Class of 1932

David Fenbury was born in Subiaco the third child of David Fienberg and who changed his name by deed poll to Fenbury. Young David edited the Pelican student publication at UWA and graduated from the university with a BA in 1937. That year he joined the Department of District Services and Native Affairs in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea as a graduate cadet patrol officer. He passed the requirements for the role of being 21 but under 25, and physically fit. He received 300 pounds per year plus 6 pounds boot allowance. There was no income tax, no refrigeration and no Government leave.

David enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, or army in November 1942 and was posted to the then administration unit that presided over New Guinea’s government, the ANGAU. David led soldiers and Papua New Guinean police on guerrilla operations and fighting patrols in Japanese-held territory. He was promoted to captain, awarded the Military Cross. He was seconded to the British Colonial Service and spent a year and a half in the Tanganyikan native authority system.

When his AIF appointment ended in 1947 he lectured at the Australian School of Pacific Administration in Sydney for two years. He married Joan Marion Brazier in 1964 and they moved to Port Moresby as he became Senior Native Authorities Officer in the Department of District Services and Native Affairs.

David spent much of the rest of his life playing an active and significant role in the evolution of self-rule in Papua New Guinea. He based himself in Rabaul and set up a model for local government including village courts. He was controversial and found it difficult to accept the attitudes of those who did not share his sense of priorities. He spoke out when he felt the need and was not always mindful of how his sometimes radical views would be received.

He retired as secretary of the Department of Social Development and Home Affairs in 1973 just as many of the things he had campaigned for were coming into being. He retired to Perth, but sadly he died after being hit by a bus in Leederville. There can be little doubt he played a hugely significant role in helping Papua NewGuinea on its way to self-rule.