I decided to write Not a Poor Man's Field after being asked to write an article about my grandfather, Leslie Waterhouse, for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I soon realised that I was uncovering, layer by layer, the dramatic story of a little known period in Australia’s and PNG’s history, one largely obscured by the passage of time and the destruction of records by the Japanese during the Second World War.
Many Australian book publishers have a view that “books on Papua New Guinea don’t sell". This raises the important question as to how a country such as PNG can develop a sense of its own national identity if no-one will publish its history. A second question is how Australians can be expected to engage practically with its nearest neighbour if they know so little of the historical relationship between the two countries.
A primary objective, therefore, has been to provide Papua New Guineans with a fresh perspective on their own history and Australians with a better appreciation of the depth of our historical relationship at a time when political and economic relationships are becoming more complex.
I have written the book for a general audience, although it breaks new ground in a number of areas and is multi-disciplinary in its approach. I hope that it will encourage academics in both countries to embark on further research into, and help develop a broader understanding of the history of the Australia-PNG relationship.