In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I (WWI), the Australians, who controlled the
southern half of New Guinea, took over the German-controlled
regions. After the war, Australia gave land grants to
veterans and encouraged settlement of the region. Again this altered the local culture,
but only a relatively small number of people actually settled the islands and few
made their way beyond the coast. These people made almost no impact on the local
cultural, although the displacement of the Germans did end that influence, which
was quickly changing a number of aspects of the local culture.
With World War II (WWII), the Japanese took over the islands
of Bougainville, New Britain, and most of New Guinea in 1941. The land and water
battles on and around New Guinea were brutal with many of the locals participating,
whether by choice or not. The locals gained great knowledge of western technology
and gained a fair number of guns and other arms through these years.
By war's end the Australians and Americans
won the battles in New Guinea and pushed the Japanese out.
After the war, the region was placed under the protection of Australia,
where they remained until independence in 1975.
Under Australian protection little changed in
Papua New Guinea. The Australians slowly introduced changes to the political
structure and the economic system in the country that, at the time, was still very
dependent on agriculture and natural resources.
Since independence Papua New Guinea has struggled
with political stability. Numerous politicians have been ousted with no confidence
votes and the representative government is extraordinarily divided. This division
and these arguments are primarily based on the fact that the country is very divided
ethnically as the numerous tribes, languages, and people struggle to see eye to
Issues facing the government have also been vocal in the island Bougainville, in
the country's southeast. The people of this island are very different from many
people in Papua New Guinea and tend to have more
ethnic and linguistic similarities to the people of the nearby Solomon Islands.
Bougainville has continuously sought independence, leading to wars and violence
on a regular basis.
International relations have also been poor as corruption is rife in
Papua New Guinea and this, along with numerous other issues such as human
rights issues, have delayed or hurt talks with numerous foreign countries, most
noticeably Australia. None-the-less the people of Papua
New Guinea seem to move forward with little focus on the outside world (at least
in the country's interior). Most of the people living in the mountains maintain
their traditional culture and way of life with noticeable changes, such as the end
of head hunting and the conversion to Christianity. Those in Port Moresby and along
the coast tend to seek a more western economic, political, and social life.