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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, indigenous cultures, Indonesia, nationalism, Papua New Guinea, self-determination, see all tags


The Forgotten People

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 forgotten_pr.mp4 (23.7MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 forgotten_bb.mp4 (11.2MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

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


The principal focus of this Preliminary topic is that students apply historical enquiry methods within a range of contexts to investigate key features, issues, individuals, groups, events, concepts and other forces from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The syllabus prescribes that students undertake at least two case studies with at least one from Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and Central/South America. This study is from the Pacific.

This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following Outcomes (of selected studies from the eighteenth century to the present):

P 1.1 describe the role of key individuals, groups and events
P 1.2 investigate and explain the key features and issues
P 2.1 identify forces and ideas and explain their significance in contributing to change and
P 3.1 ask relevant historical questions
P 3.4 identify and account for differing perspectives and interpretations of the past

In respect to what students learn to, this clip gives students the opportunity to assess the forces for change and continuity within West Papua.

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 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?
  2. Consider: should the people of Papua be given the right to independence or is Papua a legitimate part of Indonesia?
    1. Why are there differing perspectives on this?
    2. 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.

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.