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08 December 2014


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Thanks to Geoffrey Gray and Peter Sandery for adding to my personal data base.

I mention for those interested in this chain of information that PNGAA is pursuing the idea of a commemorative dedication of some kind at the Ten Terminal site occupied by ASOPA from about 1948-1952.

The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust is reviewing the Management Plan for the precinct following the withdrawal last year from the proposed development there of an aged care facility.

It is still early days but thus far the SHFT has shown itself to be amenable to at least having some signage indicative of the history of the use of the site.

PNGAA will emphasis that for some 51 years ASOPA and its successors played a vital role in the professional development of so many field administration staff, teachers and PNG governmental staff.

I will be doing what I can to aid PNGAA in putting together a collection of available material; Keith Jackson's work is so valuable in that respect because it is the funnel for so much but I hope that, over time, we can do justice to it and perhaps augment it.

Another source on the early days of ASOPA and its precursor The School of Civil Affairs,is a book entitled "The Devil and James McAuley", the author's name I have forgotten as I read it some time ago.

It is a while since Geoffrey Gray's comment drawing attention to "Scholars at War". There have been a couple of developments over 2015.

First, while Tony Abbott was still PM the decision to use the Ten Terminal site as an aged care facility was rescinded and now seems a dead letter.

The Board of the responsible authority the Sydney Harbour Federation trust has been strengthened by the appointment of a new Chair, Kevin McCann AM who has past association with the Trust and its heritage preservation values.

The PNGAA has been sufficiently encouraged by these changes and by a Ministerial response while Abbott was still PM to press on with an attempt to get up a proposal for better use of the site first advanced by Harry West some years ago.

That is still a work in progress, and if we get anywhere you will probably be hearing from us with calls for backing and ideas.

One purpose of responding to Geoffrey Gray's comment is that I have belatedly read Scholars at War and want to thank him for such a useful reference; the essays cover a lot of territory and the bibliography is first rate.

It is a very worthwhile companion source to Backroom Boys and encourages me to read a lot more about the topics covered.

I thought Legge's piece, particularly comments about Conlon, DORCA, the staffing of and role of ASOPA, JK Murray and Paul Hasluck were particularly valuable and seem balanced.

Paul - I would suggest that you read 'Scholars at War' (ANU Press, available free on line) and check through the bibliography.

ASOPA comes out of Conlon et al when they set up the School of Civil Affairs at Duntroon in December 1944. The move to Mosman was in 1946-47.

(Sligo's work is excellent although he his weakest on the anthropologists and the School.)

A history of ASOPA remains to be written.

I have since writing the piece above read Sligo's "The Backroom Boys". A very good study of Conlon in particular but peripherally of the ANGAU and later ASOPA training, students and their trainers. The formulation of post war policy for the future PNG through various thinkers is expounded in detail to an extent I had not seen written about before. Above all I found it interesting for the glimpses it gives of the background during
WWII of many Australians who later played major roles in different parts of PNG administrative history.
Sligo is an apparently reliable authority on the antecedents and locations of ASOPA and its precursors; his account merely reinforces the enormity of the loss involved in not finding a
way to use the remaining brick heritage buildings at Ten Terminal Middle Cove to focus the minds of those
who pass by upon the contribution to Australian/PNG cultural and political development made by ASOPA and those who taught or were taught there.

Atop heritage’s pyramid, remnant is of building
adaptive reuse plundering seems wantonly usurping
amid yearning yesterday’s troop sites, park terrain and teaching.

ASOPA’s reuse of 10’s buildings, worthy remembering
apart it’s era’s austere constraints, vocations uplifting
among littoral scrub and sea views, tasked terrain of learning.

Ascribing value from old brick sheds’ less the point than gifting
abroad thus humanity’s needs meet with volunteering
an exemplary service ideal, intent nation building.

From Charles Cazabon Cadet Education Officer at ASOPA 1965-1967

With not a modicum of hyperbole I believe the significance of ASOPA has been underestimated in the extreme.

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