The PNG Speaks Project

The aim of PNG Speaks is to record oral history interviews with Papua New Guineans about their memories of PNG’s independence in 1975, the years leading up to it, and the time immediately following.  Those interviewed comprise men and women who contributed in some way to the development of independence and the creation of the Papua New Guinean nation.  The interviews will invite participants to speak candidly about their perspectives on the way that PNG achieved independence and their own experiences along the way to independence and afterwards.


The interviews recorded here will help to ensure that current and future Papua New Guineans are able to comprehend how their forebears approached the challenge of creating an independent nation from the disparate and diverse assortment of local communities that has existed for many thousands of years.

The interviews provide insights into how the nation’s first leaders were able to establish a vision of a united PNG and bring the people to embrace independence.  They also illustrate how the idea of the nation came to be embraced, or challenged, by men and women from across Papua New Guinea’s diverse societies and places.

PNG Speaks is an important reference for current and future leaders and will help ensure that the values and mores enshrined in the nation’s constitution are retained and developed where appropriate as PNG meets future challenges.

It is a dynamic website and interviews will be added as the project progresses. 

Most interviews last between one to three hours and were recorded on archival quality high resolution digital audio recorders following the protocols established by the National Library of Australia Oral History and Folklore Section.

Memory and Content

The interviews cover a substantial time span, and many of the interviewees are retired.  Memory is fallible and listeners may find minor inaccuracies in the testimony of interviewees, especially in terms of exact dates of a particular sequence of events.

Interview Summaries and Keywords

PNG Speaks is an oral history resource and visitors are encouraged to listen to the voices of those who have participated in shaping Papua New Guinea’s independence. The interviews allow listeners to hear the nuances of tone, tempo and even silences. To increase the accessibility of the interviews, they are accompanied by time summaries and keywords.

While some names, places and organisations are listed in the interview summaries and keywords not every term or event that an interviewee mentions is listed. The search box will allow users to find terms listed in the summaries and the keywords will allow for links to be made between interviews, particularly for major events, like specific elections or major areas of public policy. Nothing, however, will better listening to the actual interviews.

Advisory group

Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Ian Kemish A.M., Emeritus Professor Peter Spearritt, Dr Marion Stell, Professor David Lowe and Dr Andrew Moutu.  


PNG Speaks is supported by the Australian Government in partnership with Papua New Guinea.

Grand Chief Rt Hon Sir Michael Somare GCL, GCMG, CH, CF, KStJ, PC, MP
Dr Andrew Moutu, former Director PNG National Museum and Art Gallery
Ms Betha Somare
Professor John Waiko, University of Papua New Guinea 

Australian High Commission
Ms Bronte Moules, Deputy High Commissioner, Australian High Commission, Port Moresby
Mr Rod Hilton,  Minister-Counsellor (Development), Australian High Commission Port Moresby

Deakin University
Professor Lee Astheimer, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research)
Professor David Lowe, Professor of Contemporary Histories

The University of Queensland (UQ)
Professor Monique Skidmore, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (International) 
Associate Professor Martin Crotty, School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
Emeritus Professor Peter Spearritt
Dr Marion Stell 

Website Development and Design
Hank Szeto, Thinking Cap Consulting  
John Reid, lovehatedesign
Website image: High Commission of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Canberra (detail): photograph by A.Willock