Promotion to Technical Officer via Traineeship or Eligibility at National Mapping



From the outset, being paid to travel and work in the Australian outback, had attracted a range of suitable people to maintain Natmapís field programs. Many bought with them some trade skills that were useful when miles from civilisation, others came for what they saw was an adventure.†


The same need, however, to recruit new personnel to replace those that had left during the previous year, arose year after year. With such a turnover of staff, it was difficult to maintain even a core group of experienced field personnel. Thus in the first few months of each new field season progress was slow while sufficient new operators where trained and gained the necessary expertise. Off season training and intensive short term course attendance helped partially ease the situation in later years.


This was at a time when the Commonwealth Public Service was introducing the requirement for a basic academic qualification for its new recruits. Prior to this time, one could attempt the Commonwealth Public Service Entrance Examination. On passing this examination one could gain entry to the Commonwealth Public Service and move up and/or across its ranks with experience and with a clearer insight as to your goal in life.


For Natmap, clearly the most suitable people were those that had already worked on its field programs. The new Public Service requirement for a basic academic qualification, however limited their advancement. Field work also largely negated the opportunity of any formal part time course attendance to eliminate this barrier.


Trainee Technical Officers Ė Surveying and Electronics

By the early 1970s, the Commonwealth Public Service had decided to recruit future technical officers in fields such as surveying, electrical engineering and drafting. These recruits would be paid while they undertook a mix of theoretical, technical college based, course work and practical work with their home agency. After the successful completion of a four year traineeship, these trainee technical officers, or TTOs, became Technical Officers Grade 1 in either surveying, engineering or Trainee Draftsman (these drafting positions were specifically for the Canberra office). The Natmap surveying TTOs (TTO(S)) undertook six months theoretical training at the then Canberra College of Technical and Further Education. The Natmap engineering TTOs (TTO(E)) however, undertook their formal training at the then Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and the then Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Training School in St Kilda Road (in what is now the Royce Hotel); some five months being at RMIT and four months at DCA.


The terms and conditions for both appointment to a TTO(S) or TTO(E) position were originally published in a 1969 Commonwealth Gazette and extracts are at Annexure A.



An advertisement, please see above, for Natmap Trainee Technical Officerís (Surveying) was first published in late 1970. Natmap wanted fit self reliant young men for field work anywhere in Australia, with the Commonwealth paying all tuition fees and an aged based salary of around $2500 per annum. Candidates were to have their then Leaving Certificate (fifth form/year) with mathematics being a strong subject. Exemptions could be given for additional formal qualifications.


At the completion of their first six months of formal training in Canberra the TTO(S)s came to Natmapís Melbourne office. Here they were under the guidance of Natmapís Senior Training Officer Reginald Arthur (Reg) Ford BEM (1914-1994) who worked with Natmap from 1950 to 1979 and contributed greatly to the field survey work for the national geodetic survey. The TTOs were introduced to Natmapís equipment, practices and procedures. This involved becoming familiar with observing horizontal and vertical angles with the Wild T2 theodolite to distant stations or celestial targets, day or night. Measuring distance with the MRA2 model Tellurometer and spirit levelling with the Watts Autoset level. Recording and reducing the various observations in the field and later computing the final results. Use of the plumbob, steel band chaining, operation of observing lights and heliographs, station establishment and check measurements especially the eccentric correction, and the taking of pressure and temperature with the Precision Barometer and mechanical Psychrometer. While hand held electronic calculators were available, the demands of field operations required all calculations be able to be performed by both logarithm and natural tables. These topics were painstakingly documented by Reg in what became his Training Notes for National Mapping Field Survey Staff and ensured that any survey work would conform to Standard Specifications and Recommended Practices for Horizontal and Vertical Control Surveys, as determined by the National Mapping Council. The survey training did not cover the then emerging satellite positioning technology and expertise with aerial photography, terrain profiling and Aerodist operations came one-to-one in the field alongside experienced operators. This generally occurred after their second year of formal study and Canberra based officers returned to that office to enhance their technical expertise in bathymetry, geodesy or levelling.


A facility at Oaklands in southern New South Wales was utilised to simulate field conditions. Bob Twilley recalled that as part of his early training in 1971, he worked with Ted Caspers and Ed Burke at Oaklands establishing control for the Plane Table Mapping project to be undertaken by the TTOs. The Oaklands area was not only convenient to Melbourne but had several existing New South Wales survey stations in the area that could be occupied for training purposes. In addition, accommodation, meals (including cut lunches), and a training room were available at the then Department of Supply hostel in Oaklands. During World War II the then Commonwealth Department of Munitions had its National Security Store at Oaklands, and built a hostel there to accommodate some 4 500 munitions workers. There were also other Commonwealth facilities including a Transport Depot. Commonwealth facilities at Oaklands were still being used for storage into the late 1980s or early 1990s.†


There is no doubt that the Natmap TTO program produced a group of very capable Technical Officers. It is perhaps unfortunate, in hindsight, that by the time the program was introduced and the first technicians graduated that Natmapís field work demands for such officers had declined. While many stayed with Natmap, many others saw opportunity elsewhere and left.†


Andrew Christie, Donald Sutherland and Arnold Visser became the first Natmap TTO(E)s all commencing their traineeships in 1971. The only difference in their courses was that Andrew attended RMIT in the first part of the year while Donald and Arnold attended DCA, and vice versa for the second part of the year. At Natmap their work was overseen by the group of experienced electronics technicians including Mick Skinner, John Ely, Ozcan Ertok and Terry Mulholland. All three graduated in 1975 and were assigned to the Melbourne office.† The Trainee Technical Officers (Surveying) are listed below and despite best efforts may not be complete.





Gazetted TTO



Robert James Twilley


9 Apr 1970 [Issue No 24] Page 2235 (Chainman Interior); 27 July 1970 with Natmap

Bob recalled this was the first intake of TTOs and there were only two, Bob and G (Graeme or Graham) Davy. Bob was a Chainman with Interior, attending Collingwood Technical School undertaking a drafting course as there was not a technical surveying course in Melbourne at that time.

Philip Davy


23 July 1970, [Issue No 61] Page 5031

Uncertain if G Davy above is same as Philip in Gazette.


Kenneth Walter Brown

Martin Anthony Castalanelli

John Gerard Corcoran

David John Dzur

Robert George Smith

Ross Stapleton

William Robert Stuchbery

Nigel Kingston Wettenhall

Robert Arthur Whitboume

Ronald Allan Williams


20 May 1971, [Issue No 53] Page 3083

First large TTO intake.

Constantin Costaras

Thomas Heller


20 May 1971, [Issue No 53] Page 3083

Believed to have not completed course.

Robert James Twilley

G Davy


Already on strength as above

Authorised to join 1971 group.

John Philip Guilfoyle


1 Jul 1971 [Issue No 66] Page 4178


Robert John Cameron

William Adrian Ferguson

Kevin James Lonergan


9 Dec 1971 [No 114] Page 7519


Philip George Allen


3 Dec 1970,† [No 111] Page 8062

Already on strength as Field Assistant.

Steven Yates


Not found



Stephen Geoffrey Pinwill

Marshall Thomas Waters

Barry Russell Wright


7 Sep 1972 [Issue No 84]† Page 55



Maxwell Noel Anderson

Ross Arthur Chisholm

Ian Stuart Graham

Andrew Hatfield

Willem Nagel

Shane Stephen Sexton


27 Jun 1975 [Issue No P4] Page 55


Paul Anthony Rodriquez


6 Apr 1976 [Issue No P3] Page 53


Roger Clements


19 Dec 1977 [Issue No P19] Page 74


John Murdoch

Graeme Paul


Not found


Michael George Spellacy


27 June 1975 [Issue No P4] Pages 53-54


Mark James Elphick

John Hilary Sparrow


6 April 1976 [Issue No P3] Page 53



Gabor Harangozo

Geoffrey Alan Toll


6 Apr 1976 [Issue No P3] Page 53

Joined 1974 group.

Brian William Gibson

John Ellis Wright


6 April 1976 [Issue No P3] Page 53


Tony Kriening

Anthony Robertson


6 Apr 1976 [Issue No P3] Page 53

Later circumstances unclear.


Eric William MacGibbon

Peter K James


8 Jul 1976 [Issue No PS26] Page 52†

Seemingly the final TTO appointments.



Eligibility Test

This new recruitment approach constrained the advancement of otherwise experienced Natmap staff who had not undertaken a formal TAFE training course. Hitherto such staff had been promoted to technical officer positions on the basis of the demonstrated ability to efficiently undertake the higher level work required of such positions. However, Natmap did not abandon such staff and arranged through the Public Service Board for sufficiently experienced people to undertake a test on geodetic surveying to demonstrate their eligibility for promotion within the Commonwealth Public Service, Technical Officer (Surveying) structure (see sample certificate below). A minimum of five yearsí practical survey experience was a precondition. Despite their prior field experience, the eligibility test route for applicable officers was the equivalent of compressing four years, as with the TTOs, into as many months.


The course comprised a period of formal training followed by a series of survey observations, their recording and reduction and finally an oral test. Natmapís Senior Training Officer Reginald Arthur (Reg) Ford again planned and oversaw the program. The training was similarly focussed to that of the TTOs with the aim of ensuring that any survey work performed would conform to specification.



Graeme Lawrence and Laurie Edebohls recalled that they with Ted Rollo, were the first group to participate in late 1972. The practical test was to re-establish a section of the traverse along the St George-Goondiwindi railway line undertaken in 1971 but undertaken this time with towers. The written test was to produce the full traverse results. Finally came the oral test with Reg asking the questions and Senior Surveyor Peter Langhorne assessing the responses given. All three were successful and were later promoted. †


In early 1974, Ed Ainscow, Peter Blake, Ted Graham, Laurie McLean, Harry Simpson and Roy Turner was selected to undergo the training course in geodetic surveying that could lead to eligibility for future promotion to Technical Officer (Surveying) positions.


Laurie McLean recalled that the training course was conducted in the Oaklands area in two separate blocks, firstly from 18 February 1974 to 8 March 1974 and then from 18 March to 5 April 1974. The field training during the course was again conducted by Natmap's training officer Reg Ford, with the basis being Reg's training notes, mentioned above. The group then had to undergo practical, oral and written examinations, examples of which are at Annexure B. Senior Surveyor Peter Langhorne was the examining officer. The practical and oral tests were undertaken at Oaklands and the written test was conducted in the Board Room at the Rialto Building in Melbourne. The 1974 written test included the reduction of observations on the Sun for azimuth, an eccentric correction and leaning pole correction and the sketching of an access diagram given a vehicle traverse log (speedo readings and compass bearings). Not all candidates were successful this time as the Sun observation to be reduced was observed on western standard time whereas the previous training examples had been observed on eastern standard time. Those who missed this fact returned an invalid result.


Peter Mortimer, Andrew Rogers and Peter Royston Walkley are understood to be the only Canberra based personnel to undertake a test on geodetic surveying, after training at Oaklands with Reg Ford. The training and testing would have taken place in 1975, given all three were successful and promoted in early 1976. It is understood that two Canberra Surveyors oversaw the program with one likely to have been Senior Surveyor Harry Granger.


The eligibility test was only offered twice by the Melbourne office, as by now formal courses to provide the theoretical skills required by Natmap were easily accessible. Furthermore, the first of the TTOs were due to graduate.



Compiled by Paul Wise, 2021.



The information provided by the following Natmappers is hereby gratefully acknowledged : Phil Allen, Max Anderson, Laurie Edebohls, Andrew Hatfield, Graeme Lawrence, Laurie McLean, Bill Stuchbery and Bob Twilley.




Annexure A

Terms and Conditions

for Appointment to either a TTO(S) or TTO(E) Position

as originally published in a 1969 Commonwealth Gazette


Trainee Technical Officer (Surveying)


Trainee Technical Officer (Engineering)



Annexure B

Examples of Natmapís Eligibility Test


Example Test 1


Example Test 2