On this day …….. 16th September 1975
Papua New Guinea is a country in Oceania, positioned to the north of Australia. Consisting of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, as well as numerous offshore islands, it shares the island with the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. The country is renowned for being largely unexplored, with ancient tribes still occupying dense jungles in the rugged mountains, while it is also believed that undiscovered flora and fauna species lie in its interior. The first known European incursions into the island began with the Dutch and Portuguese traders during the sixteenth century. The name ‘Papua New Guinea’ is a result of the country’s unusual administrative history prior to Independence. ‘Papua’ comes from a Malay word, pepuah, used to describe the frizzy Melanesian hair, while ‘New Guinea’ is derived from ‘Nueva Guinea’, the name used by Spanish explorer Yñigo Ortiz de Retez, who coined the term due to the physical similarities he noted in the people to those occupying the Guinea coast of Africa. The northern half of the country fell to German control in 1884, and in 1899 the German imperial government assumed direct control of the territory. At this point, the territory was known as German New Guinea. In 1884, Britain had taken control of the southern half, annexing it completely in 1888. The southern half was known as British New Guinea. After the Papua Act of 1905, the British portion was renamed to Territory of Papua. During World War I, Australian troops began occupying the island to defend the British portion. Once the Treaty of Versailles came into effect following World War I, Australia was permitted to administer German New Guinea, while the British portion came to be regarded as an External Territory of the Australian Commonwealth, though in effect still a British possession. The two territories remained separate and distinct as ‘Papua’ and ‘New Guinea’. Following the New Guinea Campaign of World War II, the two territories were merged as ‘Papua New Guinea’. Australia continued to administer the country until it was granted full independence on 16 September 1975. Since independence, the two countries have retained close ties.