AUSTRALIA NETWORK NEWS
PAPUA NEW GUINEA's prime minister Peter O'Neill says today's independence anniversary is cause for celebration and optimism.
Today marks the 38th anniversary of PNG's independence from Australia.
In a speech published in the PNG press, Mr O'Neill says there are challenges ahead.
"Although we have travelled far as a nation in 38 years, we have not travelled far enough," he said.
"Massive challenges lie ahead of us - we have a population that is growing rapidly; we have roads, air and sea ports, schools, hospitals, and barracks we must rebuild or expand.
"But I believe that we have laid the foundations for change in the policies that we are implementing."
Australia first assumed control of the British colony of Papua in the southern half of Papua New Guinea in 1906, and during the first World War, Australian forces claimed control of the northern part of German New Guinea, which had been a German territory.
The two were officially combined into one territory after World War 2, which also established a local government and judiciary.
The country, led by Chief Minister Sir Michael Somare, became self-governing on December 1, 1973 and achieved independence on September 16, 1975, with Sir Michael as the country's first prime minister.
Alex Rheeney, chief editor of the Post Courier in Port Moresby, has told Pacific Beat while some questioned whether PNG was ready for independence, he shares the current prime minister's optimism.
"Maybe it was an opportunity at that time for Papua New Guinea to take that step - and now 38 years on we're still going through a lot of challenges," he said.
"There's some criticism coming out that maybe the occasion that Papua New Guineans are currently feeling may be brief, and then we're back to reality tomorrow - and that's been happening for the last 38 years.
"The challenge now is for individual Papua New Guineans to actually say 'what can I do?' to actually contribute to the wellbeing of this nation - maybe I can make a difference in the lives of another Papua New Guinean, instead of relying on the government and all the other development partners to play that role."
Mr O'Neill has also used the independence celebrations to call for a stronger relationship with Australia.
"It is timely for us to consider how we can freshen up our relationship with our former colonial power, now our closest neighbour and our best friend," he said.
The prime minister also wants Papua New Guinea to be included in the incoming Abbott Government's new 'Colombo Plan', which would see Australian tertiary students studying in Asia.
"The government will ask the new Australian Government to include study in Papua New Guinea in the program at the earliest possible opportunity," he said.
"We will also discuss with the new government arrangements to allow more Papua New Guineans to study in Australia in a similar way, and we would consider funding ourselves this aspect of the program," he said.