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Diane's blog records life in the slow lane

Do Papuans have rights to citizenship?

This is an unusual one, and I throw it over to readers for comment. A Papuan correspondent writes (and some of his contentions are incorrect although his broad argument is intriguing):

“This matter is a very sensitive one and involves the Australian Government. The story goes like this. The Papua Act of 1905 made Papua the seventh state of Australia, thus the seventh point on the Australian Flag, meaning Papua the land and its people are citizens of Australia.

“In 1975, PNG became Independent. Papuans who are citizens of Australia and are supposed to sign two forms to become PNG citizens: [1] renunciation of Australian citizenship; [2] declaration of loyalty to PNG as stated in Section 64 and 65 of PNG Constitution. I never signed any of those two forms to renounce my Australian citizenship. I was born before 1975.

“Part of Australian government benefits include free university education for all Australians. I got a degree from UPNG and enrolled for Masters with an Australian university as external student. Completed one unit and took other two on credit. The university did not allow me to continue because I still owe them some money.

“My argument is that Australian government should pay my UPNG fees and the MBA fees. I have all the documents with me which i will use to support this case. How to prove I am an Australian: 1. Genealogy. 2. Birth Certificate from the Australian National Achieves. 3. Papua Act 1905. 4. Section 64. 65 PNG Constitution. 5. Australian Migration Act 1948 and 1958. 6. Citizenship Act (Aust) 2007.

“Any advice you provide will be highly appreciated.”

Over to you.


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Gima (Greenleaf) Willie

Truly proper legal procedures were not followed in the formation of Papua New Guinea as people were never given the opportunity to decide their democratic rights.

The rights of the people were hijacked by the so-called pioneer political leaders of PNG. Papuans are still Australians.

Lindsay F Bond

Thank you Ross for bringing the item to prominence again.
Thanks too, KJ, for update on the Federal Court ruling.

If 16 years ago the Minister put funding "to train the staff of the Immigration Department at the time, pioneering cultural change", is it now needed to add to annual citizen ceremonies that staff of the Immigration Department recite rulings of the Australian Courts to keep alive truths of national identity and entitlement?

Ross Wilkinson

You may recall that some years ago we discussed on PNG Attitude the issue of enquiries from PNG nationals about expatriate kiaps and parenthood that were being made as comments on the Kiap Honour Roll.

Whilst I acknowledge that kiaps were not angels, and that they should acknowledge and accept responsibility for their deeds, I questioned the appropriateness of them being made on the Honour Roll.

Those enquiries were made before the most recent Federal Court ruling of February 2020 that recognised the Australian citizenship of a man born in pre-independence PNG.

In recent months I have received two emails from the Western District requesting identification of kiaps. Whilst I was able to assist I could not provide current addresses as neither was registered with the Ex-Kiap website. Knowing that the Federal Court had made its most recent ruling my thoughts on the motive for these enquiries has changed.

Whether the Federal Court ruling increases these enquiries remains to be seen but I'll continue to help if possible. Perhaps word about my kiap research has got around in PNG.


Here is Ross’s original article published in PNG Attitude in 2009:

And here is the February 2020 article by Stefan Armbruster, updated just this morning as it happens, on the case of Troy Zen Lee which led to the Federal Court ruling:

The ruling has been appealed by the Australian government, obviously unhappy with the notion of conferring Australian citizenship on the basis of Australia’s Administration of Papua as an Australian territory - KJ

Joe Kuella

Papua is still a protectorate under the British Crown proclamation made by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1884.

The Papua issue is not a constitutional matter but a covenant - a treaty between the Crown and Papuan chiefs. Papua treaty chiefs (heirs-in-succession) were restored in 2015 and are functioning to restore Papua sovereignty as independent state declared in 1888.

Papua, now known as the southern region, is constituted as a part of the independent state of Papua New Guinea. While some people may still hope for Papuan sovereignty, the reality is that this has long since been extinguished - KJ

Renkins Siro

The Papua Act was passed by a Commonwealth country. Is Papua or British New Guinea. Papua has its own flag. Are Papuans British citizens?

Papua was a British colony and later an Australian territory. New Guinea was a German colony and later a territory mandated to Australia after World War I.

You can see a representation of the former British Papuan flag here

And what was a proposed German New Guinea flag here

Papuans are citizens of Papua New Guinea - KJ

Voro Ora

If Aussie are reluctant to take Papua as the seventh state give total independent Papua a country of it own.

Kari A Poawai

I wish to clarify my previous comment.
I am not sure about the free education aspect or point made. But I am inclined to to agree with the points made on possible requirements to become an Australian citizen.

Kari A Poawai

I support the views expressed in the first article dated 30 January 2009. I was born in Port Moresby in 1962 to Papuan parents. I think the approach to claim Australian citizenship is correct and may work.

Peter Ambrose

I someone who has additional information in this this regard and assure you that we need to arrange a meeting with this guy to understand this clearly and discuss openly to come to some sort of an agreement and plan to execute to be granted Australian citizenship.

Await your reply and comment.

Brother Hicks

Jonathan Baure, spokesperson for the Papuan Plaintiff Group, who is spearheading the case for Papuans born before PNG's independence to be recognised as automatic Australian citizens, must be congratulated by every Papuan for his tireless efforts (refer to the news article, "Papuan group shows gratitude to Australia", The National 18/03/10).

Papuans, like Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, are a forgotten generation since we were robbed of Australian citizenship on 16 September 1975.

Hon Kevin Rudd must acknowledge that fact now and apologise to the people of Papua for that grave and serious mistake. Australia should admit and apologise for its oversight on Papua's issue since 1975.

Australia - it is high time to act for Papua now! This issue needs to be settled once and for all - immediately!

Ross Wilkinson

Where do we start with this one. Your correspondent is wrong to premise his/her argument on "free education" for Australians. Whether it's a full fee-paying course or subjected to HECS, Australian students pay some sort of fee. If it's an MBA as stated then it certainly is not free to anyone.

The basis of the argument about citizenship is the subject of much debate, literature and several court cases. The following is pertinent:

The following is also very pertinent to the argument and would be seen as the precedent:

Your correspondent would need some form of passport to travel into Australia for the purposes of MBA study and the most logical would be a PNG passport because he/she would be made to jump through hoops such as the cited case of Mr Ames.

The acquisition of a PNG passport would be seen to be the assumption of your correspondents natural right to PNG citizenship regardless of whether he/she signed the necessary papers on or after September 16 1975.

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