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1949 – the year ASOPA was up for grabs

Jkmurray1954 The summaries of The Blatchford Collection documents from 1949 that are now on this website afford fascinating insights into the thinking of the PNG Administrator, JK Murray [left, in 1954], at a time of great turbulence for ASOPA and indeed for Australia. In August there was a conference to decide on ASOPA’s continuation. In September Alf Conlon left the principalship of the School under duress. And in December Bob Menzies’ Liberal party defeated the Chifley Federal Labor Government. Here are some extracts from Murray’s correspondence of that year.

26 March - Murray writes to James McAuley and tells him it would be undesirable to have ASOPA move to the Territory. Murray muses “whether we over-emphasise the bad living conditions, the drinking habits, the discontent and low morality of Moresby.”

19 August – A relieved Murray tells RD ‘Panzee’ Wright that a conference about the future of ASOPA unanimously recommended to the Minister that it be continued. Murray later confides in FB Phillips: “[This] takes a load off my mind. I thought cadets might have to go back to Sydney University taking courses not designed for them”.

10 October - Murray writes to ASOPA librarian to Ida Leeson: “I do not know quite when he [Conlon] left the school, or the circumstances under which he did it [but] I am quite sure that Alf did a good job there, even though there was some friction at the finish. Someone said to me, not so long back, that he has more streaks of genius in him than any other person he knew, but that occasionally the machine could not keep up with the fast pace”.Eddie_ward

22 October - Murray tells External Territories Minister EJ (Eddie) Ward [right] that: “It is now essential to finalise details with regard to the School so that the staff know precisely what their engagements are.” Murray says James McAuley has been there for six years on a year-to-year basis and that ASOPA could lose him and Camilla Wedgwood. The home for the School is also presenting a lot of difficulty and Murray asks for a Cabinet decision on the matter.

4 November - Murray says to Ward: “I do hope that you will, before the hurly burly of the election and despite your heavy duties, be able to give decisions concerning the ASOPA so that it will have the stability that it has not yet had, and which it needs so much … Apparently the continuance of the School on its present site has been arranged … Middle Head has not much to be said for it.”

20 December - Murray writes to Lucy Mair: “We have just had a change in Government, really a political landslide … So much to do [in PNG] that our achievements still look rather small.”

Do you have old documents about ASOPA or education in PNG before or around Independence? Tell us about them. And see our story here.

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