Tuesday, June 16, 2009

OBITUARY - REG THOMSON (2 June 2009, Aged 89)

Reg was born in the Victorian goldfields in 1919. He left school at thirteen to work in a series of jobs in rural Victoria; joined the YMCA and enlisted in the Australian Army in 1941. He served in several theatres of war, including on the Bulldog Road in New Guinea and at Balikpapan in Borneo.

Following his demobilization Reg gained admission to the University of Adelaide under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Scheme. On completion of a Diploma in Social Science he joined the colonial administration in PNG as a junior education officer. In preparation for his colonial service in early 1949 he was admitted to the ASOPA in Sydney. His association with the school lasted for 24 years, both as a student and later as a sometime lecturer.

From the late 1950s until 1973, Reg was chief of the Division of Social Development and Director of Child Welfare within the Papua New Guinea government. This was a time of rapid social and political change, and his responsibilities were many and varied. Specialized offices in his division included child welfare, urban resettlement, training, youth work and women’s activities. His community development officers were based in all districts. Their duties included community development projects and community education including health promotion and political education. Referrals under child welfare and adoption legislation brought them into close contact with courts and legal aid agencies. They worked with government and non government agencies in many activities including case work and counseling, migration referrals, grants in aid, pensions and sports development and the licensing and inspection of child care centres.

Prior to Reg’s arrival there were few written guidelines in many of the areas mentioned above. Child welfare and adoption legislation were relatively new. Reg and his staff produced a wide range of publications which provided a “road map” through unfamiliar territory.

Through the activities and programs and in many other ways, Reg helped build up a number of agencies which became part of a modern social welfare system for PNG. His staff remembers him with respect and affection. And he has been honored by the PNG government for his outstanding contribution.

At the age of 89, Reg recently published his memoir, Looking for a Good Book. Early in his life Reg became an avid book collector. His book is a ‘tale of a gentle madness’, the story of a book collector thrown hither and thither by tumultuous events beyond his control.

Reg is survived by his son Mark, and daughter Julie.

Mark Thomson/Graeme Parry

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