Ambong back after 46 years
Ambong Thompson has made an emotional trip back to the Wimmera to catch up with former Murtoa High School classmates.
Mr Thompson, 64, a prominent personality in Vanuatu, has used the visit to rekindle many of the friendships he established while attending the school between 1969 and 1971.
It has been 46 years since he was last in Australia and he has used the opportunity to travel across western Victoria for informal gatherings.
Mr Thompson attended the school courtesy of the sponsorship of former Horsham teacher, the late Jan Macintosh, and the help of Roberts, Gellatly and Hamilton host families in Murtoa and Lubeck.
In 1968 Ms Macintosh was working on Malekula Island, part of what was then the New Hebrides, when she arranged to sponsor a young Ambong’s secondary education. At that time only one in four students in Vanuatu had the opportunity of a secondary education and Ambong was set to miss out.
After his time in Australia Mr Thompson returned to The New Hebride, then spent a year at Honiara Technical College in the Solomon Islands.
He then went on to forge a remarkable career including 27 years as a radio announcer and program producer with Radio Vanuatu and 17 years at Vanuatu’s National Museum and the National Sound, Vision and Photo Archive.
He is now instrumental in the preservation and recording of the languages and culture of Vanuatu, which features 100 languages spread across the 83 islands of the archipelago.
He still produces cultural programs for Radio Vanuatu and Television Blong Vanuatu.
He has been secretary and chairman of the Freswota Council of Chiefs and is also the president of the Vanuatu Nation Workers Union, which represents workers who pick fruit and vegetables in countries including Australia, as well as workers in Vanuatu.
Mr Thompson said he had always been keen to return to Murtoa and was delighted to catch up with friends of his childhood and to re-visit the town and region.
“I never thought I would, but I always wanted to come back,” he said.
“If I hadn’t been in Murtoa, circumstances would have been much different for me.
“The education I gained at Murtoa has made me what I am today. I’m very proud of the school and all the friendships I forged.
“Murtoa and Lubeck, where I stayed when I attended Murtoa High School, are a lot different today, but still very familiar.”
Former classmate Alistair Cowie, who helped arrange Mr Thompson’s visit, said host families, classmates, schoolmates and the Murtoa district had regarded Mr Thompson with great respect and affection during his time at Murtoa.
“During his two week tour back to the Wimmera he has renewed many friendships,” he said.
“He has toured his old school, now Murtoa College, the Yarriambiack Silo Art Trail, the Grampians and the Australian National Film and Sound Archive in Melbourne.”
Mr Cowie said Mr Thompson’s visit was a reminder that what Australians often took for granted, such as the value of secondary education was not available to all.
“It is rare that an individual can make such a significant contribution to their country as Ambong has made to Vanuatu,” he said.
MEMORIES: Ambong Thompson tries headphones on for size during a visit with friend Alistair Cowie to radio station 3WM and MIXX FM studios in Horsham. They are pictured with copywriter Holly King. Picture: DEAN LAWSON