Making History Module Essay by: Jake Cox

The purpose of the E.R. Johnson’s patrol between 4th to the 25th of July 1957 within the Kamanuntina and Gafutina census divisions of Goroka District (Eastern Highlands Province) was “routine administration” and the collection and revision of census data.[1] By this point, the vast majority of the Highlands were under some degree of control by the colonial administration, with 52% under direct rule and 37% under its influence to some extent.[2] Johnson’s duties primarily involved the inspection of the indigenous economic activities, writing reports for the district authorities and offering his suggestions. His methods and suggestions generally reflected the goals of the Trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea (PNG) administration, both seeking to develop the economy and society of the Highlands, albeit in a western framing. Thus, colonial rule was a form of paternalism which the Minister of External Affairs, H.H. Evatt (1944) referred to as “positive Australianism”.[3]

Census duties broadly speaking involved tallying the demographics of the region, including the age, tribal/ethnic affiliation and medical afflictions of the populace. The patrol also made note of any events or trends that Johnson believed his district officers should be aware of, including local disputes, crime and economic activities.[4] That the administration seemed so interested in categorising the people of the New Guinean Highlands is quite similar to the British policy in India, especially with its practices of surveying. In India, the British desired to understand and categorise their colonial populace by surveying the land they occupied and organising its population based on social class, language and religion. These “investigative modalities”, as Bernard Cohn defined them, were used by the British government to organise its population for administrative purposes. This creation of defined categories led to the construction of India as a socio-political entity, one that required the British stewardship to end its internal conflicts.[5]

Similar actions were being deployed within the Papua New Guinean Highlands. A major purpose of Johnson’s patrol is related to census data. Much of the data he collects is related to administrative purposes, including village population and its demographics as well as the health of the populace. Johnson also tallies the ethnolinguistic groups of the region and interestingly organises these populations in accordance with the nearest road section.[6] Like in India, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is being treated as a singular political entity that requires the Australian administration’s intervention to keep the peace. Land disputes were an issue that the Johnson patrol encountered several times, though they did little to enforce it beyond issuing warnings of imprisonment. One notable case was a both intra- and inter-village dispute between the Krebenofi and Berole peoples in the Kainantu Sub-District, with most disputes relating to the usage of land and the slaughter of “trespassing pigs”. The dispute was officially settled in 1950-51 but the indigenous highlanders have generally failed to comply with the terms, despite the patrol’s threats.[7] This was the task of the kiap patrol officers, enforcing a western form of law and order where previously the villages lived separately from and often in conflict with one another.[8] Thus, the villages are forced to end their conflict amongst each and are linked together through the Australian colonial rule both administratively and economically. This treatment of PNG as a singular entity would lead to the nation’s independence as a single nation.[9] The Australian colonial project had created a nation-state out of previously disconnected villages.

The colonial project in New Guinea was also one of nation building. Throughout the patrol, E.R. Johnson is especially concerned with the growth of the coffee plantations. Though coffee was first introduced to Papua in the late 1800s, the first real coffee plantations in the Goroka Highlands region were established in 1936 by experimental research stations. The high altitude of the region facilitated the growth of high-quality arabica coffee.[10] Before the Second World War, coffee plantations were grown mostly by white settlers and expatriates in the region who owned the plantations in the region.[11] The post-war era saw the merging of the New Guinean (northern half) and Papuan (southern half) administrations into a trust-territory of the United Nations. The task of Australia was to develop the territory and raise the standard of living of the native population.[12] Thus, the colonial administration sought to encourage indigenous owned plantations as opposed to expatriate ones.[13]

Johnson takes note of the varying conditions of the coffee plantations and the indigenous people’s desires for new coffee plantations. That they spent a whole day (7 July) inspecting coffee indicates that coffee plantations were somewhat important to the administration.[14] Johnson even expresses a desire to end favouritism towards European-owned plantations. One of proposals is to merge several coffee plantations into one indigenous co-operative to sell coffee and invest in capital to improve production and expand operations. It is Johnson’s hope that indigenous coffee will be able to compete and match the quality of European-owned coffee plantations.[15] Johnson’s ideals, thus, match the trends within the administration. After the Second World War, the administration place greater restrictions of the settlement and purchasing of land by expatriates in the Highlands. Land negotiations were now to be done through the state and making most land in Goroka unable to be leased due to population needs and projections.[16]

The administration saw coffee plantations as a way to employ the Highlanders after recently subjugating them to the state’s authority. Many male villagers pre-contact were warriors to some extent, which was position that was redundant after the state enforced itself. Thus, it was believed these men would become bored and turn to illicit actions unless employed, thus helping to secure the administration’s authority.[17] The late 1950s saw a coffee boom within the Goroka Highlands as profits grew.[18] Development in Papua New Guinea typically focused on growing goods that could not be produced in Australia, which further facilitated the expansion of cash crops such as coffee.[19] This would likely explain why Johnson seems uninterested tapping the gold in the Goroka Highlands with gold and other minerals being a large part of Australia’s economy.[20][21] Johnson notes that the indigenous peoples are requesting more coffee seeds and greater economic hubs such as trade stores.[22]

Despite the coffee boom, Johnson to some extent wants to scale down the expansion of coffee plantations. He is concerned that the production of too much coffee will lead to a “supply well in excess of demand” and this will particularly be an issue since there are little restrictions on indigenous coffee producers and the administration encourages its growth.[23] Johnson therefore proposes that the administration help local growers form agencies to sell their crops on the market, as well as produce other cash crops.[24] This is also in line with the administration’s thinking during the late 1950s. They too were concerned that too much coffee growth would harm the market. Demand for coffee expansion had led to shortages in seedlings, something that was encountered by Johnson when visiting the Tebaga peoples.[25][26] Concurrently, the Australian government was entering into negotiations with various coffee producing nations in order regulate the price and trade of coffee. Ultimately with the International Coffee Agreement, Australian would agree to limit the production and export of coffee within Papua New Guinea.[27]

Cultural differences can sometimes impede the patrol’s work, for Johnson this is the practice of adoptions. Villages would often adopt boys between each other in order to facilitate communication among different languages. Occasionally patrols would unknowingly adopt a child who would then help communication with villagers.[28] Intra-village adoption often occurs when large families give their children to couples with little or no children. Johnson finds the process of adoption “rather frustrating” partly because it makes census collection more difficult, thus obstructing the investigative modalities. He also believes the system can be harmful for the children as the adopted mother sometimes is merely used a wet a nurse.[29] Though Johnson doesn’t propose any solutions to this ‘problem’, the fact that he brings it up and attaches an appendix relating to the issue suggests he believes future patrols and the administration will need to tackle indigenous adoptive practices in some form.[30]

Education is another issue that Johnson believes needs to be dealt with by the administration. Though education efforts expanded after the Second World War, focusing on achieving a “western standard”, in reality due to a low budget and timidness by the Director of Education, W.C. Grooves, education development has generally been a slow process.[31] The local boarding school at Henganofi station is praised by Johnson for maintaining discipline and interest of its students in comparison to missionary schools. However, the school is rather small, totalling 107 students (5 of whom are girls).[32] This student body outnumbers the total amount of under 16-year-olds in Henganofi which indicates many of their students are from outside Henganofi. The total under 16 population in Gafutina division is at least 3000, which would indicate that there is a shortage of schools.[33] Thus, Johnson indicates the need to expand schooling and in particular focus on the status of women.[34] Johnson also believes that the indigenous peoples need education in money usage. He notes that the exchange of cash is starting to replace the traditional gift giving economy, such as shells. He believes that excessive cash exchange will lead to the villagers failing to save their cash and will thus encourage crime in the region.[35] The Acting District Officer, on the other, thinks this is a good thing and believes that cash must ultimately replace traditional valuables.[36]

Johnson’s patrol also inspected the construction of highways in the Goroka Highlands. About 17 miles (27 km) of highway passes through the patrol area and is maintained by six tribes numbering around 5,000 people.[37] The purpose of the Highlands Highway was to ease the transportation of goods such as coffee.[38] Road construction was quite important to the Highland’s economy, not only did workers get paid for building and maintaining the roads, it also enabled the flow of goods to and from the region. Infrastructure damages could completely wreck the supply of coffee for a whole day.[39] Interestingly, Johnson notes that the people who work on the most rugged and difficult sections of the Highway tend to be the most enthusiastic. Perhaps they behave this way because rugged terrain would lend them to being more isolated and thus road construction enables them greater opportunities than those who work the least difficult sectors. Regardless, Johnson worries that the villagers as a whole will lose interest in road maintenance and thus requests that they receive wage increases and modern equipment.[40]

E.R. Johnson’s patrol report is very evocative of the desired goals of the Trust Territory’s administration. He is particularly focused on the status of the indigenous coffee plantations, their viability and their economic potential in particular. Just like the colonial government, they both encourage the plantation of coffee seeds to fulfill the goals of the Trust, that is native development. He does appear to be rather cautious and suggests scaling down the production of coffee plantations lest the market becomes over-saturated, a policy that the colonial administration would follow just a few years later. Just as the British in India, the maintenance of accurate statistics with regards to surveys and maps (investigative modalities) in particular is of particular importance to Johnson’s job. This can especially be seen with regards to his annoyance at Highlander cultural traditions that tend to make the tabulation of accurate statistics more difficult. Johnson does seem to be concerned about the welfare of the indigenous population, as demonstrated by his calls for greater education and economic opportunities. He exhibits a paternalistic attitude towards the populace, any imposition he makes, such as the resolution of land disputes, restrictions on the cash trade, are ostensibly done for the population’s benefit. This is certainly reflective of the colonial project’s “positive Australianism” that sought to guide the nation into self-governance through Australian authority, such as ending tribal conflicts and exert subjecting the population to its control. This colonial project, thus, created Papua New Guinea as a singular body on the road to self-rule, just as the British created India from the Raj.

Bibliography

  • Anas, M., ‘The Highlands of New Guinea’, Geographical Review, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 467-490, <https://www.jstor.org>, accessed 14 September 2020.
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Mining Industry, 1998-99, cat. no. 8414.0, 25 Jan. 2001, <http://www.abs.gov.au>, accessed 1 October 2020.
  • Bourke, R.M., ‘Village Coffee in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea: Early Beginnings’, The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 21, no. 2, April 1986, pp. 100-103, <https://www.jstor.org>, accessed 14 September 2020.
  • Brown, P., ‘Colonial New Guinea: The Historical Context’, in N. McPherson ed., In Colonial New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, pp. 15-26, accessed 8 September 2020.
  • Cohn, B.S., Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge, Princeton University Press, 1996, <https://www.fulcrum.org>, accessed 27 September 2020.
  • Dwyer, P.D. & Minnegal, M., ‘On Reading Patrol Reports – 1: South of the Blucher Range’, The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 55, no. 1, 2020, pp. 115-125, <https://www.jstor.org>, accessed 14 September 2020.
  • Johnson, E.R., Goroka Patrol, no. 1 of 1957/58, 4-25 Jul. 1957, National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea, Patrol Reports, Eastern Highlands District, Goroka, 1957 – 1958. National Archives of Papua New Guinea, vol. 10 Accession 496, <https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb9592327g>, accessed 16 September 2020.
  • MacWilliam, S., Securing Village Life: Development in Late Colonial New Guinea, Australian National University E Press, 2013, <https://www.jstor.org>, accessed 24 September 2020.
  • Megarrity, L., ‘Indigenous Education in Colonial Papua New Guinea: Australian Government Policy, 1945-1975’, History of Education Review, vol. 34, no. 2, October 2005, pp. 41-58, <https://www.ebscohost.com>, accessed 29 September 2020.
  • Nelson, H., ‘Taim Bilong Masta: The Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea’, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1982, < https://talisaspire.com>, accessed 15 September 2020.
  • West, P., From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee in Papua New Guinea, Duke University Press, 2012, < https://ebookcentral.proquest.com>, accessed 23 September 2020.

[1] E.R. Johnson, Goroka Patrol, no. 1 of 1957/58, 4-25 Jul. 1957, National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea, Patrol Reports, Eastern Highlands District, Goroka, 1957 – 1958. National Archives of Papua New Guinea, vol. 10 Accession 496, p.6, <https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb9592327g>, accessed 16 September 2020.

[2] M. Anas, ‘The Highlands of New Guinea’, Geographical Review, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 469, <htpps://www.jstor.org>, accessed 14 September 2020.

[3] S. MacWilliam, Securing Village Life: Development in Late Colonial New Guinea, Australian National University E Press, 2013, p.27, <https://www.jstor.org>, accessed 24 September 2020.

[4] Johnson, op. cit., pp.27-31.

[5] B.S. Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge, Princeton University Press, 1996, p.4-5 & 8, <https://www.fulcrum.org>, accessed 27 September 2020.

[6] Johnson, loc. cit.

[7] ibid, pp.15-6.

[8] P.D., Dwyer & M. Minnegal, ‘On Reading Patrol Reports – 1: South of the Blucher Range’, The Journal of Pacific History, vol. 55, no. 1, p. 115, <https://www.jstor.org>, accessed 14 September 2020.

[9] P. Brown, ‘Colonial New Guinea: The Historical Context’, in N. McPherson ed., In Colonial New Guinea: Anthropological Perspectives, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2001, pp. 19-20, accessed 8 September 2020.

[10]

[11] MacWilliam, op. cit., p.17.

[12] ibid., pp. 37 & 42.

[13] ibid., pp.121-2.

[14] Johnson, op. cit., p.13.

[15] ibid., pp.21-2.

[16] P. West, From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee in Papua New Guinea, Duke University Press, 2012, pp. 80-2, < https://ebookcentral.proquest.com>, accessed 23 September 2020.

[17] MacWilliams, op. cit., p.63.

[18] ibid., p.85.

[19] West, op. cit., p.76.

[20] Johnson, op. cit., p.16.

[21] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Mining Industry, 1998-99, cat. no. 8414.0, 25 Jan. 2001, para. 20, <http://www.abs.gov.au>, accessed 1 October 2020.

[22] Johnson, op. cit., p.17.

[23] ibid., p.20.

[24] ibid., pp.25-6

[25] West, op. cit., p.85.

[26] Johnson, op. cit., p.16.

[27] West, op. cit., pp.85-6.

[28] H. Nelson, ‘Taim Bilong Masta: The Australian Involvement with Papua New Guinea’, Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1982, p.56, < https://talisaspire.com>, accessed 15 September 2020.

[29] Johnson, op. cit., pp.17-9.

[30] ibid, p.32.

[31] L. Megarrity, ‘Indigenous Education in Colonial Papua New Guinea: Australian Government Policy, 1945-1975’, History of Education Review, vol. 34, no. 2, October 2005, pp. 44, <https://www.ebscohost.com>, accessed 29 September 2020.

[32] Johnston, op. cit., p.23.

[33] ibid., p.27.

[34] ibid., p.17.

[35] ibid., p.19.

[36] ibid., p.11.

[37] ibid., p.17.

[38] West, op. cit., p.71.

[39] ibid., pp.72-3 & 79.

[40] Johnson, op. cit., pp.15 & 18-9.

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