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Video clip synopsis – Francis Ona was the man who single-handedly sparked Bougainville's civil war.
Year of production - 2000
Duration - 2min 17sec
Tags - Bougainville, leadership, Papua New Guinea, war, see all tags


Francis Ona

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About the Video Clip


Francis Ona 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


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 II political leader. (Outcome 2.)
  • Explain and evaluate key concepts including the role and responsibilities of leadership, legitimacy, representation, leadership as an agent of continuity or change, or for resisting change.
  • Explain and evaluate leadership styles.
  • Explain and evaluate leaders influences and political context.
  • Explain and evaluate forces which work to support and/or oppose the leader.

For students in VCE International Politics this video clip provides a case study of leadership and the historical and political contexts of this leadership. It provides resources for focusing on values, goals and achievements, communication style and impact of this leader on a post World War 2 conflict. Students consider Francis Ona’s contribution to national political life and develop an understanding of the context in which the leader was able to exercise power.

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

Background Information


Papua New Guinea (PNG) became an independent nation in 1975. It was a country divided by many languages and customs. The people of the islands of Bougainville felt a greater cultural and geographical connection to the Solomon Islands than they did to mainland Papua New Guinea. Secessionist feelings flourished.

The establishment of a giant copper mine on the main island of Bougainville a few years before independence inflamed secessionist sentiments further. Bougainvilleans were denied what they saw as fair compensation and share of mine profits. The PNG Independence Constitution stated that land ownership was to just below the surface and that mineral rights belonged to the state.

From late 1988, the destruction of power lines and attacks on the mine marked the beginning of a 9 year conflict. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) led by Francis Ona and Sam Kauona and joined by members of the Provincial Government, co-ordinated a campaign against the mine and declared independence for Bougainville. The populist ideology of the BRA promoted a kind of agrarian socialism with emphasis on traditional culture. The BRA became an effective paramilitary organisation.

With the economic blockade imposed by Papua New Guinea, and little information reaching the outside world, anarchy prevailed. The Papua New Guinea government failed to resolve the conflict. Meanwhile the undisciplined actions of the BRA led to disillusion among villagers, and they responded by forming resistance forces who were in turn armed by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The PNGDF was able to reoccupy Buka island on the northern tip of Bougainville from September 1990.

After many years of conflict, the population was exhausted by the fighting, the lack of services, and disruption to their lives.

Following negotiations led by New Zealand, a truce monitoring force came to Bougainville in 1997 to monitor peace.

By the late 1990s there was a power shift in the BRA from militants like Ona to moderates like Joseph Kabui who had the support of Sam Kauona. Both Kabui and Kauona were willing to participate in peace talks. Government services were gradually restored and negotiations were carried on to create a more autonomous government for Bougainville, while still remaining a part of the nation of Papua New Guinea.

In 2001 a ceasefire agreement committed the Island to a referendum on full independence from Papua New Guinea in 10 to 15 years. In 2005 a provincial government was elected, led by Joseph Kabui. The new Bougainville administration will continue to run the island with greater autonomy, while the central government of Papua New Guinea will control defence and foreign affairs.
Francis Ona died on 25 July 2005.

Classroom Activities

  1. From the video clip develop a leadership profile of Francis Ona commenting on:
    1. his communication style
    2. the impact of his leadership
    3. his contribution to national politics
    4. the context by which he was able to exercise power
    5. the factors that contributed to his power.
  2. Describe the different viewpoints and perspectives on Francis Ona from the commentary in the video clip. Note use of words such as ‘on the loose’ and other words from the commentary that suggests a particular viewpoint.
  3. Compare the style of leadership of Francis Ona to a political leader you are familiar with. What were the factors that contributed to the development and undermining of this leaders power and influence?
  4. Francis Ona passed away on 24 July 2005 in his village at the age of 52. Research online to investigate ways this leader is remembered and how his contribution to Bougainville is described.

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.