Exploration of the New Guinea Highlands

Southern Dominions

Australasia 1936.1231

Exploration of the New Guinea Highlands

From the Federation of Australia and World War I in the South Pacific to the outbreak of World War II (31 December 1936)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

Prior to 1930, the mountainous interior of New Guinea was largely unexplored and thought to be mostly uninhabited. Then in the early 1930s Australian and Dutch patrols finally began penetrating the highlands with the aid of aircraft. To their surprise they discovered numerous populous villages and a rich variety of cultures - over a million people previously unknown to the outside world.

Main Events

Independence of Manchukuo

An independent Manchu State (Manchukuo) is proclaimed in northeast China with the backing of the Japanese Kwantung Army, which is in occupation of the territory. On 1 March, Puyi, the last Manchu Emperor of China, is installed as the Chief Executive, with the reign title Datong. In 1934 he will officially crowned as Emperor of Manchukuo.

Caledon Bay crisis

Five Japanese trepang fishermen are killed by Aboriginals at Caledon Bay in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, Australia. Later two white men are also killed on nearby Woodah Island. When Australian Constable Albert McColl is sent to investigate the deaths, he is killed by Yolngu people after handcuffing one of their women. The crisis is resolved when anthropologist Donald Thomson meets with the Yolngu people and persuades them to make peace with the government.

Western Australian secession referendum

A secession referendum held in Western Australia, proposing that the state withdraw from the Commonwealth of Australia, is approved by 138,653 votes to 70,706. Western Australia sends a petition to the British Parliament to approve the secession but is declined because the request does not have the consent of the Australian federal government as required by the Statute of Westminster.

Mount Hagen patrol post

Australia establishes a patrol post at Mount Hagen in the New Guinea Highlands, Territory of New Guinea, bringing a degree of government to the region. The first aerial reconnaissance of the highlands had only been conducted in 1933 by Mick Leahy, brother Dan Leahy, and government officer Jim Taylor. Before that, the outside world had been completely unaware that over a million uncontacted people lived in the interior of New Guinea.

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