Am­bong back af­ter 46 years

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

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

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