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Papua New Guinea patrol reports

Sir Peter Scratchley in Papua
In the early 1880s, Sir Peter Scratchley was sent to Papua to manage the affairs of this latest addition to British imperial interests. And so began the important practice of compiling patrol reports

| National Archives of Australia

CANBERRA - Papua New Guinea's patrol reports had their beginnings in 1885 and are credited to Sir Peter Henry Scratchley who, as well as establishing Port Moresby as the seat of government and administration of British New Guinea, also developed a plan for administration and land policy.

The administration plan involved establishing government stations along the coast. These were staffed by a government officer, whose tasks included establishing contact and developing friendly relations with the inhabitants of the area.

Once that was accomplished, further exploratory and administrative patrols were undertaken, either along the coast or into inland areas, for the purpose of opening up new country and to further expand administrative control.

By 1969 the Territory of Papua New Guinea had been divided into 18 administrative districts, with sub-districts and a host of patrol posts or stations and base camps. In 1971 the Territory was declared to be under full administrative control.

Patrolling was not only for administration and exploration purposes.

Written accounts of patrols were furnished by resident magistrates in former Papua, and district officers (commonly known as kiaps) for the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Four copies were made: one for the officer, another for the station, the third for the District headquarters and the fourth for the Administrator in Port Moresby.

According to Ian Grosart in the Encyclopedia of Papua New Guinea, it was the patrol officers with their patrol reports who were the “sole sources of information for successive administrations of the Territory with regard to villages, their numbers, hopes, fears and reactions to changes”.

During the Pacific War, under the supervision of the Australia New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), patrols and the furnishing of patrol reports were undertaken by former district officers who had been absorbed into the ANGAU administration. After the war, administrative patrols continued.

Patrol reports ceased to be created after 1975, the year Papua New Guinea attained political independence from Australia.

The majority of patrol reports of former British New Guinea and the Territory of Papua were shipped to Australia at the onset of the Pacific War of 1942–45.

However, most patrol reports from the former Mandated Territory of New Guinea did not survive the Japanese occupation. Such reports are now only available if patrol officers kept their copy.

Documents related to the patrol reports include the annual reports for British New Guinea, Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea and later separate annual reports for the territories of Papua and New Guinea.

From 1946 to 1975, a district annual report was created and served as an overview of the affairs of each district. District annual reports are held by the National Archives and Public Records Services of Papua New Guinea.


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Martin Kaalund

Patrol reports continued. I served to 1981 and compiled census returns from them.

A decision was made not to archive them with those supplied by the departing Administration.

Somewhere there are the reports of the behaviours that were causal to the Telefomin massacre (pages 1&3 of Warner Shand's report on Elliott’s patrol that resulted in his death).

Other cute ruses of censorship by omission have shuffled the historical record and, when manipulated, of course the entire archive is devalued.

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