PNG's 41st Independence Day - A Reflection
Benny Wenda on West Papua's struggle for independence

Happy 41st birthday Papua New Guinea

End of an empire (National Times, November 1973)

Cover of the Australian National Times  Magazine in November 1973, when Papua New Guinea was granted self-government ahead of Independence in 1975. It features a jubilant chief minister Michael Somare, who recognised that full independence was now just around the corner. The rapid journey to political autonomy had been swift and, all these years later, remains a matter of great controversy - did it all happen too early? It doesn't seem like the debate is likely to end any time soon....

Images from the same publication are of the young Somare family and, alongside, readers, more absorbed in books than in signs, sampling the products in what is now a rarity in PNG - a local bookstore. Creative writing burgeoned in the years around independence, only to be revived in recent years through the Crocodile Prize and its associated activities.

Browsers in a Port Moresby bookshop




The young Somare family, 1973


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Daniel Kumbon

Thank you Roseanne for the invite. It's good to know friends of PNG are everywhere in Australia.

I sent you the following text message willing to come and meet you but you may not have seen it. Here it is:

'Roseanne thank you for the surprise invite. I will come but my wife will not. Both of us are down with the flu. But I will come and meet the person with a surname like O'Rourke. Daniel Kumbon'.

Please email your address so I can send you a copy of one of my books I intended to give you last night.

My email address is

Ed Brumby

Thank you, Barbara and Rob. I'd figured that Snow had gone to the great scout hall cum sawmill in that other space and I'm glad, but sad also to learn how he went - with that cheeky smile of his, I hope.

Roseanne O'Rourke

Daniel if you are in Cairns tonight we would love for you and your wife to join us in joining our funrtion tonight. My number is 0412 949 631

Iam a PNG Attitude Reader

Rob Parer

I see that Barbara Short has replied that Snow O'Shannessy has passed away.That is correct but not sure when. Snow was the Pangu Whip & really the rough & tumble of politics was just too much for a calm kind Guy like him. I was told he had a break down & went to the SVD ex-Seminary at Marburg Qld for rehabilitation & passed away there some years later.His real forte was the Boy Scouts as he started them & had Troops all over the Sepik District.I went to his wedding to Francis at Tarwai on the Sepik River.He & Jim Fitzgerald had a sawmill there at Tarwai & they financed a Primary School there.

Philip Fitzpatrick

If you read Michael Somare's book 'Sana' you'll notice that Betha was originally known as 'Bertha' - poor girl.

Bernard Corden

My niece, Natalie was in the same class at school as Betha Somare.

Bernard Corden

I can remember a PNG Independence Day commemorative T-shirt arriving by air mail in the UK from my brother Ron, who was working for the PNG Investment Corporation.
I was 20 years old at the time and knew very little about PNG but all my friends were impressed by the flag.

Barbara Short

Snow O'Shannessy has passed on. His family have enjoyed this photo.

Daniel Kumbon

I almost forgot it was PNG's 41st Independence today until an alert Papua New Guinean young man said 'Hi Uncle' on the street and wished me happy independence this morning.

I had slept a dreamless night after a very long coach ride from Brisbane to Cairns - 32 hours - I forgot about our country's important day.

Thanks Bob Lawrence and all you good folks in Sydney for raising that glass of wine to PNG's 41st Independence Day during the 'PNG Lunch' at the Gallipoli Club on Monday 12th September.

Heart warming to have met many friends of PNG in Australia

I am raising one glass on my own in a motel room here in Cairns. Julie my wife is still sleeping after that long trip - 2,200 kilometers of it.

The only other long trip she ever under-took was to a CAF Woman's convention to Ramu Sugar down the Highlands Highway which was of course 'peanuts'.

Proud to be a Papua New Guinean.

Peter Kranz

Not to be outdone, the proud PNG residents of Newcastle (temporary and permanent) met at Jesmond Park for an independence day BBQ and party last weekend.

You may not realise this, but there are over 100 PNG students and residents in the Hunter area.

And best thanks to Leah and Wally.

Wailo, pangra wa!

Ed Brumby

Does anyone know what became of Snow O'Shannessy (standing to Michael Tom's right)?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)