Born: 7 October 1903. Died: 1 July 1942.
Adolf Schmidt was Head of Native Schools in Rabaul when the Japanese invaded in 1942. He became a prisoner of war and is recorded as one of the civilians who lost their lives on the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.
Education of NG Natives - Work of Mr A. Schmidt - Letter to the Editor
In your article in the July "PIM" about native education in New Guinea, you fail to do justice to the valuable work done in the Territory in recent years by Mr A. Schmidt (head of the native schools) and his assistants, Messrs Monger, Waterhouse and Burch.
Mr Schmidt went from the Queensland education service to Rabaul in 1926, and he devoted himself, over 14 years, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to the task of organising and operating a system of instruction of native children. He recognised that nothing much could be achieved unless and until a corps of young native men were trained to take charge of the village schools. The authorities gave him such limited facilities with which to work that he could carry out his plans on a small scale; but during the past ten years, there was produced from the elementary and technical schools in the Rabaul district a considerable number of young native teachers, clerks and technicians, whose standard of education was truly astonishing. I am sending you herewith a selection of letters written to Mr Schmidt in recent times, and I think that you will agree that their handwriting and composition would not disgrace any European pupil of a secondary school.
Many of the best of these lads were immediately taken by the administrative offices in Rabaul for use as clerks; but several of them were sent out over the Territory - to New Ireland, to the Ramu and other places on the mainland - and placed in the charge of village schools. Mr Schmidt was just beginning to see some real results from his long years of hard work when the Japanese invasion came, and swept everything away. He himself was caught in the invasion and is believed to be a prisoner of war.
I am, etc, TERRITORIAN, Sydney, 26/7/43.
EDITORIAL NOTE: The "PIM" did not criticise the quality of the teaching done in the native schools in New Guinea - on the contrary, having seen something of the work carried out in the village schools and in the Rabaul technical school, we have nothing but praise for what was accomplished there. Our attack was directed against the thumb-twiddling of Canberra and Namanula, whenever the subject of native education was raised - the strange policy of laissez faire.
There are the better part of a million natives in New Guinea. They are a bright, intelligent people, many of them eager for instruction. New Guinea, during the period of the flourishing gold industry, had rich revenues available for expenditure upon native education and native health - and the obvious thing to have done was to have trained hundreds of young native men as school-teachers and native medical practitioners. The work of Mr Schmidt, the late Mr Waterhouse, and others showed that such a policy was quite practicable, and would have paid rich dividends. But the New Guinea Administration awaited a lead from Canberra; Canberra merely twiddled its thumbs and awaited a lead from some unknown politician who had been pitchforked into the job of Minister for External Territories; and so nothing was done. Had it not been for the missions, the amount of native education work done in NG in the last 20 years would have been negligible.
Native education and native health are still New Guinea problems awaiting solution. Mr Schmidt and his associates at least will have the satisfaction of knowing that the pioneering work they have done in the secular field, in the face of much difficulty, must supply the policy framers of the future with a valuable guide.