Papua New Guinea expats, students and former Auckland residents celebrated the country’s Independence Day over the weekend.
Over 100 guests gathered at Cornwall Park in Mt Eden on Saturday to celebrate the event with cultural performances and dancing.
The event was organized by the New Zealand Papua New Guinea Business Council, chaired by Andrew Wilson.
“We had a wonderful event here which was a celebration of PNG’s 47th birthday, the 47th anniversary of PNG’s independence from Australia,” said Wilson.
“We had about a hundred people here with some nice speeches and some nice Wontok cultural dances.
“It was an intercultural event and we all had a great time, our first time post Covid. It’s nice to see everyone again.”
September 16 marks Papua New Guinea’s 47th year as a sovereign nation after gaining independence from Australia in 1975.
Unlike many former colonial territories around the world whose independence movements were forced or marred by violent upheaval, Papua New Guinea’s transition to independence was largely peaceful and met little opposition from Australia.
However, Australia’s colonial past is still marred by injustices such as the White Australia Policy, which treated Papua New Guinea as a second-class citizen.
Genevieve Mautu, an expat from Papua New Guinea, says Independence Day is more a celebration of her country’s diversity than a memorial to historic struggles.
“It marks the day we gained independence from Australia and regardless of what happened we still have close ties with Australia. A lot of us study and work in Australia,” she said.
“It has become more of a celebration of PNG’s diversity and celebrating our different cultures, including people coming from abroad and living in PNG. There are over 800 dialects and languages and I just love that everyone speaks a different jargon.”
According to the 2018 New Zealand Census, the population of Papua New Guinea accounts for 1,131 people while trade accounts for NZD 257 million.
Mautu said there are a number of Papua New Guineans studying in New Zealand.
“We started a community group called the Wontoks of Aotearoa.
“We get together, we laugh, we have picnics, we share stories and jokes. It’s about laughing and having a good time like all other Pacific Islanders.”
Honors for the late Queen Elizabeth II have been included in Independence Day celebrations, indicating positive relations between Papua New Guinea and the UK.
Immediately following a flag ceremony on PNG’s Independence Hill in Port Moresby, where the PNG flag was first raised, a 96-gun salute was performed in its honor by the PNG Defense Force. The flag was at half-mast.
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape opted to miss independence celebrations to attend the Queen’s funeral in the UK.