Vale March 2012

AINSWORTH, Joan (née Decker) (3 February 2012) | BRIANCOURT, Pat (13 May 2011) | DILLON, Ian J, SJ (2 April 2011) | DONALDSON, Rae (née Threlfo (26 July 2011) | DUNN (nee Wilson), Dora (25 December 2011) | DUNWOODIE, Alan (1 January 2012) | ELLIS, Bradley (11 November 2011)  | GIREGIRE, Sir Sinake (4 January 2012) | MERCER, Frederick James (16 October 2011) | NEILSEN, Leonore (née Ludwig) (28 October 2011) | PARSLOW, Madeleine Mary (8 October 2011) | PINGO, Andrew (Drew) (25 October 2011) | PORTER, Betty (24 December 2011) | SKELLET, Ivan Leonard (25 February 2012) SMITH, John Edward Nayler (Jen) |  (30 August 2011)


Joan AINSWORTH, née Decker (3 February 2012, aged 75)

Mother, grand-mother, tennis-player, traveller, librarian, genealogist, Joan Ainsworth was the eldest of four children born to George Shirley and Gladys Decker, who had moved to Brisbane from Warwick in 1931. George Shirley set up a real estate business in Shorncliffe, some 16 km from Brisbane. Joan attended Shorncliffe State Primary School, and completed her secondary education at St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School, Albion. Joan gained a Commonwealth Scholarship to the University of Queensland, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree.

An accomplished tennis player, Joan represented St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School. She also played in many tournaments throughout Queensland, and was ranked number eight in the State Juniors.  She also represented Australian Universities in New Zealand in a series of tournaments in 1958.

Joan found work in the Queensland State Library, Brisbane, and completed her preliminary librarian qualification. This is where she met her husband to be, Phillip, when he came into borrow books on Aboriginal art. They married in 1960 and moved to Port Moresby, PNG, where they lived for twenty-one years. Their three children were all born in Port Moresby: twins, Catherine and Barbara in 1961, and Dianne in 1963. Dianne was one of 18 people killed on 30 July 1997 at Thredbo, NSW, when the Alpine Highway collapsed onto the village, smashing two buildings.

When the twins were three years old, Joan returned to work and completed her librarian qualification. Over the next seventeen years, she catalogued books in the Public Library at Ela Beach, the Department of Education Library and the National Library.

In her spare time, Joan played recreational tennis and, as the number one women’s player, won gold medals in tennis for PNG at the 1969 South Pacific Games held in Port Moresby. She also played A Grade squash for many years both in Port Moresby and on her return to Brisbane in 1981. Joan may not have been the fittest player on the squash court, but her uncanny skills in placing the ball were exceptional.

Pursuing her abiding interest in history, Joan researched her Decker family history, completing the first edition in 1979. This involved much overseas correspondence and research, and was before the age of the computer and internet. She found great satisfaction confirming her family history research in Britain and Germany on her European trips in 1973 and 1975 with Phillip.

Joan also catalogued the inscriptions of tombstones of expatriates buried in most PNG provincial towns. She added to this information with research from records and gazettes, and published a typed manuscript, Genealogical Index to Australian and other Expatriates in Papua New Guinea, 1888 to 1975. She donated this publication and copyright to the Queensland Family History Association (QFHA), which published it in CD form. This project was mainly undertaken before PNG’s Independence when documents and records were more accessible, and was many years in the making. Its timeliness has been vindicated by the many requests for this information received by the QFHA.

Leaving PNG in August 1981, Joan and Phillip settled in Toowong, about four kilometres from Brisbane. Joan assisted in managing family investments, worked on her genealogical research and projects, and later did voluntary work in a number of community based organisations.

In the 1980s Joan initiated, compiled, and with later assistance from members of the QFHA, catalogued the inscriptions of tombstones in the 34 hectares of Toowong Cemetery which has been open since 1875. The final document comprised five volumes containing over eighty thousand entries. The document and its commercial interest were also donated to the QFHA which republished the volumes in CD form. This mammoth undertaking took Joan about five years to complete.

Always well informed, Joan kept herself abreast of current news and events. She was a modest, unassuming, sincere and intelligent person who had firm views but did not try to impose them on others. In her undemonstrative way, Joan loved her family including her six grandchildren: Nicholas, Alexander, Michael, Meghan, Rachael and Benjamin. Joan died in her sleep on the evening of 3 February 2012, released from her progressively debilitating condition, Parkinson’s disease. 


Dora DUNN (nee Wilson) (25 December 2012 aged 98)

No further details available.


Alan William DUNWOODIE (01 January 2012)

No further details available.


Bradley ELLIS (11 November 2011, aged 43)

Bradley (Brad) Ellis, eldest son of member David Ellis and Gwenda Ellis (David was the ABC’s Regional Journalist at Rabaul in the 1960s and Gwenda worked at Clarke’s Pharmacy) passed away on 11 November after a lengthy battle with cancer of the bowel, the liver and a lung.

Brad was born at Nonga Base Hospital on 25 July 1968; he passed away at his home in the NSW Southern Highlands surrounded by his wife Emma, David and Gwenda, his sister Kimberley and brother-in-law Andrew, and his brother Steven and sister-in-law Stephanie and several close friends.

Brad was diagnosed 2½ years ago and told at the time he “had six months”.  His doctors said his “extraordinary tenacity and willpower” helped him in his fight, and he worked up until just two months ago despite fortnightly chemo treatment, his condition deteriorating rapidly in the last few weeks.

He is survived by Emma and two daughters by a previous marriage, Abigail (8) and Naomi (6).


Ivan Leonard SKELLET (25 February 2011, aged 75)

Ivan was a graduate of the University of Queensland with degrees in Engineering (Civil) and Commerce. As a young graduate, he worked for both Government and private enterprise in Queensland and the Northern Territory before being transferred to Port Moresby in April 1972 as Construction Engineer for Hornibrook Constructions (Papua New Guinea and the Pacific). In 1973 he was appointed Manager of Hornibrook Constructions. At this time Ivan was also responsible for the operation of a steel fabrication and merchandising program in Port Moresby, Lae and Madang, and the operation of a readymix concrete division, Transitmix. Major projects carried out included  the reconstruction of the runway at Port Moresby Airport (no more Marsden matting!), wharves, bridges and roads in New Britain, Solomon Islands, Goroka, Mt Hagen, Lae, Oro Bay and the building of a wood chip mill at Madang.

The building program also included extensions to the Library and construction of a Science block for the University of Papua New Guinea, a telephone exchange on Ela Beach and major extensions to the PNG Bank of South Pacific (formerly the National Bank of Australia). Preliminary investigatory work on potential projects in Irian Jaya and infrastructure for mining projects in the region of the Fly River and Bougainville, as well as trialling of a pilot program for the introduction of skilled labour from the Philippines, were also undertaken.

Extra-curricular activities included Vice-President of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce, an Executive Member of the PNG Employers’ Federation, Fellow of the Papua New Guinea Society of Professional Engineers and Chairman of its Port Moresby branch, a member of the Rotary Club of Port Moresby, and membership of the Papua Club. In the little spare time Ivan had on weekends, the family enjoyed sailing activities at the Port Moresby Yacht Club as well as occasional sorties in their power boat to neighbouring islands.

Ivan, with his family (by this time a fourth child had arrived), returned to Sydney in September 1977 and worked in the areas of marketing and business development for Hornibrook in New South Wales, Thiess in Sydney and Brisbane and GHD-Vogan in Sydney. In 1992 Ivan established his own financial engineering consultancy, Kooragwin Pty Ltd, and was involved in a variety of small projects for large engineering consultancies and construction companies in Sydney. He was elected Governor of Rotary International District 9680 in 1994-95 and in later years became a member of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem. Ivan retired, due to ill health, in 2000, but retained his interests in and friendships made during the time the family spent in Papua New Guinea.  He always looked forward to the receipt in the mail of the Journal of the PNG Society and would read and re-read items that attracted his interest. Patricia Skellet01 January 2012

Drew was a kiap from 1969 to 1978. He and his family, wife Ruth and children Merryn, Bruce and Grant, spent their time in PNG in the Northern District (now Oro Province) based at Kokoda, Popondetta and Afore. He passed away peacefully at home. He is remembered fondly by his many PNG friends and colleagues. Vale Drew. Fulvio Favetta


Leonore NEILSEN, née Ludwig (28 October 2011) 

Sister Ludwig arived in Port Moresby in 1958, after a few weeks was transfered to Samurai, several months later to Lae and then to Wau. On returning from leave in 1960, she was transfered to Sohano, where she met Allan Neilsen. They returned to Sydney in 1961 on the MV Tulagi and were married on 11November 1961 at the methodist church Turramurra. After her marriage, Leonore returned to Hornsby Hospital where she did her training, after the birth of Janette & Katherine. She worked at various nursing homes and hospitals, finishing her nursing carreer as Matron of Winnward House nursing home Wahroonga. Leonore loved to travel and made many permanent friends. She will be sadly missed by family and all who knew her. Allan Neilsen


Madeleine Mary PARSLOW (8 October 2011, aged 97 years)

No further details available.


Betty PORTER (24 December 2011)

No further details available.


Pat BRIANCOURT (13 May 2011, aged 77)

Pat died at Svensson Heights (Bundaberg) after a long ilness. Born in  London, he  served in the Wiltshire County Constabulary. He arrived in Australia in 1953 and became a Cadet in Victoria Police for a year before joining the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps between 1955 and 1960. He joined RPNGC on 2 November 1961 and served widely in Papua New Guinea, at the Bomana Police College, mobile forces, Rabaul during the Mataunguan problems, the Highlands and elsewhere. He was promoted to Superintendent on 15 February 1972 and separated from RPNGC on 8 May 1975. On return to Australia he was a member of the Commonwealth Employment Service and later became a commercial fisherman in South Australia. He is survived by Audrey, a son Wayne, and grandchildren. M.R. Hayes


Frederick James MERCER (16 October 2011, aged 80)

After joining the New South Wales Police Force on 8 December 1947, he spent 2½ years as a police cadet before joining the the regular police force, subsequently resigning on 14 July 1960. He joined the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabaulary on 18 July 1960 and served at Port Moresby, Wewak, Lae and Rabaul, where he resigned on 16 October 1966 to join PNG Corrective Institutions. Between 1966 and 1975 he rose in rank to Superintendent, serving widely in Madang, Kavieng, Kerevat, Lae, Wewak, Mt Hagen and Bomana.

He separated from the PNG Administration during the Independence process, following which he spent two years in the Philippines before returning to Brisbane. The lure of running prisons drew him to join the Northern Territory Correctional Service in 1978 and he remained there for the next 17 years, retiring with the rank of Superintendent in 1995. He is mentioned in Lindy Chamberlain(-Creighton’s) book Through My Eyes. He is survived by his second wife Marcia, their daughter Melissa and son Dennis, and daughters Vicky and Kim from his first marriage. M.R. Hayes


Rae DONALDSON (née Threlfo) (26 July 2011, aged 92)

Rae was born in Coraki, Northern NSW. The family lived in Mullumbimby where her father owned a department store.

Often, when he and Rae stood at the stores front door step, they would greet and listen to the famous wandering poet, Banjo Patterson. He would read his poems from scraps of paper to Rae’s poet-loving father and she became entranced with poetry from a very early age.

In time, the family moved to Tamworth, then subsequently to Sydney where she received her high school education and secretarial commercial course diploma.

Rae worked at Sydney Radio Station 2GB in charge of musical copyright matters, and later moved to the NSW ABC State Musical Record Library.

In 1947, she was transferred to the ABC Radio Station 9PA situated at the Five Mile, Port Moresby. 9PA at that time was in a considerable state of disrepair due to previous army occupation and neglect. However, she accepted the challenge and ultimately reconstructed 9PA’s dilapidated record library with hundreds of recordings from Australia.

Rae met her future husband Claude in Port Moresby. They were married in Sydney in 1949, returning to PNG where Claude was transferred to Angoram with the then Dept of Native Labour. The ADO at the time was Ralph Ormsby. Housing conditions at Angoram were very primitive. Relocating to Goroka in the Central Highlands was a welcome change and they spent three happy years there. Goroka then numbered ten Government officers and their families. Other locations also included Rabaul and Kokopo.

While in Rabaul, Rae helped to create a local Musical Comedy and Operetta Society in which she participated as a fine lyric soprano singer. She also worked for the PNG Copra  Marketing Board – Shipping Section.

In due course, their daughter Anne was born, but because of health reasons affecting her, the family moved to Sydney in 1960 where they built a home at Eastwood.

Rae loved PNG and its people, as well as the beauty of the country. Sadly she endured ill health for two years prior to her passing at Ryde Hospital. Claude Donaldson


Ian J DILLON, SJ (2 April 2011)

Ian Dillon was the Catholic chaplain of UPNG and the Administrative College from 1967. These were the foundation years of the University and he was a steady guide to any student or staff member in search of a comforting listener. He also taught some classes to the Preliminary Year students. He is remembered with affectionate gratitude by former students many of whom came into Moresby and found themselves without any of the traditional tribal supports that had given them strength through their secondary education. They said he knew to “tok stret” [talk straight].

His red and white ute was a familiar sight along Waigani Road, ferrying students, or the University Australian Rules team, or women and children from his neighbourhood who were cashing in the bottles they had collected to supplement their living. Many parties, wedding receptions and discussions took place in his tiny besser block house across the way from the Uni.

When an indigenous chaplain was available to take his place, Ian worked in the Morata and Waigani parishes. He wrote at this time of a child being “wrapped in a laplap and set alight as a result of a very complicated set of beliefs and sheer ill-will”.

On his return to Melbourne he became a chaplain with the Industrial Trade and Industry Mission where he worked on the shop floor of several different companies. The boot of his car was fulll of boots and helmets. It seemed every workplace required different safety gear, and Ian had to don it over his Yakka uniform when he was working.

At the same time he travelled to Kilmore Parish in rural Victoria every weekend and continued working there until shortly before his death.

After retirement from the industrial chaplaincy he moved from Melbourne’s western suburbs to Campion House. He was chaplain at Jesuit Social Services for thirteen years and also managed to run retreats for religious and clergy of all faiths.

He enjoyed Una Voce and always thanked me for sending it to him. He agreed me that many of the articles described ordinary people who went to Papua New Guinea and “did amazing things”. Kyran Lynch Kheir


John Edward Nayler (“Jen”) SMITH (30 August 2011, aged 74)

John was born in Lancashire, England, moving with his family to Australia in 1955. He had finished schooling and decided on a forestry career before the move and started his forestry training in Sydney as a TPNG Forestry Department cadet in 1956. After two years at Sydney University, a field year in PNG in 1958 spent in Bulolo, Keravat and Moresby, and two years at the Australian Forestry School in Canberra, he started his PNG career in 1961. He met future wife, Marie, in Canberra in 1960 and, after long distance and on-site wooing, they were married in December 1962. His boss in his first posting (Keravat), John Godlee, and wife Ros, remember having Marie stay with them over a three-week holiday in 1961 during that process, with earnest entreaty from John to lay on the attractions PNG life with a trowel. They duly did, and the rest is history.

His PNG career saw John based in Keravat (1961-62), Wewak (1963-64; his first posting with Marie), Bulolo (1965-69), Mt Hagen (1970-72) and, after a year in Armidale (NSW) working towards a University of New England Master of Natural Resources, Bulolo again (1974-76). He moved through various levels of management to the position of Regional Forester—Highlands in his Mt Hagen years, but was also involved in research into plantation silviculture and lecturing in management subjects at the Bulolo Forestry College. Forest plantations, especially tropical pines, became his enduring professional interest. Those were formative years for PNG’s plantation programs and John contributed significantly to plantation technology and traditions in PNG today.

In 1976 John and Marie returned to Australia with children Eleanor, Gail and Ian, first to South Australia where he worked for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, but in 1979 to Tasmania, where they lived in Launceston and John worked for forestry company APPM Forest Products (later North Forest Products) till his retirement in 1997. His Tasmanian career continued the close involvement with plantation forestry, both company owned and in the farm sector more widely. Indeed he was the National President of Australian Forest Growers, the farm forestry association in Australia, in 1998-99, and became a Fellow of the Institute of Foresters of Australia (the peak professional association) in 1999. Involvement in Tasmanian forestry necessarily meant involvement in what became the great and ongoing Tasmanian Forestry Debate, and he played an active and ongoing role as an advocate for forestry in that context.

In retirement John discovered and developed a talent for water colour landscape painting and remained active in church affairs. Marie died suddenly in 1995 and John married Helen in 1999. He coped stoically with chronic health problems for some twenty-six years before his death and it was a complication arising from these that finally took him. He is survived by Helen, children Eleanor, Gail and Ian, respective spouses and 9 grandchildren.

Vale John, you are remembered with affection and respect as a thorough professional and a very decent man. Ian Whyte


Sir Sinake GIREGIRE (4 January 2012)

Pioneer Eastern Highlands businessman and PNG Country Party founder Sir Sinake Giregire was an intriguing, humorous and likeable man, highly intelligent although with only the most basic formal education. He was definitely an ideas man and one with a lifelong enthusiasm for agricultural development. Even in his eighties, Sir Sinake was lucid and full of life and ideas.

He was a gold miner, coffee planter, coffee factory owner and entrepreneur.

Interested in politics and the future of his country from an early age, Sir Sineke was councillor and first president of Asaro Watabung local government council from 1957. In 1957 he also became a pioneer member of Highlands Farmers & Settlers Association (HFSA) and has been president since 1984. Sir Sineke was a founder of the Compass Party, formed in Minj in 1967, together with other expatriate and indigenous Members of the House of Assembly who were aligned with the farmers and planters association: the Highlands Farmers & Settlers Association Incorporated (HFSA). Members of HFSA in Parliament were Ian Downs, Highlands Special (President of HFSA), John Watts (WH Regional), Mike Casey (Kainantu) and Sinake Giregire (Goroka).

Sir Sinake was involved in founding the Farmers and Settlers Association in Goroka in 1969.

From 1964 to 1968 he was a Member of the House of Assembly for Goroka Open, and from 1968 to 1977 was the Member of Parliament for Daulo Open. He had terms as Minister for Agriculture, Stock & Fisheries and Minister for Posts & Telegraphs.

The PNG Country Party was formally recognized on the floor of Parliament in March 1974 under the leadership of Sir Sinake Giregire. Its policy was focused on the Eight Point Plan of the PNG Government with its emphasis on development of agriculture, sustainable use of resource, rural development and economic growth with urban centres as service centres. Info from John Fowke and Post Courier 5 January 2012

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