An Examination of the Effects of Ethnic Contact upon Attitudes of some Australians in Papua New Guinea

Dennis Armstrong

Other Details: Masters Thesis, University of Queensland School of Psychology, presented in 1972.
Available at Fryer Library, University of Queensland (Number: THE 4582)

The group studied were National Servicemen Teachers who were sent to PNG to teach in the Pacific Islands Regiment. They were taken from the groups who arrived in PNG in October of 1968, 1969 and 1970. The author states that the prime task of these teachers was to conduct courses in English, Mathematics, Social Science and Science at Junior Secondary level.


Considerable change in attitudes was observed as a result of the analysis of the data from the questionnaires.
– Prior to contact, The Papua New Guinean was typified by characteristics of high positive values. It was a simple but positive attitude. (An explanation was suggested that this was the result of a general feeling of appreciation for the assistance of the “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels” during World War 2).
– After 12 months (indeed, after 6 months), these views had changed. They had become more complex and indicated that the Papua New Guinean was less positively valued (less fit, happy, cheerful, more over-protected, inconsistent, under worked and lazy, less reliable, unambitious and less in control of their emotions). This shows the groups studied had become more judgemental as the reality of the contact confronted them.

Some other findings that appeared in the data:
– The older, more experienced members of the groups tended to be more tolerant than the younger ones.
– Chalkies in PNG were significantly less satisfied with their lot at the end of their time of National Service when compared with National Servicemen who were based in Australia. The author suggests that this was most likely the result of the cultural contact situations they had faced.


The following are the biographical details of the groups studied:

1968 1969 1970
Number   37 36 40
Average Age   21.7 22.5 22.4
IQ *   122 118 122
* mean and based on Army General Classification Test
Prior Residence QLD 5 4 8
NSW 12 13 13
VIC 14 14 11
SA 3 3 3
WA 2 2 6
TAS 1 0 0
Educational Level University 14 14 15
College 23 22 25


The group was homogeneous in age, education, Army experience, intelligence, and personal adjustment.
It was better educated, more intelligent and better adjusted, personality-wise than the general population.

Also, it was noted that in the work situation, the intensive contact was with atypically high-quality Papua New Guineans. The PNG soldier was in a high status occupation attracting many of the best the school systems had to offer.
A further point made was that the group was in a system which had a strong institutional emphasis on promoting positive attitudes to the Papua New Guineans.

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