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Not a Poor Man’s Field – The New Guinea Goldfields

Event Information

  • 1 May 2012 12:30pm
  • Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts (SMSA), 280 Pitt Street
  • Sydney
  • New South Wales
Other Information

Michael Waterhouse, an economist and historian, joins us to discuss an important but little known period in Australia’s history – its colonial experience in New Guinea between the wars.


Micheal will reveal how the New Guinea Goldfields were discovered and, against all odds, developed into the second largest gold-producing province in Australasia in the 1930s. What made these goldfields so different was that everything required to build and maintain eight dredges, three hydro-electric power stations and several townships had to be flown in from the coast. It was an engineering and aviation tour de force and in the process, New Guinea also became a world leader in commercial aviation.


Michael will also examine how the colonial system (implemented during the time of the White Australia Policy) affected the local people, including the efforts of the Australian Administration to ‘civilise’ mainland New Guineans  and an indentured labour system that saw young men ‘recruited’ to work on the goldfields.


NB: On Thursday 24 May from 6:00 – 7:00pm, Michael Waterhouse will return to present and narrate a unique and rarely-seen silent film from the 1930s, showing the activities of the

the largest gold mining company, Bulolo Gold Dredging — not to mention two extraordinary encounters with the local people.