Series 321 - Sir John Gunther papers

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Sir John Gunther papers


  • 1947 - 1984 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

9.6 m (48 type 1 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator

(1910 - 1984)

Biographical history

Sir John Thomson Gunther was born on 2 October 1910 in Sydney. Gunther studied medicine at the University of Sydney (MB, 1935). From 1935-1938 he worked as a medical officer with Lever’s Pacific Plantations Ltd in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. On 30 June 1941 Gunther was commissioned as a flight lieutenant in the Royal Australian Air Force’s Medical Branch. He obtained diplomas of tropical medicine and public health from the University of Sydney and in December 1944 he took command of the Tropical Research Field Unit in New Guinea. In 1946 Gunther became Director of Public Health in the Territory of Papua New Guinea, and organised the medical services after the disastrous Mount Lamington eruption of 1951. In 1957 he was appointed to Assistant-Administrator in Papua and New Guinea. From 1964, he was senior government member in the new House of Assembly, and was a special representative at the United Nations in 1965. Gunther was a member of the Currie commission on higher education in Papua and New Guinea that led to the establishment of the University of Papua and New Guinea (UPNG). He was appointed foundation Vice-Chancellor of UPNG in 1966, retiring in 1972. He then became a Director of Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd. Gunther died on 27 April 1984 at West Heidelberg, Victoria.

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Scope and content

Part 1 - These papers mainly relate to Gunther’s time as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), and include some papers relating to Gunther’s time as the Director of Public Health and Assistant Administrator in Papua New Guinea. The main subject categories are:
1. Political papers dealing with the period before independence in Papua New Guinea (folders 1-13)
2. Political papers pertaining to independence (folders 14-17)
3. Economic papers – Waigani papers (folders 18-20)
4. Economic papers – Bougainville papers (folders 32-34)
5. Education papers (folders 35-110)
6. Personal papers (folders 112-118)
7. Administrative papers (folders 119-136)

Part 2 - These papers document many aspects of Gunther’s administration of public health in Papua New Guinea (folders 137-239). They include Gunther’s files on various health issues, including malaria, leprosy, scrub typhus, nutrition, kuru and tuberculosis. Also includes papers on medical education, the Mount Lamington volcanic eruption and the South Pacific Commission.


System of arrangement

The papers are arranged according to subject area. When the papers in Part 1 were re-boxed and relisted in 2009, they were removed from the bags they were originally housed in. The bags became folders and the folders within the bags became parts of the new folders, i.e. 1/1, 1/2.

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Conditions governing access

Researchers must sign an access agreement.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Prepared by Karina Taylor on 15 July 2009




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