By Isaiah Tare – EMTV News Cadet Journalist
On the 22nd of October 1942, in the Romale village of East New Britain, an extraordinary man was born to John Midal and Luisa Tade. Henrik Thomas Robert was brought into this world during a perilous time, World War II had just begun, and the Japanese had defeated the Allied forces and captured Rabaul.
“My father’s life could have been so bleak and short, he shared stories of his early years when he was close to starvation, and how he foraged for taro and yam but the fates had something else in store for my father”, Ezzard (Sir ToRobert’s oldest son) said in his eulogy speech in the Sione Kami Memorial Church.
Henry ToRobert was naturally brilliant, and he was chosen to attend St. Mary’s Vuvu Secondary School at the age of 10, he ended up graduating with the highest marks in the Territory (prior to Independence). He was 14 years old when was awarded with a full scholarship from the Australian Government, and in 1956 he attended the St. Brendan’s College in Australia.
In 1962 he started teacher’s training at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA), his classmate was John Momis. He was only at ASOPA for two weeks, when he received a full scholarship from the Reserve Bank of Australia to study at the University of Sydney. In 1966, Sir Henry graduated with a degree in Economics; he was the first national to graduate with a degree in Economics and the second Papua New Guinean to graduate from a university in Australia.
In 1967, he started working in Port Moresby with the Papua New Guinea Division of the Reserve Bank of Australia as an economic research officer. Sir Henry’s legacy started on the 22nd of October, 1973 when he became the pioneer Governor of the Bank of PNG and the Chairman of the Bank’s Board.
As the Chairman of the Currency Working Group, Sir Henry helped facilitate the introduction of PNG’s new currency in 1975. The former Governor for the Bank of Papua New Guinea, Sir Wilson Kamit said in his tribute speech that Sir Henry made sure every symbol on PNG’s currency (Kina and Toea) was a unique fauna or had nationalistic meaning to it.
The current Governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, Loi. M Bakani in his tribute speech said Sir Henry ToRobert was a true servant of the people.
“He was a leader, mentor and strict disciplinary; he was famously known for dialing a manager’s office number and hanging up when they answered, just so he would know the manager was at work”.
Contrary to his strict and serious demeanor in the office, Silan Nadarajah, a colleague and close friend, said he always had time for everyone and made everyone feel comfortable.
His oldest son, Ezzard, said that his father loved music, especially blues, and “he had a wicked sense of humor’.
Sir ToRobert has accomplished more in life than the average Papua New Guinean.
He was not only the first ever Governor for the Bank of Papua New Guinea, but he also had other high profile positions. He was a Trustee of the PNG Institute of National Affairs, the Chairman of the PNG Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research (now known as NRI).
He was president of the PNG Sports Federation and Olympic Committee for 29 years (from 1980 – 2000 and then again from 2003 – 2012).
In 1993, Sir Henry left the Bank of Papua New Guinea and soon after, started as a partner in Government Accounts and Banking, and became the Chairman of Credit Corporation.
He was also the Managing Director for the Privatization Commission and the Chairman of the Gazelle Restoration Authority.
His passion for sports (“my father loved golf and rugby” – Ezzard ToRobert) led him to be the President of the PNG 2015 Pacific Games Authority, which successfully bid for the South Pacific Games.
Sir Henry was knighted when he was only 39-years-old, and in 2015, he was awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GLC), for exceptional leadership of the financial sector, and being longest serving Governor of the Central Bank of Papua New Guinea, and leadership and promotion of Papua New Guinea’s international participation in sport.
Sir Henry was conferred with the title of ‘Chief’.
Sir Henry ToRobert, KBE lived a remarkable and interesting life.
He was an eminent banker, economist, and leader.
He survived a world war and was a fundamental pillar in the birthing and building of a nation.
He established and managed a sound and solid finance system for PNG, maintaining a fixed exchange rate regime.
He is survived by his wife, Lady Janet ToRobert, five children, and four (and counting) grandchildren.