a multicultural Research Library

Making multicultural Australia

Search the complete site: ... Sitemap » ... Links to other sites »

multicultural Video »

Category: Interviews »

Subject: Early History »

Queensland eyes New Guinea

Clive Moore.

Historian Clive Moore discusses Queensland's imperial adventures in New Guinea.



Date Added:

10 February 2006


Clive Moore interviewed by Andrew Jakubowicz for MMA


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

6.3 MB


4 min 31 s


Queensland’s an unusual part of Australia in that you have Brisbane set right at the bottom but equidistant, really, ports going up the coast as far up as Cairns and Cooktown…

Queensland is one side of the Coral Sea, and the Coral Sea is the arc which includes the underbelly of New Guinea and the islands that are now within Papua New Guinea, which are Bougainville, and - they’ve been separated from the nation now - the Solomon Islands. But the Solomons and New Hebrides, Vanuatu, the Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia and Fiji. So there’s a sea there – it’s called the Coral Sea and Queensland was really one side of that Coral Sea…

Queensland develops as a separate colony from New South Wales onwards from 1859. But even before that Queensland had started to encroach outwards into the areas of New Guinea and also of island Melanesia. First by growing out through Torres Strait. And initially we had a three-mile limit in Torres Strait, fairly normal three-mile limit at Cape York, and that was expanded twice during the 1870s till it went to about three miles off the edge of the big island of New Guinea. So it’s a very unusual border – and we still have that border within Australia – and so that meant you had bêche-de-mer and pearling interests which were moving out from Queensland into New Guinea and island Melanesia…

Queensland extends its border in the 1870s right up to Torres Strait, so they say – “well, we have control of that area”. And you start to get Queensland casting fairly covetous eyes on New Guinea. It started to recruit labour for pastoral and agricultural industry – and also for the maritime industry from the 1860s. They’re moving to start with – there’s a moving frontier which starts in the south in the 1860s going to the Loyalty Islands off New Caledonia, then to the New Hebrides, up into the Solomons by the 70s. By the late 70s they’re up to about Bougainville and they’re going on to the very edge of the mainland by about 1882, 1884.

So that the recruiting frontier is moving into New Guinea – so the missionaries have moved in, the recruiters have moved in. As the pearl industry starts to get played out in Torres Strait, they start to be interested in the Louisiade Archipelago, which is off the end of New Guinea. No-one’s going into the middle of New Guinea of course, this is just fringe, fringes round the edges. You’re also getting into the northern part of what is now Papua New Guinea – you’re getting Germans. So it’s British in the south and Germans in the north: German missionaries, German traders. And then eventually by the 1880s the British and the German government are starting to look each other over very carefully to see who’s going to have the dominant influence there. And it sort of sparked, in a sense, by 1883 when Queensland makes a grab for a large part of what is now Papua New Guinea – the borders aren’t exactly the same. But Queensland under Premier McIlwraith tried to annex to Queensland the majority area of what is now Papua New Guinea, or eastern New Guinea…

Britain really said two things. Really, it sort of said: “Well colonies do not claim colonies, and you treat your own black fellas so badly that what makes you think we’re going to give you another million? And the answer’s no – you can’t have them. It’s not yours.” So Queensland had to back off…

It would have been an extension of the Queensland boundaries, so it wouldn’t have been a separate colony. So that you would have added about a million Melanesians to Queensland…

Britain, in November 1884 – by then it had really done a deal with Germany and they divided the place up…

In 1901, when Australia becomes a Federation, Britain really sort of says, “Well listen boys and girls, would you like a sort of growing up present? We’ll give you British New Guinea.”