The fifties, the 1950s, were the black-and-white years; for photography - and for race relations.
Port Moresby was a white town: the hotels were white, the clubs were white, and the big stores – Burns Philp and Steamships – were white.
Even the town end of Ela Beach was reserved to whitey. The hahine and kekeni, hawking bananas and other goodies, swung their grass skirts and their bare boobs through the town during the day, and took them home before dusk - and the curfew.
And Moresby was a male town; married men compelled to leave their wives in Australia until houses were built. Single white women were rare; there were only three in the whole of our headquarters, and only a few more in Public Health.
After work they vanished, disappearing into their hostels, referred to, perhaps inappropriately, as “The Stables” and “The Virgins’ Retreat”.
Native females were off-limits. Assistant Director, Alan Roberts, spelt it out at our induction: liaisons with “native females” were forbidden, and any breach of that rule would result in a severe reprimand, or instant dismissal.
Was that policy the underlying reason for the resignations of Assistant Director John Black, District Officers Jim Taylor and Bill Adamson, and some lesser lights? (1)
The 1950s were also the simple years. The Department had an impressive name: “District Services and Native Affairs”, but it had a simple system. District Officers ran districts - there were 14 or 15, depending on the year (2) - and Assistant District Officers ran Sub-Districts.
The District Officers roles did not change when they were renamed District Commissioners in 1951, and ADOs did what they always had done. They were the magistrates, the coroners, the senior police officers (3) and the gaolers.
They put people in gaol, and looked after them while they were in there. They released them when their terms expired, and even repatriated them.
They issued licences and they held court, at the Sub-district Office, where you also did the banking, received and posted mail, sent telegrams, had radio conversations, and paid customs duty.
Patrol Officers patrolled, and they explored - some of them. They ran Patrol Posts - some of them - but they were not the all-powerful District Officers, or the almost as powerful ADOs.
The District Officers, Michael Healy, Barter Faithhorn and James O’Malley were the first major shade, the pre-war “Papuans”, and in Papua, District Officers, Assistant District Officers and lesser field staff, even CPOs, were addressed as “taubada”.The term “kiap” was not known or recognized.
The ADOs, except for one, were from another shade: the post-war intake of ex-serviceman toughened by war and overseas service. Some, like Ian Holmes, had gained their experience with ANGAU, and were Territory-wise.
Others, also ex-servicemen, like Lin Foster, had little or no Territory experience, but were learning quickly. (There were many others that I had yet to meet; like Royce Webb, Mentioned in Dispatches in the Middle East in 1942, Des Martin ex Sergeant in the 6th Australian Infantry Division during the 1944-45 Aitape-Wewak campaign, and the fighter pilots: Bob Bunting, Paul Sebire and Gordon Steege.)
The exception was acting ADO John Gibson. He was not a worldly-wise ex-serviceman, but was young, fresh-faced, and almost callow. There would be many more POs and CPOs like him.
Ex Coastwatcher, ADO Malcolm Wright DSC took over from Gibson at Kairuku. A pre-war New Guinea officer, he railed against the parsimony, the lack of training, and the frustrations of the Papuan system.
Bill Adamson added another view. A pre-war ARM, District Officer in charge of Central District when he resigned in 1948; he disliked the term kiap, he disliked the “Department of District Services and Native Affairs” name that had been borrowed from pre-war New Guinea, and he was incensed that a/Director E (Ted) Taylor, a pre-war New Guinea kiap, had changed the Resident Magistrate designation to District Officer.
In 1952, native females were again on the Director’s mind. His memorandum of 15 August, addressed to “all members of District Services and Native Affairs field staff” stated:
Reports reaching me recently, indicate that is timely to
make it quite clear that it is contrary to administration policy for officers
to have sexual relations with native women, and that disciplinary action, with
a view to dismissal from the service, will be taken against any officer so
offending. ... I regret that the actions of a few have made the issue of this
general warning necessary. … An officer who is guilty of either of these
actions is unfit to remain in the Service.
And then came Telefomin; Patrol Officer Gerry Szarka, Cadet Patrol Geoffrey Harris and Police Constables Buritori and Purari brutally murdered on 6 November 1953, and the allegations - that Szarka’s predecessor’s liaison with a Telefomin female was a cause. (4)
The tenacious Public Solicitor, Peter Lalor, defending the 33 accused, questioned each of them specifically in relation to the allegation, and concluded that Patrol Officer “Nolen’s association with the woman did not cause the uprising nor did it contribute to the attacks…”(5)
Crown Prosecutor, Paul Quinlivan, even more incisive than Lalor, and “… sent, in April 1954, to investigate the Telefomin killings and the reasons for the killings ...” came to a similar view.
Nolen had been recalled to Telefomin, and “… utilized in rounding up the murderers [and] irrespective of his past conduct [he] has done an extremely fine job … the Officers in Charge speak highly of his services”.
Defending the charge of “disobeying an official instruction in that he had intimate relations with a female native, Binatang”, Laurie Nolen said that there had been neither force or persuasion, that Binatang had no marital affiliations, and neither she nor any other natives had expressed concerned about his relationship.
He claimed that there were mitigating circumstances: the lack of amenity and normal social intercourse, at Telefomin, where he had been stationed for 22 months.
Nolen was found to be guilty of the charge; he was officially reprimanded, and his personal file was noted.
The Administrator was less than phlegmatic, writing to the Minister:
I am deeply concerned to think that the offence should
have been treated as a minor one … It should have been dealt with … as a
serious offence no matter what extenuating circumstances may have existed … I
cannot accept “lack of amenity and company” on an isolated station as a factor
of mitigation. … I [have] issued instructions … that in all cases of this
nature and under any circumstances the offence will be treated as a serious
Eventually permitted to resign, Nolen moved to live in the Highlands. The Telefomin femme fatale, Binatang, went with him.
District Commissioner Alan Timperley had also moved on, replaced by Sydney Elliott-Smith in January 1954.
By 1955, the once staff-deprived Sepik headquarters was bulging, with a DC, two DOs (the unrelated Whites: J. P. (Preston) and J. R. (Dick), and ADO Dave Marsh all working in close proximity, and with some discord.
Then came the big reshuffle – the Department of District Services and Native Affairs becoming the Department of Native Affairs, and District Officers, now only responsible for Native Affairs, reporting to the Director – not to the District Commissioner.
With the District Commissioners moved into the Department of the Administrator, their relationship with Native Affairs was severed.
That harsh result really only occurred in six districts: the Sepik (Wewak) was one; the others were the Central (Port Moresby), Eastern Highlands (Goroka), Morobe (Lae), Madang (Madang), and New Britain (Rabaul).
In the other nine districts the DO filled the role of acting District Commissioner, as well as District Officer, but as Sinclair points out, in the six Districts there were absurd situations: the DC’s total staff consisted of one steno/secretary; he had nobody else to assist him.
He had lost his day-to-day police authority. The District Agricultural Officers, District Educations and District Medical Officers tended to ignore the DC’s co-ordinating role, and dealt directly with their own departmental headquarters. (7)
Gazette No 10 of 23 February 1956 saw all field positions in the Department of Native Affairs abolished, and a raft of new positions created: 15 District Officers, 67 ADOs and 152 Patrol Officers.
In the Sepik, the DC was adding hours to his pilots licence; two trips in the one day to Vanimo delivering stores to the PIR in the Catholic Mission Cessna, 570 km return, a four-hour trip. He was also said to be panting a little, and, in 1957 fell heavily - for a lady many years his junior. She left for Australia; he fell on his sword, and followed.
Bob Cole described some subsequent events:
“I was posted as District Commissioner, Sepik, in September 1957 when Freddie
Kaad was D.O. acting DC, and Tom [Ellis] was the A.D.O. Wewak Sub-district.
Freddie was transferred … and I arranged for Tom to take over as District Officer. … We
combined well probably because I was definitely the boss … [When] we went on leave,
between November ’58 and March ’59, I arranged for Tom to relieve me as acting
Seventeen officers were promoted to District Officer in January 1959; Ellis was not amongst them, but was promoted to ADO2 from PO2 - he had leapfrogged the ADO1 rank. Early in 1960, with a successful appeal against another officer’s provisional promotion, he became District Commissioner – leapfrogging the District Officer rank.
1962 was a year of minor change – the Department gained its first Papuan Cadet, Phillip Bou (9), and the book of General Field Administration was published. The latter, a compendium of Departmental Standing Instructions laid down rules as to where, and when, junior officers could patrol.
It also reinforced the new system of reporting, introduced in 1958; all field officers now were required to maintain a Field Officers Journal, a printed diary; but District Officers, Assistant District Officers and PO2s now only had to fill in a printed form, the Memorandum of Patrol, instead of typing a Patrol Report. Assistant Patrol Officers, Cadets, and Patrol Officers Grade 1 were still required to submit Patrol Reports. (That change was to prove confusing to some latter-day historians and researchers.) (10)
August 1963 saw the new intake of Cadets advised that they would be Contract Officers. They were the first, but by 1973 almost 300 contract kiaps - ADOs and POs - had served with distinction, in every District, and in all the danger spots.
1964 was a year of destruction and disruption. The Native Regulations Ordinance (Papua) and the Native Administration Regulations Ordinance (New Guinea) were repealed.
The Courts for Native Affairs and the Courts for Native Matters, where people had solved their personal and community problems, went out of existence. Patrol Officers lost their magisterial roles, – their police powers were neutered. The fabric of rural law and order had been compromised.
At Maprik, the sub-district with densest population in lowland, mainland New Guinea, people were renowned for their tambaran culture, and for their battles; over land, and to a lesser extent, women and pigs.
Under the new regime, those law and order problems were now the responsibility of a young Tolai Sub-Inspector, fresh out of College. The people crowded in front of the new police station, and waited, and waited, and waited. The old-guard police looked on, bemused.
The Derham Report (11) recommendations resulted in a shadow-line for kiaps; those that came before January 1964, and the later arrivals – those who arrived after that date. They had different lives, different experiences and different challenges.
In the September reshuffle, the eighteen District Commissioner positions moved back from the Department of the Administrator to the Department of District Administration.
District Commissioners were again in control of Districts and of Native Affairs, and, to make that clear, District Officers were reclassified as Deputy District Commissioners and their responsibilities defined: to:
Assist the District Commissioner in the supervision, control and direction of the Department’s work in the District, Executive Officer to the District Development Committee. Carry out district inspections and other duties as directed.
The reclassification of the lower ranks seemed less logical. Assistant District Officers became District Officers, and lowly Patrol Officers Grade 2 became Assistant District Officers.
The once princely rank of District Officer, first devalued after DOs became DCs, was further devalued, no longer reflecting any District authority. The new ADOs had only Patrol Officers’ duties and authority.
There was more tidying up in October, all officers in senior headquarters positions, all DDCs and all DOs were appointed District Officers under the Ordinance Interpretation Ordinance.
Among things, that established their police status, and,
perhaps to fill any gap, Assistant District Officers, Patrol Officers, and
Assistant Patrol Officers were appointed to be commissioned officers of the
Special Constabulary Branch of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary.
With all those new arrangements in place, the two Welfare Officers, Dave case and Terry Daw, appointed to be District Officers in December 1964 must surely have picked up all the powers given to District Officers by the earlier gazettal.
My page is full. Someone else can pick up the story; all the other byways.
The Crises: (Hahalis, Lavongai, Navuneram, etc.)
The Fall Guys (Some had black marks on their personal
files, others had small black blotches, and some had nothing at all – but they
had offended someone. Some of the adminishments had been earned by zeal,
perhaps excessive, in carrying out the task, but they were all invisible
hurdles to promotion)
The Headhunted: A number to that nameless Commonwealth
department. Others to senior positions in the Territory; Bob Cole -
Commissioner of Police, Don Grove - Secretary for Lands, Surveys & Mines.
The House of Assembly: (Tom Ellis, Mick Foley, Ron
Galloway, Geoff Littler, J. K. McCarthy, Horrie Niall, Bill Seale and Tony
The Ne’er-do-wells. (The guys who left the service via the
slammer, one or two because excessive zeal, and a couple of others, after
conviction, by deportation)
The One Termers (Cadets who resigned after 21 months)
The Stayers (The kiaps who stayed, seemingly for ever;
well after Independence.)
The list goes on, but not for me.
(1) Assistant Director John Black resigned in 1948. During
the course of the 1938-39 Hagen-Sepik patrol, he had a brief liaison with a
Telefomin female, Babinip. The people were still speaking about him and that
liaison, with fondness, when I was at Telefomin in 1959 - 1960. (See also The
Sky Travellers, Bill Gammage, Melbourne University Press, 1998.)
The leader of the Hagen-Sepik patrol, Jim Taylor, was the
District Officer of the Central Highlands when he resigned in 1948. He and his
wife, Yerima, settled at Goroka and became prominent coffee growers. A
daughter, Meg, was made Dame Commander of the British
Empire in 2002.
Bill Adamson, District Officer, Port Moresby, also resigned in 1948,
and rejoined his wife at Kairuku.
(2.) The Papuan equivalents, called Divisions, were
renamed Districts in September 1951.
(3.) Some of those police powers might be suspect.
Thirty-four kiaps were appointed as Officers of the Royal Papuan Constabulary
on 6 April 1955. (Gov Gazette 19 of 14 April 1955) Sixteen were senior
officers; Ron Galloway had served at least two terms as ADO in charge of sub-districts, Fred Kaad
served in the Northern District after the Lamington eruption. Both had
controlled police, perhaps without the authority?
Circular Instruction 75 of 48/49 of 10 January 1949
provides further detail: “Patrol Officers in the Territory of New Guinea
by virtue of their office and whilst holding that office are Assistant
Sub-Inspectors of the Auxiliary European Constabulary. In Papua, it is
necessary for the Administrator to appoint Officers of the Royal Papuan
Constabulary. The Police Force Ordinance of the Territory
of New Guinea and the Royal Papuan
Constabulary Ordinance of the Territory of Papua refer.”
(4.) “The previous Patrol Officer at Telefomin had been
living with Native Women and this caused an uprising by the natives.” (Letter
by W J Hall, Szarka parents’ solicitor, 31 May 1954.) NAA A452 1956/1165.
(5.) Report to CLO Port Moresby “Investigation …for the
purpose of the defence of the Accused Natives in the Telefomin Trials.” W A
Lalor, 26 August 1964. NAA A452 1956/1165.
(6.) Letter L.1190 of 31st August 1954. NAA A452 1956/1165
(7.) Kiap, James Sinclair. Pacific Publications, Sydney,
(8.) R. R. Cole, personal communication.
(9.)Phillip Bou was promoted from CPO to PO
in July 1964. After a brief stint at ASOPA, he was posted to the Maprik, where
changed his name to Bouraga – confusing Treasury and his Bank.
(10.)The August 1970 revision of the General Field
Administration manual, issued at the direction of Tom Ellis, required all
patrolling officers to submit formal patrol reports, no matter what their rank.
(11.) David Derham, Professor of Jurisprudence at Melbourne University, was commissioned by Minister
Hasluck. He breezed through the Territory in 37 days, visited seven District
Headquarters, nine Sub-District Headquarters, and seven other outstations, and
had discussions with 115 individuals. Breathtaking? He advised that his
recommendations should be introduced slowly – Minister Hasluck ignored that
part of the advice.