• Offered by Department of Pacific Affairs
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Course subject Pacific Studies
  • Areas of interest Pacific Studies, Asia Pacific Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Thiago Cintra Oppermann
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person
  • Offered in Spring Session 2024
    See Future Offerings

Papua New Guinea is Australia’s closest neighbour and shares with it a long and sometimes turbulent history. Engagement with Papua New Guinea’s political system and civil institutions is challenging: there is a great deal of political instability, there are deep difficulties with the machinery of government, very significant cultural differences, logistical complications and heterogeneity across the social and geographic landscape. This course will provide an overview of the political economy of Papua New Guinea, aiming to equip participants with a capacity to understand, navigate and act in this complex terrain.

This course is designed for current and prospective policy makers and aid professionals seeking to better understand PNG’s political and administrative arrangements, and the contemporary social, political and economic transformations underway in PNG. It examines and unpacks PNG’s political economy, and provides the tools to understand the politics of development and the development of politics in PNG. It explores the factors driving social, political and economic reform and examines the relationship between PNG’s formal and informal institutions and state performance, particularly in relation to service delivery.

Topics covered under the course:

  • Turbulence and continuity: the paradox of Papua New Guinean political economy.
  • Subsistence, services and extraction: the Papua New Guinean economy
  • Churches, culture and civil society
  • Disorderly democracy – elections, politics and political culture.
  • Service delivery – District Development Authorities and Constituency Development Funds
  • Future reforms
  • What works in Papua New Guinea, and for whom?

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Describe PNG’s political and administrative arrangements, institutions and the key aspects of PNG’s political economy.
  2. Demonstrate a working understanding of the complexities faced by Papua New Guinean and foreign actors engaging with these institutions, especially regarding service delivery.
  3. Critically apply models to Papua New Guinean politics to develop analysis.
  4. Describe why PNG matters to Australia and identify the key challenges and policy choices for Australia’s relationship with PNG.
  5. Evaluate challenges involved in engaging practically with Papua New Guinean society

Indicative Assessment

  1. PNG Country Brief (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Institutional Reform Evaluation (70) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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12 hours, either face-to-face on campus, or in online video calls through a platform such as Zoom. The course is envisaged as four three-hour workshops. Individual study of approximately 50-60 hours.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

None required

Preliminary Reading

1.    Allen, M and Hasnain, Z. (2010) “Power pork and patronage: Decentralisation and the politicisation of the development budget in Papua New Guinea”

2.    Peter Dauvergne (ed), Weak and Strong States in Asia-Pacific Societies. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1998.

3.    Dinnen, S. (2007) “Twin processes of National Building and State Building”, State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Briefing Note 1/2007.

4.    Duncan, R., Cairns, A., & Banga, C. (2017). Papua New Guinea's service delivery framework at subnational levels, PNG National Research Institute Discussion Paper 154, PNGNRI, Port Moresby. May.

5.    Duncan R, Banga C. (2018) Solutions to poor service delivery in Papua New Guinea. Asia Pac Policy Stud. 2018;5:495–507

6.    Ketan, J. (2013). Political governance and service delivery in Western Highlands Province, discussion paper 2013/ 9, state, Society & Governance in Melanesia, The Australian National University, Canberra

7.    Ketan, J. (2004) The name must not go down: political competition in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea. Institute of Pacific Studies.

8.    May, R.J. State and Society in Papua New Guinea: the first twenty-five years.

9.    May, R. J. 2003. Disorderly Democracy: Political Turbulence and Institutional Reform in PNG. State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Discussion Paper 2003/3. Canberra: Australian National University.

10. Reilly, Benjamin (2004) “State functioning and state failure in the South Pacific”, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 58:4, 474;493.

11. Reilly, B., Brown, M., & Flower, S. (2015). Political governance and service delivery in Papua New Guinea: A strategic review of current and alternative governance systems, Discussion Paper No. 143, PNG National Research Institute, Port Moresby.

12. Standish, B. (2013). Governance is political in Papua New Guinea. IBS Journal of Business and Research, 6, 1–19.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
3 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

3.00 0.06250
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $2220
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $3180
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Spring Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9466 01 Oct 2024 18 Oct 2024 18 Oct 2024 31 Dec 2024 In Person N/A
9467 01 Oct 2024 18 Oct 2024 18 Oct 2024 31 Dec 2024 Online N/A

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