Free for educational use
The Forgotten People
Year of production - 2003
Duration - 3min 13sec
Tags - Australian History, colonisation, indigenous cultures, Indonesia, nationalism, Papua New Guinea, self-determination, see all tags
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About the Video Cliptop
The Forgotten People is an excerpt from the documentary Land of the Morning Star made in 2003.
Land of the Morning Star
The western half of the island of New Guinea has been known by many names including Netherlands New Guinea, West Papua, Irian Jaya and Papua. Narrated by Rachel Griffiths, Land of the Morning Star reveals the rich and turbulent history of a troubled country, swept up in the power-play of international politics. It highlights the role of the Netherlands, the United States, Australia, Indonesia and the UN at crucial points in the country’s history. And, by providing a background to this complex story, helps us understand this extraordinarily beautiful but strangely forgotten land.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The western half of the island of New Guinea has been known by many names including Netherlands New Guinea, West Papua, Irian Jaya and Papua. It is an extraordinary place where snow-capped mountains drain into massive rivers and 250 languages are spoken. Yet, despite its wild beauty and rich culture, it has been largely forgotten.
The population of Papua is approximately 2.1 million; most live on the coast. The indigenous people are Melanesians who have lived in there for over 5,000 years.
European colonisation saw the Dutch secure their claim to the entire island by the mid-1800s. In 1949 the Netherlands granted independence to the colonised peoples of the former Dutch East Indies; West New Guinea however, was retained as a colony by the Dutch.
In the 1950s the Dutch prepared the territory for independence. On 1 December 1961 an elected People’s Congress adopted the Morning Star flag in a declaration of independence from the Dutch.
In 1962 Indonesian forces invaded Papua to take control from the Dutch. The Dutch and local forces successfully resisted the invasion, but when Indonesia turned to Russia for support, Cold War fears led the US government to force the Dutch to accept Indonesia’s claim. Indonesia’s claim to Papua was confirmed by the New York Agreement of 1962, with the indigenous Papuans having no say in the agreement reached. This agreement was confirmed by a controversial Act of Self-Determination by the United Nations in 1969. Indonesian President Sukarno declared the area the 26th province of Indonesia.
Today, despite protest, Papua continues to be an Indonesian province and is regarded as such by the Australian Government.
- Consider the scenes in the video clip of the Morning Star Flag being raised. What do they tell us of the importance of self-determination to indigenous people?
- Consider: should the people of Papua be given the right to independence or is Papua a legitimate part of Indonesia?
- Why are there differing perspectives on this?
- Should Australia support the desire of indigenous Papuans for self-determination with the resultant diplomatic dangers for Australia/Indonesian relations – or support the Indonesian position? Outline the arguments for and against each option.