General issues: Australian territory 1952-1973, Australian territory/Self government 1973-1975, Independent within the British Commonwealth 1975-Present
Country name on general issues: Papua & New Guinea, Papua New Guinea
Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1952-1966, 1 Dollar = 100 Cents 1966-1975, 1 Kina = 100 Toea 1975-Present
Population: 922 000 in 1940, 6 672 000 in 2015
Political history Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The country comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and some of the northernmost Solomon Islands. The indigenous population consists of a large number of tribal peoples of mainly Papuan and Melanesian descent. The first Europeans to explore New Guinea were the Portuguese and the Spanish in the 16th century. While the western half of the island of New Guinea was claimed by the Dutch in 1828 as part of the Netherlands West Indies – now Indonesia, the eastern half was not claimed by any of the European powers until the late 19th century. When, in the 1880’s, the Germans gained increasing influence in the northeastern part of New Guinea, Queensland – then a British colony, now an Australian state – claimed the southeastern part of New Guinea to forestall German advances to the south. The British, at the time, did not support the claim. However, when Germany proclaimed the protectorate of German New Guinea over the northeastern part in 1884, the British took control and – two days after the Germans – proclaimed a protectorate over the southeastern part of New Guinea as British New Guinea.
During WWI, German New Guinea was occupied by Australian forces in 1914 and became the League of Nations mandated territory of New Guinea in 1920 – administered by Australia. British New Guinea was transferred to Australian administration in 1906 as the Australian territory of Papua. During WWII, the Japanese occupied most of the island of New Guinea, including the territory of New Guinea. Allied forces, however, managed to withstand Japanese advances into Papua and only part of Papua was occupied by the Japanese. After Allied forces recaptured the territories of New Guinea and Papua in 1944-1945, they reverted to Australian administration – New Guinea becoming a United Nations trust territory in 1946. In 1949, the territories were administratively united as the territory of Papua & New Guinea, although de jure they retained their different status. The name was changed to Papua New Guinea in 1971. Papua New Guinea gained self government in 1973 and independence within the British Commonwealth in 1975.
Secessionist movements declared independence of Bougainville island in 1975. After concessions in terms of limited self government were made, Bougainville rejoined Papua New Guinea in 1976. However, secessionist sentiments, once again, emerged in 1988. Independence was declared in 1990. After a period of civil war parties signed a truce in 1997. After prolonged negotiations, Papua New Guinea granted Bougainville self government in 2001 and Bougainville elected its own parliament in 2005.
Economically, German, and later Australian, planters exploited coconut and cocoa plantations in the territory of New Guinea. In the territory of Papua, the British, nor the Australians, seem to have done much to develop the economy. The indigenous population, until today, depends on subsistence agriculture. In the 20th century the exploitation of mineral deposits has grown – currently accounting for two thirds of the country’s exports.
The indigenous peoples form the vast majority of the population. They are organized in mostly small tribes and highly diverse – over 800 different languages are spoken. Much of the interior was not explored until well into the 20th century – new tribes being discovered even today.
Postal history Papua New Guinea
The territories of New Guinea and Papua had their own postal history until WWII. In Papua – then British New Guinea – the first stamps used were the stamps of Queensland, from 1888 until the first stamps appeared for British New Guinea in 1901. These were superseded by the issues for the territory of Papua in 1906. In New Guinea – then German New Guinea – the first stamps used were the general issues of the German Empire, from 1888 until the first issues for German New Guinea appeared in 1897. These were superseded by Australian occupation issues, in 1914, and by the issues for the North West Pacific Islands in 1915. From 1925, stamps were issued for the mandated territory of New Guinea. During WWII, civil postal services came to a standstill in both territories and after WWII stamps of Australia were used. Australian stamps were withdrawn in 1953, shortly after the first issue appeared for the united territory of Papua & New Guinea in 1952. The first set issued was a large pictorial set featuring scenes from traditional local life. The country designation was changed from ‘Papua & New Guinea’ to ‘Papua New Guinea ‘in 1972. Until today, Papua New Guinea has issued stamps that are a blend of themes of national interest and themes aimed at the thematic collectors market.
For an overview of the political and postal developments in the form of a diagram, please refer to the country diagram of the South West Pacific.