2004, 55 Minutes
This is the story of an extraordinary land with a rich and turbulent history.
The western half of the island of New Guinea has been known by many names including Netherlands New Guinea, Dutch New Guinea, West Papua, Irian Jaya and Papua. It is an extraordinary place where snow-capped mountains drain into massive rivers and 250 languages are spoken. Yet, despite its wild beauty and rich culture, it remains strangely forgotten.
Narrated by Rachel Griffiths, Land of the Morning Star reveals the turbulent history of a troubled country, swept up in the power-play of international politics.
For centuries, the world has jostled for control of this rugged, isolated region, with its abundant natural resources and strategic position. First outside contact was with the Muslims of Malacca, who came in search of slaves and the prized feathers of birds of paradise. They were followed by European spice traders staking out colonial territory. By the mid 1800s, the Dutch had secured their claim. Then during World War Two, the sleepy outpost was transformed into a massive US military base. By the 1960s, President Sukarno had made the area the 26th province of Indonesia. Today, if transmigration continues, the indigenous Melanesian people are set to become a minority in their own land.
Through eyewitness accounts and rare archival film, this fascinating documentary paints a picture that is intimate in detail but epic in scope. It is a sweeping saga of colonial ambitions, cold war sellouts and fervent nationalism, which highlights the role of players such as Australia and the UN at crucial points.
By providing a background to this complex story, this timely film helps us understand the reality of life today in the land of the morning star.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Writer/Director: Mark Worth
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: Sociology: Colonisation, Decolonisation and Development; Studies of Colonialism and Post-Colonialism; Australian History Year 9 'Movement of Peoples'; Cultural Diversity and Globalisation; Human Rights; SOSE; Politics; International Relations.