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Thursday, 1 June 1972
Page: 2487

Senator DAVIDSON - My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:

I draw attention to a statement made in Adelaide yesterday at a writers' week occasion by Vincent Eri, who is described as being the first indigenous novelist of Papua New Guinea, and who is reported as having said that anti-white attitudes and anti-white writings served a useful purpose for encouraging nationalism. Is the Minister aware that the same writer claimed that as indigenous writers did not have the opportunity to study novels and other literature they found it easier to write about missionaries or government officials. Will the Minister inquire of his colleague as to the availability or otherwise of literary and other aids of assistance to indigenous writers? In view of the comprehensive programmes of education carried out in the Territory, will he seek to obtain an assurance that opportunities exist for encouraging and achieving nationalism without resorting to the practices mentioned?

Senator WRIGHT The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

Since early 1970 the Literature Bureau of the Papua New Guinea Department of Information and Extension Services has been most active in encouraging Papuan and New Guinean writers. such encouragement includes the publication of a quarterly magazine containing their work; placing their work in other publications; encouraging public and private bodies interested in local writing to promote and publish work by Papuans and New Guineans; the holding of annual literary competitions; constructive criticism of their writings; suggesting themes; and writers' workshops. The Officer-in-charge of the Literature Bureau was one of the persons who read Mr Eri's book The Crocodile' in its draft form.

The Commonwealth Literary Fund has also provided financial assistance to some indigenous writers to enable them to prepare material on a full-time basis.

The efforts of government officers and missionaries as well as other expatriates who have lived and are living in Papua New Guinea have been principal forces impacting village life and traditional values in recent times. It is not surprising therefore that these people have been featured in local writings. Papuan and New Guinea writers will probably continue to choose themes closely related to their experiences. Social, economic and political changes have required the people to adopt new behavioural patterns and these have inevitably brought some tensions as the people emerge from a largely dependent situation to one of independence.

As the process of formal education impacts more and more on the people, self-esteem and self-respect for their country and countrymen will become popular ingredients in the growth of nationalism - as they have in other emerging countries. Some writers are bound to write about the forces which have, in their minds, disrupted their society. Whereas some will analyse the changing situation without passing judgment others will tend to be critical of the agents of change.

The Australian Government clearly recognises the need to promote in Papua New Guinea the development of a positive national sentiment. Main elements of the political education programme are consolidating national unity and encouraging a spirit of nationalism by welcoming the adoption of national symbols. In 1971 the House of Assembly passed the National Identity Ordinance which provided for a flag, crest and national day. The first National Day, held on 13 September of last year, has as its theme 'We are all one people*.

A spirit of nationalism is promoted also by bringing Papuans and New Guineans from all regions of the country together in the Public Service and education institutions.

In my address to the University of Papua New Guinea last March, I praised the students for their efforts to create a distinctive nationwide cultural identity which blended the strength and vitality of former traditions with new perceptions and skills.

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