Puneet Varma (Editor)

Bougainville Island

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Highest elevation
2,715 m (8,907 ft)

175,160 (2000)

2,715 m

Highest point
9,318 km²

Island group
Bougainville Island wwwyestolifenotominingorgwpcontentuploads201

Pop. density
18.80 /km (48.69 /sq mi)

Bougainville Island is the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea. This region is also known as Bougainville Province or the North Solomons. Its land area is 9,300 km2. The population of the province is 175,160 (2000 census), which includes the adjacent island of Buka and assorted outlying islands including the Carterets. Mount Balbi at 2,700 m is the highest point. Although Bougainville Island is geographically part of the Solomon Islands archipelago, it is not a part of the state of Solomon Islands.


Map of Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea


Bougainville was first settled some 28,000 years ago. Three to four thousand years ago, Austronesian people arrived, bringing with them domesticated pigs, chickens, dogs and obsidian tools. The first European contact with Bougainville was in 1768, when the French explorer Louis de Bougainville arrived and named the main island for himself.

Germany laid claim to Bougainville in 1899, annexing it into German New Guinea. Christian missionaries arrived on the island in 1902.

During World War I, Australia occupied German New Guinea, including Bougainville. It became part of the Australian Territory of New Guinea under a League of Nations mandate in 1920.

In 1942, during World War II, Japan invaded the island, but allied forces launched the Bougainville campaign to regain control of the island in 1943. Following the war, the Territory of New Guinea, including Bougainville, returned to Australian control.

In 1949, the Territory of New Guinea, including Bougainville merged with the Australian Territory of Papua, forming the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, a United Nations Trust Territory under Australian administration.

On 9 September 1975, the Parliament of Australia passed the Papua New Guinea Independence Act 1975. The Act set 16 September 1975 as date of independence and terminated all remaining sovereign and legislative powers of Australia over the territory. Bougainville was to become part of an independent Papua New Guinea, however, on 11 September 1975, in a failed bid for self-determination, Bougainville declared the Republic of the North Solomons. The republic failed to achieve any international recognition, and a settlement was reached in August 1976. Bougainville was then absorbed politically into Papua New Guinea with increased self-governance powers.

Between 1988 and 1998, civil war on the island claimed over 15,000 lives. The Peace talks brokered by New Zealand began in 1997, leading to autonomy for the island. A multinational Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) under Australian leadership was deployed. In 2001, a peace agreement was signed including promise of a referendum on independence from PNG.


Bougainville is the largest island in the Solomon Islands archipelago. It is part of the Solomon Islands rain forests ecoregion. Bougainville and the nearby island of Buka are a single landmass separated by a deep 300-metre-wide strait. The island is 9000 square kilometres, and there are several active, dormant or inactive volcanoes which rise to 2400m. Mount Bagana in the north central part of Bougainville is conspicuously active, spewing out smoke that is visible many kilometres distant. Earthquakes are frequent, but cause little damage.


The daily volume of wild rivers appears to be decreasing. This has been affected by deforestation caused by the increased demand for gardens to feed the growing population. Mining with its use of chemicals and its aftereffects poses other environmental issues, e.g. alluvial gold mining and the now decommissioned Rio Tinto-owned Panguna mine.


The majority of people on Bougainville are Christian, an estimated 70% being Roman Catholic and a substantial minority United Church of Papua New Guinea since 1968. Few non-natives remain as most were evacuated following the civil wars.


There are many indigenous languages in Bougainville Province, belonging to three language families. The languages of the northern end of the island, and some scattered around the coast, belong to the Austronesian family. The languages of the north-central and southern lobes of Bougainville Island belong to the North and South Bougainville families.

The most widely spoken Austronesian language is Halia and its dialects, spoken in the island of Buka and the Selau peninsula of Northern Bougainville. Other Austronesian languages include Nehan, Petats, Solos, Saposa (Taiof), Hahon and Tinputz, all spoken in the northern quarter of Bougainville, Buka and surrounding islands. These languages are closely related. Bannoni and Torau are Austronesian languages not closely related to the former, which are spoken in the coastal areas of central and south Bougainville. On the nearby Takuu Atoll a Polynesian language is spoken, Takuu.

The Papuan languages are confined to the main island of Bougainville. These include Rotokas, a language with a very small inventory of phonemes, Eivo, Buin (Terei), Keriaka, Nasioi (Kieta), Nagovisi, Siwai (Motuna), Baitsi (sometimes considered a dialect of Siwai), Uisai and several others. These constitute two language families, North Bougainville and South Bougainville.

None of the languages are spoken by more than 20% of the population, and the larger languages such as Nasioi, Korokoro Motuna, Telei, and Halia are split into dialects that are not always mutually understandable. For general communication most Bougainvilleans use Tok Pisin as a lingua franca, and at least in the coastal areas Tok Pisin is often learned by children in a bilingual environment. English and Tok Pisin are the languages of official business and government.

Human rights

A 2013 United Nations survey of 843 men found that 62% (530 respondents) of those have at least once raped a woman or girl, with 41% (217 respondents) of the men reported having raped a non-partner, whereas 14% (74 respondents) reported having committed gang rape. Additionally, the survey also found that 8% (67 respondents) of the men had raped other men.

Bougainville and its 1990s struggle for independence is the setting for the 2006 novel Mister Pip, by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones. The book was made into a film of the same name in 2012. It starred Hugh Laurie and was set in Bougainville.

An Evergreen Island (2000), a film by Australian documentary filmmakers Amanda King and Fabio Cavadini of Frontyard Films, showed the ingenuity with which the Bougainvillean people survived for almost a decade without trade or contact with the outside world.

The Coconut Revolution, a documentary about the struggle of the indigenous population to save their island from environmental destruction and gain independence was made in 1999.

Bougainville - Our Island Our Fight was a 1998 film by director Wayne Coles-Janess. It featured footage of the war from behind the blockade.


Bougainville Island Wikipedia

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