After being rigorously interviewed by WC Groves, our intake of Cadet Education Officers arrived at ASOPA in January 1958 to find out what this ‘Career with a Challenge’ was all about. We were the first group to complete the education course entirely at ASOPA and were a mixed bunch: fresh-faced school-leavers; experienced workers; university students; even a Nauruan prince. Principal Charles Rowley made us welcome, saying we had been chosen for a difficult but special task, one that Minister Paul Hasluck said he’d approve of for his own children. We were given the impression our careers in PNG would last for the rest of our working lives.
After such an impressive introduction we were happy to find that preparations for our arrival were incomplete and, for several weeks, there were no lectures to attend before midday. This arrangement suited most of us because those who didn't sleep in had plenty of time each morning to stroll to Obelisk Bay or Balmoral Beach, kick a football on the oval, gossip in our rooms or play table tennis in the common room.
There was a general feeling that CEOs were a privileged lot; a sentiment that led to some of our group buying blazers, a logo and bird of paradise, designed by David Lewis, sewn onto the pocket. We thought they looked great but the Patrol Officers never approved and said they would never be seen dead in them! It took a while before we were fully accepted by the POs, but their respect improved after our team defeated them in one of our two rugby league challenge matches.
The lecturers were world class and we all had our favourites. Dick Pearse was our mentor and friend; James McAuley showered us with insights; and we watched Peter Lawrence practising yoga in rubber-stilt shoes while enlightening us about Rai Coast cargo cults. Charles Rowley was more distant but we now know he used his time well, arm-wrestling with the Department of Territories mandarins about the status of ASOPA and producing such classics as The New Guinea Villager and Australians in German New Guinea.
Photo: “One Friday night there was a party on Obelisk Beach below ASOPA. I couldn't get over how the lecturer's treated us like adults instead of big kids”: Diane Bohlen [Class of 1962-63] shown here with Dick Pearse, widely admired as a good lecturer and a good bloke.