Laurie Bragge’s gift of his personal archive of material concerning his life and work in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to James cook University was astoundingly detailed. Laurie was a "kiap"; patrol officer in colonial times and recorded histories of that time not just from an Australian perspective but also from the perspective of PNG people themselves. This made his collection extraordinarily valuable to the many within PNG , Australia and other countries who are interested in the history of PNG. This workshop aimed at positioning Bragge’s rich material in current debates about colonial governance and development and how histories of such processes should now be written.
The workshop also considered how such debates relate to understandings of PNG history through the different lens of Chinese relationships with colonial and post-colonial PNG. Co-convenor Dr Michael Wood says "If Bragge’s archive got us thinking about colonialism would some focus on the Chinese experience of colonialism help us rethink the Australian and PNG histories of that time? Does the recent emergence of China as a significant player in PNG, and the Pacific, have an impact on the questions we should ask of the archives of the colonial era?"
Held in 4-6 November last year, the workshop was well-attended by participants both online and locally. It involved interesting presentations by Laurie Bragge, political scientists, historians, anthropologists, linguists and specialists in museum and development studies. Michael says "What was a particularly rewarding and interesting outcome of the workshop was the way many of the presentations productively engaged with PNG affiliated participants‘ understandings of their own histories. Given this encouraging response we plan to publish the papers presented at the workshop and will further develop research partnerships that will address issues raised in the workshop".
For more details on the workshop, please contact the convenors: Prof Rosita Henry, Dr Michael Wood and Dr Vincent Backhaus.