Profile: Graeme O'Toole 6th E Course 1963-64
Papua New Guinea still calls.....
Getting There
The add for an adventure in teaching in PNG appeared  very attractive to a guy who had just turned 21 years of age and had been granted  legal responsibility for decision making  for the first time. The proposal of applying seemed completely extraordinary to the family of a person who had had a college education to matriculation and held a promising position as a junior executive with the Ford Company of Australia. When the offer of an interview arrived, I searched the book shops for info on PNG and came across a book simply entitled 'PNG' by Brian Essai ( circa 1960). The book presented PNG as a far away world with photographs of white professionals and administrators carrying the blessings of Western culture to an underdeveloped ' hoi polloi ' of PNG. Quoting extracts from Essai seemed to impress the interview panel although I really understood little.
Acceptance of an offer of a position was  premeditated and in November 1963 I was drinking farewells to family and friends in the lounge bar at Essendon airport  as plane travel in those days was a singular event and new for most. The same mob were there to welcome me back on my first return-air-fare paid holiday , Xmas 1964. I feel that they may have been more excited about seeing one of the first jetliners land at Essendon although they thought the plane had blown up when they heard the reverse thrust roar !
The Viscount flew me to Sydney and the feeling of excitement was quickly replaced by acute feelings of apprehension and even anxiety as the truth struck home that I had left Melbourne and all it contained. Funnily enough, sitting opposite me were Ivan Petersen and John Groat who were also bound for PNG which I was unaware of at the time, but thanks to them and the inbred requirement of maintenance of image in front of peer group members, I didn?t end up a weeping, slobbering mess. In Sydney we changed to a DC6B for the flight to faraway PNG. The DC6B was big and luxurious and it landed first in Brisbane where I was surprised to see aircraft hangers as terminal buildings and began to wonder whether they would even have terminals in PNG.
PNG  Touchdown
The long flight took us to Lae where we were offloaded to a DC3 which was waiting for us on the tarmac. The DC3 was as hot as an oven with uncomfortable side bench seats and this extreme heat was to change to a chill when it gained altitude to fly to Rabaul. The heat was to return as we began a descent into Rabaul and we sweated across the tarmac in the sun and humidity in about the middle of the day. No relief was to be offered when we were taxied from the airport to the teachers college on the back of a truck with the luggage under the glare of the sun. I was right, there was no terminal and I began to imagine what else there mightn't be
Feelings were to change though, as we drove into the tropical gardens and almostmanicured lawns of  Malaguna Tech. which hosted the Teachers College and were introduced to accommodation, services and colleagues. Within the next couple of days, trips to Rabaul, Pila Pila beach and meeting with the local people were to confirm that there was nothing wrong with the decision to go to the mystery of PNG which I immediately  relayed to folks and friends ' down south ' with post cards and photographs of the tropical paradise which was Rabaul. And it ' was ' Rabaul as when I last visited in 2001 en route for Nusa Is.via Kavieng, Rabaul had sadly disappeared and the area was covered in a layer of grey volcanic ash . Malaguna Tech. fortunately, was still there in its entirety, gardens ,lawns and all- well a little dilapidated.
The Teachers College
Only a couple of weeks after the course started on Dec 1st 1963, Xmas was upon us and after many becoming blotto at the Cosmo on Xmas Eve, we were presented with  a Xmas Dinner at Malaguna.  There were obvious signs of nostalgia for the good ol'family Xmas after the feast.  Tom Dowling of 2nd E Course fame whose wife Cecilia was a fellow student on the 6th Course ,thankfully threw a party at their donga on the beach at Nordup.
Life at Malaguna went on to be a great educational and social experience. Close living quarters fortunately, provided little altercation and there was a general atmosphere of camaraderie as we prepared for the first posting. I was completely unaware of what might confront me on the first posting while I enjoyed the regular, almost becomingly ritual, social events and excursions such as the Duke of York Islands trip, the ascent of Mother Volcano,  the descent into Matupit Volcano, the KMT ball, Pila Pila beach visits, the cinema, the Chinese Restaurants, the ' bung '-local market, sports such as volleyball, squash ( after which feelings of implosion were felt)  , the Cosmo Hotel,  the St. Trinians  versus St. Cuthberts mini-athletics including the chariot race, and being a judge at the Choral Eisteddfod.
There was of course, tremendous interest in the local Tolai people and their neighbors, the Baining people -a real life expose to  colorful and productive societies .The Duc Ducs, the Baining hot coal dancing, the bung (market), the villages, the Big Man  socio-eco-political structure, the dancing and singing, the fishing and hunting skills, the use of native materials in house building and weaving, the friendliness, the natural sporting ability, the aptitude to take on cross-cultural learning, the academic ability and their love of South Pacific Beer - even if it is warm
The expatriates were friendly and hospitable. One good example was Mrs. Gibson from the previous Dutch Colony of Indonesia , providing an almost a second home for colleague Rob Hopkins and myself ,and I'm sure others, with frequent dinner parties and an eligible daughter. Perhaps Mrs Gibson had  ulterior motives. One of my  more successful social  exploits was to take out  the Commonwealth Bank 'named 'Percy's Piggy Bank' - Manager's daughter. Perce put a curfew on the event.
Teaching rounds were 'life in the raw ' and we were faced with what we would be experiencing in the classroom in the future although the Tolais were a comparatively more modernized and sophisticated group than many of their countrymen. Only a few students faltered but this was due to a collection of matters not only in teaching. Up to about 6 withdrew over personal matters.
The 6 months of E Course intensive studies gave a fair introduction to the techniques of teaching. The main attributes the students were to carry with them was their ability to speak English and live in areas isolated from their own culture. Their was little time given to the complexities of teaching in a cross-cultural setting with the students expected to develop their  own skills of adapting to a different cultural and social environment. My main teaching aids were a box of pamphlets on Western industry and enterprise for demonstrating life in the outer world. There was a lecture by a visiting anthropologist  who was mainly remembered for the drinks he provided on the passenger liner 'Bulolo ' in Rabaul harbor. Pidgin English or Police Motu in Papua were considered to be  no-no's as the method  expected of teaching English was to be complete language immersion. The course achieved its aim of  supplying  primary teachers of which there was a dire shortage, to remote areas and of  providing English speaking teachers  trained in the PNG environment. Already, most E course graduates had been reputed as doing an excellent job in restricted conditions. They also provided many services beyond the call of duty.
Graduation Day was soon upon us and it seemed more than just coincidental that the Minister for Territories, Mr Barnes, who was to race off the widow of  not-to-be found former Prime Minister Harold Holt, should be there to present certificates when it was June , the southern winter .
First Posting
With graduation came postings and I was posted to Hanuabada Primary 'T' School in suburban Port Moresby and felt that the glory of confronting  remote and exotic areas had been denied to me. In comparison, colleague  Rob Hopkins had been posted to Green River in the isolated Gulf  district and had to even build the school there because of his carpentry background. Colleague Graham Bowden though, was  to stay and Teach Science and Maths at Malaguna Tech. so there was a similarity. It was a sad  time when I left  Malaguna with a group of tearful Tech students who had taken on many of us as benevolent uncles, waving goodbye to the melodious background of Malaguna Tech Choir practicing in the dining hall. It would have been worse if they had have been singing, ' Mi sori nau mi lusim yu tude '....
In Port Moresby, I was housed in the single guys hostel at administration headquarters at Konedobu and bused to Hanuabada everyday. The Principal  was then the renowned Miss Horne famous for her largesse in more areas than one. She was assisted by a female Vice-Principal and the girls kept everything under control. The school itself  with a very large student population, had an endless line of schoolrooms reminding me of German concentration camps in the 2nd world war. My stay was short and unmeritorious as I was transferred to Bavaroko 'T' school on the other side of town which schooled the children of the growing elite. I  coached sports teams and trained the school choir for a formal speech night at the end of the year. One victory event was beating the local invincible CatholicSchool in the  cricket final as our kids were fearless slips fielders and caught or ran out many of the opposition. Bavaroko 'T' was a pre-service teaching school for WardStripTeachers College and Dolce To Bun Bun, to be meri bilong  Thomas Jnr, was a student there at the time. This was coincidental, as I taken Thomas on a trip to Australia Xmas 1964. I shared a house on the beach with 5th E Courser Dave Jenkinson during this time and embarrassingly presented a fried rice for a dinner party without cooking the rice before adding. The Moresby Pub was a popular drinking hole along with the Ela Beach RSL and the Rugby Club at Queen Elizabeth stadium.
The culture of the Papuans classified as Mela-Polynesians was different to the north of the Owen Stanleys. The Hanuabadans were a sophisticated people but their living conditions were overcrowded and they appeared to receive the worst of colonialist racism, with the enormous population of expatriates lumped in the Port  of Moresby. There was an obvious resistance to paternalism and all that came with it.  Like kids in Australian schools today, students were not afraid to tell waitpela masta to
' f....k off '
Transfer to Sangan, MarkhamValley
But the call to experience the exotic remote areas of PNG  led a request for a transfer preferably to the other side of the Owen Stanley Range. The transfer was granted to the Lae District with no named school. After returning from Xmas in Melbourne, I was housed at  mission accommodation in Lae and spent the opening weeks at a school on the outskirts of Lae by the seaside. This  was not  remote but a beautiful spot  in a very affable village at which I lobbied for a permanency. But not to be; a posting was given to the position of Principal at a 3 teacher 'T' School in Sangan via Kiaipit up the Markham Valley en route to Kainantu.
The truck bounced up the then unmade  Markham Valley Road in the searing February heat with basic survival gear packed in the back The locals demanded seats by the windows so I sweated it out in the odorous middle until we reached a Markham River crossing which was a raging torrent. The boys were not deterred and made the crossing after people on the side of the road sold us fresh watermelon to ease the tension. We crossed safely and headed on  further until the turn off to Sangan. The road was rough and muddy and seemed so long until we arrived at Sangan village and I was loaded off at the school. The boys unloaded and took off.  Fortunately, one of the indigenous teachers was home and welcomed me. The classrooms were native material including the teachers huts. The Principal's residence looked out of character as it was a fibro cement building on concrete stumps but a comfortable little donga.
The school was to a degree, isolated but a  peanut farmer from 5 K up the road called in to say welcome and  one of the jackaroos from  Bulolo Gold Mining Cattle Station about 5k in the other direction also called in as well.There was no welcome from the village and when I visited to liaise there was little response.The teachers were very helpful but extremely independent and my upper primary classes  rated at a low level re numeracy and literacy except for a handful of students  who had advanced despite lack of facility and continuity of fully qualified teaching staff.
A lot of unsubstantiated stories about the locals were passed on, such as their trading of Australian soldiers for Japanese soldiers during the war and vice -versa and revenge by Australian soldiers after the war. The peanut farmer up the road could only speak highly of them and did all he could to incorporate the locals in agricultural enterprises. It was sad to visit the area in 1986 to see the huge expansion of his  farming abandoned and overgrown with grass growing up through automotive machinery parked in orderly lines. Repatriation after independence had seemingly sunk the industry. The school had disappeared.
The glitter of forwarding the western front had faded when faced with the lack of facility and finding out what isolated really meant. Frequent visits were made to the peanut farm and weekend trips were available to Lae with the cattle boys if you didn't mind careering off the road into the kunai grass  in a canvas topped jeep.  Pat O'Brien,  the  Principal of the Primary 'A' School  in Lae, was a' hostess with the mostest '.The Lae Club and RSL Club which were set in idealic positions on the cliffs overlooking the bay and Lae Golf Club were all entertaining spots for a social weekend.
Back at Sangan, life became tedious. The taipan mesmerized by the bright light of the pressure lamp blocking entrance to the  donga door , the storm of  myriads of black insects barging through the fly wire at night, the supplies held up because of  the Markham river flooding or the haus boi cooking for his entire extended family, the batteries slowly going flat in the record player as the Hallelujah Chorus wriggled along  to warm beer because the fridge ran out of  kerosene, the students needing more individual attention than I could give for numeracy and literacy development let alone constructing avenues for becoming culturally aware or dealing with cultural-differences, this wasn't in the dream.
Return to Paradise
Like manna from heaven, I received word that Vunapope Mission, Kokopo, Rabaul, required an academic teacher for their JuniorTechSchool at  Vunapope. I have no memory of how I  arrived back at Rabaul so quickly but  there was an arrangement for me to transfer the bond attached to the studentship to teach at the Vunapope Junior Tech., Rabaul. This now, was a return to paradise. The Tolai people are a very culturally orientated people and know how to get the best from both worlds. I came to understand what ' alienated people of the capitalistic west ' means when I witnessed how human and close to the earth the Tolai were with such a rich culture and a seemingly high degree of contentment. Materialism had not yet reigned over cultural values.
Life at Vunapope was adventurous and professionally rewarding. There was always a possibility if you got on well with the Manager. Vunapope was self-contained with even tits own printery. The students were all selected from schools  throughout New Britain and were willing and succeeding students. I was able to introduce soccer, athletics and baseball teams  to the local competitions with always questions  over age groups as we had few records. One victory was a draw with Malaguna Tech in soccer played at Malaguna in front of  the renowned Principal, George Harrison. George didn't look very happy drawing with the underdogs. Academically, English and Maths was focused on the technical trades with trades instructors being volunteers from Germany. I learnt too that two negatives make a positive when I asked," Do you have a canoe Matalau?", to which the answer was, "No". "So, you don't have a canoe ", to which the answer was "Yes".
One of the responsibilities was supervising boarders and running a first aid post. On this one occasion there was a spate of diarrhea and the nurses at the hospital asked for samples of  students stools. It just so happened that the students  sat on stools in the classroom and I thought that they may be looking  for samples on the stool tops so I took a couple of stools down to the hospital. This caused the whole dispensary to rock as I gingerly returned with my stools.
Down South
A period of highlights at Vunapope, which included breaking curfews at the nunnery with the delightful lay missionary Lois Hammerberg, was  followed, after a trip along the north shore of New  Britain in the mission supply vessel, by a return to Melbourne for Xmas which eventuated as an  exit from paradise. Family pressures to fully qualify and then return to PNG took their toll. I reluctantly returned the air fare and paid a visit to the Education Dept in Victoria. Fortunately, the then Director of Education had fought in PNG during the war and although aghast at my bold request for an interview as a visitor from PNG, he granted me one mainly to talk about his exploits in the war. He arranged for a studentship to Teachers College even though acceptances had already been posted..
Teachers College subject content was not much different to the E Course except for longer time for methodisation and conditioning. I was fortunate in winning the position of President of  SRC and  gained renown for  successfully  achieving allowance of grog at the College Ball. During a short stint at teaching in state schools, I was involved in a serious car smash and disabled for a period. I came out of it a bit madder than before but OK  financially and bought an Austin Healey Sprite to match my true love Elaine Buxton's MG-B.
A position in private education at PeninsulaSchool, Mt.Eliza was offered and accepted. Sir Reginald Ansett was Chairman of the school council and in an address at Speech Night he skipped a page in the speech prepared for him with the resultant statement ' academic...... prowess on the sports field ". He didn't notice and nobody else dared show if they did. I thought of Shakespeare ' All the world's a stage; all the men and women merely players' except we are supposed to ba able to know how to read  our bloody lines!
PNG still called, so I went to Monash Uni and completed a BA Honours Degree in Anthropology. The Anthropology Faculty delighted in stripping me bare of  all the unqualified perceptions I had gathered of the indigenous people in PNG  This was bad timing also, as  I graduated in 1977 and matters in PNG were not creative of  professional careers for expatriates at Independence. I moved to secondary education in Victoria.
However, in 1982,  I was granted a position on the World Bank Education Evaluation Team for PNG. Dr MacKinnon , former Director of Education in PNG who had just taken on the position of Vice-Chancellor at Wollongong Uni, was on the selection panel. Destiny apparently, did not include PNG in my future as at the last minute, personal circumstances caused a withdrawal.
As a compensation, life in Melbourne offered opportunities for the lot. Snow skiing at Mt. Buller  (Benmore Ski Club), surfing east and west coast, theatre, restaurants, centres of learning, Kooyong Tennis Club, AFL Waverly and MCG, golf, Art Gallery, and everything Victoria has to offer. This was all while living for 20 years as Honorary Resident Curator, at beautiful Black Rock House (1851) listed on the Australian National Heritage which also helped to enable a mooring for my yacht- Endeavour 24- at Royal Brighton Yacht Club. But the call to return to PNG still lingered.
At the  Secondary Colleges I taught at during this time, there were a number of Asian students and a growing number of Vietnamese refugees. ESL was in need of teachers so I completed Diploma Studies in, and taught  ESL alongside subjects such as French, P.E., Maths., Social Science, Music. I  completed also, a Grad Dip in Career Counseling as this was the flavor of the time. Career Counseling led to promotions and a move to the then Northern Territory Uni to a position in counseling in Student Services. This was getting closer to PNG.
Still with the call of  PNG in my mind, I completed studies in a Master of Education - Linguistics. and moved to Indigenous Teacher Education in Far North Queensland thinking I  could perhaps return to teacher education in PNG. Cairns is a tropical paradise but misses the human spirit of PNG.
Time was moving on, so I needed a home base for the future. Myself and mate purchased a small farm in the Town of 1770/Agnes Water area - the last surf beach on the East Coast. To await our deserved supplement to superannuation - the pension, I have  moved temporarily to Darwin to a position with the Australian Centre of Languages at Charles Darwin Uni.
- just a jump across to PNG.
 I started constructing the webpage www.geocities.com/ecourserabaul  08/05 as after searching the internet,  I found no E Course site. I did find an article on the E Course by Dr Sue Gelade,Uni of SA, which  motivated constructing  the E Course page as an exposition and a communication and information source.
PNG still calls......... 13/07/06