PRESS, AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Australia’s external territories consist of islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Australian Antarctic Territory. Until 1975, they also included Papua New Guinea (PNG). This entry provides a sketch of the Australian media in PNG until 1975 and a survey of the current situation in Australia’s external territories.
Apart from Fiji, PNG was the only Pacific Island territory in the British empire where expatriate entrepreneurs established commercial newspapers. It was only comparatively late in the period of Australian administration that a major Australian publisher became involved, with the Herald and Weekly Times’ acquisition of the South Pacific Post in 1965. Its successor, the Post-Courier, was acquired when News Limited took over the Herald and Weekly Times in 1987. The company retains a majority 62 per cent shareholding through News Corp Australia.
The first publications to disseminate news in PNG were newsletters printed by Christian missionaries. The first mission news publication was Jaeng Ngajam (1907–63), in the Jabem language; it was printed by the Lutheran Neuendettelsau Mission. Other Tok Ples publications included the Methodist mission’s Kuanua A Nilai Ra Davot, which first appeared in 1909.
The first commercial paper was the Papuan Times and Tropical Advertiser, set up in Port Moresby in 1910 by former government printer E.G. Baker. It closed in 1917. With a potential audience of only 1000 Europeans in the whole of Papua, its circulation was never more than 200.
The weekly Papuan Courier appeared in 1918 under the editorship of E.A. James. It was shut down by the Australian Army in January 1942 after it criticised the activities of Australian troops in the town; the press was subsequently taken over by the army and used to produce its wartime newspaper, Guinea Gold.
After Australia captured German New Guinea in 1914, the Rabaul Record (1915–18), a garrison news sheet containing overseas news, appeared. The first editor of the Rabaul Times (1925–42) was Gordon Thomas, who had originally gone to Rabaul to work as a printer for the Methodist press, but was expelled from the mission after allegations of sexual misconduct. He was one of the few expatriates to survive the Japanese occupation. The first post-war newspaper in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea was the tri-weekly South Pacific Post (1950–69), based in Port Moresby and distributed nationally.
In the second half of the 1950s, two newspapers appeared in Lae and Rabaul: the New Guinea Courier and a re-launched Rabaul Times. The Times was owned by the management of the Lae-based New Guinea Courier and was edited by Angus ‘Gus’ Smales. It was published every Friday from 1957. The Times was of the same standard as a good Australian provincial newspaper.
The New Guinea Courier was also established in 1957. It was published every Wednesday and available for an annual subscription of 3 pounds and 5 shillings. The Courier later contained a Tok Pisin supplement, Nugini Toktok (1962–70), the first attempt by a commercial newspaper to reach an indigenous audience. Toktok was edited by Muttu Gware, the first indigenous editor of a commercial newspaper in PNG.
In 1959, the Rabaul Times closed and was absorbed by its parent company, which then produced a joint publication, the New Guinea Times-Courier (1959–69), under the editorship of John Blair. The Territory’s first daily newspaper, the Post-Courier, a merger of the South Pacific Post and the New Guinea Times-Courier, was launched on 30 June 1969.
The Post-Courier had a circulation of 15,000 for a population of 2.5 million. At the time of the merger, the paper’s managing editor was the Walkley Award-winning journalist Douglas Lockwood, previously in charge of the Northern Territory News in Darwin.
The Australian Administration established a number of publications aimed at indigenous audiences. The government anthropologist, F.E. Williams, set up the Papuan Villager in 1929 and in the following decades—especially after the post-1945 return—the Administration produced a range of publications and other material distributed through the PNG Department of Information and Extension Services. The Administration also established local radio stations, which broadcast in Tok Pisin, Motu or Tok Ples. Each district headquarters produced its own materials, which carried agricultural information, news about government programs, details of changes in laws and regulations, and general information, using Police Motu and/or the local variant of Tok Pisin.
The ABC established a national service broadcasting on medium- and short-wave, using the call sign 9PA. The ABC was aimed largely at the expatriate population, although it also broadcast didiman (agricultural) programs and local school programs, provided a news bulletin in simple English, and broadcast local music press in australia’s external territories and legends. Responsibility for broadcasting was taken over by the National Broadcasting Commission as Independence approached. There was no television broadcasting in PNG during the Australian period, although anecdotal evidence indicates that it was possible to receive broadcasts from outside PNG.
While the mainstream media was in English, most literate indigenous people used Tok Pisin. Apart from the aforementioned Nugini Toktok, the Administration published a bilingual newsletter, Our News/Nius Bilong Yumi, from 1959. It continued after Independence until 1982. Nugini Toktok was closed when the New Guinea Times-Courier was merged with the South Pacific Post, but its place was taken by Wantok (1970– ), a Tok Pisin weekly first produced in Wewak by the Catholic Divine Word Mission, but later owned jointly by all the mainstream churches.
Wantok was brought to life by the American Tok Pisin expert Father Frank Mihalic, with the support of Bishop Leo Arkfeld. In its early days, Wantok drew on the help of experienced expatriates like Ray and Fran Goodey and contributors like former ABC journalist John Ryan, who had established the independent New Guinea News Service in 1970. Wantok developed a skilled cadre of local staff and played a vital role in educating people about the political changes that were occurring in the run-up to self-government and Independence.
On Norfolk Island, the weekly Norfolk Islander (1965– ) was begun by Tom and Tim Lloyd, and sold to the Snell family in 2005. The Islander contains the Norfolk Island Government Gazette. Broadcast media include the government-owned Radio Norfolk, which evolved over many years out of radio broadcasts that started during World War II. A privately owned television station, TVNI, was established in 2010. The online Norfolk Island Newsletter was begun as a private venture linked to the tourist publication, the Norfolk Window to the World. As with all of Australia’s Pacific and Indian Ocean territories, Norfolk Island is also served by the re-transmission of ABC and commercial radio broadcasts from the mainland.
Local media on Lord Howe Island, an unincorporated territory of New South Wales, include a community radio station, Radio Lord Howe. In its current form, Radio Lord Howe FM started transmitting in 1988, but broadcasting on the island can be traced back to the 1970s. The island is also served by a fortnightly newspaper, the Lord Howe Island Signal (1955– ), which has been owned and published by Lord Howe Island board member Barney Nichols since 2006. The Signal has been described as ‘an entertaining mix of Island news, politics and gossip’.
Christmas Island is served by a fortnightly newsletter, the Islander, which is produced by the shire council. It began as the Christmas Island Newsletter in April 1992, and first appeared under its current name on 4 November 1994. The colour A4 publication sells for $2. The island receives television broadcasts from Western Australia, and the local community radio station, 6RCI, broadcasts in English, Malay and Chinese.
Local media on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands consist of a local community radio station and a newsletter, the Atoll, which is produced by the shire administration in collaboration with the Cocos Islands Community Resource Centre. Radio 6CKI provides some local content, and is run by volunteers. Television channels from Western Australia are re-broadcast from a local transmitter.
The first newspaper published in the Australian Antarctic Territory appears to have been the Adelie Blizzard, of which five issues appeared at the main Australasian Antarctic Expedition base in the winter of 1913. According to Elizabeth Leane, all the stations operated by the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition produced newspapers, each of which lasted for a few years. Among these were Hardships: The Macquarie Island Paper (1957–60), Windmill (Wilkes Station, 1960), Antarctic News and Rumdoodle Exposés (renamed Katabatic, Mawson, 1960–61), Midnight Sun (Davis, 1963) and the Antarctic Waste, incorporating Drift Magazine (Casey, 1970).
Today, Australia’s Antarctic stations—Casey, Davis, Macquarie Island and Mawson—produce regular online news bulletins—referred to collectively as Icy News—through the Australian Antarctic Division’s website. These contain accounts and photographs of the work carried out by the Antarctic research and support teams.
REFs: P. Cass, ‘The Apostolate of the Press: Missionary Language Policy, and Publication in German New Guinea’ (MA thesis, 1997) and ‘People, Politics and
Press in Papua New Guinea 1950–1975’ (PhD thesis, 2008); E. Leane, ‘The Polar Press: A Century of Australian Antarctic Newspapers’ (2011).