Sunday, July 17, 2011

Creating the picture through other no less important concepts

Left image: Bongu; Mikloucho-Maclay's paradise.
Right image: Ashore at Bili Bili, home of the pottery in the Madang Province.

Related sites to the Spatialworlds project
Spatialworlds website
21st Century Geography Google Group
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website
'Towards a National Geography Curriculum' project website
Geography Teachers' Association of South Australia website
Email contact

Where am I??
Melbourne, Australia: S: 37º 47' E: 144º 58'

Madang through the concepts of Change, Interconnection and Sustainability

In the last posting I painted an initial geographical picture of Madang, PNG through the concepts of Place, Space and Environment. In this posting I will add to the complexity and richness of the geographical picture of Madang through the no less important concepts of Change, Interconnection and Sustainability. As mentioned previously in the Spatialworlds blog, these are three of the seven concepts identifed by the draft Australian Curriculum: Geography which will soon be on-line for public consulatation(August-September 2011). In the meantime I have been writing these blogs on Madang to see if these concepts provide the richness and coverage as key geographical concepts for valid, elaborate and interesting geographical thinking.

More questions than answers but worth of geographical exploration and thinking

* Change

• Human contact with the New Guinea mainland has extended through the past 50,000 years
• The first European to spend any length of time on the PNG mainland was Russian biologist Nicolai Miklouho-Maclay. He arrived at Astrolabe Bay, south of the present site of Madang, in 1871 and stayed for 15 months
• Madang was first colonised by the Germans in 1884 (German New Guinea Company) arrived and tried to establish a base at various locations including at present day Madang but were continually beaten by malaria. They eventually moved to Rabaul. When in the province they established a settlement, developed plantation and built roads (the German presence can still be seen in the remnant plantations, old deserted settlements and various place names). The Lutheran Mission arrived during this time and Finschhafen remains a Lutheran base.
• The Commonwealth of Australia assumed a mandate from the League of Nations for governing the former German territory of New Guinea in 1920.
• The Japanese invaded and captured Madang without a fight during World War II in 1942. In September 1943, Australian forces launched a sustained campaign to retake the Finisterre Range and Madang. The town was captured on April 24, 1944. During the occupation and fighting the town was virtually destroyed and had to be rebuilt afterwards.
• Due to changes caused by outside contact over the years, cultural loss has been great but isolation of many groups has caused that rate of change to be diversely uneven.
• Australian administration had an enormous impact on Madang with Australian administrators, companies, patrol officers, health workers and teachers contributing to the growth and welfare of the country. This influence, with the continuing influence of the Lutheran Mission as a legacy of the German colonisation are clearly seen in aspects of Madang life today. Non-religion overseas volunteer organisations such as VSA also continue to play an important role in the life of the Madang Province.
• PNG and subsequently Madang gained independence in 1975 and has been challenged to maintain services and growth for its people since. PNG still receives % of Australian aid and Australian companies continue to be active in a diverse range of industries.


• The 2007 opening of the spur to the Highlands Highway between Lae and Madang linked Madang by road to Lae and the mountain spine of the PNG Highlands. This connection has had a great impact on the nature and population of the area and the movement of people between the Highland mines and Madang. It has meant that villages from the Madang province can more easily come in to Madang for supplies and gatherings and Papuan New Guineans from others centres and areas can easily migrate to the town. This has put pressure on services in Madang and many consider peaceful and safe Madang may be blighted with some of the crime and lawlessness experienced by centres such as Lae. The highway linkage has also had the impact on people from the Madang area traveling and working in the mines and timber industries in the Highlands with the associated changes to family, community and economic structures in the Madang Province.
• Sea transport still remains a crucial link for villages traveling from coastal areas to Madang. The movement of people by sea is a prominent and visible industry in the Madang area.
Foreign investment and the connections with foreign nationals including Australian and Chinese.
• PNG still has strong connections with Australia through AusAID and the churches still operating missions, schools, colleges/universities etc in areas such as Madang.
• Even though most of the population lives in poverty (or subsistence) many have mobile phones due to the inroads of the Irish company Digicel. This is an amazingly cheap communication technology where a person can buy a mobile phone for 20 Australian Dollars with phone calls of only 20 cents/minute locally and 60cents/minute to Australia (no connection fees or monthly bills). What is the status, economic and social impact of such connections for people with little possessions other than a mobile phone. There are Digicel advertisements and top-up places everywhere in Madang!
• Internet is only in two places in the Madang province; The Divine Word University and the Madang Resort (not even at the high school yet but they say it is coming next year). The lack of Internet for local in 2011 in such an area except for foreigners is surprising. What will be the impact on Madang Province in terms of interconnections when it is available?

* Sustainability

The issue of environmental, social, economic and political sustainability of the Madang province is influenced by factors such as:

* Environmental sustainability
• Volcanic and earthquake activity. Offshore islands, in some cases volcanic, with Karkar, Bagabag and Manam being notable. In 2004/2005 the population of Manam Island was evacuated due to an eruption of the volcano. Bagabag and Karkar have had no major volcanic activities in recent years. This active volcanic region is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and has created crater lakes, smoking volcanic cones and black sand beaches.
• Timber milling and the clearing of forests.
• Erosion of soil by the clearing of forests for Palm Oil production.
• Slash and burn technology still used by villagers to sustain the soil. Constant smell of burning evident.

* Economic sustainability
• Infrastructure – pot holes, rubbish, limited public works and facilities (including education resources and provision).
• Impact of foreign investment and companies.
• Impact on subsistence agriculture of land being used for commercial crops such as Palm Oil.

* Social/cultural sustainability
• Outside contact over the years has led to cultural loss in major settled areas of the province. However due to isolation many groups has caused that rate of change to be diversely uneven.
• The cost of education and the opportunity for employment.
• Impact of males leaving province seeking work.
• Impact of employment opportunities for women in resorts.
• Impact on social structures in villages if subsistence agriculture is threatened by commercial crops.
• Impact of almost everyone having a mobile phone on social structures.

*Political sustainability
Governanceimplied corruption

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