By Donald Denoon
Whilst it got here in September 1975, Papua New Guinea’s independence was once marked via either nervousness and elation. within the euphoric aftermath, decolonisation used to be declared a triumph and instant occasions looked as if it would justify that self assurance. by means of the Nineties, despite the fact that, occasions had taken a flip for the more serious and there have been doubts in regards to the means of the kingdom to operate. prior to independence, Papua New Guinea used to be an Australian Territory. accountability lay with a minister in Canberra and companies have been supplied through Commonwealth corporations. In 1973, best Minister Gough Whitlam declared that independence might be completed inside of years. whereas Australians have been united of their wish to decolonise, many Papua New Guineans have been fearful of independence. This superlative historical past provides the total tale of the ‘trial separation’ of Australia and Papua New Guinea, concluding that — given the intertwined heritage, geography and economies of the 2 neighbours — the decolonisation venture of ‘independence’ continues to be a piece in development.
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Extra info for A Trial Separation: Australia And the Decolonisation of Papua New Guinea
Some areas were not yet under regular administration: only 73,000 people (12 per cent of those of working age) earned wages, 17,000 in government and 56,000 in private enterprise (mainly plantations). Of the half-million children of school age, only one-quarter were at school, including 3,000 in post-primary education. The committee agreed with Hasluck that there must be balance — and therefore linkage — between economic, social and constitutional change. Since they could imagine no way to speed up the lethargic pace of economic development, they assumed that political change must also be glacial.
25 Economists and administrators believed that land tenure was communal and that this was an obstacle to progress. If so, the obstacle was adamant: land was the source not only of people’s food and crops, but also of their identities. The 800 languages of Papua New Guinea articulate an ancient tradition of isolated communities whose attachment to particular pieces of land narrowed their horizons, but made the attachment correspondingly intense. At the end of the colonial era in Papua, less than two million acres out of 55 million had been alienated: of those two million acres, only 24,000 were owned as freehold, and the balance remained in Crown ownership.
Australians moved freely into the Territory, unless (like Peter Worsley and Jeremy Beckett) they were seen as radical and were deemed to be security risks. 52 The way forward from statelessness was to transform the Territory into a State, within or beyond the Australian federation. That event would alter the identity of Australia as well as Papua New Guinea. Footnotes 1. Keith Willey, Assignment New Guinea, Jacaranda Press, Brisbane, 1965, pp. 1–15. 2. Gavin Souter, New Guinea: the Last Unknown, London, 1963.