Congratulations to Ph.D. Candidate and CHRG member, Brad Underhill for the publication of his article Co-operatives and Political Development in PNG: Colonial Failure or Unrecognized Success? in The Journal of Pacific History.
Co-operative societies were an important part of Australia’s post-war development plans for the Territory of Papua New Guinea, providing an opportunity to align perceived notions of traditional village social systems with new socio-economic ideas. This article examines the introduction of co-operatives on New Hanover and Buka islands and their subsequent failure. In the aftermath of these disappointments, new local organizations arose and adopted many of the positive practices learnt during the co-operative period. These new groups provided both material and cultural independence, and, further, proved to be micro-nationalist movements with a power base capable of challenging the Australian administration. This article argues that co-operatives have been undervalued and overlooked as a platform for Indigenous notions of socio-economic development and micro-nationalist movements. Co-operatives broke down clan affiliations and inspired Indigenous Papua New Guineans to operate beyond their normal alliances, to act with coordination, agency and a clear agenda.