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Former Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery, has launched Dr Tristan Moss’s book Guarding the Periphery: the Australian Army in Papua New Guinea, 1951 – 1975. The book explores the long involvement of the Australian Army in PNG after the Second World War, charting the development of Australia’s colonial army into an independent Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
During the launch, Major General Jeffery praised the work as an engaging, well-researched and important contribution to Australian history. Not only did the book demonstrate the profound strategic importance of the Army’s Papua New Guinean units, Major General Jeffery stated, it also integrated discussions of race relations, family life and Army involvement in Papua New Guinea’s decolonisation.
Major General Jeffery, who served in Papua New Guinea twice, including as the last Australian Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, the Pacific Islands Regiment, particularly commended Moss for capturing the experience of serving in Papua New Guinea.
He finished his launch citing the book’s closing words: ‘the Australian Army during the period between 1951 and 1975 was not a force that existed only on the battlefields of South-East Asia, or that was composed entirely of Australians. Instead it was an institution with far wider and more complex responsibilities, one of which was the establishment and management of a force of Papua New Guineans and the eventual creation of an independent defence force’.
Dr Moss is a graduate of the Bell School, completing his doctorate in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in 2015, for which he won the C. E. W. Bean Prize for Military History. He is currently a researcher on the Official Histories of Australian Operations in Afghanistan, at the Australian War Memorial.
Guarding the Periphery: the Australian Army in Papua New Guinea, 1951 – 1975 is available from Cambridge University Press