This hat is a representative example of topia hats made in North Sumatra, Indonesia. It forms part of a collection of headwear whose significance reflects both the diversity of their countries of origin and their gift to the AusAID Centre for Pacific Development and Training (AIDAB) as a token of appreciation. The hats were gifted to AIDAB by students who attended courses there between 1980 and 1988. The concept for the collection was initiated by Leon Robert (Bob) Heron, Principal of the Centre, after seeing a similar collection at a training unit in Geneva, Switzerland. The hat collection, which reflects Australia's long engagement with the Asia Pacific region as a training provider, was displayed at the Centre in Sydney, acting as a visual manifestation of the countries that benefited from training courses there.
The AusAID Centre for Pacific Development and Training (AIDAB) was founded in 1947 and until 1971 was known as the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA). Between 1971 and 1987 it became the International Training Institute (ITI) and finally AIDAB from 1997 to 1998. The Centre was known as ITI when the hats were originally donated by the students.
AIDAB grew out of an army civil affairs unit created during World War II and was based in the military precinct at Georges Heights, Middle Head, Sydney from 1948. From its early years AIDAB played an important role in the development of Papua New Guinea. By 1970 the Commonwealth Government had realised that despite its goal of independence for Papua New Guinea, the indigenous public service were not adequately trained. Thus the role of AIDAB changed to become a training centre to prepare Papuans and New Guineans for impending self government. Training was also made available to other nations in the Asia Pacific region. Until its closure in January 1998 the Centre still received strong demand for its education and teaching.
For 51 years AIDAB was a highly successful institution which provided continuing academic excellence and quality teaching and research. The organisation was Australia's only training institution established to train administrators and officers for Australia's overseas territories. Structural and name changes to the organisation reflect Federal Government foreign policy shifts in the Asia Pacific region over half a century.
During its history AIDAB was known for its association with a number of notable academics and administrators. John Kerr (later Sir John Kerr QC, Governor General of Australia) served as Principal in 1947. Others include the poet James MacAuley, Lieutenant Colonel Alf Conlon, Charles Rowley, Peter Lawrence, Camilla Wedgwood and Bob Carr (later Premier of New South Wales). Jack Mattes, a former principal of the Centre, remained at the centre to compile the laws of Papua New Guinea.
AIDAB is also an important element in the entire former military reserve and defence lands at Middle Head, George's Heights and Chowder Bay, which are historically significant as the location of continuous major defence works for Sydney Harbour and Port Jackson during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Rebecca Bower, June 2008
Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, Management Plan - Mosman No. 7, Middle Head, 7 June 2007
Goff, Bill., 'The end of a unique institution', Focus, AusAID, March 1998, p20-22
Maxwell, Robyn., Textiles of Southeast Asia tradition, trade and transformation, Australian National Gallery Oxford University Press, 1990