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.