who was at Kukuipi and Goroka and probably other places. Albert used to emerge unannounced from the Gulf swamps and throw himself on John and Jan’s hospitality “which looking back”, he says, “seems rather thoughtless, like not even with a bottle of red.” John may have ended up in Tasmania or gone home to New Zealand. Albert would dearly like to say ‘hello’ again so, if you know John’s whereabouts, contact Albert at [email protected].

THERE WERE many familiar faces at Saturday’s ‘back to ASOPA’ gathering at the old School – which retains a certain dignified beauty despite being a little battered around the edges The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is doing a great job in trying to ensure that the site will appropriately commemorate the existence of ASOPA and ITI, but your help is needed to make this a reality. See the story ‘Can ASOPA live again?’ on the next page.

A WEBSITE dedicated to aerial pingpong asked a number of celebrities to pontificate on the big questions about this year’s AFL season. Among great names like WA Premier Alan carpenter and Sudhir the Astrologer is former Bendigo Advertiser sports editor and ASOPA old boy, Richard Jones. Richard hopes “that now the Cats have not won the NAB cup and mozzed the season proper, the said season proper becomes a bonanza for the hooped marvels”. I am sure that, appropriately translated, these words will be a beacon for the nation.


Keith Jackson

They may be greyed and a little stooped, but the spirit is still there. Nearly 60 former staff and students of ASOPA and ITI returned to the old campus this weekend to discuss how to demonstrate the significance of the site and its buildings. While the site’s conservation is already agreed, there remains a need to assemble a powerful reason for appropriately interpreting the existence of the School.

What this means in reality is whether the School will be marked by a simple plaque or by something more substantial, such as a research centre or a commemorative display.

“There’s a great feeling of belonging that exists among people who have been associated with this place,” said Bob Clarke, Sydney Harbour Trust architect responsible for the site.

But he added its significance needs to be demonstrated and the best people to do that are those who worked and studied there.

Ingrid Jackson is coordinating a project on behalf of the Trust in which people are being asked to provide information including:

  • Reasons why ASOPA/ITI should be considered a site of significance.
  • Comparable institutions in other countries.
  • Indications of photographs, documents or other memorabilia in your possession that may be of interest to a a research centre

You can help keep ASOPA’s memory alive by emailing Ingrid at [email protected] or faxing her at (02) 9904 0960.


Keith Jackson

More than 200 Australians who taught in Papua New Guinea leading up to Independence in 1975 will gather in Brisbane for a three day reunion in October. It will be the largest gathering of former PNG education officers, who will come from Japan, Great Britain, Scandinavia and throughout Australia.

The ex-teachers will be addressed by Emeritus Professor Ken McKinnon, Chairman of the Australian Press Council, who earned a reputation as a visionary Director of Education in Papua New Guinea from 1966-73.

From the late 1950s, as Australia began to accelerate the pace of national development, hundreds of Australians were recruited to teach in PNG,” said head of the organising committee, Henry Bodman .

“ASOPA ensured we were prepared for the rigours of serving in remote regions of PNG, teaching tribal people many only recently contacted by Australian patrols.”

Many former PNG teachers went on to contribute at a senior level to education in Australia and around the world.

“Thirty years on they are a closely knit group, bonded by the challenges they faced in often harsh physical conditions,” said Mr Bodman.

“‘First, build your classroom’ was often the instruction given before the teachers left Australia. And, in their remote schools, they often had to play the role of health advisor, technician and mediator of tribal disputes.

“One of their great contributions to education in PNG and Australia was the way they involved their schools in community development issues that went way beyond formal education.
“A number of State education departments later adopted the same process thanks to the experience developed by those teachers in PNG which filtered back to Australia.”


Henry Bodman

Dr Joseph Pagelio, PNG's Secretary for Education, has been invited to speak at the Brisbane reunion. Joseph has spent more than 30 years as a teacher and educational administrator. After secondary school he attended Goroka Teachers' College and, in 1975, became a high school teacher in Morobe Province. More recently he has gained a doctorate in education from Queensland University of Technology.

Since his appointment as Secretary early last year, he has led an education system facing a array of difficult geographical, social and economic challenges. “Progress may seem slow,” he says, “but you must remember we started in 1993 from a very low base.”


Jean Lowe

Back home after a month in Indo China. Two weeks in Vietnam visiting Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Viet Cong tunnels, China Beach (anti climax), Hoi An’s quaint old time seaport and home of same day tailoring and exquisite needlework pictures.

Then Hue, the capital of Kings, the Nguyens, who have conferred their name on seven pages of descendants in the Sydney telephone directory.

A cruise in a junk in Halon Bay through beautiful sculptural rock formations in a sea full of caves and grottos. Then a train journey in a four-berth sleeper to Lao Cai en route to the lonely mountain resort of Sapa.

Hanoi, including Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, is shut down for the Set New Year h liday. We wander around the large parklands surrounding his two homes, and are quietly pleased to be spared his embalmed body.

Laos is an eye opener. It was a hard line Maoist regime. Vientiane is a small pleasant capital with French colonial buildings and a former royal palace: the royal family being murdered by the communists much to the dismay of the people. Two younger sons escaped to France and a daughter runs a hotel in Luang Prabang, the former capital.

Out of the small town of Van Vien II think it means “basic accommodation” in Lao) we shot the rapids down the Nam Song River, rode a ‘water buffalo’ (a covered cart pulled by a tiny ancient tractor).

Of the 18-strong party, four of us decided to scale Karst Mountain. The toughest thing I’ve done and I wondered if I’d completely lost my senses. After a long climb we reached a cave with an incredible golden Buddha (the millionth one I’m sure. The scramble down was terrifying.

Phnom Penh in Cambodia is a beautifully laid out capital, wide boulevardes, gardens, Royal Palace, museum… But brooding over it all are Pol Pot’s killing fields. I just broke up – and sat in a little park away from it all while the others did a guided tour. Then a tour of the torture chambers and gaol, which others and I could not face.

I remember too well the accounts of Pol Pot’s atrocities. Three million Cambodians murdered: most of the intellectuals and professionals (particularly school teachers and doctors), foreigners not spared and all older people.

Next day to the Museum and Royal Palace and a lovely walk along the Mekong, lined with market stalls selling roast water beetles, snails, cockroaches, crickets, bugs of all kinds and large, black tarantula spiders. Our guide told us people were reduced to eating anything that moved and promptly ate a spider.

I’ve been waiting 35 years to visit Angkor Wat, the thousand year old Hindu temple shrine and tomb, and now I was there. It was more than I expected. We spent three days visiting many of the different ruins, some overtaken by jungle, and climbing the steep stairways to the temple mounts.
The last visit is to the great lake, Loni Sap with its floating villages and fish and crocodile farms. The Loni crocs are a smaller version of our salt-water beasts.

Then home, catching something on the plane trip between Siem Reap and Saigon and under the weather since, trying to cope with mail and the business of just surviving.