In this edition..
Julie Hatherell (Davies), and Tracy Giurietto write about their recollections of those early days at ASOPA and include as a bonus, a special critique on boarding houses in Mosman.
June Whittaker, the youngest staff member at the time, reveals how the place worked and why it was so unique. You won’t bedisappointed.
The weekend of 1st and 2nd February 2014 Planning is well advanced and you can expect to receive an invitation/ registration form in mid November 2013.
On the Saturday evening, we have booked for dinner in the Harbour View Room of the Mosman (RSL) Club in Military Road. Food prices are competitive and drinks can be purchased from the bar. Off street parking is available and public transport and taxis will be accessible.
Maurie Saxby has generously agreed to be our guest speaker. Formalities on the evening will be kept to a minimum.
On Sunday morning we will take over a café recently built between ASOPA and the oval. The new owners have agreed to provide us with brunch at 9.30am. At this stage the overall numbers for the
weekend should be about 80 to 100.
PUMPKINS OR PAPUA
– Julie Hatherell (Davies)
It’s the end of 1965 and this 18 year old has just failed every subject at Uni. My father’s words are ringing in my ears… “you’re going to spend the rest of your life cutting pumpkins in the fruit shop”. Great!
But my father was also a feminist and he tried, successfully to instil in my sister and I the notion that ”you don’t want to have to be reliant on a man” in this life. I thought about that and decided I’d better have another go at some sort of higher education if I wanted an independent life free of pumpkins and men.
Enter Phillip Turner (ASOPA, 1965 – 1966), my cousin and a fellow Uni drop-out and party-goer (needless to say the reason I failed Uni was the partying, of course). He told me about this wonderful place he was going to in Sydney where he was training to become a teacher in Papua New Guinea, getting paid a salary while training and…partying. Sounded great to me…
”Where’s Papua New Guinea?” I asked. I applied and got an interview.
Thank goodness for the Department of Territories magazines left in the waiting room where I sat and waited for my interview. A quick read and a few pertinent facts hurriedly noted…PNG is located north of Australia, just south of the equator, hot, humid and covered with rainforest, the capital is Port Moresby, diverse and tribal with over 700 actual languages spoken, majority of people illiterate, people are Melanesian, PNG is a territory of Australia and administered by Australia but moving
Then into the interview… ”How do you do Julie…have a seat…”
Q. What do you know about Papua New Guinea?
A. I’d just read it hadn’t I? Thank goodness for those magazines. Not only that but suddenly, as happens with a rush of adrenalin in a flight or fight situation, I was able to embellish my answer with how people live in tropical rainforest areas remembered from my leaving certificate geography text book Ford and Rowe, of course…”Girls, take out your Ford and Rowe and turn to page…” and so it went lesson after lesson.
Q. Why do you want to become a teacher in Papua New Guinea?
A. I explained how I went to university straight from school, didn’t know what I wanted to do so wasn’t committed and failed, had been reading about PNG and independence and the high illiteracy rate and feel strongly that education will be the key to the success of that independence. At that stage I only wanted to go to ASOPA, I really hadn’t given much thought, if any, to becoming a teacher but somehow managed to tie becoming a teacher to the only thing I knew about PNG from the reading …the independence thing. Again the old adrenalin rush, I guess.
To this day I’m amazed that I was successful. I’ve missed out on a lot of interviews since.
My parents wouldn’t allow me to stay in a shared flat, so I ended up in a guesthouse at Mosman run by Mrs Boutagy (obviously student accommodation recommended by the College).
I found myself sharing with other new ASOPians – 3 who grew up in PNG – Nigel Ralph, John Caroll, Denise Patterson – Pat Braceland and Felix Kun. The girls shared one large dormitory-style room and the boys another. Mrs Boutagy took her role as chaperone seriously indeed. If you weren’t home by 10pm you were locked out. Mrs Boutagy served you 2 meals – breakfast and dinner and you were expected to be there…a home away from home! It was quite difficult in the first few weeks of ASOPA to join in the party scene and yet be home tucked up in bed by 10pm.
Needless to say the main preoccupation of us living in Mrs Boutagy’s guesthouse in those first few weeks, apart from the parties, was to find alternative accommodation in flats. Soon enough Denise and I moved into a flat in Manly.
Oh, I remember well that first day driving down the road with the bush on both sides and then realising that the college buildings (army–style huts) actually sat on Middle Head, which jutted out into Sydney Harbour. Who can ever forget sitting in a lecture room with its glass wall looking directly over the Harbour and watching the “Esmeralda” at full sail gliding through the Heads? What a spot! A million dollar view.
I’ve done a lot of studying and training since ASOPA but of all the lecturers/ trainers/ educators I’ve had the fortune (and misfortune) to experience, those at ASOPA were very special. I fondly remember those dedicated, highly qualified, professional, experienced and, in the odd case, eccentric team of lecturers in 1966 – 67. I came to realise over time that they all shared our desire to succeed.
I won’t single out any one lecturer here for special mention but I’m sure you can imagine how over-awed I was when I found out our geography lecturer was the great man himself…none other than Mr Edgar Ford, co-author of that same Ford and Rowe geography text which in no small way, contributed to my being given the opportunity to choose Papua over pumpkins!
A YOUNG MAN’S JOURNEY INTO THE UNKNOWN
The first taxi driver that I approached at Mascot laughed and drove away (“Middle Head – give us a break!”). The second one took in the fact that I was wearing a suit and carrying (not wheeling in those days) a suitcase, and decided to take the risk. Puzzlingly, and notwithstanding my beard and long hair, he asked if I was army or navy – a confusion that I didn’t understand until arrival at Middle Head and ASOPA.
So - I arrived overdressed and taxi-fare broke from Melbourne. I was also a week late because the NT bureaucracy had forgotten, with typical efficiency, to tell me that I had been successful in my application to be appointed as a Cadet Education Officer for the Northern Territory, which was of course just a fancy name for
I was promptly shown into what I thought must have been a staff meeting, but which in fact turned out to be my new classmates attending a lecture. I suppose that I was expecting fresh-faced kids straight from school – not this experienced and worldly looking group. My immediate thought was “why are all these clearly diverse people here,” and my next thought was “why am I here”?
I suspect that at the start most of us were looking for something new and different, and that we had our own personal differences for doing so.
Anyway – back to day one. I had found ASOPA, I had met my new classmates, I had been given a vague idea of what was going on including that ASOPA also provided training for Papua New Guinea as well as the Northern Territory, and all that I had to do was find somewhere to live. I was recommended a lovely boarding house in Mosman run by a Mrs Phillips, and used by a number of other ASOPA students. The house was a fine old Northern Sydney structure, very clean and tidy, and Mrs Phillips was a very warm and welcoming grandmotherly Eastern European lady. All seemed well until I discovered that I had to share a room, which in itself wasn’t too bad as it was a very large room, but my fiercely demeanoured roommate was not too happy about sharing at all. He was Mark Sage, an ADC from Kiunga on a training course, and after the initial misgivings, we actually got on very well.
What I wasn’t prepared for was Mrs Phillips’ best friend – a Mr Smirnoff (by the bottlesful). The guessing game of what we would get for dinner, and when or if we got it at all, was a constant companion to the boarders, who included John Kleinig and John Fennell (PNG), myself and Brendan
Scarfe (NT) and a couple of no-accounts who were studying somewhere else.
Sometimes we got dinner, sometimes we didn’t, sometimes we got it but it wasn’t cooked, and sometimes we got it but it had already been chewed into. Sometimes we cooked it ourselves; stepping carefully over the comatose body of our hostess on the kitchen floor (“I was tired and hot so I lay down to catch the breeze coming under the kitchen door”).
One thing that I learned was not to come home during the day, as invariably Mrs P would just be accidently getting out of the shower and wandering up the hall at whatever time you arrived – I would have preferred the crocodile pool at nearby Taronga Park Zoo.
Why did we stay? I’m sure that we weren’t that desperate for a mother figure, and eventually we all moved out, but the experience had its share of fun and adventure in its bizarreness, and in the expectation of the unexpected.
Socially there seemed to be no great divide between the NT/TPNG student groups, and the location of the Phillips Asylum in close proximity to the pubs and eateries in Mosman. There was accommodation sharing involving members of both groups and it meant that our lives were not
immersed in study.
Dare I say that study may have even been secondary to some?
MEMORIES OF MIDDLE HEAD
- June Whittaker
Whenever I think of my golden days at ASOPA – that is the period between 1966 and 1974 - I want to laugh out loud for the sheer joy that was in them. I clearly hear Noel Gash’s broad Australian tones coming through the thin fibro walls that divided his office from mine in that crappy old weatherboard ex-army hut full of asbestos: “Hey, Ju-une! Isn’t this a great job? Is it true that they actually pay us to work here? Ha! Ha! Ha!”
At the time of my arrival in 1966 as the youngest on staff, Charles Rowley had just resigned as Principal of ASOPA to take up the newly created chair of Political Studies at UPNG. He was succeeded by the principal lecturer in Law, Jack Mattes. I met Jack, the only person still around during vacation. I asked him what the hours of work were. “Aw”, he replied, we don’t have any hours. You can come and go as you please. As long as you’re here when the whips are cracking.” I asked him how many lectures a week I was expected to give. “Aw,” said Jack, “I don’t rightly know. As many as you like, I guess. Make sure you leave yourself a couple of days free, cos you’ll want time to research and prepare material.”
A week before the students arrived, I attended a staff meeting in the library, eager to find out how the place ticked. After introductions, I pulled a thick notepad and a bunch of sharp pencils from my bag,
poised my pencil and waited. Jack addressed the meeting, “We have three items to discuss. The first is that 125 students will arrive at the end of the week and there seems to be no accommodation for them anywhere on the North Shore. But Victor is looking after that.” Victor, I learned, was the Registrar, an academic in his own right, Mayor of Mosman and President of the National Trust. Victor smiled and nodded. Jack continued, “The second is: all of the pubs between Mosman and North Sydney have closed their doors to our students. The damned publicans tell outrageous stories of our students’ conduct – I don’t believe any of it. It’s all exaggerated. Anyway, Victor is going to talk some sense into one or two of them, aren’t you, Vic?” Victor smiled and nodded, then asked: “The students?” “Nah,” replied Jack, “the publicans!” “The third and last thing,” Jack went on, “is
that some of you have been going off to New Guinea and not getting back when you say you’ll be back. I’m not talking about a week or two, cos sometimes it’s difficult to get transport there when you
want it. I’m talking about months. One of you was late back by three months last year. (Everyone looked at John Reynolds.) Now, are there any questions? … Does anyone have something to say? … No? Well let’s go and get a cuppa.”
I returned my blank notepad and pencils to my bag and joined the rest of the staff in the staffroom, where I learned that Jack never ran a meeting for longer than 10 minutes, never made a speech longer than 2 minutes, and never believed that ASOPA students could do wrong.
I recall ASOPA staff as totally unlike any other staff of tertiary institutions I had come across. They, for the most part, actually liked one another … and helped one another … played jokes on one another … laughed a lot and loved their work. They were also, for the most part, eccentric, disrespectful of authority at all levels up to and including their political masters, were unassuming, loved to discuss and argue, and treated everyone with equal nonchalance.
In the staffroom during morning tea and lunch, there’d be standing room only for rowdy debates about the wisdom of Independence for New Guinea, colonialism and village labour policies, or the
Government’s Aboriginal assimilation policy or land rights. No one wanted to miss time in the staffroom, while I, for one, was always eager to get back to work after end-of-term vacations.
I recall ASOPA’s students as to some extent mirror images of the staff: friendly, co-operative, independent -minded, quick to take up an intellectual argument; many from interesting backgrounds and possessing stimulating ideas; intolerant of arrogance and humbug, and skilled at making lecturer’s life miserable if they felt it was deserved!
Perhaps the ASOPA experience spoiled me for any subsequent training institute. It seemed to me that although successive endeavours on the Middle Head site enjoyed improved buildings, gardens and
resources, they lost the sustained leadership qualities that had given lustre and uniqueness to the ASOPA years; qualities that are difficult to describe even for those of us who experienced them. As Norm Donnison said, one had to experience ASOPA to be believed.
The organising group…
Jan Garrard (Raff),
Jan Roberts (Kleinig),
Dawn Taylor (McArthur).
Facebook and Blog:
Tony Mikus is coordinating these sites and
you can access them at
www.facebook.com/ASOPA Class of 1966/67 and
I wrote Noel's obituary following a request from his partner. It was published in the SMH.
Actually, the original obituary that I wrote was much shorter, but I had a phone call from the editor,
Hicks, who thought it so funny, he asked me for alonger obituarywith more funny stories
and that was the one that was published, together with a photograph of Noel.
You might remember that Noel was a very funny man; there are so many stories one could tell about
him and so few known, let alone published.
27 August 2013
June’s full obituary of Noel Gash will be
published in the next newsletter.