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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 - colonisation, Indonesia, international relations, nationalism, Papua New Guinea, self-determination, social justice, 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


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following Outcomes:

5.2 analyses, organises and synthesises geographical information
5.7 analyses the impacts of different perspectives on geographical issues at local, national and global scales
5.9 explains Australia’s links with other countries and its role in the global community

Students learn about: The place of Australia in the world and about Australia’s location in relation to its near neighbours and their territorial boundaries as well as the ways Australia interacts with other nations.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies 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. Consider the emotional 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?
    1. Outline the links Australia has with Indonesia and suggest reasons for the Australian government being particularly mindful of its relationship with this northern neighbour.
    2. Should Australia support the desire of indigenous Papuans for self-determination with the resultant diplomatic dangers for Australia/Indonesian relations – or continue to support Indonesian rule?
    3. Investigate the positions of other governments on the Papuan independence issue and consider the reasons for them being similar or different to the Australian position.

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.