Protecting Australian Protected Persons
Statelessness and Papua New Guinea’s Independence
This article examines the changing concepts of racialised citizenship in two intertwined nations: the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (‘PNG’) and the Commonwealth of Australia (‘Australia’), PNG’s former colonial ruler, as the latter sought to shake off the legacies of its recently abandoned ‘White Australia’ policy. It examines the historical intersection between PNG’s developing citizenship criteria, with its racialised articulation of who was ‘in’ and who was ‘out’, and Australia’s efforts to recast its image on the international stage as a multi-racial, non-racist and anti-imperial nation. Specifically, it demonstrates how the intersection of these policy choices impacted on a particular cohort of so-called ‘Australian Protected Persons’ (‘APPs’). APPs who happened also to fall outside PNG’s citizenship criteria were left stateless at PNG’s independence. Drawing on newly released Australian archival material, this article casts light on the particular historical moment that allowed for this outcome.