Over the next few years, major political — and possibly constitutional — changes can be expected in two of Australia’s closest neighbours, as New Caledonia and Bougainville move towards a new political status. Both sets of islands suffered periods of armed conflict — in the 1980s for New Caledonia and in the 1990s for Bougainville. In spite of the widespread calls for independence, there were significant divisions within the population and both conflicts ended with innovative political and constitutional agreements, including delayed referendums on their final political status.
Parts 1 and 2 of this Discussion Paper comprise two separate case studies on New Caledonia and Bougainville. Each details the referendum provisions of their peace agreements and the main steps and timelines towards referendums on self‑determination, as well as the political stresses and tension points that might lead to alternative scenarios. In each case there are significant political, cultural and economic pressures that may derail the process towards independence with a diverse range of players involved in the outcome.