BY KEITH JACKSON
Gail Burke (nee Pukallus), highly regarded lecturer in mathematics at Port Moresby Teachers College and editor of Meeting the Challenge, died of a heart attack on New Year’s Day. Her funeral will be held at Toowoomba on Monday.
Gail was born in Laidley, Queensland, where her father had found work during the Depression. The family moved to Toowoomba, where she grew up. She completed her secondary schooling in Brisbane and went on to train as a teacher at Kelvin Grove Teachers College.
Gail taught in Queensland primary schools for three years and in London and Hamburg during a period overseas. Back in Australia in 1960 she decided to teach in Papua New Guinea.
After working in a number of primary schools in Port Moresby she moved to Port Moresby Teachers College, lecturing in mathematics and drama for a number of years. During this period she also gained an MA (Education). Her main hobby in Port Moresby was amateur theatre.
Gail and husband Clarrie returned to Australia at the end of 1975, where she joined Education Queensland working in policy and financial areas until her retirement in 1995. She maintained her interest in theatre.
Gail suffered a debilitating stroke in 1999, but continued with her enduring interest in Family History, which had previously led her into research and writing a number of books on the history of her family.
She also edited Meeting the Challenge – an important book on Australian teachers working in PNG before Independence.
“Gail’s collection has been put together … without personal agendas to interfere with the simple record of the lives of those teaching in PNG from 1955 to 1975,” Henry Bodman later wrote. “It is an enjoyable record of real life at the coal face of colonial administration.
“The result is a collection of very human experiences which contrast beautifully with each other in suggesting the aura of the times and the commitment of the story tellers to the job of educating a people to embrace the task of self government.”
A celebration of Gail's life will be held at the T S Burstow Chapel, 1020 Ruthven Street (south), Toowoomba, commencing at 12.30 pm on Monday 10 January.
Friends can contact Dr Clarrie Burke at 70/119 Sugarwood Street, Bellbowrie Qld 4070.