Independence from PNG: A core belief for many Bougainvilleans

Yielding to another culture isn’t all bad. They can become like us

Winners are grinners
We're a fair people with an interesting culture - invade Australia and in exchange we'll give you some tips about how to win at the Brisbane cockroach races


TUMBY BAY - The current paranoia among Australia’s political class about Chinese expansionism in the south Pacific region is interesting to watch.

The politicians seem to be developing a kind of siege mentality much like they did during the war with Japan, except with an emphasis on economic and social matters rather than the military, although that’s there too.

Australia has only ever been invaded once as far as we know, and that was well over 200 years ago. That invasion was ruthless and overwhelming, and changed life for the original indigenous inhabitants absolutely and completely.

If you believe the politicians the incursion we are now facing is going to be subtle and nuanced, a kind of invasion by stealth that many of us will not even notice.

It wasn’t that long ago when one of our prime ministers was telling us the exact opposite. He said we had to stop trying to be so European and look towards Asia.

Others were telling us that this would be ‘the Pacific century’. They just hadn’t counted on the fact that it might not be us pulling the strings and benefitting.

The cocoon we are now intent upon weaving around ourselves doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of any of these things.

Modern Australians don’t know, and probably can’t imagine, what it would be like to be taken over by a totally alien culture. But our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, certainly does.

Maybe PNG can give us some tips. Take the best and reject the rest, that sort of thing.

Then again, they are still dealing with the repercussions and might not even know the best way to handle things themselves yet.

They didn’t have much choice in the matter of their subjugation and I suspect that Australia, despite what the politicians say, will have little choice either.

But is it such a big deal? If you look at history Australia won’t be the first country that has succumbed to the expansion of an alien culture.

What many of those invaded peoples tended to do was to emerge from the experience decidedly more resilient and better off than before.

After the first invasion they seemed to be able to absorb subsequent invasions with ease. The Czechs, vulnerably positioned on flat terrain in the middle of Europe, got very good at it indeed. (And their culture and language survived despite many attempts at repression.)

Many historians point to my own homeland, Ireland, as another case in point. Through a cycle of invasions, Ireland developed the ability to absorb its invaders so that they “became more Irish than the Irish”.

I suspect this is what will happen in Australia.

How many times have you listened to Aussies on the radio and then been surprised they are Vietnamese or Indian?

I’m not sure this happened in Papua New Guinea but if you listen to people like Ron Knight, the ex-governor of Manus, you’d swear both sides of his family had been in Melanesia for centuries.

The same thing happened to a lot of kiaps too. I reckon I could mostly tell where a kiap had been posted by his Tok Pisin accent.

And I can tell you from personal experience that turning back into an Australian after living in Papua New Guinea wasn’t easy either.

So maybe our paranoia is misplaced. Maybe we shouldn’t be gearing up to speak Mandarin but rather getting ready to start teaching the newcomers how to speak Strine.

Maybe they just want to become Aussies. I mean, who wouldn’t?


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Andy McNabb

Good to see KJ wielding the knife in the name of free speech.

It looks as though KJ was here before the aboriginals, such the wombat that he is.

Chris Overland

I do not think that the current concern about the expansion of Chinese influence in the Pacific arises because of fears of a possible invasion of Australia or anywhere else for that matter.

They stem from the fact that China is ruled by an authoritarian government that has no democratic legitimacy. The Communist Party of China achieved power through the barrel of a gun and remains in power because of that fact to this day.

While the Chinese government apparently is not bent upon world conquest or the pursuit of lebensraum, at least at the moment, its true ambitions in the Pacific remain opaque.

History suggests that nations spending a great deal of money upon their penurious neighbours are not doing so based purely on altruism. There is always a quid pro quo eventually.

Also, we can very certain that China does not intend to be bound by any rules based notion of international relations and that is a major concern.

That said, at least China is a more or less rational actor upon the world stage, which is more than can be said for a Trump led USA.

As for the ongoing invasion of Australia which commenced in 1788, it continues apace. Last year, the net inflow of migrants hit 182,165 or about 123 times as many people who turned up on the first fleet.

Phil may be delighted to know that 2,087,800 Australians (10.4% of the population) self describe as being of Irish descent. No wonder St Patrick's Day is so popular!

In the context of concerns about any possible Chinese invasion, it is note worthy that 5.6% of the population or 1,213,903 people are of Chinese origin. They are well represented in all facets of Australian life and many are 5th and 6th generation Australians, not recent arrivals.

People of Indian origin now number around 500,000 of the population and this number looks certain to grow rapidly over the next few years. I guess this explains why shops specialising in curries and Chicken Tikka Masala (strangely, invented in Glasgow and much beloved of white Anglo-Saxons in the UK) are appearing in growing numbers.

So, in a sense, the much feared (by Pauline Hanson et al) Asian invasion has already occurred. Amazingly, the civilised world as we know it has not ended, so Pauline has decided that demonising all Muslims on the basis of the actions of Islamic fascists is the way to go.

So, all in all, we should be welcoming the middle class diaspora from PNG with open arms. What a splendid addition to the mix they will be.

The irony is that, as our nearest neighbours and with many historic links to Australia, Papua New Guineans have been amongst the last to join the invaders.

They have perhaps been too polite for their own good and, as their own country falls into apparently terminal decline, maybe now is the best possible time to bang on our door and ask to join us.

We can just chuck another snag on the barbie and welcome them to their new home, just like we have been doing for the last 200 years or so.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The oldest remains were found at Lake Mungo, Paul - around 42,000 years old.

Kow Swamp is a curious find. There were claims that some of the skeletons were of homo erectus but this has been disputed. All the skeletal material was fragmented and difficult to deal with but it gave dates of about 13,000 years.

The other claim from Kow Swamp was that it demonstrated that there had been successive waves of migration, although this has been disputed too.

Significant finds in the Top End, not of human remains but of evidence of human occupation have pushed the date back to 65,000 years.

To invade somewhere you have to have people to conquer so despite what Andy says Australia has only been invaded once.

As far as can be ascertained the Aborigines were the original inhabitants.

Just another note. 'Aborigine' in the Australian context is a proper noun. 'Aboriginal' is an adjective, as in 'Aboriginal people'.

Andy sounds a tad biased against Aborigines so I won't argue the point further.

Paul Oates

My limited understanding is that people originally arrived in Australia in a number of waves. The first were roughly 60,000 years ago and there are some of their remains at a place called 'Cow swamp'.

The second wave were like the people who ended up in Tasmania after being pushed out by those who then arrived later. The Torres Strait people were originally from PNG.

Since there are no written records, it appears it's all conjecture anyway.

We are all migrants or descendants of migrants.

Andy McNabb

Phil, Australia has been invaded twice. The first invasion was the aboriginals via the (previous) land bridge in the Torres Strait.

The second invasion was in 1788.

I do hope you are not going to say that the aboriginals have been here since time immemorial. They were migrants.

Your arithmetic needs brushing up.

Or maybe your history needs brushing up, Andy - KJ.

"It is true that there has been, historically, a small number of claims that there were people in Australia before Australian Aborigines, but these claims have all been refuted and are no longer widely debated.

"The overwhelming weight of evidence supports the idea that Aboriginal people were the first Australians."

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