World War Two had a profound effect on the nation. For many, it was the first time they had ever left their towns and villages and they discovered an entirely new world. More importantly, the war radically altered people’s attitude towards the Europeans. Their mask of superiority had fallen. They were vulnerable.
The Australian government fully acknowledged the ‘debt of gratitude’ they owed Papua New Guinea and soon after the war had ended they assisted generously in developing the infrastructure of PNG society, building roads, schools and health centres. During the 5 years between the end of the war and 1950, the Australians poured 16 million pounds into the PNG economy, more than 40 times the amount spent by the administration in the 5 years leading up to 1939. A Director of Education was appointed and English adopted as the official lingua franca in the belief that it would foster national unity in a country that had over 700 individual languages. The new order also meant increased spending in the public sector. New emphasis was placed on public works and utilities. Aside from education, the health service and roads, aid was used to set up sophisticated communications and electricity systems.
The two decades leading up to Independence were an exciting era for the two halves of Papua New Guinea. For the first time nationals began to take part in the development of their country. Australia was committed to granting PNG full independence. A national flag and crest were designed and Papua New Guinea officially adopted as the country’s name. In 1973, the assets of two Australian airlines operating in PNG were amalgamated and the new national carrier, Air Niugini, was established.