The buga bolum thanksgiving ritual of the Mitnade people
Stuart Inder: journalist who recorded the Pacific's transition

Doyen of Pacific journalism, Stuart Inder MBE, dies at 88


Stuart Inder (7 November 1926 – 30 January 2015)

STUART Inder MBE, who has died in Sydney, was the friend and confidante of leaders in emerging Pacific nations for 60 years, including time as an ABC reporter in Port Moresby in the early 1950s.

He later joined Pacific Publications, owner of  the Suva-based Fiji Times and Pacific Islands Monthly, known everywhere as PIM, which was first published in August 1930 by New Zealand-born Robert William (Robbie) Robson.

Stuart worked for Robson on both publications. With Judy Tudor he was co-editor of PIM from November 1957 to November 1964 and then sole editor until October 1975.

PIM was a bible for planters and other settlers throughout the South Pacific and a must-have for university libraries around the world interested in Pacific issues.

Its staff travelled the Pacific on ships seeking stories and building an unrivalled network of contacts in business and politics. They were welcomed as trusted friends in the social and commercial whirl of Pacific centres.

The magazine's advertising base expanded to include all the great trading houses of the Pacific: Burns Philp, Morris Hedstrom, W R Carpenter and Steamships Trading Company, along with major vehicle and machinery brands, tourist resorts and cruise lines.

The popularity of the magazine proved a problem for newsroom productivity as readers, especially plantation owners, liked to drop in to the PIM office as part of their holiday schedule in Sydney with a view to a long lunch or afternoon drinks.

As a result, Stuart and Robbie instituted the Pacific Islands Lunch and designated every Thursday as the day for visitors to meet them at a regular hotel. This was publicised in the magazine.

When Robbie Robson sold PIM and The Fiji Times to the Herald and Weekly Times Group, Stuart continued with the company in  his role as editor.

In October 1975, when Stuart retired as editor,another giant of Pacific journalism, long time Herald and Weekly Times Papua New Guinea correspondent, Angus Smales, moved to Sydney to take over the editorship.

Stuart remained the magazine's publisher until August 1980 and also took over the editorship of the Pacific Islands Year Book from Judy Tudor.

The Pacific Islands Year Book was a rich compendium of information on the Pacific islands and enjoyed a strong reputation with academics and Pacific business leaders.

Stuart also often joined South Pacific cruises as a guest lecturer on Pacific affairs, imparting knowledge on what travellers needed to know about, and could see and do, at the next port.

On one occasion he became ill ahead of the ship visiting the Cook Islands capital Rarotonga. News that Stuart was bedridden resulted in Cook Islands prime minister, Dr Tom Davis, being ferried to the ship to console his indisposed friend.

Stuart later wrote on Pacific Affairs for The Bulletin and assisted entrepreneur Dick Smith as editor of his books and magazines. He was a regular attendee at functions of the PNG Association of Australia and other events linked to Pacific Island communities.

Tales of Papua New GuineaIn 2001, he edited Tales of Papua New Guinea for the PNGAA – a collection of rollicking reminiscences and experiences of expatriates who had lived in Papua New Guinea

Over several years Stuart has  generously shared his memories of the Pacific with academic institutions to ensure they live on after him. He was consulted by many people on Pacific history.

While Pacific Islands Monthly ceased publication in June 2000, Stuart's Pacific Islands Monthly Lunch continues as a monthly event held on the first Friday of every month at the Law Society restaurant in Phillip Street Sydney.

Stuart is survived by his wife Jo, their children Lesley, David and Stephanie, grand children and great grandchildren.

The funeral service will be held at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Delhi Road, North Ryde at 12.15 pm tomorrow, 9 February.


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Sue Smales

I am writing this to Bob Lawrence, the writer of this article. Firstly, I would like to pass on my condolences to Stuart Inder's family and friends.

My name is Sue Smales and I am the daughter of said Angus Smales in his article. I quote from Bob Lawrence "In October 1975, when Stuart retired as editor, another giant of Pacific journalism, long time Herald and Weekly Times Papua New Guinea correspondent, Angus Smales, moved to Sydney to take over the editorship."

I wish to set the facts straight about the times mentioned. I do not know when Stuart left PIM, but I do know that my father was in PNG up until the early 80s, (1981/82 from memory).I myself did not leave until 1983.

To say he left in 1975 is almost criminal to me as it wipes out many years of his very fine work as a journalist. I was a teenager and remember the days and nights of him being away travelling throughout the country following the election campaigns, particularly of the PANGU Pati.

Chief and then Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare often gave dad priority press for his tours as he trusted my father to give the facts.

Something my father taught me as an adult when I indulged in a bit of journalism myself, was to always get your facts right and to not give your own opinion. You are simply reporting he would say. (I find the opinion one a bit hard I have to admit) I am also not as good on grammar - the bane of my life.

Dad was awarded an Independence Medal and an MBE for his service to PNG as a journalist and for his unbiased and factual reporting.

I would like to thank Bob Lawrence for calling my father a giant of Pacific journalism, as I am very proud of his legacy to PNG and to journalism.

Sean Dorney

Nice tribute to a genuine nice guy. If it is not too late I have just one snippet you might add.

I was covering an election in Fiji in the early 1980s - it was the one where Four Corners had produced a program extremely critical of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and the Opposition parties had run off scores of copies of the program and played them all over the place during the election campaign.

Mara won but he was extremely angry with the foreign media.

We were all trying to get Mara to give us an interview after the results were known but he brushed us all off - including Stuart Inder.

Mara went into a lift in the Government building and all the rest of the media turned away.

I was standing with Stuart when the lift door opened again and Ratu Mara motioned to Stuart to join him and go up to his office for the only interview he would give to anyone who was not from Fiji.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Not to mention the fabulous covers, Martin, wonder how they'd go down today?

Martin Hadlow

For those of us who study Pacific history and write of both the colonial days and the tumultuous times surrounding movements towards national independence, the long-defunct 'Pacific Islands Monthly' remains a rich and valuable archival resource.

The obituaries, personal profiles, gossip, local news items and even the passenger lists of ships and aircraft published by PIM enable historians to place expatriates and locations within the context of the period, not to mention allowing movements to be traced and verified.

PIM was, of course, essentially a magazine aimed at expatriates and their interests. The often illuminating articles and letters from old hands in the Pacific about local 'goings on' bring colour and texture to island life when compared with the content of the turgid bureaucratic files and newsletters produced by the colonial governments of the time.

Often, PIM brought about controversy by reporting events which didn't find the light of day in the official press in the islands themselves.

The 'Letters to the Editor' columns remain a great source of knowledge to researchers as planters, traders and other adventurers often used that space to take 'pot shots' at local bureaucracies over one issue or another.

Thank you Stuart and your team of journalists, stringers and contributors for the pleasure of years of reading and for leaving historians a wonderful archival resource. PIM tells of another Pacific, now past.

Keith Jackson

I've just blown the dust off the browning pages of my clippings folder that preserves some of the articles I wrote as a freelance journalist in PNG. My first piece in PIM appeared in the June 1972 issue (big story - 'Kieta Council moves its gallery') and followed a visit Stuart made to Bougainville, during which he invited me to contribute to the magazine each month.

Stuart was a very companionable and laid back character and I was delighted to be asked and appreciative of the remuneration, which I think was 10 cents a word.

Over the next few years I wrote under various noms de guerre - A Kieta Correspondent, A Bougainville Correspondent and A Port Moresby Correspondent - and eventually under my own name, which caused a minor fracas among some journalists at the National Broadcasting Commission where I was running policy and planning and they reckoned I should stick to that.

Managing a radio station in Sydney a few years later, I was a regular imbiber of claret and information at those convivial PIM monthly lunches in an upstairs room at the Occidental Hotel in York Street.

Indeed, it was there in early 1983 that I was called to the hotel phone to be told that Malcolm Fraser had just called a general election was on and that I should hot foot it to Labor Party headquarters to receive my instructions as the ALP candidate for Mackellar under our new leader Bob Hawke.

PIM was more than just a magazine. It was an institution. Its editors were fine journalists and people who couldn't help becoming your mates.

Stuart Inder's stewardship covered a critical period in the transition of the Pacific from colonisation to independence and it was a damn shame when the shiny bums of Collins Street decided this important publication was of no interest to them and should be permitted to wither and die.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I published my first article in the Pacific Islands Monthly in 1968 when Stuart was editor.

With his encouragement I developed a second life as a freelancer and branched out publishing articles and stories in other magazines and journals.

The only major I couldn't crack was the Reader's Digest, I just couldn't develop the blandness they required.

Those were the heydays of journalism and it was sad to see it all get swallowed up by the Internet.

The Pacific Islands Monthly was a victim of Rupert Murdoch, just as the Bulletin was a victim of James Packer. If it didn't make money it had to go, no matter its history, social relevance and quality.

Now that the money men rule the world we eat trash.

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