Collection PHOTO 114 - Slides from John Baker’s Volunteer Service Overseas placement in Solomon Islands

"Looking up past junior staff quarters to Geology Department, Honiara" "Junior staff quarters occupied by VSO volunteers, Honiara" "Practising plane table surveying in Rove valley, John Baker VSO with Geology Dept staff, Ho... "Practising plane table surveying in Rove valley, John Baker VSO with Geology Dept staff, Ho... "Buttress tree roots in Rove Valley, Honiara" "Geology Department main building, Honiara" "Geodomes used for teaching and housing students at Geology Dept, Honiara" "Donald Kalpokas (New Hebrides), John Watts VSO and Francis? Geology students" "John Baker VSO, Donald Kalpokas (New Hebrides), John Watts VSO and Francis? Geology student... "Coconut palms near Bonege, Guadalcanal"
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AU PMB PHOTO 114

Title

Slides from John Baker’s Volunteer Service Overseas placement in Solomon Islands

Date(s)

  • 1964-1965 (Creation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

540 digitised slides

Context area

Name of creator

(1946-)

Biographical history

John Baker worked as a volunteer under the auspices of the British Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) organisation in 1964-1965. He was 18 and 19 at the time and was what was known as a ‘school leaver’ volunteer. John was attached mainly to two District Administrations to work on various local projects. August-November 1964, Baker worked as a teacher at the Geological Department’s survey school in Honiara. Then he transferred to Western District headquarters in Gizo and worked during December 1964 and January 1965 as a surveyor on the Wagina Island Gilbertese resettlement scheme. In February 1965 he transferred to Eastern District headquarters in Kira Kira where he spent six weeks working on local election preparations. He then moved back to Gizo and spent April to August 1965 travelling round, organising the construction of concrete drinking water tanks in various villages in the Roviana and Wana Wana lagoons and subsequently on the island of Ranonnga.

John Baker’s work in Solomon Islands prompted a long-term interest in the Pacific Islands and saw him work as Government Economist in Tonga in 1969-70. He later lived in Fiji and Tonga in 1971, while he undertook research for an ANU PhD on inter-island shipping services in the two countries. In 1976-77, while working in the Australian Government’s aid organisation, he was head of the Pacific Islands Section. Finally, after three years as an Australian Ambassador in Africa John Baker returned to working on the Pacific Islands when in 1991-97 he was Coordinator of the World Bank’s South Pacific Development Management Program. The program ran one-week residential management programs for senior government officials from across the region, with a number of participants later becoming heads of government in their countries.

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

This collection of 540 colour photographs was taken by John Baker in Solomon Islands in 1964 and 1965, while he was working there as a volunteer under the auspices of the British Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) organisation. He was 18 and 19 at the time and was what was known as a school leaver volunteer. There were 10-15 VSOs in the Solomons in 1964, with most working as teachers in mission boarding schools. However, John was attached mainly to two District Administrations to work on various local projects.

At the time, Solomon Islands was under colonial administration known as the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP), in which virtually all senior and technical/professional positions were still held by expatriates. Thus VSOs were working within and were very much a part of a colonial culture.

The photographs in the collection were taken with a Voigtlander Vito B camera on Kodachrome 100 colour slides. The camera was stored, including for many canoe trips, in an old Sunshine Milk tin with a bag of silica gel in the bottom. Captions for the photos were written in a foolscap notebook when the slides came back from processing. Thus the names of people and places were all recorded contemporaneously and so are likely to be accurate. These captions, written in 1964-65, sometimes have a colonial tone but have been left unchanged as they are an historical reflection of their times.

John Baker’s first work as a VSO was from August-November 1964 as a teacher at the Geological Department’s survey school in Honiara. Then he transferred to Western District headquarters in Gizo and worked during December 1964 and January 1965 as a surveyor on the Wagina Island Gilbertese resettlement scheme. In February 1965 he transferred to Eastern District headquarters in Kira Kira where he spent six weeks working on local election preparations. He then moved back to Gizo and spent April to August 1965 travelling round, organising the construction of concrete drinking water tanks in various villages in the Roviana and Wana Wana lagoons and subsequently on the island of Ranonnga.

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Chronological

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Available for reference

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See individual items

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Existence and location of originals

Dr John R. Baker, Canberra ACT, Australia

Existence and location of copies

Access this title at PMB Member Libraries or by purchasing it directly from the Bureau: http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/pambu/accessing.php

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Note

Individual item titles are taken from captions made by the photographer in the period the photos were taken. Some terms may no longer be considered appropriate but the language is reflective of the period of captioning.

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