Colonists for a Day


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1994, 55 Minutes.

Papua New Guinea was Australia’s brief and only attempt at colonisation, lasting from 1906 to 1975. It was marked by the colonists’ incompetence and inexperience and the inevitable cultural clashes between the tribal clans and their administrators. This is a fascinating account of Australia’s role in the development of the nation of Papua New Guinea featuring eyewitness accounts from both sides and archival footage.

For seventy years (1906-1975), the eastern half of the island, known as Papua New Guinea, was a protectorate of the Australian Government.  It was to be Australia’s first and only attempt at colonisation. The prime objective of the administration was to impose “pax Australiana” - a western economic structure and the British system of law - on the indigenous people.

With no experience at governing overseas territories and no colonial philosophy, the way forward was often marked by a mixture of benevolence, incompetence and inexperience. These years saw culture clashes between the Australians and the Papua New Guineans, the effects of which are still impacting on the nation of Papua New Guinea today.

Colonists for a Day is a one hour television documentary on Australia’s administration of Papua New Guinea. Remarkably, these years were extensively captured on film, not only by the colonialists themselves but also by Australian filmmakers. Held for many years in the vaults of Film Australia, these unique films recorded white patrol officers - known as KIAPS - as they journeyed on their crusade into the unknown interior to impose western civilisation on this extraordinarily diverse tribal culture. Colonists of a Day uses these films together with eyewitness accounts from the white colonists and Papua New Guineans, to examine the true story of Australia’s only attempt at colonisation.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Producer/Director: Alec Morgan

Featured People: Richard Giddings, James Sinclair, Ian Downs, David Marsh, John Waiko, Keta Kewa, Puri Kewa, Yapi Ropa, Komp Dei, Kapi Goke, Kewa Kouu, Petrus Nongur

Year: 1994

Running Time: 55 Minutes

Classification: G

Curriculum Links: Australian History; Pacific Studies; Studies of Colonialism and Post-Colonialism, Cultural Studies, SOSE.


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SKU 199200500
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