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Saturday, March 27, 2021

How one tiny $3-classified advert changed my life


After my 'compulsory' two years in Australia from 1965 to 1967 as an 'assisted migrant', I was free to leave again - and leave I did as it seemed impossible to live on what was initially a youth wage and later became the salary of a junior bank officer with the ANZ Bank.

I had booked a passage back to Europe aboard the Greek ship 'PATRIS' operated by Chandris Line which had been scheduled to leave Sydney and call at Port Moresby on its way through the Suez Canal. But history and the Eqypt-Israeli war of 1967 [the "6-Day War" which began on June 5, 1967] intervened and the Suez Canal was closed to all shipping.

So the 'PATRIS' never got to Port Moresby but sailed through the Great Australian Bight and around the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town) instead. However, a good number of 'Territorians' from the then Territory of Papua & New Guinea had already booked a passage and the shipping line at great expense flew them down to Sydney to join the ship. And so it came that I spent some four weeks aboard the 'PATRIS' in the company of a whole bunch of hard-drinking and boisterous 'Territorians'.

Having barely scraped together the fare, I had no money to spend on drinks but I did mix with the 'Territorians' night after night in the ship's Midnight Club to listen to Graham Bell and his Allstars. I was spellbound by the tall stories those 'larger-than-life' 'Territorians' told about the Territory which seemed to provide them with everything they wanted from life. My mind was made up that one day I would go there myself.

I spent the next few miserable winter months in Hamburg and then in Frankfurt before finding a way out again: I got a job in southern Africa which, as I saw it, was almost halfway to New Guinea. That is not to say that my career was a planned one. Lemmings have better plans than I've had for most of my life, but that's perhaps true of many people's lives.

After six months' work in South-West Africa (now called Namibia) I had saved enough money for the fare back, and in April 1969 I boarded the 'Ellinis' in Cape Town and sailed for Sydney, from where I took the train back to Canberra to resume my earlier work with the ANZ Bank.

But the die was cast and I knew I'd find a way to get to the Territory. I had heard about PIM, the Pacific Island Monthly which was read by one and all in the Territory. I bought a copy and decided to place in next month's issue a tiny classified ad which from memory ran something like this: "Young Accountant (24), still studying, seeks position in the Islands." It cost me $3 and got me two offers, one of which I accepted and which was the start of my life in the islands and all that followed.

Ever since then I have been trying to find a copy of that life-changing advertisement again. Some ten years ago, I even took a trip up to Canberra where I spent a couple of hours in the cavernous reading room of the National Library paging through all the twelve issues of the 1969 Pacific Islands Magazine, from January to December 1969, but no luck!


Each monthly issue carried one page full of classified ads. This one is the June 1969 issue. My classified advert would've been published sometime between June and December 1969


Since then, the National Library has digitised the entire run of the Pacific Islands Monthly magazine, from the first issue in 1930 to the last in 2000 - click here, and I've been able to search the same issues on the computer from the comfort of home. NOTHING! And yet it could've only been in PIM! Where is that tiny $3-classified that so changed my life?

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