by Greg Ivey (Moem/Murray, 1969-70) and Russell Jenkin (Moem, 1967-68)
In 1968, a rare (if not unique) Conference was convened at Taurama Barracks involving almost all of the Chalkies then present in TPNG. With the passing of time and memories, it was worthwhile but challenging to assemble the details about that Conference. The authors welcome feedback and any further information available from other Chalkies about the event.
It appears that Education Sergeants and Officers were instructed to attend this first RAAEC Conference within PNG Command. Chalkies flew to Port Moresby from Lae and Wewak with the latter group using a DC 3 in cargo configuration. Stretcher-type seating was installed along each side of the fuselage for comfort (!). Obviously, the Chalkies from Murray Barracks and Goldie River Training depot used less-exotic transport.
The ADAE PNG Command, Lt. Colonel Roger Jones, threw his support behind the organization and was assisted by Capt. John Finn also based at Murray Barracks. Col. Jones officially opened the two-day Conference the objective of which was to build on the success achieved by the 1966, 1967 and 1968 Chalkies. Roger has recently placed Chalkies’ contribution in an historical context by publishing an article on the Website called “The Origins of the Chalkies Scheme”.
It appears that the Conference was timed following the arrival of the new 1968-69 cohort of Sergeants from Australia. The program was more than an Induction of welcome and familiarization for the newcomers. The experienced Chalkies delivered talks on their successes in educating the PIR soldiers. The Chalkie officers shared their judgements on the overall effectiveness of the strategies being employed at the various Barracks. Group work was used to workshop possible new approaches in educating the Pacific Island and Australian soldiers.
The benefits of this Conference would have been felt by those incoming Chalkies who arrived together as a group. Other Chalkies who arrived earlier or later than this group probably experienced only a basic induction. No doubt, this Conference also provided a psychological and social boost to both the new and the experienced Chalkies involved.
It has been suggested that there may have been limited educational benefits from this Conference to the TPNG-experienced Chalkies. Indeed, the regular Sergeants back at Moem Barracks claimed that it had only been a “Swan” for the Wewak Chalkies! This may have been an example of how the regular Sergeants in the Mess were not briefed by their leaders on the big picture of the strategic, nation-preparing role of the National Service Chalkies.