ABOUT PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Papua New Guinea is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and is 160 kilometres north of Australia. The western half of the island is Irian Jaya, a province of Indonesia. Papua New Guinea comprises both the mainland and some 600 offshore islands. It has a total land area of 462,800 square kilometres and is about the same size as Thailand. The country has 5125 kilometres of coastline.

The country is relatively young and its geography is diverse which is characterized by high mountain ranges, deep valleys and swift rivers in the interior and open plains, tropical forests and swampy inlets in the coastal region.

Papua New Guinea is located just south of the equator and experiences a moderate tropical climate with high levels of seasonal rainfall. In the highlands, temperatures range from a low of four degrees Celsius to a high of 32 degrees Celsius. The lowland, coastal and island areas have an average daily temperature of 27 degrees Celsius.

Papua New Guinea has a population of over 6.5 million people (using 2000 projections by the National Statistical Office). The majority lives in the highland valleys and in isolated villages. Apart from the National Capital District (NCD), population density is relatively low.

Around 15 per cent of the population live in the major urban areas. The major city and capital of the country is Port Moresby with a population of about 271,813. Other large towns and cities include Lae, (population 113,118), Madang (32,171), Wewak (25,143) and Goroka (17,269). Most of the rural population supports itself by subsistence farming.

Most Papua New Guineans are Melanesians and vary widely in their physical, ethnic and cultural characteristics.

PNG is an active member of the United Nations and its Agencies, Commonwealth and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), International Commodity Organizations, Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP),Pasific Island Forum and is an observer in the ASEAN.

HISTORY

Archaeologists believe that humans arrived on Papua New Guinea some 50,000 years ago, presumably by sea from Southeast Asia. A Spanish navigator, Don Jorge de Meneses, is credited with naming it "Papua" a Malay word for the frizziness of Melanesian hair. The term "New Guinea" was applied to the island in 1545 by a Spaniard, Ynigo Ortis de Retez, because of a similarity between the islands' indigenous people and those found on the African Guinea coast.

European traders, adventurers and gold explorers visited in the 16th and 17th centuries, but land claims did not begin until 1828, when the Dutch took control of the western half of New Guinea, now Papua Province of Republic of Indonesia. Due to the rugged terrain and isolated village communities, the impact of colonization varied throughout the nation.

Prior to World War II, Papua New Guinea was two separate territories. The territory of Papua was a British colony until 1884, and was later ceded to Australia to administer. New Guinea was part of the pre-World War I German Empire, but it too was given to Australia to administer at the end of World War I. During World War II, Japanese forces occupied PNG. Following the war, and the expulsion of Japanese forces, the two territories were amalgamated into one, which became known as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

Australia focused its efforts on developing PNG's cash economy and the democratization of the central government. The Papua and New Guinea Act of 1949 provided for a Legislative Council, judicial system, a civil service and a local government system. A generally protectionist policy pervaded and characterized Australia's efforts in the 1950s. In 1964, the first House of Assembly was established to provide Papua New Guineans a greater role in the country's political decision-making process. With domestic and international pressure for independence mounting, preparations for political independence began in earnest in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

In 1972, Michael Somare became Chief Minister of a democratically elected government, and in 1973 the country was administratively unified and renamed Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea became fully independent nation on September 16, 1975.

CULTURE, TRADITIONS AND LANGUAGES

In a country of over 6.5 million people with more than 800 different indigenous languages, Papua New Guinea cannot be compared with any other country for its rich cultural diversity. There is no such thing as a typical Papua New Guinean. More than 200 cultures, each with different traditions have been identified.

The impact of modernization brings daily change to Papua New Guinea, but the majority of people, whether they are from the Highlands to the Coastal regions, remain dependent on subsistence farming and live in small villages. Much of the inherited social structure, from matters affecting gardening to marriage and death, remains unchanged.

Ancient rituals are still performed for important social events. These elaborate ceremonies are normally presided over by the elders of the clan, with warriors painted and decorated in bright colours, feathers and shells. Today each of the twenty-two provinces has its own cultural festivals and regional shows where groups are invited to perform and visitors have the opportunity to glimpse the many visual and performing arts of Papua New Guinea. The most popular shows include the Hiri Moale, held in Port Moresby every September, the Mount Hagen show, held annually in August and the Goroka Show, every September, which attracts tourist from all over the world.

Papua New Guinea's art forms are as diverse as they are distinctive. In a country where language varies from village to village, it can be expected that artistic expression will differ in style just as dramatically. Pottery, weapons, carvings, basketwork, musical instruments are produced by different people in different places, according to their traditional skills and beliefs.

The Waigani area of the National Capital District is home to the impressive Parliament House building and the National Museum and Art Gallery, which exhibits one of the finest collections of primitive art in the world. Sepik River carvings, Malagan masks and Trobriand Island fishing vessels are just some of the unique examples of Papua New Guinean culture on display.

Parliament House building is constructed in the style of a traditional Sepik Haus Tambaran, or Spirit House. Artists and craftsmen from the villages throughout PNG were brought together to work on the impressive carvings, mosaics and murals. The result is a magnificent testimony to this culturally diverse and fascinating nation.

Papua New Guinea artefacts and handicrafts can be purchased from individual artists and retail outlets in towns and villages. The faculty of Creative Arts at the University of PNG at Waigani is also an excellent source of paintings, pottery and etchings.

The Provincial Tourist Office located in each of the provincial headquarters can be contacted for details of the best places to view and purchase local handicrafts and artefacts.

The National Crest

In late 1970, Mr Holman, then in charge of the Art Section at the Department of Information and Extension Services (DIES), Port Moresby, was urgently requested by officials of the House of Assembly to prepare a series of designs for both a National Crest and National Flag for consideration by the Select Committee on Constitutional Development.

As the Committee were at that time travelling around Papua New Guinea in order to discuss and receive submissions on the future Constitution from the local populace, Mr Holman with his Assistant Mr Esau Reuben, flew to Lae to attend one of the Committee's sessions to present a portfolio of design concepts.







Region

PNG is the largest country and largest economy in the Pacific Islands region.

As the Committee were at that time travelling around Papua New Guinea in order to discuss and receive submissions on the future Constitution from the local populace, Mr Holman with his Assistant Mr Esau Reuben, flew to Lae to attend one of the Committee's sessions to present a portfolio of design concepts.

PNG has a land area of 452,860 square kilometres, slightly more than the U.S. State of California. The country has 5125 kilometres of coastline. PNG has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 3,120,000 square kilometres.

PNG shares a border with Indonesia's Papua province to the west and with Australia in the Torres Strait and Coral Sea to the south. PNG shares a maritime border with Solomon Islands to the southeast.

The capital city Port Moresby is situated on a spectacular natural harbour on the southwest coast of PNG's mainland.

Language

More than 800 different indigenous languages are spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. The three official languages are English, Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu. English is widely spoken, and is the language of government, the education system and business. Tok Pisin, which is also known as New Guinea Pidgin, is widely spoken except in the southern part of Papua, where Hiri Motu is more commonly spoken.

Flag

Black and red triangles form the background, with the gold bird of paradise symbol from the national flag set over the red. Six stars (representing the 6 districts) are set above a light blue setting sun with yellow rays (the provincial symbol).

The National Anthem

"O ARISE ALL YOU SONS"
VERSE 1: O arise all you sons of this land
Let us sing of our joy to be free.
Praising God and rejoicing to be...
...Papua New Guinea...

VERSE 2: now gives thanks to the good Lord above
For His kindness, His wisdom and love
For this land of our fathers so free,
Papua New Guinea.

CHORUS
Shout our name from the mountain to seas
Papua New Guinea.
Let us raise our voices and proclaim
Papua New Guinea.

CHORUS
Shout again for the whole world to hear Papua New Guinea, We're independent and we're free,
Papua New Guinea.

Geography

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the Island of New Guinea, north of Australia and many outlying islands. The Indonesian province of Papua is to the west and to the north east are the islands of Manus, New Britain, New Ireland and Bougainville, all part of Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea’s mountainous interior has only been recently explored. The two major rivers are the Fly and the Sepik which are navigable for shallow-draft vessels.

 

  • Topological and Geological Features

    Papua New Guinea is located in the South Pacific and lies 3 degrees north and 11 degrees south of the Equator. Papua New Guinea consists of a mainland and a collection of islands of varying sizes. The mainland is really part of the island of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland.

    The island as a whole has an area of 868,000 km, which the eastern 462,800 km is part of Papua New Guinea. Both geologically and topographically, the country is very new. It is situated in a zone where the earth's crust is very weak, on the boundary between two tectonic plates, those of the ancient continent of Australia and of the Pacific Ocean. It forms part of the so-called "Ring of Fire" around the edge of the Pacific, and most of the country has been formed by comparatively recent earth movements and volcanic activity.

    The Coastal and Islands regions tend to be hot and humid, with temperature ranges averaging between 68 and 89 degrees. Some areas in the South have a distinct rainy and dry season, such as Port Moresby, while other coastal areas have a wet season (Madang and Morobe), but is not so clearly defined as in the South. Rainfall in such areas is high. For example, the city of Lae receives between 13 and 15 feet of rain per annum (390 to 450 cms).

    The Highlands regions can be quite chilly at night although the days are usually warm and clear. A typical highlands cloud cycle takes place each day clear in the morning with some local fogs followed by an increasing cloud build-up. Afternoon rains are common.

    The overall appearance of the country is extremely rugged, particularly in the highlands, which are characterized by sheer slopes, sharp ridges, fast-running rivers and the scars of innumerable landslides.

    The dominant feature of the country is the central spine, a complex of high mountain ranges intersected by alpine valleys and many plateaus. The mainland ranges from open beaches to coastal swamps and rough fjord- like areas in Oro Province, to dry savannah country in the Markham and Ramu valleys, and the steep precipitous mountains of the Highlands region. Mt. Wilhelm is the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea and is about 15,000 ft (4000 m). The interior of the island is very mountainous with fast flowing rivers and deep valleys.

    There are few large valleys In the Papuan region but the New Guinea region has several large open valleys such as the Asaro, the Jimi and Wahgi, provide excellent agricultural and pasture land. Offshore, there are many small islands, many without fresh water.

    Island provinces are located off the tip of Papua with a cluster of islands forming the Milne Bay Province, and to the north of the New Guinea mainland, the provinces of Manus, New Ireland, East New Britain, West New Britain and Bougainville. All island provinces are noted for their coral reefs, beaches, rich volcanic soil and abundance of marine resources. The islands of New Britain and Bougainville have active volcanoes and experience earthquakes of up to 5 on the richter scale from time to time.

    The famous Matupit volcano erupted again on 19 September 1994 and destroyed the township of Rabaul. Government

 

Government and Political System

Papua New Guinea gained independence on 16 September 1975. This followed several years of internal self-rule by a democratically-elected Chief Minister and Government.

The National Government consists of three independent arms - the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Executive power is vested in the National Executive Council (NEC) or Cabinet, which comprises the Prime Minister and usually 32 Ministers.

There are twenty-two (22) provinces in Papua New Guinea as well as the National Capital District. The provincial governments have a similar constitutional arrangement to the National Government and have concurrent power with the latter in areas such as agriculture, business development, town planning, forestry and natural resources. National laws, however take precedence over provincial laws if there is conflict.

Papua New Guinea is an active member of the Commonwealth. The ceremonial Head of State is the Governor-General who, while elected by Parliament, represents the British monarch.