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UNSW Press UNSW Press

Documents on Australian Foreign Policy

Australia and Papua New Guinea, The Push to Independence, 1972–1975

Edited by Bruce Hunt, Stephen Henningham

This is the second DFAT volume on PNG’s independence. The first volume, Documents on Australian Foreign Policy: Australia and Papua New Guinea, 1970–1972: The transition to self-government, was published by UNSW Press in December 2020.

This era saw monumental change in the relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea as PNG went from a territory firmly controlled by Canberra to self-government in 1975. The change of government in Australia in early December 1972 brought to power a prime minister with an intense interest in the future of Papua New Guinea, and a commitment to rapid change. Gough Whitlam, supported by his External Territories Minister, Bill Morrison, pushed hard to complete Papua New Guinea’s transition to full self-government and to accelerate its accession to independence. The latter took place in September 1975—later than Whitlam would have preferred, but earlier than most people in both Australia and Papua New Guinea would have thought possible only a few years before. There were tensions and sharp words along the way, but overall, the transition was achieved with good will. Taken together, the 525 documents in the volume illuminate the development of Australian policies concerning Papua New Guinea during the push to independence.