Photo: Angus Smales around 1974. Courtesy of Chin Hoi Meen.
Angus Smales, one of the most outstanding Australian journalists to cover the South Pacific in the pre and post colonial era, has died at the age of 87.
Gus Smales moved to the then Territory of New Guinea in 1954, reported and helped shape the path to independence for PNG in 1975 and stayed on in the new nation until 1981.
He later edited the respected Pacific Islands Monthly magazine in Sydney before joining the staff of Business Review Weekly.
Born in Mildura in 1929, Smales began in journalism as a cadet reporter on the Sunraysia Daily. He later moved to Sydney where he met wife-to-be Betty Cooper in the offices of The Daily Telegraph.
In 1954 Smales decided to chance his arm as a freelancer, sailing to Rabaul, where he worked as a reporter and radio news broadcaster.
Culturally attuned and quickly earning a reputation as a clever writer and articulate broadcaster with a social conscience, sharp wit and powerful sense of humour, Smales was rewarded in 1957 with the editorship of the Rabaul Times.
At the same time he was able to continue his freelance work, reporting and broadcasting for outlets across the Pacific, Europe and North America.
Amidst heightened local, Australian and international debate about the independent future of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, Smales gained privileged access and direct involvement in the political process.
His commitment to honest but empathetic and ethical reporting earned the respect of his journalist peers, foreign dignitaries and the local political elite.
This motivated Australia’s Herald and Weekly Times newspaper group to ask Gus in 1966 to move to Port Moresby for easier and more intimate interaction with the country’s political leaders and legislators.
It proved an astute move, his work during this time earning him an MBE, later followed by the PNG Independence Medal.
Six years after independence, in 1981, Smales left Port Moresby to take editorial control in Sydney of Pacific Islands Monthly.
After more than 30 years immersed in PNG and Pacific affairs, Smales “retired” to Melbourne where he devoted another 20 years of energetic and dedicated service to Business Review Weekly. One of his principle contributions was compilation of the magazine’s annual Australia Rich List.