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Athabasca University

New Guinea Writing

New Guinea Writing (1970-1971) was the first literary journal published by the colonial administration in the colonies of Papua and New Guinea. Edited by Australian poet, Don Maynard, NGW was the most visible arm of the newly formed Literature Bureau, which Maynard also directed. NGW consists of four issues, each 20-25 pages long. Like its predecessor The Papuan Villager, it had a populist message: that writing was a valuable social and civic activity.

Aside from journalism, this journal was the only secular opportunity for indigenous authors to professionalize. Through NGW, Maynard not only offered access to paid publication, he taught creative writing classes, offered a writing workshop led by Australian writer Olaf Ruhen, placed the work of PNG writers with overseas literary periodicals, and tried to organize a writer’s union. The journal regularly offered tips on writing and publishing. And it regularly published the work of winning entries in the colony-wide Literature Competition.

Each issue contained work by 6-7 authors, both male and female. Authors were identified by photos and short biographies. A survey of NGW's authors reveals that they came from all over the island. They were generally university and college students and graduates; teachers; and public service workers: that is, people with the highest levels of literacy. Each issue contained poetry, stories, legends, interviews, and advice to authors. In the beginning the prose items are clearly folklore; but over the years of NGW's and then PNGW's publication history, more clearly creative writing appears.

This literary journal had two iterations, as indicated by the change in name and editorship. This breach was created by an incident in which an article written by university student John Waiko was deemed by the Dept. of Information and Extension Services (of which the Literature Bureau was a part) to be too political. Don Maynard resigned in protest over this political interference. The administration felt the journal’s activities were crucial to the task of generating national unity, so it was re-named and a new editor hired.

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Updated October 13 2016 by Library Services