Kokoda Tribute

A short history of Papua New Guinea

An Island that dominates a region linking Australia, South East Asia and the South Pacific remained in relative isolation until the nineteenth century.

Colonisation by the Dutch in the West (now Irian Jaya), British in the South East (Papua) and Germans in the North East (New Guinea) brought the first Europeans. Australia administered Papua from 1906 and New Guinea as a mandated territory from 1921.

Australia was awarded New Guinea at the League of Nations after WW1. In 1945 Australia combined the two regions to form Papua New Guinea.

Self government was first attained in 1973 and full independence on the 16th September 1975.

It’s physical nature made it one of the least exploited and explored places on earth. Until the 1930’s the highlands remained relatively untouched despite holding a population in excess of a million people in the mandated territory alone.

A massive new source of labour was discovered for the coastal plantations, and the onset of mining. By the start of WW2, seventy per cent of the island was still unknown to the majority of settlers and administrators.

Papua New Guinea itself possess over seven hundred known languages illustrating the impenetrability of it’s mountains, swamps and jungles, and it’s cultural diversity.

It accounts for fifteen per cent of the world’s languages yet contains only 0.1 per cent of the population. Mountains in excess of four thousand meters lie less than one hundred kilometers from the coast, giving it an extremely diverse climate from the dry lands of Port Moresby to the rain soaked Owen Stanley’s, the heat and humidity of the lowlands to the chilled nights in the mountains.

The war correspondent Osmar White related the human condition and the difficulty of survival in Papua New Guinea in his book Green Armour. “The insidious climate fastens relentlessly on any physical weakness”.