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Video clip synopsis – The Indonesian province of Papua has a turbulent history and rich culture. Yet it remains largely unknown.
Year of production - 2003
Duration - 3min 13sec
Tags - communities, democracy, human rights, leadership, Papua New Guinea, see all tags


The Forgotten People

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About the Video Clip


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.

Curriculum Focus


Area of study 2. Leading People

In VCE International Politics students have the opportunity to:

  • Explain and evaluate the goals, style and the national and international impact of a post–World War 2 political leader. (Outcome 2)

Through viewing this video clip VCE International Politics students develop an understanding of the leader’s contribution to national political life and develop a context for the way in which Theys Eluay was able to exert his power and influence.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


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.

Classroom Activities

  1. From the video clip develop a leadership profile of Chief Theys Eluay commenting on:
    1. his communication style
    2. the impact of his leadership
    3. his contribution to national politics
    4. the context by which Chief Theys Eluay was able to exercise power
    5. the factors that contributed to his power.
  2. Analyse the reasons for the popularity of Chief Theys Eluay and the implications of this popularity across different groups from—Indonesian military, Australian government and Papuans.
  3. Describe the historical context for the Indonesian military presence in Papua in terms of social movements and popular support and democratic movements.
  4. Using Chief Theys Eluay as a case study, discuss the concept of leadership as an agent of community change. Compare his leadership style with those of another political leader.

Further Resources


Go to Pacific Stories Learning for Interactive Compass Map with facts about the Pacific region.

For interview transcripts, books and references for this Digital Resource go to Pacific Stories, choose Land of the Morning Star, select INDEX, and go to MORE INFORMATION.