Overlooking Injustices for National Pride: Inside the Australian War Memorial’s Representation of the Papua New Guineans During WWII


War is sometimes argued as necessary in maintaining peace and justice. During the Second World War the Australian government sent troops to Papua New Guinea to thwart the imminent invasion of Australia by the Japanese. As a consequence, the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea was the site of some of the most desperate and vicious fighting encountered by Australian and Japanese troops during the Second World War. The savage and fierce fighting resulted in tens of thousands of Papua New Guinean deaths from introduced diseases, deprivation and violence. Much of the discussion of this period has focused on the involvement of Australians and the Japanese, but very little has considered the experiences of the Papua New Guineans. The Australian War Memorial states that 'its mission is to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society'. This presentation looks at the Australian War Memorial's representation of WWII in Papua New Guinea and of Papua New Guineans to highlight injustices of abuse, racism, execution, mistreatment and suffering of Papua New Guineans at the hands of Australians, that has so far been excluded.

Author Information
Erika K. Smith, Western Sydney University, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2016
Stream: Humanities - History, Historiography

This paper is part of the ACAH2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon