League of Nations Mandates

Southern Dominions

Australasia 1928.1018

League of Nations Mandates

From the Federation of Australia and World War I in the South Pacific to the outbreak of World War II (18 October 1928)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

With the signing of Versailles (1919), Australia and New Zealand became founding members of the League of Nations. The following year the League granted them mandates over the territories they had conquered from Germany.

Main Events

Mandate of Nauru

The League of Nations grants the Commonwealth of Australia a Class C mandate over Nauru, formerly part of German New Guinea, with the United Kingdom and the Dominion of New Zealand as co-trustees. The island is essentially administered by Australia, but the newly created British Phosphate Commission, run by all three co-trustees, controls the rights to exploiting the island's primary resource - its rich phosphate reserves.

New Guinea Mandate

The League of Nations grants the British Government a Class C mandate over German New Guinea on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia assumes the mandate in 1921, governing it as the Territory of New Guinea.

South Pacific Mandate

The League of Nations granted Japan a Class C mandate over the islands of German New Guinea north of the Equator. These islands included the Caroline Islands, Marshall Islands, northern Mariana Islands, and Palau. The territory became the Japanese Mandate for the South Seas Islands.

Mandate of Western Samoa

The League of Nations conferred a Class C Mandate over the former German Colony of Samoa to the Dominion of New Zealand. On 1 April 1922 the Samoa Act 1921 came into force, allowing the New Zealand Governor-General to appoint an Administrator based in Apia to hold executive power.

1923 Imperial Conference

Following the 1922 Chanak Crisis - where Canada had refused to support a British ultimatum against Turkey - and the March 1923 Halibut Treaty - where Canada had insisted on independently signing a treaty with the United States - the Imperial Conference of 1923 met in London to discuss high policy for the members of the British Commonwealth. However, although Britain, Australia, and New Zealand desired a broad common foreign policy, this stance was rejected by Canada and South Africa as encroaching on their autonomy as Dominions. Instead, the Canadian position was adopted and Britain accepted the right of the Dominions to pursue their own foreign policy while avoiding any action that might injure another member.

North Australia and Central Australia

Under the advice of George Pearce, Minister for Home and Territories in the Federal Parliament of Australia, the Northern Territory is divided along the line of 20 degrees south into the separate territories of North Australia and Central Australia. However the arrangement will last for less than five years, with the separate territories being reincorporated into the Northern Territory on 12 June 1931.

Mau movement

In response to New Zealand rule in Western Samoa, in particular the failure to prevent the 1919 influenza epidemic killing some 22 per cent of the Samoan population, Samoan activists declared a campaign of passive resistance with the O le Mau au Samoa - the 'firm opinion of Samoa'. Rising tensions culminated in NZ police firing on a Mau parade in Apia on 'Black Saturday', 28 December 1929, and later pursuing some 1,500 Mau men into the bush. A truce was declared on 12 March 1930, followed by the NZ Government pardoning the Mau in 1935.

Coniston massacre

A white Australian punitive party, including local police constable Murray, kills 60-170 Warlpiri, Anmatyerre and Kaytetye people in a series of encounters near Coniston cattle station in Central Australia. The massacre occurs in revenge for the death of dingo hunter Frederick Brooks at the hands of Aboriginal people earlier in August. A Board of Inquiry will later acquit the party, but nonetheless this will prove to be the last major massacre of Indigenous Australians.

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