Not a Poor Man’s Field explores Australia's colonial experience in New Guinea before World War II - a unique but little known period in Australia’s and PNG’s history. This is a dramatic account of small miners, an extraordinarily rich gold discovery, visionaries and the construction of giant dredges, power stations and townships in a remote jungle area.
It is also the story of how risk-taking pilots, flying aeroplanes ranging from single engine plywood biplanes to large Junkers G31 freighters, opened up an otherwise impenetrable country. New Guinea led the world in commercial aviation throughout the 1930s; world records were often set and as often broken.
The book discusses early encounters between villagers and Europeans from both white and black perspectives, as well as the indentured labour system which drew New Guineans to the goldfields from all over the country. Other themes include the camaraderie of white settlers in an alien environment, race relations in a colonial society, the ineffectiveness of Australia’s administration of New Guinea under a League of Nations mandate and the Japanese invasion and its consequences.
The book takes a multi-disciplinary approach, analysing the colonial experience from economic, social, ethnographic and political/administrative perspectives. It also conveys a compelling sense of time and place by extensively quoting participants, both black and white, and through the judicious selection of old photographs.
The result is a portrait of unforgettable contrasts.
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The following organisations in Papua New Guinea have generously assisted in the publication of this book, and the author wishes to acknowledge their support: