Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.
An Education on P.N.G.

Location and Size  

Papua New Guinea is located in the South Pacific and lies 3 degrees north and 11 degrees south of the Equator. Papua New Guinea consists of a mainland and a collection of islands of varying sizes. The mainland is really part of the island of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland. 
The island as a whole has an area of 868,000 km, which the eastern 462,800 km is part of Papua New Guinea. The Coastal and Islands regions tend to be hot and humid, with temperature ranges averaging between 68 and 89 degrees. Some areas in the South have a distinct rainy and dry season, such as Port Moresby, while other coastal areas have a wet season (Madang and Morobe), but is not so clearly defined as in the South. Rainfall in such areas is high. For example, the city of Lae receives between 13 and 15 feet of rain per annum (390 to 450 cms).
The Highlands regions can be quite chilly at night although the days are usually warm and clear. A typical highlands cloud cycle takes place each day -- clear in the morning with some local fogs followed by an increasing cloud buildup. Afternoon rains are common.
The overall appearance of the country is extremely rugged, particularly in the highlands, which are characterized by sheer slopes, sharp ridges, fast-running rivers and the scars of innumerable landslides.The dominant feature of the country is the central spine, a complex of high mountain ranges intersected by alpine valleys and many plateaus.
The mainland ranges from open beaches to coastal swamps and rough fjord- like areas in Oro Province, to dry savannah country in the Markham and Ramu valleys, and the steep precipitous mountains of the Highlands region. Mt. Wilhelm is the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea and is about 15,000 ft (4000 m). The interior of the island is very mountainous with fast flowing rivers and deep valleys.
There are few large valleys In the Papuan region but the New Guinea region has several large open valleys such as the Asaro, the Jimi and Wahgi, provide excellent agricultural and pasture land. Offshore, there are many small islands, many without fresh water.
Island provinces are located off the tip of Papua with a cluster of islands forming the Milne Bay Province, and to the north of the New Guinea mainland, the provinces of Manus, New Ireland, East New Britain, West New Britain and North Solomons (Bougainville). All island provinces are noted for their coral reefs, beaches, rich volcanic soil and abundance of marine resources. The islands of New Britain and bougainville have active volcanoes and experience earthquakes of up to 5 on the richter scale from time to time.
The Matupit or Volcano erupted recently on September 19, 1994 and destroyed the township of Rabaul. Along the coast, the tropical weather dictates light, comfortable clothing. Umbrellas are more comfortable than raincoats. In the cooler regions, the days are warm so light clothing is recommended. In the highlands, a sweater or light jackets are recommended at night when the temperature drops. Most highlands' residents sleep under blankets all year round. In the highlands temperatures can range from a low of four degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) to a high of 32 degrees Celsius (89 degrees Fahrenheit). The lowland, coastal and island areas have an average daily temperature of 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit).
Country Area & Population
Papua New Guinea has a population of over 4.4 million people (using 1997 projections by the National Statistical Office). The majority of these people live in the highland valleys, many in isolated villages. Apart from the National Capital District (NCD), population density is relatively low.Around 15 per cent of the population live in the major urban areas. The major city and capital of the country is Port Moresbywith a population of about 271,813. Other large towns and cities include Lae, (population 113,118), Madang (32,1171), Wewak (25,143) and Goroka (17,269).
The People, Language, and Religion

The indigenous population of Papua New Guinea is one of the most heterogeneous in the world. Papua New Guinea has several thousand separate communities, most with only a few hundred people. Divided by language, customs, and tradition, some of these communities have engaged in low-scale tribal conflict with their neighbors.  The advent of modern weapons and modern migration into urban areas has greatly magnified the impact of this lawlessness.
A considerable urban drift toward Port Moresby and other major centers has occurred in recent years. The trend toward urbanization accelerated in the 1990s, bringing in its wake squatter settlements, ethnic disputes, unemployment, and attendant social problems, especially violent crime.
The isolation created by the mountainous terrain is so great that some groups, until recently, were unaware of the existence of neighboring groups only a few kilometers away. The diversity, reflected in a folk saying, "For each village, a different culture," is perhaps best shown in the local languages. Spoken mainly on the island of New Guinea--composed of Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of West Papua--some 830 of these languages have been identified; only about 350 to 400 of these are dialcs. The remainder seem to be totally unrelated either to each other or to the other major groupings. Most native languages are spoken by a few hundred to a few thousand, although Enga, used in part of the highlands, is spoken by some 130,000 people. However, the Enga people are subdivided into clans that regularly conflict with each other. Many native languages are extremely complex grammatically. 
Melanesian Pidgin serves as the lingua franca. English is spoken by educated people and in Milne Bay Province. The overall population density is low, although pockets of overpopulation exist. Papua New Guinea's Western Province averages one person per square kilometer (3 per sq. mi.). The Chimbu Province in the New Guinea highlands averages 20 persons per square kilometer (60 per sq. mi.) and has areas containing up to 200 people farming a square kilometer of land. The highlands are home to 40% of the population.
The churches with the largest number of members are the Roman Catholic Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the United Church, and the Seventh Day Adventist church. Although the major churches are under indigenous leadership, a large number of missionaries remain in the country. The bulk of the estimated 2,000 Americans resident in Papua New Guinea are missionaries and their families. Many of the PNG nationals practice a wide variety of religions that are interwoven with the traditional cultures, mainly animism (spirit worship) and ancestor cults.  There are also many other cults represented in New Guinea.  The following is a list of religions that have been the most influential and date back the farthest.


The Methodists were the first Protestant missionaries in Papua New Guinea. They have missions in the Solomon, Papuan, and New Guinea Islands, and are also present in the Highlands.   Methodists commenced work in the Duke of York Islands around 1870. They quickly spread to New Britain and New Ireland. They made extensive use of South Pacific Islanders, and as a result by 1900 many of the missions on the Gazelle Peninsula and surrounding areas were responsible for their own churches.  Later, New Zealand Methodists began to spread east from the Solomons, and were extremely active in Bougainville in the 1920's. After World War Two the Methodists began to move into the Southern Highlands, and began to work with the major tribal groups. Today, they continue to be the most active Protestant church in the rural areas of the country.

The London Missionary Society:

The London Missionary Society, which later formed into the Papua Ekelesia was formed in 1795 as the missionary arm of the Congregational movement. In 1871 fourteen married couples were landed at Daru and Redscar Bay near Port Moresby. Soon missions up and down the southern coast of Papua were controlled from Port Moresby. Deaths and low recruitment hampered the spread of the movement until 1881 when the first baptisms occurred. The church continued to grow and prosper throughout the war years until it reached from the Irian Jaya border to the tip of the Gazelle peninsula. In 1962 the L.M.S. formed the Papua Ekelesia, the first really national church in PNG. It then went on to join with the Methodists in 1968 to form the previously mentioned United Church.


The fist evidence of Anglican work in PNG was in 1891 on the Dogura coast which still acts as the center for all Anglican missionary work today. In 1890 a "Sphere of Influence Treaty" gave the Anglicans an area from Cape Ducie to Mitre rock. Under this treaty the Anglicans enjoyed 50 years of expansion, free from competition from other missions. At first however, recruitment in this area was slow. The first baptisms were conducted in 1896 and the first Bishop enthroned in 1898. World War Two took a heavy toll on their work as many native and expatriate missionaries lost their lives to the Japanese, and in 1951 the eruption of Mt. Livingston further disrupted this work as well. 

Roman Catholic:

With approximately 30% of the population, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest in PNG. Their first mission dates back to 1847 when a group of French missionaries from the Society of Mary came to Woodlark Island. The following year they also established a mission at Rooke Island. Work soon stopped due to the death of Bishop Collomb and a companion from fever, and the departure of the sole remaining survivor in 1849. In 1852 the Mission was recommenced by the Foreign Missions of Milan, but it also did not last very long. Finally, in 1897 three priests and some Fijian catechists from the Society of Mary moved into Bougainville from the North Solomons. Their work succeeded and today the missionaries care for a large number of Catholic converts.

Meanwhile Catholic missionaries from the Society of the Sacred heart of Jesus of Issodoun commenced work on the gazelle Peninsula in 1882. It later became known as the Apostolic Vicariate with headquarters near Rabaul.

The Dutch arrived in Aitape in 1896 where, under the direction of Fr. E. Limbrock, the Society of the Divine Word began extensive work. The Society of the Divine Word (S.V.D.) stretched all the way down the north coast and established a large center at Alexishafen near Madang in 1906. Later the S.V.D. penetrated the Highland and Sepik areas, and continues to be very active today.


Over 20% of the people in PNG are Evangelical Lutheran, making them the largest Protestant church in the country. Lutheran work began along the north coast of New Guinea by the Germans in 1886. In 1887 the Barmen Mission set up headquarters in Madang. Of the 41 missionaries working in Madang 16 died and 21 left within a 25 year period. Gradually, though they began to grow, and by World War One Lutheran work was beginning to consolidate. After the war, control of the missions were turned over to the Australian and American Lutheran Churches. In the 20's and 30's these missionaries made great strides in exploring the Highlands of PNG and spreading Lutheran teachings into the most heavily populated areas of the country. World War Two demonstrated the incredible resolve of PNG Lutherans because, despite much persecution, they continued to keep their faith. In fact, after the war ended a new Lutheran Church was set up in Wabag and many natives were converted.

The Seventh Day Adventist:

 The Seventh Day Adventist Missions in PNG have long refused to be bound by any geographic area, and now represent a strong force in PNG society. Although they began in 1914 with a mission in Manus they have continued on with others such as the Unevangelized Fields Mission in 1931 and the Bamu River Mission in 1939.


The Baptists started work in Enga Province in 1949, where they set up missions at Lumusa and Baiyer River. Known for its rugged nature and rural subsistence farming, it was not one of the easiest areas to begin a mission. It was, however, free from competition and fifty years later the Enga people are now an integral part of the Baptist World Alliance. Missionaries here were primarily from Australia, but now come from all over the world. Today they currently have 360 churches throughout Enga and most of the major cities. Baptists are also very active in other parts of Melanesia, especially in nearby Irian Jaya.

Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975. This followed several years of internal self-rule by a democratically-elected Chief Minister and Government. Universal adult suffrage is enjoyed by the population and there is freedom of the press and of speech.
The National Government consists of three independent branches - the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Executive power is vested in the National Executive Council (NEC) or Cabinet, which comprises the Prime Minister and usually about 27 Ministers.
There are 19 provinces in Papua New Guinea as well as the National Capital District. The provincial governments have a similar constitutional arrangement to the National Government and have concurrent power with the latter in areas such as agriculture, business development, town planning, forestry and natural resources. National laws, however take precedence over provincial laws if there is conflict.
Country Statistics
Official Name: Independent State of Papua New Guinea 

Form of Government: Constitutional Monarchy; National Parliament with 109 Members 

Capital: Port Moresby 

Official Language: English 

Monetary Unit: 1 Kina (K) = 100 toea (t) -- K1 is approximately $US0.40 

Population: Approx. 4.5 million - with population density of 10. 8/km2 

Urban/rural Population: Urban 17.6; Rural 83.4% 

Life expectancy at birth: Male 54 years; Female 56 years 

Sex distribution:: Male 52.73%; Female 47.27% 

Language: 830 indigenous languages 

GDP (current $) 3.0 billion 

GDP growth (annual %) -3.5 

Inflation, GDP deflator (annual %) 7.7
Two distinct economies exist side-by-side in Papua New Guinea - the traditional and the cash economies.
The traditional sector, mainly subsistence and semi-subsistence farming, supports about 85 per cent of the population. Most villages are self-sufficient and small surpluses of produce are available for trading.
Papua New Guinea exports mainly minerals and agricultural commodities. The National Government encourages more production onshore for the needs of the population and for export.
The economy is dominated by mineral and petroleum projects. However, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and manufacturing sectors combined still account for a significant portion of the nation's gross domestic product.
Total exports from Papua New Guinea are valued at more than $US2 billion, major exports being minerals (gold, silver, copper and crude oil), timber, coffee, palm oil, cocoa and copra. Papua New Guinea has experienced a relatively even balance of trade over the last five years, with exports marginally exceeding imports.
Major imports consist of machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, processed food and chemicals. The main mineral deposits are copper and gold but there are also recoverable deposits of other minerals. The Ok Tedi mine, in the Western Province, is now a major producer of copper and gold. The Porgera gold mine in the Enga Province is one of the largest in the world and is expected to produce 11.3 million ounces of gold over its 20 year life. The Lihir project in New Ireland Province is estimated to have 13 million ounces of gold which will be mined over a 30 year period. The Misima gold mine in the Milne Bay Province commenced operations in 1989 and is producing an average of over 300,000 ounces of gold per year.
The waters around Papua New Guinea contain large stocks of marine resources. Within the 200 mile economic zone are large varieties of fish, including migrating schools of tuna.
Forest products are one of Papua New Guinea's major exports. There are 36 million hectares of enclosed forest of which about 15 million hectares of high quality tropical hardwoods are considered to be suitable for development.
History and Major Events
A Spanish navigator, Don Jorge de Meneses, is credited with naming it "Papua" a Malay word for the frizziness of Melanesian hair. The term "New Guinea" was applied to the island in 1545 by a Spaniard, Ynigo Ortis de Retez, because of a similarity between the islands' indigenous people and those found on the African Guinea coast.
European traders, adventurers and gold explorers visited in the 16th and 17th centuries, but land claims did not begin until 1828, when the Dutch took control of the western half of New Guinea, now Irian Jaya. Due to the rugged terrain and isolated village communities, the impact of colonization varied throughout the nation.
Prior to World War II, Papua New Guinea was two separate territories. The territory of Papua was a British colony until 1884, and
was later ceded to Australia to administer. New Guinea was part of the pre-World War I German Empire, but it, too, was given to Australia to administer at the end of World War I. During World War II, Japanese forces occupied PNG. Following the war, and the expulsion of Japanese forces, the two territories were amalgamated into one, which became known as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
Australia focused its efforts on developing PNG's cash economy and the democratization of the central government. The Papua and
New Guinea Act of 1949 provided for a Legislative Council, judicial system, a civil service and a local government system. A generally protectionist policy pervaded and characterized Australia's efforts in the 1950s. In 1964, the first House of Assembly was established to provide Papua New Guineans a greater role in the country's political decision-making process. With domestic and international pressure for independence mounting, preparations for political independence began in earnest in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
In 1972, Michael Somare became Chief Minister of a democratically elected government, and in 1973 the country was administratively unified and renamed Papua New Guinea. Independence came to the nation on September 16, 1975.
In a country of four million people with 830 different languages, Papua New Guinea cannot be compared with any other country for its rich cultural diversity. There is no such thing as a typical Papua New Guinean. More than 200 cultures, each with differenttraditions, have been identified.
The impact of modernisation brings daily change to Papua New Guinea, but the majority of people, whether they be from the Highlands to the Coastal regions, remain dependent on subsistence farming and live in small villages. Much of the inherited social structure, from matters affecting gardening to marriage and death, remains unchanged.
The responsibility for the day to day work of gardening and caring for children and animals still lies with the women. Social units are based on family, clan and tribe. Ownership of material wealth is vested in the household and controlled by a male elder. Wealth was not traditionally accumulated for its own sake, but so it could be given away, with elaborate ceremony, creating prestige for the giver and placing obligations on the receiver. Fundamental to the society were notions of reciprocity and family obligations. This still holds true in today's society.
Ancient rituals are still performed for important social events. These elaborate ceremonies are normally presided over by the elders of the clan, with warriors painted and decorated in bright colours, feathers and shells. Today each of the twenty provinces has its own cultural festivals and regional shows where groups are invited to perform and visitors have the opportunity to glimpse the many visual and performing arts of Papua New Guinea. The most popular shows include the Hiri Moale, held in Port Moresby every September, the Mount Hagen show, held annually in August and the Goroka Show, every September, which attracts tourist from all over the world.
Papua New Guinea's art forms are as diverse as they are distinctive. In a country where language varies from village to village, it can be expected that artistic expression will differ in style just as dramatically. Pottery, weapons, carvings, basketwork, musical instruments are produced by different people in different places, according to their traditional skills and beliefs.
The Waigani area of the National Capital District is home to the impressive Parliament House building and the National Museum and Art Gallery, which exhibits one of the finest collections of primitive art in the world. Sepik River carvings, Malagan masks and Trobriand Island fishing vessels are just some of the unique examples of Papua New Guinean culture on display.
Parliament House building is constructed in the style of a traditional Sepik River Haus Tambaran, or Spirit House. Artists and craftsmen from the villages throughout PNG were brought together to work on the impressive carvings, mosaics and murals. The result is a magnificent testimony to this culturally diverse and fascinating nation.
Papua New Guinea artefacts and handicrafts can be purchased from individual artists and retail outlets in towns and villages. The faculty of Creative Arts at the University of PNG at Waigani is also an excellent source of paintings, pottery and etchings. Contact the Provincial Tourist Office, located in each of the provincial headquarters for details of the best places to view and purchase local; handicrafts and artefacts.
PNG Flag and National Anthem
The Papua New Guinea National flag, formally adopted in 1971, is rectangular in proportion of four to three. It is divided diagonally from the top to the hoist to the bottom of the fly. On the upper part appears a yellow " Kumul ", Bird of Paradise on the red background. On the yellow part are five stars representing the Southern Cross, on the black background. Black, red and yellow are traditional colors in Papua New Guinea. 

The Bird of Paradise plays and important role in the social and
cultural activities of many groups in the country and its plumes are often used as ceremonial decoration. On the flag it is shown soaring above the Southern Cross, with display plumes trailing, symbolizing Papua New Guinea's emergence into nationhood. 

The Southern Cross is the constellation notable in the night skies of
Papua New Guinea and other countries of the Southern Hemisphere.
It appears on the flag to signify the country's historical relationship
with other nations of the South Pacific. 
National Anthem: " O ARISE ALL YOU SONS "
O arise all you sons of this land
Let us sing of our joy to be free.
Praising God and rejoicing to be
Papua New Guinea.

Shout our name from the mountain to seas
Papua New Guinea.
Let us raise our voices and proclaim
Papua New Guinea.

Now give thanks to the good Lord above
For His kindness, His wisdom and love
For this land of our fathers so free,
Papua New Guinea.

Shout again for the whole world to hear
Papua New Guinea,
We're independent and we're free,
Papua New Guinea.

Image Gallery