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« Bilum | Main | Marape tells Oil Search PNG wants ‘greater participation’ »

19 July 2019


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Philip Fitzpatrick

You're right Paul, imperialism is not just something that was practised by European colonialists. It even happened among Aboriginal groups in Australia.

In Central Australia there was a small language group in the Petermann Ranges that was so far away that it actually survived European incursions largely culturally intact.

The anthropologists refer to them as Pitjantjatjara. There are closely related to the Yankunytjatjara to their east. Because they had retained their culture they became very powerful and influential.

Their influence has now spread to much of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Some anthropologists refer to the development as Pitjantjatjara Imperialism. They have even overrun the sophisticated Aranda to the northeast and the Adnyamathanha of the Flinders Range to the south.

Southern tribes now send their young men to the APY Lands to be initiated. Their "Wati' culture has now subsumed the old cultures of the south.

A similar thing happened in the highlands of PNG when the people now referred to as Enga invaded the valleys in the Central Ranges. They effectively conquered and absorbed the groups living there.

You could call that Enga Imperialism. The Enga's bigman culture spread to the rest of the Western and Eastern Highlands and is now endemic throughout the highlands and, as we know, the streets of Lae and Port Moresby.

Paul Oates

Let us not forget that this is a world wide problem and not just restricted to 19th and 20th Century Europeans. Look at examples in previous human history like Genghis Khan and Shaka Zulu?

It is a human trait that must be recognised and resisted. To some extent, religions like Christianity has both helped and then hindered this problem. William Wilberforce is an example of how the overall ethnic worm can turn.

In the colonial scheme of things in Oz, Governor Macquarie also had some worthwhile qualities. Papua and later, New Guinea were very fortunate to have initially acquired the far thinking Sir Hubert Murray. I wonder is his grave, which I understand is in Moresby, ever honoured and revered at any time by those who now benefit from his efforts?

Perhaps the descendants of the original Motu owners of the now Greater Moresby region now feel somewhat aggrieved over the gradual takeover of their land by outsiders from their own country?

Philip Fitzpatrick

I agree with what you suggest Chris.

I think one of the substantive differences between the colonial experience in PNG and that of places like Africa is that the colonialists didn't come as part of an exploitative force.

In Africa one of the main motives of the British, French, Belgians et al was the commercial exploitation of the colonial resources. The colonial services in those places were there to support such measures. Hence it was populated by people from the master country's ruling elite.

With the exploitative motive ruled out by Murray etc. the type of person attracted to the Australian colonial service was quite different.

The exploitative element in the African and other colonies existed well into the 20th century and it was only after WW2 that the colonists began to think in terms of their duty to develop the indigenous populations.

Interestingly there was only one state in Australia where colonial violence was largely absent and that was South Australia. This was because it was planned that way right from the beginning.

Curiously, a lot of kiaps in PNG came from South Australia.

There was a lot more organised resistance to colonialism by Aborigines in Australia than is immediately apparent. This began quite early when people like Pemulwuy fought the British in NSW. He had escaped Irish convicts fighting with him and advising on tactics.

So too the Wiradjuri further inland fought organised wars against the settlers.

PS: I finished my degree in 1982 with three majors too.

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