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Rebuilding Bougainville

Video clip synopsis – A man from the rugged mountains of Papua New Guinea's Bougainville single-handedly set up a mini power station in his village.
Year of production - 2000
Duration - 3min 23sec
Tags - Bougainville, design, natural resources, Pacific region, sustainability, technology and society, war, see all tags


Rebuilding Bougainville

How to Download the Video Clip

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About the Video Clip


Rebuilding Bougainville is an excerpt from the two-part documentary Paradise Imperfect made in 2000.

Paradise Imperfect
In 2000 the ABC’s Pacific Correspondent Sean Dorney travelled to the war zones of Bougainville to look at the impact of the nine year secessionist conflict and the fragile peace process.

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation production.

Curriculum Focus


Geographical knowledge and understanding

The video clip shows the development of a community in the aftermath of war and shows the creativity of the people of Paru Paru. The resources and materials left over from the fighting have been put to good use and developed into power generation. Classroom activities focus on the design and creativity that has been shown by the people as they rebuild their lives.

Other Links to VELS
Physical, Personal and Social Learning – Interpersonal development – community.
Interdisciplinary Learning – Design creativity and technology students explain and justify design features.

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

Background Information


At independence in 1975, Papua New Guinea was divided by languages and customs. The people of the island of Bougainville felt separated from mainland Papua New Guinea; physically, emotionally and culturally they were more aligned with the Solomon Islands.

Discovery of copper deposits in Bougainville in the 1960s led to the development by Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA) of the Panguna open cut mine, at that time the largest in the world.

Anger grew over the non-payment of royalties, the pollution of the rivers by the tailings from the mine and a belief that the mining land would never be restored to its natural state. Many landowners were resentful that their traditional lives, based on agriculture and fishing, would be lost forever to the mining operation. There was also conflict between some native Bougainvilleans and others (mainly workers from the main island of Papua New Guinea) brought in to work on the mine. Tensions exploded in 1988 when disgruntled landowner (and later secessionist campaigner) Francis Ona led sabotage attacks on the mine. This marked the beginning of a nine year conflict.

The civil war in Bougainville destroyed much of the Province’s infrastructure, leaving many areas without electricity and other services. Arawa, the island’s capital, was left with no main line power.

In this video clip, ABC reporter Sean Dorney looks at the impact of the conflict on the infrastructure of the island. He visits Paru Paru Village to see a particular example of ingenuity. Villager Michael Nikay has set up a small hydro-electric plant to supply power to his village, using materials taken from the abandoned Bougainville copper mine.

Paru Paru village is located in what was the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) heartland — deep in the mountains, which, because of their ruggedness, were perfect for guerilla warfare and impossible for the Papua New Guinea army to control. The electricity generated in Paru Paru from 1984 was enough to provide lighting for three villages, give power for the BRA to make guns and keep Radio Free Bougainville on air.

From mid 1990 until the September 1994 ceasefire Bougainville was blockaded by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The blockade had a devastating effect — medicines were amongst the manufactured goods that failed to reach Bougainville. Thousands of deaths are attributed to the blockade which is said to have operated until 1997.

Because of the blockade and the damage done to infrastructure over the years of the dispute, rebuilding Bougainville is a huge task. Sean Dorney concludes that no matter how imaginative and resilient the people may be, if young people were to pick up the skills necessary to run an autonomous Bougainville, the fighting had to end and education begin.

Classroom Activities

  1. Using the video clip, describe the way in which this community began to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a war.
  2. Write a short descriptive piece on the life of the Paru Paru community using some of these terms—creativity, design, sustainability, community and development, recycling.
  3. Describe the impact of human activities such as mining on the natural system of the country of Bougainville as demonstrated in this video clip.

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 My Valley is Changing, select INDEX, and go to MORE INFORMATION.