In 1906, British New
Guinea became Papua, and administration of the region was taken over by newly independent Australia.
With the outbreak of WWI, Australian troops promptly secured the German headquarters at Rabaul, subsequently taking control
of German New Guinea. In 1920, the League of Nations officially handed it over to Australia as a mandated territory. During WWII the northern islands and most of
the northern coast fell to the Japanese who advanced southward until stalled by Allied forces.
By 1945 the mainland
and Bougainville had been recaptured, but the Japanese were impregnable in New Ireland and especially Rabaul in New Britain, where they dug 500km of tunnels. They surrendered these
strongholds at the end of the war. Post-war, the eastern half of New Guinea
reverted to Australia and became the Territory
of Papua & New Guinea. Indonesia took
control of Dutch New Guinea in 1963 (incorporating it into the Indonesian state as Irian Jaya). PNG was granted self-government
in 1973, and full independence was achieved in 1975.
Papua New Guinea's most immediate concern after independence
was its relations with powerful neighbour Indonesia.
After Indonesia's takeover of Irian Jaya, many West
Papuans organised a guerrilla resistance movement - Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) - which fought Indonesian forces
with limited success. Tensions decreased markedly after 1985, as the flow of refugees (estimated at over 10,000) between Irian
Jaya (now called West Papua) and PNG slowed. There are still 7500 West Papuan refugees living
in camps in Western Province
- the largest expatriate group in the country.