Cultural Context of the Gulf District, Kerema in 1935 – 1936.

Kerema, which is the provincial capital of the Gulf District, is located on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea, and due north of Queensland, Australia.  According to the National Archives of Australia, Papua New Guinea was proclaimed a Class ‘C’ mandate from the League of Nations in 1921, which gave Australia sweeping new powers to be.  In the initial years, the discovery of gold mining largely dominated the control and attention over New Guinea, of which blossomed into 1937; accruing more than £2,000,000.00, and creating the largest aviation sector in the world (NAA).  In 1937, the population for Kerema itself is hard to come by, but the population for Orokolo was reported as 4,500 by patroller F. E. Williams; today the population is around 7,500 (Everyculture).

The National Achieves of Australia noted, the structure of Administration within New Guinea remained mostly stable after the First World War, but the depression created the need for reorganization within many of the predominant arenas.  Of which, include “the lands, surveys, mines and agriculture functions in 1932, 1935 and 1936” (NAA).

In later years, the Japanese invasion led to the destruction of many critical documents and records, which forced the administration in Australia to hastily ship remaining documents back to their homeland.  There was, however, a trove of records which never got destroyed or reached the shores of Australia, but are held in Papua New Guinea.  Contained within the records are documents from pre-1942, later discovered in the 1960’s, which include documents and papers from Divisional offices located in “Abau, Baniara, Daru, Kairuku, Kerema, Kikori, Rigo and Tufi” (NAA).

According to Wikipedia, the landscape is dominated by mountains, river deltas, and grass flood plains.  The Papuan Gulf is the main body of water that several key rivers converge, which has been an important asset for the native populations survival.  Furthermore, there are a plethora of languages spoken within the Gulf.  Specifically, contained within the Gulf Province there are more than twenty languages, and more specifically, within the region of Kerema languages spoken include: Toaripi, Kakiae, Opae, Moivo Hivi and Tairuma.

Although there is little information accessible for a deeper look into the cultural context, I look forward to delving into the patrol report volumes which I’ve been assigned.  The volume covers twelve reports, which include fascinating depth and detail.

Cultural Context

PNG Patrol Report: Gulf District, Kerema, 1935-1936

Year: 1935 – 1936

District: Gulf

Station: Kerema

Vol. 14

Work Cited:

National Archives of Australia: “NAA”:

Every Culture:


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Good use of the National Archives of Australia guide to learn more about the time period, Scott. There are a few results in a keyword search for “kerema” in the library catalog and JSTOR:

    And a lot more if you broaden your search to the “Gulf Province Papua New Guinea”:

    From there I also noticed a specific subject for “Ethnology — Papua New Guinea — Gulf Province” which gave some more specific results:–+Papua+New+Guinea+–+Gulf+Province/dethnology+papua+new+guinea+gulf+province/-3%2C-1%2C0%2CE/2exact&FF=dethnology+papua+new+guinea+gulf+province&1%2C8%2C

  2. Rachel Hicks says:

    Hi Scott, Great background on the political formation of PNG. To delve deeper into your research, what sources is Wikipedia citing? That is a good initial source, but you will find out more about Kerema and the Gulf district by finding the original sources and articles that Wikipedia pulls from. Thinking about the landscape, what did access did the gulf location give to Kerema? Did they have access to resources or transportation that other parts of PNG did not? It will be interesting to see how the location and history of the region are reflected (or not) in the patrol reports.

    On an organizational note, can you Categorize this as Cultural Context? I almost didn’t see it because it was Uncategorized. Additionally, your tags show up as one long tag. Can you make them separate tags? If you have trouble with any of this, let me know. Thanks!

  3. Here was another interesting tidbit that I found just looking at a general search engine for Kerema:

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