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The Australian National University

Documenting Australia’s External Relations: Papua New Guinea and Nauru

Date and time

Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 16:15 - 17:30


McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

Studying the paths to independence of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru, as documented in the National Archives of Australia, offers a distinctive perspective on Australia’s role as administering power of external territories for which it had United Nations trusteeship responsibilities (though only in part for PNG). Nauru’s independence came first — an outcome which Australia was at first reluctant to concede, but indigenous Nauruan political leaders, encouraged by their success in negotiating increased royalties from phosphate mining, astutely used the means at their disposal to achieve self-determination for Nauru as the world’s smallest republic. With the larger, more complex PNG, the situation was somewhat different. Did Australia push PNG into independence too early? Was Australia prepared for the exercise of disengaging from PNG? Players changed, as did the centres of power and decision-making, as the date for independence drew closer. Some astute leadership in Port Moresby aided Australia in this process. This seminar concerns the Documents on Australian Foreign Policy (DAFP) series published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and, specifically, the volumes on PNG and Nauru which are, amongst others, currently in preparation.

Dr David Lee, Director of DFAT’s Historical Publications and Research Unit, will introduce the speakers.

Dr Matthew Jordan is an historian in the Historical Publications and Research Unit at DFAT. As well as preparing DAFP volumes on Australia’s attitudes and policies towards the Rhodesian Problem in the 1960s and 1970s and its reappraisal and rejection of the White Australia policy from the 1940s to the 1970s, he has published widely on the role of foreign policy considerations in shaping Australian immigration policies and ideas on race since the late nineteenth century. He will provide an introductory assessment of the DAFP program, tracing its origins, objectives and changing priorities from the 1970s to the present.

Mr Colin Milner is editing a volume in the DAFP series on Australia and Nauru, 1950 to 1968, covering the period leading to independence in January 1968. Serving with DFAT from 1990 to 2014, he was posted to Nauru as Special Representative in 2004–05. He has published chapters on human rights and international law in Australia and the United Nations (Longueville Books and DFAT, 2012), and on Robert Randolph Garran in Australia and the World: A Festschrift for Neville Meaney (Sydney University Press, 2013).

Dr Bruce Hunt is editing a volume in the DAFP series on Australia's relations with PNG, 1970 to 1975. This volume covers the period leading to independence in September 1975. He served with DFAT from 1974 to 2010 and was posted to Port Moresby in the mid-1980s as well as twice serving as Head of the PNG Section. His book Australia's Northern Shield? Papua New Guinea and the Defence of Australia is to be published by Monash University Publishing in February 2017.

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