Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Australian [Mis]treatment of Indigenous Labour in World War II Papua and New Guinea

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2010), 98, (1), 163–182.

Abstract

Leading up to World War II, Australian administrators and settlers constructed Papua New Guineans as primitives in contrast to white Australians. During the war, the negative stereotypes and disparaging attitudes justified exploitative recruitment, negation of indigenous agency, poor working conditions, inadequate compensation, and casual abuse. Certainly in the post-war period white Australians expressed some appreciation for Papua New Guinean participation in the war. But analysis of discriminatory experiences of Papua New Guineans working for Australia suggests that World War II was not a period of drastic change for Papua New Guinean labour. Rather, labour relations represented continuities of colonialism and adhered strictly to continuing racialisation of labour.

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Endnotes

1.George Silk photograph in Australian War Memorial (hereafter AWM), ID 014028, available athttp://cas.awm.gov.au/item/014028, accessed 6 January 2009. Google Scholar

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Riseman, Noah