Independence of Papua New Guinea, 1975 – Fact sheet 261The nation of Papua New Guinea achieved its independence from Australia on 16 September 1975. Officiating at the main ceremony held in Port Moresby were His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prince of Wales (representing Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch); Sir John Kerr, Governor-General of Australia; Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam; and Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Michael Somare, who became the country's first Prime Minister. The new country became a constitutional monarchy with membership of the British Commonwealth.
Australian administration, 1906–75
Papua New Guinea was administered by Australia as a single territory from 1945. It comprised the former British protectorate of Papua – which had been an Australian territory since 1906 – and the former German colony of New Guinea, which became Australia's responsibility as a Mandated Territory of the League of Nations (1921–42) and a United Nations Trust Territory following World War II.
Territory administration was the responsibility of an Australian Government Administrator who reported to the Australian Department of External Territories (Department of Territories, 1951–68) and, from 1973, to the Papua New Guinea Office. From 1951, the Administrator was assisted by an appointed Legislative Council, which in 1964 was replaced by an elected House of Assembly. As a prelude to independence, Papua New Guinea became a self-governing territory on 1 December 1973.
Records about the independence of Papua New Guinea
The National Archives holds a wide range of records documenting the processes that led to Papua New Guinea independence. These include records of key agencies such as the Department of External Territories (and Territories), Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Attorney-General’s Department. Photographs of independence day ceremonies and celebrations are also held.
Record series relating to Papua New Guinea independence
A selection of the National Archives holdings is listed below by series. You can find records of interest using RecordSearch – search using the series number shown and narrow results by using keywords such as 'papua new guinea' and 'papua new guinea independence'.