Project Canterbury

Work in the Mandated Territory.

By F. R. Bishop.

[Sydney:] Australian Board of Missions, no date.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

Australian Board of Missions

Work in the Mandated Territory

After the declaration of Peace, Australia, as one of the signatories of the Covenant of the League of Nations, was given a Mandate over certain territory on the Pacific. This territory included German New Guinea and the adjacant islands of New Britain and New Ireland, the German Solomons, and many hundreds of smaller islands. The area was known to the Germans as the Old Protectorate, and comprises roughly ninety thousand square miles of land. There can be only the vaguest estimation as to the native population of this territory, because as yet, not one-fifth has come under Government influence. The land varies in richness, and is mountainous, especially on the mainland, where great ranges run generally parallel with the coast.

Generally speaking, there are two seasons--the wet from November to April, during which time monsoons from the N.W prevail, and the dry when the wind blows from the south-east. Owing to the heavy rainfalls and high temperature, the vegetation in the territory shows the most luxuriant growth as in most parts of the West Pacific.

The climate is not good for Europeans. The medical authorities have done, and are doing, great work in creating healthier conditions, especially in ridding the more settled districts in the territory of the scourge of malaria and dysentery.

It must be kept in mind that we are not the owners of this vast territory, but something greater--we are the trustees. We have no right to expect big profits from this new enterprise. The one and only reason we were given this Mandate was that the welfare and development of the native inhabitants of the territory should be furthered, and that they may be raised to take their places as members of a world family." (Rev. J. W. Burton.)

"The Mandatory shall promote to the utmost the material and moral well-being and the social progress of the inhabitants of the territory, subject to the present Mandate." (Article 2, Australian Mandate.)

How Australia is Fulfilling her Obligation.

Year by year the Administrator of the territory, Brig.-General Wisdom, is called upon by the Council of the League of Nations to give an account of his stewardship, and as one reads the reports one cannot but be filled with admiration and gratitude to young Australia, who accepted so grave a responsibility, and the wonderful progress she has attained in the uplifting of these simple people of the Pacific. One learns of a splendidly equipped medical department. The Government recognises it as a duty of paramount importance to eradicate native diseases, and to accept the responsibility for the medical care and treatment of the natives. A system of medical patrols has been inaugurated, which ensures that medical treatment will not be confined to the native in the immediate vicinity of the hospitals, but will be extended to the inhabitants of the areas removed from the administrative centres. The staff of the health department consists of eight doctors, assisted by about thirty medical assistants. In addition there are some three hundred trained native orderlies. Over ¡ò30,000 has been expended exclusively in this department. A trained anthropologist is attached to the Administration, and cadets who have served two years in the territory are being sent to Sydney University, where a Chair of Anthropology has been recently established. It is considered that unless a white official has a thorough knowledge of the psychology of the native, or in other words "thinks black," he cannot hope to succeed in the administration of native races.

The technical and general education of native boys, too, is not neglected. The activities of the Administration in connection with native education are additional to those of the missions. Well equipped schools have been established at Rabaul and other centres. The object of the Government education scheme is the training of certain selected natives to undertake work of a clerical nature, particularly in public service, and to become efficient artisans. The schools are under the supervision of expert Australian teachers, and although they experience great difficulty owing to the diversity of languages spoken by the scholars, wonderful progress has been made, and numbers of the boys speak and write simple good English. The natives have a natural bent towards woodwork and eagerly exchange their stone axe for the more efficient steel implements of the white man.

One of the results of Government control and the abolition of inter-tribal fighting, is that the male natives of the area affected find themselves suddenly relieved of the necessity to work and to keep fit. It has been, therefore, the duty of the Government to devise means by which the male natives shall usefully occupy their time and maintain their interest in life. A system of native agriculture has been instituted for cultivation of foodstuffs and economic crops by the natives under trained instructors, as at present, the crops grown by the natives are inadequate from a food value point of view.

Until the natives of New Guinea have arrived at such a stage of civilisation as to enable them to appreciate the value of their labour and to understand their obligation to their employers, it is considered desirable that the Administrator should be responsible for regulating the relationship between the native labourer and his employer, so as to ensure, on the one hand, that the labourer volunteers his services, understands the conditions of his employment, and on the other hand, that the employer shall have reasonable prospects of knowing what labour is available for the particular industry in which he is engaged. The Protector of Native Affairs is an officer who has had many years experience as a Magistrate in Papua, a man whose sympathies are thoroughly with the natives, and a person he can readily approach with absolute confidence.

I have endeavoured in a very brief way to tell you what the Government of New Guinea is doing for the moral, physical and mental development of the natives. I have personally been brought very closely into contact with all the work mentioned, during the last three years. It has been my privilege, as Chaplain, to travel on several occasions round the territory with the Administrator, and I have seen his great organisation in action and can testify to the splendid work that is going on. Occasionally, as is only natural, mistakes have been made, officers have not proved suitable for their particular position, and there have been some failure amongst the staff, but re-adjustments and dismissals have been quickly made.

We can see that an honest endeavour is being made by the Government not simply to fulfil its obligation to the League of Nations, but even to go further in its desire to bring about social and moral well-being of the interesting people committed to its trust.

Australia is doing her duty well. The Administrator of the territory and his staff are doing their work nobly. What is the Church doing?


For many years the Roman Catholic, the Methodist and the Lutheran Missions have been doing a noble work in parts of the territory. I have personally come in contact with many of these splendid people, and must pay a warm tribute to the good that these self-sacrificing men and women have done. Living lonely lives in isolated places amongst people steeped in sorcery, witchcraft and evil, and revolting practices; suffering the dreaded scourges of malaria and other diseases, yet in the face of all difficulties, trials and temptations, carrying on in the spirit of their Master, with wonderful fortitude and enthusiasm. Many of them have made the supreme sacrifice, giving their lives gladly for the Faith.

But still there is a vast area of the territory untouched by the Government or Missions, and we of the great Church of England must not shirk our responsibilities. The well-being of these people has been entrusted to our nation. Let us see that their spiritual welfare is not neglected by our National Church.

The whole of the territory has become part of the great Melanesian Mission, and an Assistant Bishop has been appointed. Bishop Wilton will take up duty in the territory early this year, and hopes to commence missionary activities in the Gasmata district, in the large island of New Britain, a district very little known by the Government, and quite untouched by other Missions. He is being joined by the Rev. L. E. Cartridge, lately Chaplain at Hurstpierpoint College, as the first representative of the English Committee of the Melanesian Mission to work in the territory. There are large numbers of natives in this area still living in the stone age. The one or two Europeans in this district are eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the Mission, and have promised the Church every assistance. The pioneer missionaries in this district will be called upon to sacrifice much, and must expect to meet many dangers and privations by land and sea. It is a great adventure for Christ and His Church, and just as He has blessed the earlier missionaries who came to this territory, so, too, will He be near those of our own Church who are going out in His Name.

The Bishop and his Staff ask for your whole-hearted co-operation, loving sympathy and support in their venture for Christ. Will you make it, above all, a matter for your prayerful support? They will need your regular intercessions. Learn all you can about this special work. If you will do this, then we can be sure of your financial support. The initial expenses will be heavy. A boat must be secured, as all travelling in this district will be done by sea--there are no roads.

Buildings even of the simplest design and construction cost money, and the Mission will need considerable financial support. Please Pray, Work and Give, that the Gospel of Jesus may be glorified in the Territory of New Guinea.



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