In 1968, after a 30-year career in Papua New Guinea, Police Commissioner Bob Cole, who has just died on the Gold Coast, was ready to retire and return to Australia. As he searched for experienced police commanders who could replace him, he sought advice from Ray Whitrod. In an oral history for Film Australia, Whitrod tells the story....
Ray Whitrod: I had been going to these commissioners' conferences for a number of years and I'd grown very pally with the Commissioner of Police from Papua New Guinea, a chap called Bob Cole. He wasn't a proper policeman. He'd been what we call a kiap, a government patrol officer in New Guinea, but he was the Commissioner up there, and he used to come down to our conferences and in a sense he was a bit on the outer like I was, in that we weren't regular, standard State police forces. So we got very friendly.
And one day he rang me up from Port Moresby and said, 'Ray, my wife says I'm getting too old to stay in the territory. I'm fifty-five. It's the usual retiring age for kiaps. My superannuation is ready. She wants to go south to be with her grandchildren. I need to give up'. But he said, 'The force is coming along slowly and I don't want to leave without making sure it's in good hands. Can you find me somebody who'll replace me?'
And I said, 'Sure, Bob, it's an interesting, challenging job in Papua New Guinea . I know a number of young assistant commissioners, who would jump at the chance to do some years in New Guinea'. So I rang around to all my assistants, people I'd met at various conferences and so forth. None wanted the job, partly because independence was coming in New Guinea, partly because their wives refused to move, partly I think because in the eastern states they had a larger income than they should have had and they didn't want to go.
So I rang up Bob and Bob was crestfallen about this and said, 'Look mate, I've gone ahead and I've made accommodation arrangements down on the Gold Coast. I really can't get out of leaving'. So I said, 'Bob, I've been here fourteen years now. I've got a good assistant. I'll come up and take your place'. Then I went and told Mavis, 'We're going to New Guinea '. [laughs] Of course she was a bit staggered by this. We went up to Port Moresby , at an age when Bob Cole was leaving to come south.
Interviewer: Could you sum up for me what the New Guinea experience was like?
Whitrod: Well, it's a short story because it was stupid of me to go in the first place.
Source: Australian Biography, Film Australia, Ray Whitrod (1915-2003)