New Deals in the Australian Territories in the Mid-Twentieth Century
US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, coined the term New Deal as a means to sell his economic and social reforms in the wake of the Great Depression. The New Deal was a set of principles and objectives that took material form in various policy reforms and programs. In view of the success of the Roosevelt New Deal and the association of the term with fundamental reform, the Australian Government has at times utilised the term for its own purposes.
The Australian Government utilised the term ‘Aboriginal New Deal’ to sell the reforms to ‘native policy’ in the Northern Territory stemming from the 1937 National Conference on ‘Aboriginal Welfare’. The term is used for propagandist reasons drawing on the goodwill and recognition associated with the Roosevelt New Deal, but adheres to notably different principles and objectives.
Elizabeth Borgwadt asserts the Atlantic Charter of 1941 marks the ‘globalisation’ of the Roosevelt New Deal – or at least the principles thereof – in her aptly titled book, A New Deal for the World. The Atlantic Charter became the blueprint for the United Nations and other international institutions, and contributed significantly in shaping the New Deal for Papua and New Guinea. The New Deal for Papua and New Guinea reflects the principles and objectives of a ‘globalised’ Roosevelt New Deal, by virtue of the influence of the United Nations Trusteeship.
In examining the New Deals in the Australian Territories and the circumstances that shaped them, we can learn a lot about the Australian relationship to its colonial territories in the twentieth century.
Nick Oates is a PhD candidate at Deakin.
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Cover photo: Unloading the ship Mintora berthed at Port Moresby, Territory of Papua, in 1946. Papuan men wearing sarongs are on the wharf. State Library of Queensland