Jonathan Ritchie

Staff member

Jonathan Ritchie is a Senior Lecturer in History in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. In his teaching and research, he has helped to shape Deakin’s focus on using historical research to better comprehend contemporary social, political, and economic trends in Australia’s nearest neighbour and former colonial territory, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Prior to coming to Deakin, Jon held several roles at Trinity College, The University of Melbourne, and his doctorate from The University of Melbourne (2003) focused on the Papua New Guinean people’s participation in the development of their nation’s constitution for independence. Over the past decade, Jon has spent substantial periods of time living and working in PNG, where he primarily has been involved in a major oral history research project on Papua New Guineans’ experiences of World War Two, collaborating with the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery as well as two of PNG’s most important universities. Since 2013, Jon also has participated in the education program associated with the introduction of large-scale cruise ship tourism in PNG, regularly presenting lectures and other educational activities for passengers.

  • Research

    Jon’s research has concentrated on how the modern history of PNG is understood by Papua New Guineans themselves. He is particularly interested in finding the Papua New Guinean ‘voice’ in the wider discussion of relations with Australia and the region, colonialism and post-colonialism, the nation and its challenges, leadership and Melanesian cultural values, racism, gender, tourism, and the continuing impact of the Second World War.

    His PhD thesis centred on the roles played by Papua New Guineans in the development of their nation’s independence constitution, and he also has authored a biography of the PNG independence leader Sir Ebia Olewale, which examines the decolonisation of his nation from the perspective of an indigenous Papua New Guinean who played an important role in this momentous exercise.

    Jon has participated in a number of major oral history research projects including for the National Library of Australia, as the chief interviewer in the ‘Australians in PNG from 1940 to 1975’ project. His most significant undertaking has been the PNG in World War Two oral history exercise, conducted from 2013 to 2018, which encompassed over two hundred interviews with Papua New Guineans about their own, or their parents’ or grandparents’, experiences when the War came to their country. This project, which was supported by the Australian government through the PNG-Australia Partnership and received substantial research funding, resulted in an innovative and accessible online resource Voices from the War.

    Currently, Jon is engaged in producing the revised edition of the Historical Dictionary of PNG for Rowman & Littlefield, and is developing a research project addressing issues stemming from the introduction of large-scale cruise ship tourism in PNG.

  • Publications


    2012. Jonathan Ritchie, Ebia Olewale: A Life of Service. Waigani: University of Papua New Guinea Press.

    Other publications

    2020. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘From the grassroots: Bernard Narokobi, the Constitutional Planning Committee, and the Making of Papua New Guinea’s Constitution’, The Journal of Pacific History.

    2017. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘Papua New Guineans Reconstructing their Histories: The Pacific War Revisited’, Oceania, Vol. 87, Issue 2, 124–138.

    2015. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘Political Life Writing in PNG: What, Who, Why?’, in Jack Corbett and Brij V. Lal (eds), Political Life Writing in the Pacific Islands: Reflections on Practice, Canberra: ANU E-Press.

    2014. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘Australians and Papua New Guinea: A Reflection’, in Ceridwen Spark, Seumas Spark, and Christina Twomey (eds), Australians in Papua New Guinea 1960-1975, St Lucia: University of Queensland E-Press.

    2013. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘Defining Citizenship for a New Nation: Papua New Guinea, 1972-4’, The Journal of Pacific History, Volume 48, Issue 2.

    2010. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘”Now is the Time to Make Their Own Law”: The Development of PNG’s Independence Constitution in the Years from 1972 to 1975’, in Ian Maddocks and E.P. Wolfers (eds), Living History and Evolving Democracy: The Waigani Seminar New Series No. 1, Port Moresby: University of Papua New Guinea Press, 32-50.

    2008-09. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘”We need one district government to be set up to replace other district governments”: the beginnings of Provincial Government in Papua New Guinea’, South Pacific Journal of Philosophy and Culture, Volume 10, 77-92.

    2006. Jonathan Ritchie and Don Markwell, ‘Australian and Commonwealth Republicanism’, in The Round Table, Volume 95, Issue 5, 727-737.

    2004. Jonathan Ritchie, ‘”Following on a National Scale their Old Tribal Traditions of Rule by Consent of the People”: How Westminster Government Hybridised, Transformed, Yet Persisted in Papua New Guinea’ [online], in Kate Darian-Smith, Patricia Grimshaw, Kiera Lindsey, and Stuart Macintyre (eds), Exploring the British World: Identity, Cultural Production, Institutions, Melbourne: RMIT Publishing, 1060-1073.

  • Teaching

    Jon teaches a unit titled Australia’s Empire: Colonialism in Papua New Guinea alongside Associate Professor Helen Gardner. In this unit, students are introduced to Australia’s nearest neighbour and, for close to a century, its colonial territory Papua New Guinea. The unit begins by looking at the earliest colonial interventions by Britain, Germany, and Australia, before examining how the intrusion of World War Two provided a crucial moment in the beginnings of Papua New Guinean nationalism. It then looks at how the subsequent years saw this develop further, to the point where PNG became an independent nation in 1975.

    Jon also teaches the capstone unit in the History major at Deakin entitled Making History. This unit introduces students to the challenges and joys of researching and writing history at an advanced level, and encourages students to join with the History staff in the making of history through undertaking a self-directed exercise in researching and writing about a historical subject. Jon’s teaching experience at Deakin also has encompassed involvement in History’s two entry-level units, which together examine key themes in world history during the 20th century.

    In addition, Jon coordinates the Honours program for the History discipline within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is responsible for the overall management of the students who are undertaking the BA (Honours) in History, including teaching in some of the coursework units that are mandatory for Honours students to complete.

  • Supervision

    Jon’s research strengths are in the history of Papua New Guinea as well as other nations in the Pacific region. He also is interested in the topic of decolonisation more generally.

    Currently Jon is supervising three BA (Honours) students: Brad Henri, who is researching and writing about how the memory of the events of 1965 in Indonesia has been undertaken; Jarrod Hodgson, who is looking at the story of Australian gold prospectors who went to Woodlark Island in New Guinea in the late 19th century; and Norma McIvor, who is researching and writing about an early Tongan Christian missionary in Fiji.

    Jon is a member of the supervision panels for three PhD candidates: Brad Underhill, whose research focuses on the Australian development of Papua New Guinea in the post-World War Two era; Martin Korokan, looking at the provision of health services by churches in PNG’s Enga Province; and Nicholas Oates, who will be researching a topic in PNG history more generally.

Australian Policy
 and History

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