Seumas Spark reviews 'Australia’s Northern Shield? Papua New Guinea and the defence of Australia since 1880' by Bruce Hunt

Seumas Spark reviews 'Australia’s Northern Shield? Papua New Guinea and the defence of Australia since 1880' by Bruce Hunt

Australia’s Northern Shield?: Papua New Guinea and the defence of Australia since 1880

by Bruce Hunt

Monash University Publishing, $39.95 pb, 400 pp, 9781925495409

The subtitle of this book is Papua New Guinea and the Defence of Australia since 1880. Michael Somare, first prime minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is at the centre of the cover photograph, and the cover design uses red, yellow, and black, the colours of the PNG flag. Yet for much of this book PNG is at the periphery of the story. About two-thirds of the text concerns Indonesia: specifically, the West New Guinea dispute (1949–62) between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and Konfrontasi (1962–66), the conflict that entangled Indonesia and Malaysia. These two episodes, notes Bruce Hunt in his introduction, illuminate the strategic importance of PNG to Australian governments. Scholars of Australia’s foreign and defence relations, and those interested in Indonesia, will find more in this book than will historians of PNG.

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Seumas Spark

Seumas Spark

Seumas Spark is a historian employed at Monash University. He and two colleagues are working on a history of the Dunera and Queen Mary internees. His main research interests are the social history of World War II and the history of Papua New Guinea.