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43 Letter from Mills to Burton

Canberra, 22 March 1950


Technical Assistance for Economic Development

I refer to your memorandum of 1st March, reference 856/10/311 and to the discussions which took place in Canberra on 9th March between Mr. Tange of your Department and Mr. Hook 2 of this office. I understand that Mr. Tange and Mr. Hook had a full exchange of views and that it is only now necessary for me to set out briefly my main reactions to your proposals.


It is difficult to place any exact estimate on the physical limits to the numbers of trainees who could be handled in Australia in any one year. So far as courses are concerned, much would depend upon the nature of the courses. I should think that facilities for training would not be likely to be a limiting factor at any period in the immediate future. Unless there is some concentrated demand on a very limited field, we should be able without any difficulty to provide training for the numbers envisaged in your memorandum and even for higher numbers.

Although I do not anticipate that there will be any difficulty in regard to the numbers, there might possibly be some difficulties in regard to the arrangement of courses unless we could ensure a satisfactory arrangement in respect of the selection of trainees who would come to Australia under the schemes controlled by the United Nations and its agencies. One of the great advantages of our present Australian scheme is that the method of nominating two or three persons for each vacancy (and permitting my Office to see whether the first nominee is duly qualified and can be fitted into a proper course before an announcement of an award is made) makes for ease and effectiveness of administration. Do you think that it would be possible to arrange some similar machinery in respect of the awards by the United Nations and its agencies? I f so, I would have no hesitation at all in saying that there should be no difficulty in providing training for the numbers envisaged by you.

The real limit in the next few years will be imposed by the difficulties of obtaining residential accommodation. If your proposals look like being adopted, I would have to get our Branch Offices to do intensive work to obtain more information re residential accommodation. Without this information it is impossible for me to give any absolute assurance. It is difficult at this stage to say just what the limit will be in the next few years. I think we must plan on the expectation that, with special attention paid to this matter in the next few months, we will succeed in obtaining residential accommodation for a total intake of 140 in 1951. I would not like to commit myself to any higher number until we have had experience in 1951, but possibly even this figure could be increased in later years.

It is agreed that the emphasis should be on shorter courses, not necessarily of high academic standard, if the greatest contribution is to be made to the re-organisation of the recipient countries. I would go further and suggest that every endeavour should be made by the international organisations (in collaboration with the donor countries acting bilaterally) to see that groups of Fellows should be selected to undergo similar or related courses. I suggest, for example, that rather than give ten awards to, say, Siam and spread them over ten different fields, it might be better if Australia gave ten awards in the one field. The Fellows could then go back to their own country and collectively should make a considerable impact on the work in their field. This form of group training would probably be even more effective if the training could be tied up in some way with the work of missions and we might find that an Australian mission to one of the recipient countries could suggest the setting up of a special course in a particular field and could assist the recipient country to select a group of Fellows to undertake that special course.

We have made certain calculations regarding the costs of the bilateral Fellowship and Scholarship Scheme proposed by you. According to our calculations the Scheme should cost approximately �155,000 in the first four years but there would be a group of junior Fellows in the fifth year and groups of scholars in the fifth, sixth and seventh years and in those three years the commitments incurred in previous years would continue and according to our calculations would total a further �30,000.

On the question of finance, it is thought that it is not desirable that payment of stipend should be divorced from the supervision of training. In the case of those Fellows holding United Nations awards, the payment of allowances is at present the responsibility of the United Nations Information Centre. Dual control has not proved entirely satisfactory and it is therefore suggested that by arrangement portion of the funds granted to its international organisations be retained in Australia for the purposes of meeting the prescribed allowances and that the control of these funds might be vested in this Office.

Summing up my attitude to the Fellowship and Scholarship proposals I would say that I am strongly in favour of the general proposals made by you; 1 believe that we could cope with an intake of 140 per annum. I would like to see the work of the missions tied closely to the work of training.

I hope that, if the Scheme is put into effect, this Office would be given the opportunity to undertake the administration of the training work as under the present Scheme. If this be so, it would be necessary to approach the Public Service Board for additional staff and I should imagine that the minimum staff which would be required would be at least 15. This would include a senior education officer at the Central Office and training officers of various grades in the Central and Branch Offices together with the necessary base range clerks, typing personnel and assistants and one or two people who might be used solely to

arrange specific courses and for any liaison work which might be involved. On this basis I should imagine that the annual salary costs would be in the vicinity.of �15,000.


I assume that bilateral missions of this kind would have to be closely integrated with the work of missions arranged by the international organisations. I think that it should be possible to arrange a panel of experts who would be prepared to undertake this work and in view of the comparatively costly nature of the work 1 do not imagine that there would be any great difficulty in spending as much as �50,000 on these bilateral missions even after allowing for the fact that other Australians will be asked to serve on missions which will be financed through the international organisations.

I am very interested in the proposed work of the missions. I would like to suggest that missions might fall into at least four groups:

A. Short term exploratory missions to examine ways in which Australia's particular resources for technical assistance can be best used in a particular recipient country. It may be that this type of work could best be done by a composite mission arranged by one or more of the international organisations. This type of work would involve an estimate of the special resources of Australia;

B. Short term missions of a specialist kind which might include several specialists to advise on the setting up of an activity for which Australia might provide technical assistance and to select people who could come to Australia for training to enable them to participate in the developmental programme;

C. Limited numbers of specialists on long term missions to help in the planning and administration of a developmental project; and

D. Missions to advise on the later stages of developmental work.

It is clear that a great deal of planning would have to be done if the most effective results are to be obtained from the despatch of Australian experts to recipient countries. I think it is also clear that no one Commonwealth department could satisfactorily undertake all of this work. It may well be that you will need either an Interdepartmental Committee or a series of smaller Committees each representing some departments. I presume that your Office would be the natural body to undertake this work but I do feel that my Office would be in a special position to assist you in this connection, partly because of the relationship between training and missions, and partly because of our wide connections through the UNESCO Co-operating Bodies. I can assure you that we would help in this matter to the best of our ability and to whatever degree you should eventually think fit to ask us to undertake.


I trust that these comments will be sufficient to enable you to take the matter further. If I could be of any assistance at the next stage of the planning, please do not hesitate to consult me. If I may make one or two general comments I would like in the first place to stress my view that an even closer connection must be made between missions to recipient countries and training in Australia. 1 am more and more of the opinion that the awards granted to a particular country should be designed especially with the needs of that country in mind and it may be that we will need not two or three ready-made forms of awards but discretion to fit the type of award to the need that we see. Shorter awards may well be the most effective way of helping the country in question. On the other hand, shorter awards are necessarily given to persons who are past the formative years, even in the case of Junior Fellows. I am inclined to think that for the purpose of promotion of goodwill and of building up lasting favourable impressions of Australia, it may well be that greater numbers of scholarships are desirable.

This brings me to one other point which was discussed by Mr. Tange and Mr. Hook. The numbers of scholarships awarded will always be small compared to the numbers of private students entering Australia form the South East Asian countries. These private students are usually either pre-matriculation students or undergraduates and I agree that it is essential that everything possible should be done to enable these private students to obtain the most from their courses in Australia and to return to their countries with the most favourable impressions of Australia. You will remember that in my memorandum of 14th October 1949 ... B63/3/33 I told you of the decision of the Universities Commission to undertake generally the work of guidance of such private students whatever the standard of their courses. Undoubtedly if this offer were taken up it would involve a lot of work and I might have to ask for more staff, but so far very little use has been made of the Branch Offices of the Commission for this purpose and perhaps we might discuss at some time steps which we could both take to make this service more widely known and used.

[NAA: A1838, 381/3/1/3 part lb]

1 Document 31.

2 See Document 34.

3 Not published.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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