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March 2006


BRIAN PETER WHITE of the 1962-63 Cadet Education Officers’ Course, and late of ‘Wuthering Heights’, Kleinton, passed away in Toowoomba on 28th February 2006. Brian was the beloved husband of Nammie and dearly loved father of Fiona, Peter, Stephen, Bronwen and Tasminnie and their respective loved ones. Relatives and friends attended Brian's funeral at St James Anglican Church in Toowoomba on Saturday 4th March. Relatives asked, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to the Queensland Cancer Fund. In God's Care.

 

GRAHAM POPLE [Mt Kare PNG] - The little girl has now made it to Australia! Tasminnie arrived in Port Moresby from Popondetta and I collected her and looked after her that night. This morning I took her to the airport and she made it safely to Brisbane where Nammie was there to meet her together with her new brothers and sisters. Tasminnie has to have a medical and then she has to have her present six months visa changed into a permanent residence visa. There was a chap from the Australian High Commission called Neil McAllister who was extremely helpful and removed any obstacles. Tas and I saw him Monday afternoon and he gave us the documentation.

 

HENRY BODMAN [Fig tree Pocket QLD] - There was a time when I tucked such news as BP's death into a little drawer somewhere to be opened, maybe, at a later date when it might be better managed. I am sure that the shared sentiments and memories which will emerge from your sad news will help all to appreciate immediately the positives of having known BP and being able to share the good times with each other and his family will not only build BP's stature in our minds but assist in accepting his release from very tough times.

Twenty-five years ago the loss of someone very important to me (and the supporting correspondence which came with that event) changed my strategy as far as reacting to news of death is concerned. I realised that it isn't something to be tucked away in some dark corner of the mind. In fact, taking a leaf out of the Irish Micks' philosophy, it should be an opportunity to celebrate the joys of knowing and the sharing of that someone. It is important, therefore, that we draw all of the positives of BP's life and the parts of it which we shared together and make sure that our memories reflect our regard for him as a friend and confrere. We can certainly assist family and ourselves by doing this.

Apart from the 'good guy' image which he deservedly conjures up in the minds of all who knew him, that photo of him on the front of our own publication (he in the laplap - his local staff in the shorts) is what comes immediately to my mind. Clearly, he involved himself in the community he was serving and the gentle, impish smile says it all as far as the feller himself is concerned.

I am very sorry that BP won't be with us for our future Events but memories of him always will be. His participation in ASOPA things at leafy Fig Tree Pocket created precious moments in my mind which are the more valuable in light of your news of today. Vale BP - we would that we might be remembered as well as you will be.

 

BILL WELBOURNE [Mt Cotton QLD] - We loved our Brian 'BP' White. Showers are a blessing and appropriately it was raining here in South East Queensland when our colleague passed away. Our ASOPA buddy was an inspirational teacher who unselfishly gave care and guidance to many students who were the lucky recipients of his stewardship. A tribute to his character is his valiant and successful family struggle to bring Tasminne home. His reward will go with him but we will honour him as will those showers that fell as a blessed sign of a faithful Christian.
I feel empathy for his kindred at this time of mourning. I too am feeling the loss of my own sister just two weeks ago. Like 'BP' she was a gifted teacher; highly regarded for her music abilities ... she succumbed to lung cancer, aged 52. Brian’s legacy will be the cherished memories of his spontaneous friendship, his enduring lifelong devotion to teaching and the loyal support and love he shared with his family, friends and ASOPA colleagues. Good on you Brian.

 

VALE BRIAN PETER WHITE
The name my parents gave me was Brian Peter. I should have been Percival, as I was named after a priest friend of the family, whom my parents thought was Peter. I'm glad they made that mistake! I don't know what the priest thought. The name you gave me at ASOPA was BP. Jeff Chapman once addressed a parcel to me as Be Pea! These days I'm called an assortment of names, depending on the vintage and stage of life of the speaker. I get Bron from older family and friends, Blanc (French for white) from secondary school contemporaries, BP a lot and Sir from my pupils (I'm trying to encourage Sir Brian from this group!). I have always, and still do, have my name on addresses, rosters etc typed Brain - when this happens at school I try to squeeze 'The' in front of it.

I’m a teacher at the Holy Name Primary School within the Toowoomba Catholic Education Office. I’m married to Namwekona (Nammie), a Trobriand Islander. Nammie is a packer with Darling Downs Foods. My children are Fiona, Peter, Stephen and Bronwen. I'd originally applied for the E Course in Rabaul and went for an interview. The panel suggested I apply for ASOPA, which I did. I suppose this was critical when it came time to return, as the qualification was accepted in Australia, unlike that of the E Course, though that course produced some very fine teachers, I remember.

PNG service

1963 – Final Prac at Mandi Primary T School near Wewak. Bedded down at Brandi Junior High School with 14 others from our ASOPA course.

1964 – Rabe Primary T School where Terry Chapman, brother of Jeff, was teacher-in-charge.

1965-66 – Teacher-in-charge, Divinai Primary T School, down the coast towards East Cape. John Quinn was the government officer in Milne Bay, and used to refer to me as “the white man from Divinai”. John and Judy moved into motels when they returned to Australia. Col probably knows them. I think I have their names correct.

1967-73 – Headmaster (quite an impressive title, wasn't it?), Losuia Primary T School, where I took over from John Toms, though I don't think he was still there when I arrived. I remember seeing him quite often in Samarai just after he married.

1974-75 – Headmaster, Alotau Dual-Curriculum Primary School.

1976 – Kerema High School. It was here I registered with the Queenland Board of Teacher Registration.

My entire time was in Milne Bay District except the last 6 months when I was posted to Kerema High. My dad had been in Milne Bay during the war and told me not to put that as a choice as it was the worst place on earth. My first posting was right in Milne Bay at Rabe on the coast near Cameron Plateau, the site of the US hospital during the war and adjacent to KB Plantation where the Japanese landed two tanks, the wreckage of one being still in the plantation.

The best posting? Difficult to say. Probably Divinai, the most isolated of all my schools - and that brought interesting challenges of the type that most of us expected when we went to the Territory.

I've never returned, though my wife has on a few occasions. Her family still ask when I'm coming back to collect my yams, which are the traditional gift to seal a wedding! I hope that when I do go to collect, they don’t have the original yams still waiting for me.

Subsequent career

1977-81 – St John's Catholic School, Roma. Here, with others, I started an upgrade course to Diploma of Teaching (3 year trained), which was the basic graduate level for new teachers in Queensland at the time, though there were still a lot of one-year trained people about, and still are I think.

1982-02 – Toowoomba. Somewhere in here I completed a Graduate Diploma of Arts (Leadership Studies). I joined Catholic Education in 1977 after applying to State Ed and being accepted, but not liking the attitude of the OIC Brisbane North Office. I suppose after years in PNG doing pretty much our own thing we didn't take kindly to the type of pomposity often found in the bureaucracy! I've been with Cath Ed ever since - Roma in the central West, then Toowoomba. I'm Assistant to the Principal (Administration), which makes me Acting Principal if the Principal is away, so I've had stints of up to a year. But, as an Anglican in a Catholic school, I'll never get a Principal's position.

Retirement plans - ASAP, but with a daughter still at school it's still a way off. Unless of course, I have a good Lotto win!

The best ASOPA memory, I think, was the party after The Natives Are Restless but I can't remember much about it, except trying to remove the black paint.

 

VALE MICHAEL HENRY (MICK) MAULE BELFIELD
Jane Belfield & Louise Tigchelaar write:
When 22-year-old Michael Belfield returned to the family farm in Victoria at the start of 1953, after travelling overseas as a merchant seaman and – among other things – visiting his English relatives, he couldn’t have imagined that, four years later, he’d be building an airstrip in the Territory of Papua & New Guinea (as it was then).

Quite a change from shearing sheep and fencing – and really not what his Longerenong Agricultural College Training had prepared him for. But a spell at ASOPA (Australian School of Pacific Administration) in mid-1956 gave him an inkling of what he’d let himself in for as a DASF didiman (Department of Agriculture Stock and Fisheries extension officer). Then it was off to TPNG, his first posting at Baibara in the Central District, and his first experience of copra growing.

There was no accommodation there for his family, so he was soon posted to the Mekeo rice-growing project in the Central District. His young (first) wife and small son – with another baby on the way – flew up to join him in October of that year, and set up house at Epo (Bereina). As well as overseeing the rice project – and a Chimbu labour line – the novice didiman had the task of supervising the construction of an all-weather airstrip, the current strip being subject to flooding and the wet season rapidly approaching.

Armed protests by disgruntled local landowners meant the new airstrip wasn’t ready for the necessary there-and-back trip to Port Moresby for the birth of that new baby. But, fortunately, the second son decided to arrive a month early, so mother and baby were safely back at Epo before the station was flooded in and supplies had to be dropped from the sky. The new airstrip still not being ready for the family’s departure to Port Moresby in early 1957, en route to a new posting at Popondetta in the Northern District, that trip was made by tractor-trailer, canoe and Catalina flying boat – at the end of which the understandably stressed young didiman’s gastric ulcer erupted all over the Jackson’s tarmac. But after a brief spell in the haussik it was on by plane to Popondetta, and to crops of a different nature – this time mainly cocoa and coffee.

That period – until late 1962 – involved three changes of residence: the first in Popondetta township, the second at the agriculture station just out of town, then – along with a promotion to District Agricultural Officer – a move back to town. There were plenty of other, albeit it even more temporary, residences as well. Mick experienced a variety of rest houses on his frequent patrols.

The Popondetta years saw the birth of his daughter in 1958, as well as the forging of many lasting friendships. Not the least of these were with his colleagues – both expatriate and indigenous (“native” in those days, before the word was outlawed by political correctness) – and with the local people. So the late 1962 move to Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands was something of a wrench. But a new challenge for the ever-intrepid Mick. The family’s first accommodation for the new posting was at Korn Farm Agricultural Station – in a bush materials house with rats in the ceiling – but a move into town soon followed.

Not that Mick was at home all that much. Even as DAO, patrolling was still an essential part of his job. Now he was involved with tea and coffee and pyrethrum, as well as with market garden and orchard crops…and a crop of new friends to add to the old. And there were cattle and sheep and fish and pigs and poultry. The Western Highlands District was going ahead at a rapid pace. So was Mick’s career.

In 1968 came a promotion to Regional Agricultural Officer, commuting between Goroka and Mount Hagen.The following year found him based at DASF headquarters in Port Moresby. As dedicated as ever. His good work hadn’t gone unnoticed. Eight years later the dedicated didiman left for Australia with a “Golden Handshake” and a PNG Independence Medal. Establishing himself in Armidale, NSW, where two of his three children were at uni, Mick launched into several successful small business pursuits, including building spec homes.

But it wasn’t go pinis, by any means. While you can take a didiman out of PNG, you can’t take PNG out of a didiman. And Mick was soon back as an agricultural consultant, spending the years between 1986 and 1993 in Goroka, and using his extension skills to train a team of Papua New Guinean agricultural officers to help farmers fight coffee rust. The dedicated didiman finally did go pinis, and settled in Brisbane. But a large part of his heart stayed in PNG. And the friendships he forged during his years there were enduring, as was evident at his funeral and wake in Brisbane on January 31, following his sudden and senseless death a week earlier. Many of the 200 or so people who turned up to say goodbye were didimen and families of didimen.

Lukim yu na bamahuta, Mick. Mick’s final journey is back to Victoria, where his ashes will be laid to rest in the family plot. The traveller will have come full circle.