NOTE:  this is mostly material from around 2000 – 2006 from the old web site

From 1994 until 2006 a series of Reunions have been held in Australia by past staff and students of the educational institutions established between 1944 and the present day on the Sogeri Plateau, about 40 km east of Port Moresby.  The oldest of these was the ANGAU Papuan Training Centre, later Sogeri School, now a National High School. Then a few km to the west is Iarowari High School and on the Plateau are also a number of Primary Schools.  The schools have always had close contact and support from staff at nearby plantations and the ‘ELCOM’ hydroelectric power stations at Rouna.  The full history of the School and the local area is in the book  SOGERI -THE SCHOOL THAT HELPED TO SHAPE A NATION   published in 2002.

This web site contains information and links about the schools and their history, and provides extracts from the Newsletters to keep those interested informed of current developments and future Reunions.  This site was originally established in 1997 by Ken Watson, Nambucca Heads, NSW, and it proved successful in making new contacts with people from Sogeri and Iarowari all over the world.  Since late 1999 it is being maintained and updated by  Marjorie Walker and Alfred Kruijshoop,  in Mount Waverley (near Melbourne, Victoria) at the request of Ken Watson.

Follow this link to Sogeri Reunion Reports



Below:  Further PNG and Sogeri School and District material





This year, 2000, is an important milestone for Papua New Guinea as September 16, 2000 is the 25th Anniversary of Independence Day or Silver Jubilee.

September 16,  1975  was also an important day for Sogeri National High School as it was the day of the Flag Raising Ceremony on Independence Hill, Waigani in the morning and the Installation and Constitutional Ceremonies at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in the afternoon. It was important for the Sogeri students as they, as a group, were given the opportunity to act as the Cultural Aides for the week of Independence Celebrations from Saturday September 13, 1975 when the first dignitaries arrived until Thursday September 17, 1975 when the bulk of the dignitaries were farewelled on the inaugural Qantas flight to Sydney which was the start of the new partnership with Air Niugini.


THE  INDEPENDENCE  CELEBRATIONS  –  September 13 – 17, 1975

On Sunday September 14 the majority of the overseas dignitaries arrived at Jackson Airport, including over 30 Heads of State, and they were welcomed and ushered to their waiting cars by the then Chief Minister, Michael Somare (Then and still affectionately known as “The Chief”) assisted by our students. The whole school, including teachers and some ancillary staff formed a mass of colour to be seen on the tarmac as the planes came in from various countries. The outfits of long caftan dresses for the females and laplap and afro shirt for the males were in 20 colours representing the then 20 Districts (after Independence known as Provinces) of the Country. Each District group worked out the designs to be printed on the outfits. Longreach Clothing  Company donated their services for the cutting and basic seam stitching and the printing, hemming and finishing was done at the school. An International  Dinner was held at the Cathay Club to raise the funds to  purchase the 1,500 metres of fabric required. It was too difficult a task to then raise the money for leather sandals as the Independence Celebrations Committee did not want our students to wear flip flops so the students were to be barefoot. To overcome the heat of the midday sun, on the tarmac, several cricket mats were purchased for the students to stand on. To this day there is probably still one of the cricket mats as floor covering in the Sogeri Museum.

Late in the afternoon of Monday September 15 the last time for lowering the Australian Flag took place at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium at which a group of 40 students and 2 teachers were required to usher and welcome guests.

The “BIG DAY”,  Tuesday September 16, the whole school again boarded the 10 newly purchased Moresby Bus Company buses to snake down the Sogeri Road to Independence Hill, Waigani to be ready to welcome the important guests to the Flag Raising Ceremony. A huge new PNG Flag, as we know it today, was unwrapped and carried, with a slow march, up to the summit held at four corners by representatives of the Services – Army, Navy, Police and Corrections Services. The brightly clad Sogeri Cultural Aides formed a guard of honour, between which the flag was carried, along the newly tarred road to the summit of Independence Hill. This made for a very colourful and ceremonious sight and is featured photographically in Eric Lindgren’s book, “In Truth A Nation”, which was published soon after the Celebrations.

Part 2 of the “BIG DAY” was the Installation and Constitutional Ceremonies held on the afternoon of September 16 at 2.00 pm at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium. This was a wonderful celebration of colour and traditional dancing from the village groups, the local school children and the general public surrounded the arena. The ceremonies were for the signing of constitutional documents, the swearing in of the new Parliamentary members with the Prime Minister Michael Somare as the  leader of the PANGU Party. In his younger days Michael Somare like many other of the Country’s leaders had studied at the Sogeri School. During this Ceremony the visiting overseas Heads of State came forward to the dais to receive gifts on behalf of their country to commemorate Papua New Guinea’s Independence. The Sogeri students escorted the dignitaries and helped them carry the collection of items given to their country. The collection had a full range of items from all over PNG for example a large Buka basket, carved wooden items, PNG tea and coffee and included was Barry Ison’s book TAIRU (meaning peace)  which  was published especially for the purpose featuring 4-6 pages on Cultural aspects of the 20 districts. The Sogeri students produced the articles, drawings, poems as part of their Oral History class work.

On the evening of Wednesday September 17, again at the Stadium, our students performed the Historical Tableau in 20 stages depicting the History of Papua New Guinea from pre-colonial era to the Independence Day Celebrations, September 16 1975.  Each individual Tableau was staged around the arena and thousands of school children were on the arena to jump up waving flags at the last stage where the Independence and Constitutional documents were signed. The commentary was narrated over a public address system.

Thursday September 17 was the time to say goodbye to the country’s official guests so we were all again at the Airport. The Independence Celebrations were held during school holidays and because Mr Somare was so impressed with the job our students did all week he gave them the following week off classes.

We had 2 months to prepare for our part in these Independence Celebrations since the time our Expressive Arts Staff – Jean Holtham, Barry Ison and Marj. Walker – were invited to a meeting of the Independence Celebrations Committee. On looking back I find it hard to believe how we did it as there were many rehearsals at Sogeri and in Moresby, the outfits to sew and print, screens to make, meetings to attend in Moresby re: planning and this needed to be done out of class time as we had 200 students each year aiming to secure University entrance or other careers. Many of our Reunion people were involved whom you will have met at one of our 3 Reunions such as Jeanette and Warwick Richmond, Jan and Peter McGuckian, Judy Schulz (Adams), Margaret Knowles, Rosie van der Veen, Barry Ison, Lorraine and Bob Roberts. Many others on the mailing list for our Reunion newsletters were also still working in PNG at Independence.

Other than Sogeri’s involvement, mention must be made of how every area of the whole country was celebrating with their own festival styles during the Independence week  and all of that was master-minded by David Marsh who did a wonderful job as CEO of the Independence Celebrations Committee during 1975.

The September 2000 issue of Air Niugini’s in flight Paradise Magazine will feature an article on the 25 years of PNG Independence.

Thanks to Dr Eric Lindgren for permission to use photos his book “IN TRUTH A NATION” and thanks to Barry Ison for his photos from “EMAI”, the 1975 Sogeri NHS Year Book.

Marjorie Walker – Head of Expressive Arts at Sogeri 1972 – 85



A very brief History of Sogeri as drafted in 1997 by the late Ken Watson

(with later minor changes)Educational institutions were first established at Sogeri in 1944 and since then has grown into one of the premier High Schools of Papua New Guinea.  The full history of the School from 1944 to 1994 has been described in detail in the book  “SOGERI, The School That Helped to Shape a Nation – A HISTORY, 1944 – 1994”  by Lance Taylor.  One of the attractions of this book is the collection of over 150 photographs; see the  Order Form  elsewhere on this web site.

In 1966 Sogeri and Iarowari High Schools were combined to form one Sogeri High School.  The junior classes, Forms 1 and 2 were at Iarowari campus and the senior classes, Forms 3 and 4 were at Sogeri campus.  In 1969 the school became a Senior (later ‘National’) High School consisting of Forms 5 and 6 with students drawn from all over PNG.  Iarowari then reverted back to its role as a full high school.

The schools are situated on the Sogeri Plateau in the foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges.  This is approximately 40 km east of Port Moresby and 20 km  from the start of the Kokoda Trail at Owers’ Corner.  An all-weather, sealed road now links the area to the capital, Port Moresby.

Up the hill.
Up the hill !     [Image from Ken Watson  –  please enlarge this photo in your browser to see the fine detail]

This road is now a far cry from the old dirt road well known by many staff and commercial enterprises who lived in the area in the early period of the schools development.   Veterans, who were stationed in the area during the 1939-45 period would remember the old road quite well !

Over the years many expatriate and local teachers have passed through the doors of the school, in the early years the majority being Australian with others from the United Kingdom, USA, Canada, New Zealand, India and other countries.

There have been four Reunions, the first being in May 1994 at Mulwala on the Murray River, the second in July 1997 at Nambucca Heads on the North Coast of NSW, the third in October 1999 in Maroochydore on the Queensland Sunshine Coast and the fourth in September 2002 in Canberra.


Post-Courier of  Thursday, November 25, 1999:

“Matane just keeps writing on”(Sir Paulias Matane is a past student at Sogeri – see for example the famous 1962 photograph on page 306 of the book “Snake Road” by Lance Taylor, showing in one most notable class: the now Sir Paulias Matane, Sir Ronald ToVue, Sir Alkan Tololo, Sir Sere Pitoi, Sir Kwamala Kao and Sir Michael Somare!  He was also one of the key speakers at the School’s 50th Anniversary in 1994.)

Queen and Sir Paulias Matane
Queen Elizabeth II  and  Sir Paulias Nguna Matane GCL GCMG OBE KStJ

PAPUA New Guinea is faced with management problems, which gives rise to bad decisions and corruption, because we lack management skills.  Author and former senior diplomat, Sir Paulius Matane, has written three new books, two of which are on management problems in PNG and offer some solutions.  “Management is a skill and it starts with an individual. An individual must manage his own life if he is to be good in managing his family, his community and then the nation,” he said yesterday.  Sir Paulius said management was very important because we are faced with enormous management problems in all these areas where families are breaking apart and businesses falling apart.

Management Problems in PNG: Some Solutions and Further Management Problems in PNG: Their solutions, each have 30 short chapters and the Forward is written by Director of PNG Institute of Public Administration Gei Ilagi.  “I thank him (Mr Ilagi), because he trains people to become good managers,” Sir Paulius said.

Sir Paulius said the chapters are very short and easy to read because Papua New Guineans don’t like reading too much.  He has used his vast management experience starting as the first Papua New Guinean departmental head, as Secretary for Department of Business Management (later Commerce and Industry) during the colonial era, then as Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, as Ambassador of PNG to United States and as permanent representative to the United Nations for five years, to write the books.

“I encourage high schools in PNG and other institutions to get copies of these books if these schools want to see the students that they are teaching become productive in Life,” he said.

The third book titled Coach Adventures – Down Under, talks about the geography, history, politics, economy, social aspects and race relations in Australia.  The book’s Forward article was written by former Australian Ambassador to PNG, David Irvine.  Sir Paulius said this book was written because we are Australia’s closest neighbor, PNG gained independence from them and Australia has had a very high impact on the lives, political and economical wellbeing of PNG.  “So I thought it would be very important that I write about that country for schools in PNG so Papua New Guineans will learn a lot about their neighbors,” he said.  He said many books about PNG was also written by Australians so he has to pay some of that gesture back.

The latest publications bring to 26, the number of books written by Sir Paulius so far.  He is currently writing three more books and has encouraged Papua New Guineans to also write books.  The books which were published in India, have colorful gloss covers, are small and easy to read.  They are going for K17 each and copies can be purchased by writing to P.O.Box 680, Rabaul or facsimile number: 982 9151.


Obituary written by John Farquharson, published in UNA VOCE of March 2000

Mrs Dulcie (Flora) JOHNSON (31 December 1999, aged 78 years)

Dulcie Johnson, who died on New Year’s eve, was the wife of L. W. (Les) Johnson, the last Administrator of Papua New Guinea.  But during her 12 years in PNG she was much more than that – a person in her own right who played a significant role in developing opportunities for Papua New Guineans as well as facilitating their transition into a newly emerging relationship with Australians, Australia and the rest of the world.

Dulcie grew up on a wheat farm at Dudinin W A, where her father, Bill Gray, struggled to make a living growing wheat through the hard Great Depression years.  She and her two brothers walked or rode a horse for several miles everyday to a one-teacher school until she went to high school in Northam.  During her years boarding in Northam, a young teacher named Les Johnson boarded with her family.  Les and Dulcie married in 1940 when she was 19.  They were to have celebrated 60 years of marriage this year.

WWII saw Dulcie serving in the WAAF, while Les served with the 7th Division in the Pacific, Indonesia and Borneo.  In the post-war years Les progressed through the WA Education Department.  He went to PNG with his family in 1962 to spend six months as a deputy director of education before taking over as director when G. T. Roscoe retired.

From the outset Dulcie wanted to be involved with the people.  But, as she told (Dame) Rachel Cleland, wife of Administrator (Sir) Donald Cleland, “I don’t think committees are my thing….I want to do it in my own way”.  And this she certainly did, beginning with a young teacher she met named Vincent Eri and his wife, Margaret.  She made dresses with Margaret, a shy village girl of limited education, cooked with her and had the Eri children to play.  The open, undemanding friendship which Dulcie extended to the young couple was undoubtedly a factor in what they were later able to achieve.  For Vincent Eri became Governor-General and received a knighthood.  This was the beginning of Dulcie’s involvement with the local women, whom she got to know quietly in a personal way, through just doing things with them.  Many friendships were built in the same way with students from the Teachers’ College.  She did eventually get drawn into organisations such as Red Cross, PNG Women’s Association, YWCA and Girl Guides, but her style of doing things remained the same and extended to Members of the House of Assembly and their wives.

Her work with organisations began when she was asked to run a popular-girl competition for the Red Cross.  This led to organizing fashion parades for which she often made some of the dresses, drawing on her flair for design.  Over the years she was also responsible for various debutante balls; cabarets and concerts while her enthusiasm for music found expression through her fund-raising efforts on behalf of the Junior Music School.

Her easy, eye-to-eye friendliness was never more evident than at Government House, where she was known as “Missus bilong Namba Wan Gavman”, after Les became Administrator in 1970.  Ken Inglis, former PNG University vice-chancellor and noted historian, remembers her “putting people at ease, old and young, black and white – all were treated alike and everyone was family to her. She was a person of grace, good humour and generosity”.

As both Assistant Administrator and Administrator, the Johnsons concentrated on building friendships with up-and-coming Papua New Guineans and their wives…  There would be long afternoon teas and dinners, invariably with music and dancing, but above all conversation and discussions which would often go on until the small hours of the morning.  And Dulcie’s involvement with PNG, its affairs and people continued after retirement to Canberra.  She was patron of the Wantok Association which, through cultural and social events, helped to make any PNG people who came to live or study there feel at home”…

Dulcie is survived by husband Les, daughter Fay, son Ian and three grandchildren.

(John Farquharson was editor of the “South Pacific Post” in 1965-66. Our thanks to John for permission to publish this.  Appreciation to the Editor of  “UNA VOCE”,  the Newsletter of the (formerly the “Retired Officers’ Association of PNG” (ROAPNG), PO BOX 452, Roseville, NSW 2069, for permission to reproduce this article.)


Seen in the PNG Post-Courier of  Thursday 13 July 2000

Variarata is valuable – Scientist

A visiting scientist has declared that Variarata National Park at Sogeri, outside Port Moresby, is an extremely valuable resource for Papua New Guinea.  He praised the park for having an extraordinary variety of bird, animal and plant life.

Dr Jack Dumbacher, a researcher associated with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, said this while presenting a gift to the Office of Environment and Conservation at the National Museum and Art Gallery this week.  The gift of five laminated panels were illustrations of his research into the hooded pitohui (pitohudichrous) bird of the National Park.  The hooded pitohui is one of the world’s poisonous birds.  The beautifully designed panels were produced by the Smithsonian Institution as a gift to the Variarata Park on behalf of the National Zoo in Washington, the Smithsonian and the PNG National Museum. John Geno, First Assistant Director of the Office of Environment and Conservation, accepted the educational panels of behalf on the department.

Dr Dumbacher has conducted research on the pitohui birds since 1989. It was during research for his PhD that he first found the pitohuis are poisonous.  Since then he has returned to PNG many times, spending a lot of that time living and working at Variarata.  “I have worked in many regions around the world yet Variarata National Park is one of the most fabulous places I’ve ever worked in,” he said.  Dr Dumbacher, along with the Smithsonian’s Scott Derrickson and the PNG National Museum’s Dr Frank Bonaccorso, are studying the pitohuis’ diet and habitat to find out where the pitohuis obtain their poison.

Early research suggests the pitohuis get their poison, called batrochotoxins, from what they eat.  They are also producing a detailed map of the national park, containing trail and vegetation information, with the help of a global positioning system on loan from the Smithsonian Institution. The team is working closely with OEC staff and locals.

Although toxic birds are new to Western science, Papua New Guineans have known for countless years that pitohuis are poisonous.  In some villages, pitohuis have not been eaten for so long, hunters remember only that it is taboo to eat them.  “As Western scientists and foreigners, we continue to rely heavily on local collaborators, hunters and naturalists,” Dr Dumbacher said.  He will be in PNG until September.  Before their installation at the national park, the panels will be temporarily on display at the National Museum and Art Gallery.

(Note for early residents of the Sogeri / Iarowari district:  Varirata National Park, now very popular with “towns people” and tourists, is located along the ridge of the Sogeri Plateau, south of the Laloki River, and has magnificent views over the coastal plain with Port Moresby in the distance.  It  was opened in 1972.  The site of its “Welcome House” had previously been the Burns Philp pig farm.)