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Australasian empire

Australia took control of Papua, formerly British New Guinea, in 1906 to secure its regional borders and prove its status as a mature nation capable of running a colony. By 1913 there were 1219 Australians living in Papua – mostly planters, miners and colonial officials. Many sought to make their fortune in oil, gold or ‘boom’ crops such as sisal or copra. Hubert Murray, Australia’s first and longest-serving lieutenant-governor of Papua, struggled to balance the rights of the Papuan people against the demands of settlers for more land and more indentured labour.

Antarctic exploration offered Australia another arena in which to boost national prestige, by extending the limits of scientific knowledge. Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition produced detailed observations in magnetism, geology, biology and meteorology, and his territorial claims became the basis for the 46 per cent of Antarctica now claimed by Australia.

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