Where are they now - Paul Tatireta (SPC 1963-66)
author: Lorrie Liston
The College reconnects with Paul Tatireta (SPC 1963-66), who came from the Pacific island of Kiribati and still describes his SPC stay as “the best and most memorable years” of his life.
Tell us about your time at SPC?
I arrived in Australia in 1963 from Kiribati (an island nation in the central Pacific Ocean) at the city of Adelaide where our ship entered port sometime in late January or early February. My companions, the Connell brothers (Gavan and Peter), John Tekanene, also from Kiribati and Remi Namoduck, from Nauru, all travelled on the ship “Triaster”, a phosphate cargo vessel owned by the British Phosphate Commissioners from the island of Nauru where I then lived. We travelled in a huge cross country coach from Adelaide to Ballarat by following the Hume Highway (I think) and arrived at St Patrick’s during the early morning. It was very cold and a white mist formed with every breadth (an event we often saw in films on Nauru but were now experiencing).
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
Upon returning home to Kiribati in 1971, I applied for and was appointed Labour Assistant in Tarawa for a government statutory corporation (GEIDA) in 1972 then Labour Officer in 1973 and Personnel Officer in 1974. The following year I was appointed Personnel and Training Officer and posted to Christmas Island in the Eastern Group to set up a branch for the corporation.
In 1977 I was transferred back to GEIDA headquarters in Tarawa to work as a local consultant to assist two overseas experts in carrying out the devolution of GEIDA which was proving too cumbersome and unmanageable and to create small manageable commercial units in its place. The job took a whole year to accomplish and upon completing the task I was seconded to the then Gilbert and Ellice Islands colonial government as Assistant Secretary. Immediately prior to independence in 1978, I was seconded to the House to act as Clerk to the House and later went back to government still as Assistant Secretary in the Ministry for Communications. On the eve of independence in 1979, I was appointed Acting Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Works. In 1980, I was appointed Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources Development and in 1982 as Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Works and Energy from where I resigned from the public service and embarked on a private trail.
From 1993 to till 2008 I began a teaching career with primary and secondary schools in the country while tutoring in English, Geography, History and Sociology at the Kiribati Campus of the University of the South Pacific. I retired from my teaching activities in 2008 and am currently working privately as a freelancer doing a variety of writing jobs for overseas clients.
I married in 1984 and I am still married to the same woman after 42 years. The marriage has given us nine children (five sons and four daughters) all of whom now have children of their own giving us a total of 29 grandchildren. One of my sons, Bernard P. Tatireta is now studying at the RMIT in Melbourne for a degree in laboratory research and a daughter, Conchita P. Tatireta is pursuing her Masters in Environment Studies at the Australian National University.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
Well, it’s been how many years since 1963 when I first touched ground at St Patrick’s? With a little subtraction it would be exactly 55 years! Wow and honestly, all that time at the College and all the familiar faces I knew and friends I made are still inextricably before me. Why? I can’t say for sure because my four years at St Patrick’s was not just an experience of selected best moments. It was a combination of a whole experience made up of social, educational, sports, religious, cordial interaction, responses of giving and taking and above all, loyalty. Yes, it was a combination of these (and more) which made my stay at St Patrick’s the best and most memorable years of my life.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
I had colossal teachers. For English and Religious instruction, I had Br Nangle as a teacher, a very pleasant and unassuming man who was superb at teaching the subjects of English Expression and Literature and faith. He was also a keen follower of basketball and was responsible for forming the first basketball team in 1964. For Intermediate Geography, I had the knowledgeable and dedicated Br (Old Bill) O’Malley and for senior Geography, the equally committed and accomplished Br Smith. The first introduction of Economics (a new subject for me) was by Br Delahunt at Intermediate level and Br Shiel took over the subject for my senior years. My history teachers were Mr Green and Br Kelty, the principal. I owe much to these dedicated brothers for my junior and senior education. It was due to Br Kelty’s initiative that I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship Fellowship Plan (CSFP) to attend Monash University.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
I was never proficient at algebra or mathematics so I put them aside at Intermediate level and immersed myself in the arts - English (Expression and Literature), Geography, Economics and History through my Leaving and Matriculation years at SPC. For tuition I had the best teachers I could ever imagine and it was due to their combination of power and finesse at their profession that I passed on to the tertiary level of training at Monash University as a law student and the year after at Monash Teachers College. Sadly, I failed in gaining any degrees but the knowledge and experience gained was awesome and invaluable and it was to help me in my career later when I went back home to Kiribati in 1971.