Cultural Context: Central District, Port Moresby by Jia Li

Port Moresby in the Central District of Papua, is the administrative capital and the biggest town in Papua New Guinea. It is one of the most economically developed and most populous cities in Papua New Guinea according to the data provided by Worldatlas and many other pertinent articles. Port Moresby today has an international airport and it is recognised as an urbanised area and the main business area of Papua New Guinea. The major economic activities are subsistence farming and fishing. There was a remarkable increase in population from 1935 to 1966 in Port Moresby (2800 in 1935, and 42,000 in 1966, Oram 1973:3). Besides, the highest ranked university in Papua New Guinea, University of Papua New Guinea was established in 1965 in Port Moresby, which implies that Port Moresby is also an important educational center with almost the best education and training resources in the country.

According to the sources, Port Moresby is the single district of the National Capital District, which has three Local Level Government (LLG) areas: Moresby North East, Moresby North West and Moresby West. Though Port Moresby is a big city, it is quite isolated from most other parts of Papua New Guinea, which means it is quite difficult for migrants from other places of the country to get to Port Moresby. In terms of language, the highest percentage of different speakers can be found in the Central District. According to the table given by the book Altas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americans By Stephen A. Wurm, Peter Mühlhäusler, Darrell T. Tryon,  Among the Northern, Gulf, Milne Bay and Western districts, Central Districts has the highest percentage of Tok Pisin, English and Hiri Motu speakers. Despite the fact that Motu was the main language spoken in Port Moresby, the role of English and Tok Pisin had became more dominant from 1966 to 1971. This indicates that communications and business activities might be relatively easier to proceed than those of other districts were.

There were two major historical events that made a huge impact on the social structure of Port Moresby (1944-1946). During World War II, when the Japanese invasion came, some Papuan men enlisted in the Papua Infantary Battalion. Most residents of Port Moresby either went back to viliages or were evacuated to shelters. By September 1942, Port Moresby had become a significant base for allies and troops. In 1945, the Territory of Papua New Guinea was established and Port Moresby soon became the capital of new combined territory and a center for public services. In September 1975, Papua New Guinea claimed to be an independent country with Port Moresby as the capital, and the population of Port Moresby expanded rapidly right after the independence event. According to the article, What can be learnt from the past? A history of the forestry sector in Papua New Guinea, we can generalise the major events happened in Papua New Guinea from 1944 to 1946, “Phase 2: Post-war reconstruction: 1944-1946 Forestry matters including cutting and milling of timber controlled by the Army through the 1st Australian C.R.E., New Guinea Forests.”

Under the historical circumstances and cultural context given above about Papua New Guinea in 1944-1946, we may now summarise and analyze the primary sources of the patrol reports from Central District, Port Moresby between 1944 and 1946. The patrol report collection is consisted of approximately 12 patrol reports. Expectedly, most reports are about census, death rate, post-war reconstruction and the employment of army. For instance, a report of this collection in 1944 mentioned that “The death rate for the year 1943 – 1944 was heavy, a total of forty eight people died. There were nine births for the same period.” There also maps and statistics attached in some reports. In my account, the most frequently used keywords are “census”, “return”, “village”, “camp” and “inspection”. One patrol even wrote that he gave the people in his area a pep talk. Thus, generally speaking, this patrol report collection is mainly about post-war reconstruction. It was quite delightful for me to see the situation goes better as I read through the volume.    

PNG Patrol Report: Central District, Port Moresby, 1944-1946

Work cited

Unknown Author. Worlddatlas. Retrieved July 15 2018 https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/which-are-the-biggest-cities-in-papua-new-guinea.html

Unknown Author. Citypopulation.de. Retrieved July 15 2018 http://www.citypopulation.de/PapuaNewGuinea.html

Unknown Author. Official website of University of Papua New Guinea http://www.upng.ac.pg/site/

Norman E.Philp. 1986. The Cash Incentive: The Economic Response of Semi-subsistent Craftworkers in Papua New Guinea https://books.google.com/books?id=eWwsAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA13&dq=central+district+port+moresby&hl=zh-TW&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj7y6qVjaLcAhUOWq0KHfI4B3IQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=central%20district%20port%20moresby&f=false

Stephen A. Wurm, Peter Mühlhäusler, Darrell T. Tryon. Altas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia and the Americans 459-462. Retrieved July 15 2018 https://books.google.com/books?id=lFW1BwAAQBAJ&pg=PA459&dq=central+district+port+moresby&hl=zh-TW&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj7y6qVjaLcAhUOWq0KHfI4B3IQ6AEIXjAI#v=onepage&q=central%20district%20port%20moresby&f=false

Newport Energy Limited 11 April 2011. SOCIAL MAPPING SURVEY REPORT. Retrieved July 15 2018 http://www.larusenergy.com.au/irm/PDF/1045_0/SocialMappingSurveyReport

Overseas Development Institute January 2007. What can be learnt from the past? A history of the forestry sector in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea Forest Studies 1. Retrieved July 15 2018 http://www.inapng.com/pdf_files/ODI%20paper%201.pdf

3 Comments


  1. I’m so glad that you were able to touch on the effects of WWII. In my research so many things had happened in our area, just not in the particular time period that I was assign. hahaha. Great work.

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  2. Agreed – nice overview, Jia – you pulled in a good balance of facts and statistics with some context, especially on World War II.

    If you search for Port Moresby WW2 in YouTube, you’ll find some film footage of the Harbor at the time.

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=port+moresby+ww2

    There are several sources on Papua New Guinea during World War II, including some memoirs and primary sources:

    http://roger.ucsd.edu/search~S9?/dWorld+War%2C+1939-1945+–+Papua+New+Guinea/dworld+war+1939+1945+papua+new+guinea/-3%2C-1%2C0%2CE/2exact&FF=dworld+war+1939+1945+papua+new+guinea&1%2C19%2C

    Reply

  3. Hi Jia, great job pulling out information that might be relevant to the patrol report. Port Moresby is an interesting place because a lot has been written on it in recent times. After you peruse through the patrol report more, you might want to go back look for background on things relevant to the report. For example, you mention there was a high death rate. What was happening in that time period that increased that? What role did Port Moresby play in the war and post-war reconstruction?

    On a formatting note, please use in-text citations with (Author Year:pg) instead of writing the whole title of the article within the blog (this should just be at the end). This makes it easier for your reader. If you don’t know who the author is, use a condensed version of the title in your in-text citation. Owl Purdue APA gives some helpful guidelines on citation https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/1/

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