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Athabasca University

Colonial administration

Like the missions, the colonial administrations of Papua and New Guinea published several newsletters, newspapers, and magazines. Included on this website is a selection of those with importance for the encouragement of indigenous print culture.

The colony of Papua is remarkable in colonial history for its early publication of the English-language The Papuan Villager (1929-1941), which is reproduced here in its entirety. This newspaper was the result of the fertile collaboration of Lt-Governor, Sir Hubert Murray and Government Anthropologist, Francis Williams. The Villager represented a nexus between the newly formed field of social anthropology and the latest theories in native administration. Aimed at an adult audience, the Villager attempted, in an 8-16 page tabloid format, to encourage literate Papuans to take leadership roles in their communities as conduits for administration self-help information on hygiene and improved agriculture. But, more importantly, the newspaper urged Papuans to maintain their material culture, to record their oral culture, and to assimilate to white culture through the use of written English. Williams edited the newspaper monthly until his death during the war.

The Villager was continued by the Administration’s Dept. of Education from 1950-1960 as a school magazine titled The Papua and New Guinea Villager, which was finally discontinued in favour of a series of more modern-looking magazines.

The production of a literary journal did not occur until 1970, although the establishment of a Literature Bureau had been recommended in the mid 1950s by South Pacific Commission’s literature consultant, Bruce Roberts. The intervening years had been spent in trying to re-define what the Administration’s approach would be to native administration, whether or not the colonies of Papua and New Guinea should be prepared for independence, or simply treated as two Australian territories. By the late 1960s the issue was resolved; one of the manifestations of this decision was the inception of the Literature Bureau and the subsequent publication of the English-language journal New Guinea Writing (1970-71) and its successor, Papua New Guinea Writing (1972-1977).

These were the only literary journals published by the Administration; they occupied a middle-ground between the journals published by the University and the Christian Training Centre. Like the mission-based journals, they offered training in the writing profession, interviews with writers, and letters-to-the-editor, along with a publishing venue for prose and verse. Unlike journals based in the other two literary systems, the Literature Bureau journals also offered payment competitive with Australian rates. (P)NGW attracted writers from across the country, from universities, missions, colleges, and schools, and from the public service. These two Administration-run journals were populist in their approach, encouraging participation by women; the editorship and technical production of PNGW was largely indigenized by 1974.

Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services