In the early 1960s Australian geologists found evidence of a sizable deposit of copper and gold in Bougainville’s Crown Prince Range.

The Australian colonial regime had been encouraged by the World Bank to focus its capacity on large-scale extractive projects.

Given its ambition to build a style of government and market economy that echoed its own, Australia was receptive to this message.

The Anglo-Australian mining giant, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Limited (now known as Rio Tinto) agreed to develop the ore deposit through a subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited.

Resistance to exploration, and mine construction, was widespread.

In a matrilineal system where women have a cultural duty to act as custodians of the land for future generations, the ‘mothers’ were on the resistance front-line.

The Australian administration responded with a mixture of force, persuasion, and co-optation.

Colonial officials viewed resistance as the emotional response of a primitive people to the unknown.

It was, in fact, the response of communities who anticipated their own destruction, and potentially, war. The colonial administration anticipated development and enhanced political security. The former proved prescient, the latter misguided.

Close further context

Mining & Resistance - Further Context

In series one the antecedents of the Bougainville conflict were traced back to a set of processes initiated by the colonial powers. These processes were later handed over to local management when Papua New Guinea obtained independence in 1975. In short, the governance methods employed by the colonial regime aimed to induct communities on Bougainville (and Papua New Guinea more generally) into the patterns of life, social practices, ways of thinking and political repertoires, essential to integrating into a capitalist political-economy. This was done in a manner judged to be prudent by the Australian governing class (supported by international institutions such as the World Bank), who possessed the racial and paternalistic assumptions commonly found within colonial regimes.

As a consequence, this project put the patterns of life, social practices, ways of thinking and political repertoires essential to the enduring integrity of civilisations indigenous to Bougainville under threat. Members of these civilisations faced the disorienting prospect of being cast as ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’, unless they conformed to the norms, logic and ways of the colonising power.

The second series of The Colonial Syndrome explores how the establishment of an industrial copper and gold mine in the Panguna region of Central Bougainville, intensified the tensions colonialism was pregnant with. We will hear, through social histories, theatre and political analysis, how communities voiced their opposition to arguably the colonial regime’s most ambitious and divisive project. Their warnings, and the warnings from abroad went unheeded by the Australian administration, and their colleagues within Conzinc Riotinto of Australia.

Instead, a range of tactics were used to build support for the mine and discourage resistance. Violence and shows of force were employed to deter protest and direct action from landowner communities. Material incentives, locally labelled ‘grease’, were distributed in order to co-opt local agents from within the host communities, who could act as assets in a broader propaganda campaign. To that end, colonial officials looked to persuade communities, and their political representatives, through meetings, media campaigns and shaping school curriculums. Ultimately violence and shows of force signalled the projects inevitability, propaganda and material incentives were the means through which to convince people the inevitable was also desirable.

This discovery during the early 1960s of a sizable ore body suitable for a major industrial enterprise, came at a critical time for the Australian colonial administration. As the winds of change blew against Empire, Australian policy makers were acutely aware that the colonial project would eventually have to be handed over to local management. Against this backdrop, the Australian government was anxious to ensure a clear course for Papua New Guinea’s future would be set during the late colonial period, that was broadly congruent with Australia’s own political values, which local management would not depart from. The mine entered as a major source of revenue that could help an independent Papua New Guinea stand on its own two feet, following the principles and processes laid out for it by the former coloniser.

The project’s scope was enormous, by any standard. Besides preparing the mine pit, which required the removal of thirty million tons of overburden, the Conzinc Riotinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) had to construct a town at Arawa (on Bougainville’s east coast); a port at Loloho; a power station near the port; a major road from the port to the mine (port mine access road); a minor road to the tailings dump on the west coast; a concentrator plant; a town at the mine site; a dam on the Jaba river to supply water to the mine and concentrator; a water supply for Arawa town; and a limestone quarry.

Colonial officers attempted to persuade impacted communities that the mine would transform their own lives for the better, in addition to making an immeasurable contribution to the burgeoning nation of Papua New Guinea. This argument was greeted with scepticism, as physical resistance was mounted to exploration and construction activity.

Resistance to the mine was cast by the colonial administration as the natural reaction of a primitive people being accelerated into modernity at a disorienting pace – it was argued by senior administrators that the situation needed patient explanation by colonial officers, and the clear presence of riot squad police in sizable numbers, to deter any further physical resistance. There were also modest attempts to co-opt Bougainvillean politicians embedded in a nascent parliamentary democracy introduced by Australia, while members of the landowning communities who had been educated in westernised institutions were looked to for leadership on the ground. Local men believed to enjoy customary forms of esteem were also lobbied with promises of compensation payments, which were viewed by communities as a bribe designed to induce members to violate their custodial duties.

Yet within the mine impacted communities themselves, there were much greater levels of insight into the mine and its future impacts than the colonial administration, or international press for that matter, believed. Communities were alive with critical analysis, which viewed mining as a process that would see wealth move offshore, while assets essential to the reproduction of local social systems, would be placed under the threat of extinction. People also sensed that the colonial administration and mining company wanted to push the project through at a rapid pace, before they had time enough to fully evaluate the mine’s impact on their future, or organise themselves into an effective resistance movement.

Resistance to the mine’s construction, therefore, was more complex and multi-faceted than conventional narratives on the conflict would indicate. For instance, to describe the resistance mounted against the Panguna mine, as an anti-mining struggle does not fully recognise the depth of the processes being confronted by communities. In short, it was a campaign to preserve civilisations indigenous to Central Bougainville from being swept away by a new way of life introduced through the agency of the colonial powers. The stakes, from a local perspective, could not have been higher.

In this sense, mining became arguably the most visible and destructive symptom of a much more expansive and violent colonial project, that threatened to dissolve social structures, cultural resources, and ways of life that had emerged on Bougainville and were essential to people’s identity. Community members faced the real prospect of losing a society which their life’s meaning was attached to, and being pushed into a new social landscape to which they had no attachment. Accordingly, mining became the most visible and emotive focal point of anti-colonial resistance in Bougainville, which the Australian administration combatted through employing force, persuasion, co-optation, and propaganda.

Ultimately the colonial regime succeeded. Opposition to the mine was fractured by the region’s social geography, it had few resources, and no organizational apparatus through which to mobilise mass action. Contrariwise, the colonial and corporate edifice had the resources and capability to contain protests, neutralise direct action, control external messaging, and co-opt some support from within an emerging elite strata. Accordingly, the mine opened in 1972.

It soon took the vast toll anticipated by those who fought against its creation. In so doing it prompted ever more heightened forms of resistance, culminating in a rupture during 1988 which pushed the conflict from a political to a military terrain.


Chapter One


Site Village

‘You have got nice resources here ... So you need to sell some of these to me'.

This is the opening line in a short play performed by Paruparu village. It is delivered by two ‘white men’, one is a kiap (colonial officer), seeking to corrupt a villager elder. They want ‘consent’ for mining.

Money is offered. The elder accepts. The women watch on.

As custodians of the land in local matrilineal tenure systems, the women’s gaze is a powerful one. It represents the interests of past and future generations.

They carry axes.

‘We stand firm ... we have to send that money back’, the women declare.

The male elder denies accepting the money. The women know better.

“You don't think of future generations, you thought of yourself because of that money. For your own greed, you got that money”.

The money is returned to the colonial official.

The mothers implore the officer to kill their child.

‘Kill him now. Kill that child. Here is the axe, you take it and chop his head’.

If you destroy the land, you are killing future generations is the message.

The play ends with burning grass being thrown at the women. It symbolises the tear-gas riot squads used on women protesting against the mine.

For the colonial administration and Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA), monetary payment and other material incentives, were compensation/benefits provided by a good corporate citizen. For the mothers of the land it was grease, used to incentivise men to abandon their communal responsibilities.

Celine Akone Pisi with Judith Teori

Chapter Two


Panguna Town

Australia’s former colony Papua New Guinea barely has the status of footnote in the history books that collect Australia’s national memory. With the exception of when it formed the stage for Australian military heroism during WWII.

If Papua New Guinea is barely a footnote, resistance to Australia’s colonizing effort is nearly invisible.

It exists only in the colonial archives that record the anxieties and reactions of those administrative officers responsible for order in Australia’s northern possession.

But in the communities on which colonial power was projected the history of resistance is recorded in song, drama, art, and oral history. To this day it looms large in the minds of the children, and grandchildren of those who rose up.

‘The story that I would like to tell is the story of my grandmother’, Celine begins.

‘My grandmother was opposing the digging of the land by BCL [Bougainville Copper Limited] here. She was strongly against it’.

‘She was pregnant’ at the time and then gave birth.

“She wrapped the [new-born] baby and showed it to the [BCL] machine operators. Asking: ‘Where will this woman go? As you are now destroying her land’. When she was talking, she threw the baby towards the machine. After she did that, people got the body back, and put in a good place where she was buried properly. The baby had died”.

Celine continues.

‘She threw the baby in front of this bulldozer, out of exhaustion, from protesting the digging up of our land’.

‘When my mother gave birth to me, I was named after this child'.

Celine talks of life during the mine. Their humanity became devalued.

‘BCL when they get their workers to work, they cover their noses, right? They cover their whole bodies. And why not us? We are nobody then’.

Judith Teori with Celine Akone Pisi

Chapter Three


Panguna Town

‘One morning, my father and I went out’, Judith recalls. ‘We bumped into the [CRA] surveyors clearing their path, and then we chased them out’.

Afterwards, ‘the police came’.

‘The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must’ observed the ancient Greek historian, Thucydides.

In colonial regimes law and order is projected in the image of the “Master”. The colonized must accept this image no matter how antagonistic it is to their values.

Those who resisted the mine’s opening, threatened the colonial project. When persuasion failed, force was applied.

In the asymmetrical environment of colonialism, this was not occupation and subjugation. It was framed, upholding law and order.

‘The police started beating us up really badly’, Judith recalls.

‘My grandmother was carrying my little brother on her back. The police grabbed him, they tied his two legs and they hit him against a tree’.

‘They took mum and dad to Kieta prison’.

Judith remembers the second cycle of violence that came sixteen years later, after landowners used industrial sabotage against the mine.

With a Papua New Guinea state created in the coloniser’s image, it was left dependent on mine receipts. Post-colonial state managers were as committed to the mining venture, as their predecessors.

Persuasion was applied in 1988, just as it was in the 1960s. When it failed. Force was applied, this time with greater ferocity.

“The army shot two women. They were from my husband’s tribe. They shot them and destroyed them completely. They destroyed them, wrapped them up and dumped them”.

Severinus Avonsi

Chapter Four


Makosi Village

Severinus Avonsi waited for us. He heard the film crew was close by.

‘My grandfather was a leader who stood against the coming of CRA [Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia]’, Severinus began. ‘He stood up against them and he took up arms’.

‘CRA did not follow any of our laws to come in’.

But of course the foreign mining multinational did not have to follow the laws of Bougainville. Laws indigenous to Bougainville could be suspended by the coloniser at the latter’s convenience.

But it was not just the colonial regime that aided the company.

‘When we continued chasing them out’, Severinus remarks, ‘so called [local] educated people stopped the people rebelling against the company’.

‘They wanted CRA’s money’, Severinus claims.

This speaks to a longer history.

Those whose identity and aspirations, had become tied to the opportunities opened up by the colonial regime, could indulge in the narratives of cultural superiority that accompanied this process. As superior, educated individuals inducted into the imported ways of the Europeans it was their role to uplift their local community.

Severinus contends their motivation was primarily financial.

“It's the so called educated people who are destroying this island for nothing but the love of money. They want to hold more money. How many millions?”

‘People have been planning all kinds of things for Bougainville, prostituting overnight’.

‘I [just] want my people to live a good life’, he concludes.

Further Resources

Theft and grease

As the Australian District Officer arrived, unannounced, to meet with Pakia and Parakake villagers, Gregory Kopa asked:

‘Who the hell are you? Not another Government officer come to grease us?’

The colonial officer had come ‘to advise the people that change was inevitable’.

In his meetings with the community a detailed record of local concerns was kept.

‘C.R.A continues to expand and steal more ground regardless of our wishes’, the District Officer was informed.

‘We realise that the presence of C.R.A has helped with regard to scholarships, employment, communications, etc., but the thing most dear to us is our land and no amount of benefits can compensate for the loss of this land’.

‘The C.R.A road is merely “grease” to try to please us’.

‘How would the Australians like it if we, from another country, took a piece of their land without consulting them? They would throw us out - and that is just what we are trying to do to C.R.A’.

‘It is quite wrong for the Administration to use force in the form of Police against us to steal our land’.

‘C.R.A have offered us a pump and a saw - this is merely “grease” and we have refused it. We have always been taught that we should pay for what we get, yet we are being encouraged to take things free’.

‘The Mission has not helped us with our thinking. The Missions and the Government are one and the same - all white-men’.

‘We wish to progress at our own pace and by our own efforts. Copper is not like a tree or seed which can be replanted and multiplied - once the copper is mined it is finished and we are left as we were years ago: it is far better for us to rely on agriculture’.

“The C.R.A and the people are like two coconuts planted together - the bigger C.R.A becomes the stronger our efforts to move them out will be”.

1. Confidential letter from District Officer, T.E. Daw to The Director, Department of District Administration, Konedobu, 15 June 1967.

Enforcing the law

At the administrative centre of Australia’s northern colony, Port Moresby, CRA and government officials meet.

Its 1967.

The topic.

Growing resistance.

‘It does appear that the situation in the [mine] area is hardening and opposition could be spreading to the coastal areas’, the minutes read.

CRA recommends changing the law to render illegal current tactics being used by protesting landowners.

This is a reminder it is easy to stand for law and order, when you are the author of its content.

‘Some means must be found to ensure that permanent and temporary survey pegs, e.g. for contouring, are not removed by the people. Hence, the need for a thorough check of the current legislation to check the practicability of amending the survey ordinance if necessary’.

Colonial officials recommend boosting police numbers to inflict a decisive defeat on protesting landowners. This will serve as a deterrent to others, they anticipate.

“If a clash occurs in the Naravi area and is overcome resistance elsewhere could collapse”.

‘Aitchison and Brown believe that the area should be re-enforced with 50 police and one European police officer if position is to be restored and feasibility studies are to proceed as planned’.

2. Meeting Minutes, Meeting of C.R.A. and Administration Officers, Conference Room, Konedobu, 19 June 1967.

Dispatching a 'mob'

Assistant District Officer C. Warrillow provides an account of the landowner resistance his exploration team faced on 8 July 1968.

The party was supported by ‘twenty members of the Barapina riot squad’.

Landowners were told CRA wished to ‘obtain several sediment samples’ from the local rivers.

Landowners denied entry.

The colonial officer claims:

‘Peter Itomui then commence/raising all the old arguments of why C.R.A. was not allowed into their land. I refused to listen and walked away from the group’.

‘At 1305 as the first sample was taken from the stream bed, the party of men commenced pushing their way through the police cordon’.

‘I pushed through a mob and forced a man off the geologist and, with a baton prodded off a man who was standing over Scott’.

“I shouted for the men to desist, and when they failed to do so, I pushed off two and a further two who persisted and were rapidly being reinforced, I tapped with my baton”.

One landowner ‘happened to turn slightly and look up as I struck and caught the baton over the left eye. This latter again turned to the geologists and pulled a tray off Atkinson. I then grabbed the man and arrested him’.

3. Letter from C Warrillow, Assistant District Officer, Sub-District Office, Kieta, to The Deputy District Commissioner, District Office, Kieta, 9 August 1968.

Mobilise the army

Two years after the colonial regime recommended boosting police numbers to discourage landowner resistance, local opposition had only grown.

‘The administration’s aim’, David Hay writes, ‘is to fulfil its obligation to provide land for C.R.A expeditiously’.

Hay continues, ‘and to prevent or put down any unlawful obstruction of this aim’.

At the time of writing – 1969 – David Hay was Australia’s most senior colonial official in Papua New Guinea.

His anxiety over the growing sophistication of resistance on Bougainville is clear.

‘There is organised opposition in the Kieta area to the acquisition of land for the town and port sites [for the mine] ... it can field 800 armed men. We must expect this number to be equalled or exceeded on future occasions. The arms consist of bows and arrows, spears, knives, axes and fighting sticks’.

‘Belief of myself and senior advisers is that large numbers of police are necessary in situations of this kind in order to deter the use of violence’.

‘I have [also] discussed with the Commander Papua New Guinea Command the relevance of a PIR [Pacific Islands Regiment] Company, in such circumstances in which the army could be effective would be at a point at which they were required for use from the moment a decision was made to send them. I have said to the Commander that this kind of situation could possibly develop early next week. If it does, then it may be necessary for me at very short notice to seek your authority to make that force available in aid of the civil power on Bougainville’.

4. ‘Secret’ memo from David Hay, Administrator, Territory of Papua and New Guinea, to Besley, Department of Territories, 19 August 1969.

‘Subversive’ Students

On 27 October 1966 students at the Holy Spirit Seminary in Madang published the student paper, Dialogue. It was the second edition.

They probably didn’t expect that their humble magazine would trigger a national security response.

It did.

Dialogue contained a number of articles by Bougainvillean students.

They warn Papua New Guinea is at risk of becoming an Australian neo-colony. Particular venom is reserved for the proposed mine on Bougainville.

The vociferous nature of the student critiques trigger panic within the colonial administration.

The authorities speculate that the articles ‘are in fact the work of writers whose student days are long past. It has been conjectured here that some of the phrasing in these articles is reminiscent of that used by Father Fingleton of Bougainville’.

‘They are probably the most inflammatory items on Administration/indigenous relationships yet published by a non-Communist organisation’.

The ‘strongly anti-Administration sentiments and overtones of racism which characterise a number of articles included in the publication’, are denounced.

It is warned: ‘the effect on indigenous high school-level minds of some of the statements made in these articles could be dangerous’.

“In some cases the material published is considered to be quite definitely inflammatory if not plainly subversive and as such I consider that it merits the immediate attention of the Internal Security Authorities”.

5. Secret memo, Territory of Papua and New Guinea, to The Secretary, Department of Territories, Canberra, ACT, 14 November 1966.

5. Letter from E.G. Hicks, District Commissioner, Department of District Administration, Wewak, East Sepik District, to The Secretary, Department of the Administrator, Konedobu, 3 November 1966.

Quelling an unruly province

Just before Christmas in 1968 a Public Relations Advisory Committee meeting is convened in Port Moresby.

Bougainville takes centre stage.

The committee discusses a strategy to break growing secessionist sentiment on the island.

A ‘Bougainville Information Team’ is to be deployed.

It would ‘try to gain an acceptance [on Bougainville] of Administration policies, especially with regard to a unified Papua and New Guinea’.

‘The team should identify thought and opinion leaders’, who could act as a valuable source of intelligence.

Radio should be used. ‘A continual “trickle” of [pro-administration] information was the best approach’.

It was agreed conversations with Bougainvilleans should be recorded.

School curricula was another valuable tool for propaganda.

‘A valuable support role could be played, by utilising existing school publications’.

These are just a selection of the tactics being used by the colonial administration to shape opinion on Bougainville with respect to secession. They were also tactics being employed specifically within the mine area.

6. Meeting Minutes, Public Relations Advisory Committee Briefing Session - Bougainville Information Teams, 12 December 1968

We had no idea

During the mine construction period Sir Paul Lapun was Bougainville’s foremost political leader in the nascent national parliament.

During April 1988 he sat down with a researcher recording the history of the mine for Conzinc Riotinto of Australia. This is the interview transcript.

Reflecting back on the construction period, Lapun recalls a time marked by deficits in power and knowledge. The exploration license for the company was pushed through from Canberra, and then rubber stamped by Papua New Guinea’s House of Assembly.

Through intense lobbying Lapun managed to win a 5% share of royalties for landowners. It wasn’t much he recalls, but better than nothing.

‘But they didn't think of the people, the life of the people - they didn’t think of that!’ Lapun describes the pollution and damage the mine subsequently caused.

He admits, he could have never imagined it when initial debates were occurring in the 1960s.

‘Nobody knew anything! As I stated before, we had no idea about mining at that time’.

Lapun complains that the colonial administration gave communities a skewed image of the mine.

“So we knew the good side of the picture! The bad side- no! That was hidden from us, okay”.

7. Interview, Sir Paul Lapun, by Gill Andrew, Mabes Village, Boku Sub-District, Bougainville, 14 April 1988.

A little more forcefully

Colonial officials had advocated for the use of elevated force. In this conversation they are joined by CRA senior management.

Any delays owing to protest and resistance were experienced by CRA as financial loss.

Australian government officials were informed this could not be tolerated any longer in a meeting that took place in Canberra during May 1969.

“The Company explained ... delays in the project were now becoming critical and extremely costly and strongly pressed that the Administration should endeavour to remove indigenous opposition a little more forcefully in order to avoid costly delays”.

‘The Company is concerned with the delays caused by lack of access to particular areas which have been occurring despite assurances over the past two years that there would be no delays once the Company decided to go ahead with the project. The Company is not prepared to accept the present situation’.

In the meeting, attention is turned to those communities displaced by mine construction work.

‘The Administration suggested that the Moroni people would probably arrange their own resettlement. It was agreed that they should be given specific dates when the provision of food by the Company would cease’.

‘The Company indicated that it would not be necessary to disturb the Moroni residential area for some considerable time and it was agreed that they should be allowed to determine their own time for leaving the area’.

The meeting minutes conclude.

‘The Company can't afford to have continuing interruptions and would like to find a way of avoiding them even if this involved a greater risk of violence’.

8. Meeting Minutes, PNG - Bougainville Copper Project, Canberra, 7 and 8 May 1969.

A CRA Intelligence Strategy

In 1968 Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia hired the esteemed Professor of Pacific Anthropology and Bougainville expert, Douglas Oliver. His objective was to visit the mine-affected communities and then produce a confidential report that could help CRA manoeuvre more effectively at a local level, after years of strong resistance.

The report offers candid advice.

‘How adequate is the information (i.e. intelligence) now available to C.R.A. respecting its present position and future prospects on Bougainville?’

‘The impression I now have is that the intelligence in question now reaches C.R.A. management from a number of scattered sources, and in what appears to be a somewhat haphazard manner’.

‘As military and diplomatic officials well know ... intelligence is a full-time function involving many steps - e.g. collection, evaluation, collation, etc. - and specialist personnel’.

To successfully impose the mine, Oliver argues that C.R.A needs a sophisticated intelligence apparatus.

Local colonial field officers were not equipped for the task ahead.

‘Most kiaps wouldn't recognize important intelligence if they saw it’.

By contrast, Oliver notes, ‘there are certain academic organizations that could provide much valuable intelligence to C.R.A. respecting its political prospects in the Territory as a whole’.

Unlike colonial officials, academics have greater capacity to operate clandestinely, obtaining the trust of local populations, from which valuable intelligence can be extracted.

‘I am of course aware that C.R.A. management is acquainted with some members of the University of P.N.G. and of A.N.U [Australian National University], but I have the impression that no systematic use is being made by C.R.A. of these valuable sources of Intelligence’.

‘In my opinion two kinds of action are required to supplement present intelligence procedures on Bougainville, in order to provide C.R.A. with the kinds of information it needs for planning and conducting its operations on that island. One action involves anthropological studies of areas adjacent to C.R.A.'s operations, and the other involves the employment of a man on Bougainville to collect and collate intelligence and to pass it on to C.R.A. management’.

Oliver recommends sending anthropologists to the North Nasioi, South Nasioi and Kongara census divisions, to gather intelligence.

‘As for the three areas I am recommending for deeper study, no specific action is required on the part of C.R.A. Plans are made to send three of my students to these areas in the near future ... No financial or other assistance will be required of C.R.A. for these studies; in fact, the students in question will be able to pursue their investigations more satisfactorily without any evident connection with C.R.A’.

Oliver also argues CRA needs to improve its intelligence gathering capacity across Papua New Guinea so it has more political leverage nationally.

He suggests the Australian National University would be an ideal location for setting up a such a unit to conduct this work.

‘I can state that I met with a good response to my proposal from all persons encountered, and the Vice-Chancellor specifically authorized me to report that he would lend his support to the undertaking, if some assistance in staffing the secretariat could be found elsewhere’.

An agent should also be placed in Port Moresby, Oliver contends.

‘He might also now and then undertake, through his personal contacts, to help promote measures of potential value to C.R.A. including, e.g. reforms in school syllabuses aimed at educating natives more specifically about the economic realities of “Independence”’.

Shaping the school curriculum is underlined by Oliver.

‘In my travels about Bougainville, and more specifically in Port Moresby, I endeavoured to discover whether there was anything in the Territory's educational programs that would serve, indirectly, to dispose natives favourably or otherwise to CRA-like enterprises in the Territory. It occurred to me, for example, that instruction that would feature the study of the economics of nation-hood in general, or of the recent histories of developing nations in particular, might serve to demonstrate to students that real political independence requires economic independence as well, and that economic independence requires capital and highly skilled technicians, etc.’.

Oliver concludes:

“Human relations ... are susceptible to some measure of prediction, and even of control; and programs aimed at influencing them, or of reacting promptly to them, should be as carefully and comprehensively planned as the mining of copper itself”.

To do this CRA needs, Oliver contends, the ‘kind of information about Bougainville natives which only anthropologists can provide’.

9. Oliver, D. (1968) Some Social-Relational Aspects of CRA Copper Mining on Bougainville.

Resistance in the metropole

The projection of imperial power through colonial regimes rarely goes unchallenged at home in the metropole, even if such struggles are subsequently forgotten.

Indeed, it is often said today in revisionist accounts of Empire, but that is how people thought back then, when attempting to justify racism, paternalism, and subjugation. Yet like today, these wrongs were loudly challenged by women and men of conscience.

In August 1969 a letter signed by trade unions, NGOs, faith organisations, and indigenous Australian bodies, is sent to the Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton.

It states.

“As citizens of Australia we feel deeply shamed by the unjust and exploitive action of your Government, in collusion with international mining interests, against the indigenous people of the United Nations Trust Territory of Bougainville”.

‘We demand that you, as Prime Minister, intervene urgently to protect the rights of the Bougainville people by ordering that the forceful resumption of land on Bougainville by Conzinc Riotinto and the T.P.N.G Administration cease immediately’.

10. Letter from Civil Society Coalition, to Prime Minister John Gorton, 13 August 1969.