Reading for a better education: Margaret Sylvester

It’s 50 years since some of the contributors to this project toiled away at the Commonwealth Bank, Mango Avenue, Rabaul. After completing their term (usually 2 years) and returning to various towns and cities “South” a great many kept in touch. This led to events known as ‘reunions’ which is code for a catch up beer and chat and these reunions have moved in regularity from 10 years to 5 years to now lesser periods:– being that time is now against us. Having a collective group gathered with a common purpose presented the opportunity to do something meaningful while the beer was swilling and the stories told and so it came to pass that at our most recent gathering last November a collection of donations was carried out under the project banner “Books for Schools – Rabaul”. The aim was to donate school library books suitable for Years 1–8 to three schools in Rabaul Town.

Before the project was off and running some honing and planning was required and input was sought via the internet (Facebook) from a couple of locals in Rabaul and Kokopo. Our group knew we wanted to raise some funds for a charitable purpose but needed some local knowledge which came from John Dikaung (Manager, Technical Services, Rabaul Volcano Observatory). It was John’s suggestion that reading books for school libraries would be ideal and he nominated three schools: Malaguna Primary, Sacred Heart International Primary and St Martin’s Primary. We decided to run the project for all three. Once our funds were raised it was mutually decided that the best course of action was to purchase the books in Australia then ship them to Rabaul. Next came the challenge of shipment and delivery. I was put in contact with Sandra Lau of Tropicana Limited at Kokopo and Sandra very generously offered to cover the shipment of the books and any associated costs. his was a very generous offer from her, indeed. She and John also agreed to run the delivery errand to the three schools at a mutually agreeable time and so our project ran its course to completion.

We purchased our books via online company, Booktopia, who were also generous and compliant with packaging and pick-up. Following pick-up the cartons were delivered to the shipping agent and we eventually received news that the three cartons had arrived in port.

With the assistance of both Sandra and John, delivery was made to the three schools on Wednesday 11 June and the following photos show just how excited the students were. I’m told they sang and cheered and that’s just the reaction we were hoping for.

The three cartons being weighed in at the Shipping Agents Warehouse after labelling and delivery by John Worchurst (ex Commbank Rabaul).
Malaguna Primary School – the largest school in Rabaul Town.
Sandra Lau of Tropicana Limited, Kokopo, reading our letter to the Headmaster and students at Sacred Heart International Primary School.
Sandra also gave the students biscuits and sweets, etc., so it was a good day all round.

St Martin’s Primary School assembled and singing a song in appreciation on Wednesday 11 June 2014.

It was great to see our project being so well received. Our reunion friends remember their time in Rabaul with great affection. Most of them were in Rabaul while they were all relatively young but the memories hold strong to this day: the friendly people, the great adventures, the volcanoes, the fishing trips. Returning some affection by way of our project seemed like just the thing to do and in supplying reading books for the school libraries we hope it will give the students an opportunity to enrich their education. 

Since seeing the photos of the students on ‘Book Day’, it has been remarked to me how well presented the students are and it’s hoped that in some small way our efforts will help these students better manage their country as each generation grows.

If you have the urge to do something for the PNG area in which you resided, there are plenty of ways by which you can help. Any school will benefit by the gift of pencils, biros, rulers, stationery, etc., and these can be purchased during ‘back to school’ sales for the best price/quantity ratio. Andrea Williams will be able to assist you and direct your efforts along the right path including ‘donation bins’ set up in Sydney. You can contact her through the PNGAA.

A photo of our latest reunion group. Unfortunately not all our friends could make it along on this occasion but those who did had an enjoyable drink with friends.

Rabaul Commonwealth Bank on Mango Avenue as it was about 1965

And another view taken about 1967



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