Capital Punishment, Clemency and Colonialism in Papua New Guinea, 1954–65

Capital Punishment, Clemency and Colonialism in Papua New Guinea, 1954–65

Authored by: Murray Chisholm orcid

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This study builds on a close examination of an archive of files that advised the Australian Commonwealth Executive on Papua New Guineans found guilty of capital offences in PNG between 1954 and 1965. These files provide telling insight into conceptions held by officials at different stages of the justice process into justice, savagery and civilisation, and colonialism and Australia’s role in the world. The particular combination of idealism and self-interest, liberalism and paternalism, and justice and authoritarianism axiomatic to Australian colonialism becomes apparent and enables discussion of Australia’s administration of PNG in the lead up the acceptance of independence as an immediate policy goal. The files show Australia gathering the authority to grant mercy into the hands of the Commonwealth and then devolving it back to the territories. In these transitions, the capital case review files show the trajectory of Australian colonialism during a period when the administration was unsure of the duration and nature of its future relationship with PNG.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
ANU Press
Pacific Series
Arts & Humanities: History; Law
Pacific: Papua New Guinea

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