Decolonisation, a term that we relate to freedom and independence. Yet, in the case of Papua New Guinea these ideas could be questionable. Since its colonisation,the bonds between Britain and the territory was seen to strengthen as Australia took over the leadership for the territory. Australia became thought to be that of a medium of guidance and support for the people as the nation drove for independence, however as time continued it became the burden of Australia after its approval for independence for the country. Could the current political climate be the result of the demise of this relationship? Yes. Presently the society and the political climate have been in turmoil since the 1990’s. Not only has this implicated the political climate of the nation but also the people of the country, through the demise of public sector services, and loss of law and order. Additionally, the elections have become a constant source of violence as we see individuals freedom of speech constantly denied. Thus, the decolonisation of Papua New Guinea has negatively impacted the country as a unified whole.
My research hypothesis examines the social and political activities, which were undertaken by the Australian government, resulted in the demise of the nations prosperous and ambitious future. In order to come to this conclusion historically rather then use my own experiences as a child growing up in the country I used both primary and secondary papers on three major themes: interactions between the Territory (Papua New Guinea) and Australia, the drive for independence, and the Current Political Climate of Papua New Guinea.
1. The Interactions between the Territory (Papua New Guinea) and Australia
Australia took on the responsibility of British New Guinea after the federation of Australia. Through analysis of the Colonel Ainsworth report (1924) it had been revealed that the cultural transferal of white values onto native communities has established tensions due to the power imbalance between settlers of a subordinate nature.
It was not until the 1940’s that the interactions between Papua New Guinea and Australia had become regulated, securing the bonds between the two. A major determiner as outlined in Ian Downs The Australian Trusteeship: Papua New Guinea 1945-75 (1980) stated the foreign policy between the two was the future of Papua New Guinea by the Australian labor government. Advice outlined that to create a future programs had to be implemented to improve the countries economic development and also the public health, education, and welfare of the territory. Donald Woolford, Papua New Guinea: Initiation and Independence (1976)defines these areas of improvement were programmed and looked at by the seemingly opposing political leaders of their time Paul Hasluck and Robert Menzies. As a result of these opposing views political independence became apparent throughout the nation creating a voice of Black Nationalism.
2. Preparing a nation. The Drive for Independence.
In September of 1962 political initiations began to arise for the future elections of 1964 48. This idea was foreign as David Bettison states in The Papua-New Guinea Elections 1964 (2005): “the thought of having a representative there was completely foreign to them.” Sparking fears that the political community of the possibility that nobody from the remote areas would even stand for the elections or participate in them. Thus as a result the electoral education program was implemented to gain information on political knowledge and interactions.
The clear lack of knowledge amongst the community created opposing views amongst the political community in terms of when the country would be ready for independence. Charles Barnes thought that independence was still twenty to thirty years away. Resulting in natives beginning to drive for the to govern themselves, as the Australian governments lack of support became evident as they began disengaging themselves with Papua New Guineans desires.
It is interesting however that the lack of political guidance and flight of the Australian government was previously predicted throughout the Ainsworth report of 1924. It’s outlined the ways in which the relationship between the two would be tested reporting you could not blame officers for the lack of system and instruction, which clearly was under the supervisions responsibilities. Political members of a newly formed party began nation-building as they planned to: “set national goals, guide efforts to achieve them, guarantee rights and freedoms, prevent abuses of power and ensure local autonomy” as described in Donald Denoons’ Australia and the Decolonization of Papua New Guinea (2012). Despite the political turmoil experienced by the people Papua New Guinea finally reached independence September 16th 1975.
3. The Current Political Climate
Fear, violence and fraud are three of the words used to describe Papua New Guinea at present. Papua New Guineas transition to independence despite their inexperience’s allowed for instant independence, which revealed the establishment of a united independent nation. Yet, this soon turned, as no parliament party was able to survive the fixed five-year term. This is because governments began dodging critical areas of interest, which were essential to the countries development as a nation. As a result military intervention was implemented throughout the 1990s which were believed to be the most politically turbulent years.
Colonel John Ainsworth. Administrative arrangements and matter affecting the interests of natives in the territory of New Guinea. State of Victoria, 1924.
Bettison, David. “The Electoral Education Programme.” In The Papua-New Guinea Elections 1964, edited by David Bettison, Colin Hughes and Paul Van Der Veur. Canberra: The Australian National University, 2005, pp. 53-90.
Denoon, Donald. Australia and the Decolonisation of Papua New Guinea. Canberra: Australian National University E-Press, 2012.
Downs, Ian. The Australian Trusteeship: Papua New Guinea 1945-75. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1980.
Woolford, Donald. Papua New Guinea: Initiation and Independence. Hong Kong: University of Queensland Press, 1976.