Cultural Context Port Moresby 1946 – 1948

Port Moresby is currently the capital of Papua New Guinea. Before the European settlement, the area was inhabited by the Motu and Koitabu people. The port was named after the Adm. Sir Fairfax Moresby, father of the explorer, Capt. John Moresby, to whom the harbor is credited. (Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2018)


In present day, the indigenous people of Port Moresby are referred to as one, Motu Koitabu. (Gaudi 2001:4) They are now a marginalized people living in Port Moresby and the surrounding capital area called the National Capital District (NCD). The indigenous language of the Motu Koitabu is called Motu, however, because this city is the capital and has one of the longest histories of European Settlement (in PNG) most people speak the official languages of PNG: English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu – a simplified version of Motu.


Aside from the patrol reports, not very much was culturally reported about Port Moresby during this era. Most of the changing face of this area happened before 1945 (mostly during World War II) and after 1975 – the independence of Papua New Guinea.


Local newspapers painted Port Moresby as people living in the aftermath of a war-torn country destroyed by Japanese bombings. The ports were nearly abandoned, and a lot of people were either living in empty military holdings or in temporary shanty towns. (Kenwood 1947: 11) Author Kenwood does end his article with a slow sense of hope as everyone in the area is relying on the “Army occupation” along with renovated infrastructures, such the water utility, to slowly rebuild the area into the “modern village” it was once promised. (Kenwood 1947:11)


1946, shows the reemergence of the government of Papua New Guinea’s commitment to education (post WWII) to which Ph.D. candidate Pamela Anne Quartermaine of University of Tasmania – Launceston studied the policy, practice and progression of teacher education spanning from 1946 to 1996; when in June 1946, William C. Groves, was appointed Director of Education within the Department of Education. (Quartermaine 2001:13) This appointment was significant for the area and the country since schooling had come to a stand-still (and almost nonexistence) during World War II.


A news article from 1948, states protests by public servants as recent salary wage increases were not sufficient enough to cover cost of living expenses as electricity prices were high while housing condition low. The protesters also wanted the raise to cover secondary education for their children. (A.A.P-Reuters 1948:1)


The slow recovery from World War II seems particularly hard for both the Europeans living in- and the natives of- Port Moresby.


PNG Patrol Report: Central District, Port Moresby, 1946-1948


Works Cited


A.A.P.-Reuters (June 12, 1948) Port Moresby Protest Sent to Canberra.Retrieved from


Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web accessed July 14, 2018.


Gaudi, Haraka G. (2001) Partners in Coastal Development: The Motu Koitabu People of Papua New Guinea.Retrieved from


Kenwood, Bryan (May 17, 1947) Contrasts in Port Moresby, 1947. Retrieved from


Quartermaine, Pamela Anne (2001) Teacher Education in Papua New Guinea: Policy and Practice 1946 – 1996. Retrieved from

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Lea Kolesky says:

    Thank you for sharing that interesting article about the 1948 public servant protests. I would be really curious to find out if there were any concessions made. In regards to present day Port Moresby, you mentioned that the indigenous population is marginalized; do you know which groups in the region are better off?

  2. Great job finding sources from the year, Vidal! You used a nice range of sources, including Trove from the National Library of Australia. It’s a great resource!

    There are a few books found in the library catalog about the settlements in Port Moresby, such as:

    Port Moresby, urban villages and squatter areas : an analysis of the urban villages and squatter areas of the city of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea (1984)

    From there, I clicked on the subject heading:
    Squatter settlements — Papua New Guinea — Port Moresby

    which led to a film (on VHS – we’ve been working to convert those) and another publication that seems to provide more narrative and perspective from the communities. This could be an interesting trail to follow to learn more about Port Moresby. But there are quite a few items related to Port Moresby in the library catalog:

  3. Rachel Hicks says:

    Hi Vidal, great job providing some historical context to Port Moresby, especially what was happening in the 1940s. As I mentioned on Jia’s post, Port Moresby is an interesting place to look at because there is a lot written about it in present-day as well as it was one of the first cities to develop in PNG. I would be interested to know at what point it was developed and what it looked like in the 1940s as compared to today? Is there any evidence in the patrol reports of how people dealt with the aftermath of the war and the reconstruction? It will be interesting to keep these historical details in mind as you think about what was included in the reports and what was not (particularly with so much historical background).

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