• 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
  • Mode of delivery Online or In Person

Bougainville held its referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea in November 2019. The option for independence won by an overwhelming majority. With this, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville enter an unprecedented phase in their history. How did this happen? Where does it lead? How does what has happened in Bougainville relate to the broader context of Papua New Guinea, Melanesia and the region? These are challenging and as yet not fully answered questions now faced by Bougainvilleans, Papua New Guineans, and also their neighbours, including Australia. This course aims to provide its participants with a strong knowledge base from which to understand and participate in the conversations now taking place regarding the future of Bougainville.

In this course we will examine the origins of Bougainville nationalism and situate it within the context in which it emerged: colonial and post-colonial Papua New Guinea. We will follow the history of the Bougainville conflict, or kraisis, and the decade-long search for peace, and compare the development of these political movements and those elsewhere in PNG. Careful attention will be paid to the political dynamics in the period after the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, to seek to understand how a once radical position became de facto government policy. Finally, we will examine the referendum vote itself and its implications.

Topics covered under the course:

  • Driman (dream): the significance of the Bougainvillean referendum
  • Gavman blo mipela (our government): the context and origins of Bougainvillean nationalism.
  • Kraisis na bel isi (crisis and peace): the Bougainville Conflict and peace process
  • Otonamas i stap pinis (autonomy is here): Autonomous Bougainville Government
  • Vot blo yumi (our vote): the referendum, its administration and politics
  • Bruklus? (Indepence?): challenges of the post-referendum period.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Describe the aspects of Bougainville’s political development and current constitutional arrangements.
  2. Identify the factors driving secessionism and the consolidation of political movements in Bougainville.
  3. Contrast and compare the factors at play in subnationalist politics in Bougainville with those elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.
  4. Demonstrate and understanding of the complexities involved in the relationship between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.
  5. Understand and describe the key political challenges facing Australia, Papua New Guinea and Bougainville as it enters a period of transition.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Bougainville Brief (30) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  2. Scenario analysis (70) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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This course comprises some 65 hours of activity over 12 weeks, both interactive/seminar based and independent research. The course comprises a maximum of 3k words of assessment or the equivalent. Please note this is a general guide, averaged over the semester and the final hours ultimately depend on the individual's ability in reading and writing.

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

None required

Preliminary Reading

1.    Boege, V. (2006) “Bougainville and the Discovery of Slowness: an Unhurried Approach to State-Building in the Pacific” Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Queensland, Occasional Papers Series 3, June 2006.

2.    Carl, A. and Sr. Lorraine Garasu (eds) (2002) Weaving Consensus: The Papua New Guinea – Bougainville Peace Process. Conciliation Resources in Collaboration with BICWF, London, 2002.

3.    Lasslett, K. (2014) State Crime on the Margins of Empire: Rio Tinto, the War on Bougainville, and Resistance to Mining. Pluto.

4.    Masono, R. (2008) “Government Capacity and Citizen expectations in Bougainville: The impact of political autonomy” Crawford School of Economics and Government Discussion Paper 06-08.

5.    Ogan, E. (1991) “The Cultural Background to the Bougainville Crisis”, Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 92-92, pp. 66-67.

6.    Ogan, E. (1999) “The Bougainville Conflict: Perspectives from Nasioi” State Society and Governance in Melanesia Discussion Paper 99/3.

7.    Regan, A. and Helga Griffin (eds) (2005) Bougainville Before the Conflict. Pandanus Press, Canberra.

8.    Regan, A. (1998) “Causes and Course of the Bougainville Conflict” The Journal of Pacific History , Vol. 33, no. 3, 269-285

9.    Regan, A. (2010) Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, by Anthony J. Reagan. United States Institute of Peace Press, Washington.

10. Regan, A. (2019) The Bougainville Referendum: Law Administration and Politics.


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Unit value:
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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.

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