Cultural heritage key to PNG and Australia’s regional development

Also, national galleries and cultural facilities in Australia and Papua New Guinea are underfunded or unsafely supported. However, these places offer significant opportunities in remote and regional areas for cultural, social and economic development. The cultural heritage and arts sectors offer unrealized opportunities to exchange knowledge and skills for the closely neighboring PNG and Australia countries.

With or without stable government support, national galleries and cultural centres are thriving in Australia. Today there are more than 3000 national museums, a number that climbed in 1975 from around 1000. These are places where it is possible to explore, interpret and celebrate local cultural heritage. Many of these organizations are designed and developed by local visionaries and communities, and volunteers often employ them.

The archaeological record shows that PNG and Indigenous Australia have been connected for about 3,000 years when First Nations would exchange ideas, language, and cultural material across the Coral Sea.

First Nations groups in Australia are important national arts and cultural organisations members and designers. The Australia Council for the Arts reports that one out of three people living in regional areas of First Nations is making art. A network of 110 art centres of First Nations offers jobs for around 5,000 artists, as well as being important social and cultural hubs on their own. Organizations such as Desart, which receive funding from the local and national government, support the centres; entities such as this aim to build the profile and capacity of art centres and artists.

While maintaining regional museums and art centres in Australia is difficult, the situation on the other side of the Coral Sea is more challenging. The remarkable (and recently renovated) National Museum and Art Gallery serve PNG’s capital Port Moresby, but there are few museums or art centres outside the capital. The Kokoda War Museum, the J.K., are notable exceptions. Goroka’s McCarthy Museum, Rabaul’s Kokopo War Museum, Alotau’s Massim Museum and Wabag’s Enga Take Anda. Most of the 22 provinces of PNG are not served by cultural heritage or facilities for the arts, but this is not due to lack of potential.

The cultural heritage of PNG is known throughout the world. Museums around the world display the canoes, masks, Kundu (drums), shell ornaments, and stone artefacts of the many language and culture groups of the nation. The Kuk Early Agricultural Site, PNG’s only World Heritage site, is an archaeological landscape that holds evidence of agricultural innovations going back as far as 10,000 years ago.