Author laments ignorance about PNG in Australia

8:49 am on 25 February 2016
A leading figure in Pacific regional journalism, Sean Dorney.

A leading figure in Pacific regional journalism, Sean Dorney. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The author of a new book says Australia's relationship with its neighbour, and former colony, Papua New Guinea, barely features in his country's school curriculum.

'The Embarrassed Colonialist' is a Lowy Institute Paper, published by Penguin Australia and written by Sean Dorney, who has been a leading figure in Pacific regional journalism for decades.

Mr Dorney said in many ways Australia seems to have forgotten that for a long time, PNG was its colony.

Since the book's recent publication, he heard an interesting aside from a member of the PNG Australia Association.

"He and other members of the association were trying to lobby the Australian authorities that there should be some reference in the history curriculum to what Australia had done in PNG, and he said that not only were their submissions totally rejected but the chairman of the curriculum authority said to them, why should we teach our children about our failed colonisation of New Guinea."

Mr Dorney said there are far more Polynesians in Australia than there are Melanesians, despite the size of Melanesia and Australia's historical links with Papua New Guinea.

He suggests this is reflected in the imbalance of Melanesians to Polynesians living in Australia.

"The reason there are so many Polynesians here is thanks to New Zealand's immigration policies. And once people from Tonga or Samoa or where ever get into New Zealand, after a while, they can move across to Australia."

"One of the really interesting statistics is that there are now more Cook Islanders living in Australia than Papua New Guineans." He said.