'I want to buy my own block of land': Representation of urban settlement communities in Papua New Guinea

Keywords: content analysis, journalism, market vendors, media representation, news media, Papua New Guinea, photovoice, storytelling, urban settlement


Urban settlements are home to around half the urban population of Papua New Guinea. Since the end of the Second World War, PNG towns and cities have experienced significant growth of urban settlements. Urban dwellings were established on customary and untransformed state lands. With limited support for services from government, informal settlements in the urban landscape have often been perceived from the perspective of their deficiencies. However, residents of urban settlement communities play an important role in urban economies. The purpose of this article is to critically review perceptions of settlements and issues affecting settlement communities in PNG, both in the mainstream media and from within settlement communities. The authors first present a media content analysis of reporting on settlement communities on PNG’s main online media sites. Second, they examine urban market vendors’ personal experiences of the challenges and solutions of living in Kamkumung Settlement in Lae. Drawing on storytelling and photovoice workshops with market vendors at Awagasi market, they argue for the need for media actively to include the voices of settlement residents. The article suggests that, by better understanding the context and personal experience of residents, journalists and the media could make a stronger contribution to sustainable development and urban planning in PNG.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Wilma Molus, Queensland University of Technology

Wilma Molus is currently a PhD student with the Queensland University of Technology, Creative Industries Faculty, School of Design. She graduated with Bachelor in Education from the University of Goroka and Masters in Communication Studies from the Papua New Guinea University of Technology. Prior to taking up doctoral studies at QUT, she was teaching English for Academic Purposes and Development Communication at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology. Wilma’s professional academic experience comes from years of teaching at different educational levels in Papua New Guinea as well as being a development practitioner in PNG working across different social issues in Papua New Guinea.

Verena Thomas, Queensland University of Technology

Verena Thomas is Senior Research Fellow in the School of Design, Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. She holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Technology Sydney. Her research interests include communication and social change, communication for development, health communication, arts-based research approaches, visual methodologies and participatory design.

Verena has developed innovative and creative approaches to localising research in cross-cultural contexts. She is the founding Director of the Centre for Social and Creative Media at the University of Goroka, Papua New Guinea, which she led from 2012-2016. Verena has led over 20 projects funded by donor agencies, government and non-government partners. She has extensive experience in research and media capacity building in the Pacific region.


Jackie Kauli, Queensland University of Technology

Jackie Kauli has over 15 years of experience working in international development and communication for development, working across Papua New Guinea and Australia. Her work focuses on harnessing process drama techniques, creative practice and communication strategies to contribute to development practice. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology where she supervises HDR students.

Laurie Buys, University of Queensland

Professor Laurie Buys is Professor and Director of the Healthy Ageing Initiative, Professor in the Health and Behavioural Sciences Faculty, former National President of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG), AAG Fellow and an AAG Distinguished Member. Laurie’s research directly explores the understanding of, and accountability for, the real effects felt by people resulting from changes in their physical, social and cultural life. She has established strong collaborative partnerships with various community, industry and government organisations to investigate the dynamics of liveable communities, centred around the idea that transdisciplinary approaches to addressing challenges lead to more sustainable outcomes.


Bogosia, S. (2020). Call to remove settlement. The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/call-to-remove-settlement

Bruce (2020). One thought on 'settlement needs water supply'. The National. Retrieved on September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/settlement-needs-water-supply/

City authorities clamp down on illegal settlement (2020a, August 31). The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/city-authorities-clamp-down-on-illegal-settlement/

Cops: Remove settlements. (2021a, March 4). The National Newspaper. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/cops-remove-settlements/

Craig, D., & Porter, D. (2017). 'There is security from this place': Promoting the safety and economic vitality of Port Morseby's local markets. World Bank, Washington, DC. Retrieved on September 2, 2021, from https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/26380

Dambui, S. (2020). No clean water in Madang. EMTV. Retrieved from https://evtv.com.pg/no-clean-water-in-madang-settlements

Get rid of settlements (2021b, April 26). The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/get-rid-of-settlements-2/

Goddard, M. (2001). From rolling thunder to reggae: Imagining squatter settlements in Papua New Guinea. The Contemporary Pacific, 13(1), 1-32. https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2001.0007

Igabi, M. (2020, April 4). Address issues with settlements. The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/address-issues-with-settlements/

Jafa, A. H. (2019, July 4). Upgrading settlements. The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://www.thenational.com.pg/upgrading-settlements/

Jones, P. (2012). Pacific urbanisation and the rise of informal settlements: Trends and implications from Port Moresby. Urban Policy and Research, 30(2), 145-160. https://doi.org/10.1080/08111146.2012.664930

Keneqa, L. (2020). Water Supply Connected to 2 Mile Hill settlement. EM-TV. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://emtv.com.pg/water-supply-connected-to-2-mile-hill-settlement/

Kep, Y. (2019, April 25). Port Moresby settlements to receive mosquitoe nets. PNG Post-Courier. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://postcourier.com.pg/port-moresby-settlements-receive-mosquito-nets/

Kil, L. (2019, October 3). Overcrowding in settlements an obstacle to maintaining law and order: Kaupa. PNG Post-Courier. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://postcourier.com.pg/overcrowding-in-settlements-an-obstacle-to-maintaining-law-and-order-kaupa/

Koczberski, G., & Curry, G. N. (2005). Making a living: Land pressures and changing livelihood strategies among oil palm settlers in Papua New Guinea. Agricultural Systems, 85(3), 324-339.

Koczberski, G., Curry, G. N., & Connell, J. (2001). Full circle or spiralling out of control? State violence and the control of urbanisation in Papua New Guinea. Urban Studies, 38(11), 2017-2036.

Kopel, E., Hukula, F., Kutan, L., & Iwong, L. (2017). Understanding gender dynamics of the informal economy: The case of open markets in Port Moresby. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://pngnri.org/images/Publications/Understanding-gender-dynamics-of-the-informal-economy-Nov2017-copy.pdf

Mecartney, S., & Connell, J. (2017). Urban Melanesia: The challenges of managing land, modernity and tradition. In S. McDonnell, M. G. Allen, & C. Filer (Eds.), Kastom, property and ideology (pp. 57-84). Canberra, ACT: ANU Press.

Moresby South MP moves to ban alcohol in settlements. (2020, January 18). PNG Post-Courier. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://postcourier.com.pg/moresby-south-mp-moves-to-ban-alcohol-in-settlement

Mushrooming settlements, ignorance of regulations pose a serious law and order challenge. (2019, October 1). PNG Post-Courier. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://postcourier.com.pg/mushrooming-settlements-ignorance-of-regulations-pose-a-serious-law-and-order-challenge-2/

Musoke, D., Ekirapa-Kiracho, E., Ndejjo, R., & George, A. (2015). Using photovoice to examine community level barriers affecting maternal health in rural Wakiso district, Uganda. Reproductive Health Matters, 23(45), 136-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rhm.2015.06.011

Nagada settlement eviction begins: Kramer (2021c, January 22) The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://www.thenational.com.pg/nagada-settlement-eviction-begins-kramer

Nao, K. (2020, May 20). Hearty meals for days at Siraka settlement. PNG Post-Courier. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://postcourier.com.pg/hearty-meals-for-days-at-siraka-settlement

Nagada settlement eviction begins: Kramer (2021c, January 22) The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://www.thenational.com.pg/nagada-settlement-eviction-begins-kramer

Numbasa, G., & Koczberski, G. (2012). Migration, informal urban settlements and non-market land transactions: a case study of Wewak, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea. Australian Geographer, 43(2), 143-161.

Phillzmon, B. (2019). Squatter Settlement. The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/squatter-settlement

PNG citizen perceptions of governance and media engagement report (2019). Port Moresby, PNG: ABC International Development.

Police destroyed makeshift houses in settlement. (2020b, January 24). The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from http://www.thenational.com.pg/police-destroy-makeshift-houses-in-settlement

Police target settlements in war on drugs and violence. (2019, March 29). The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/police-target-settlements-in-war-on-drugs-and-violence/

One dead, several homes torched after ethnic clash erupts in city settlements (2021, March 4) PNG-Post Courier. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://postcourier.com.pg/one-dead-several-homes-torched-after-ethnic-clash-erupts-in-city-settlement/

Robie, D. (2013). 'Four Worlds' news values revisited: A deliberative journalism paradigm for Pacific media. Pacific Journalism Review : PJR, 19(1), 84-110. doi:10.24135/pjr.v19i1.240

Robie, D. (2014). Don't spoil my beautiful face: Media mayhem and human rights in the Pacific. Auckland, NZ: Little Island Press.

Robie, D. (2019). Karoronga, kele'a, talanoa, tapoetethakot and va: expanding millennial notions of a 'Pacific way' journalism education and media research culture. Media Asia, 46(1-2), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1080/01296612.2019.1601409

Romano, A. (2010). International journalism and democracy civic engagement models from around the world (First edition). New York, NY : Routledge.

Rooney, M. N. (2019). Sharing what can be sold: Women haus maket vendors in Port Moresby's settlements. Oceania, 89(2), 154-167. https://doi.org/10.1002/ocea.5217

Saraga settlement to suburb project launched. (2021, January 26). PNG Loop. Retrieved from https://www.looppng.com/png-news/saraga-settlement-suburb-project-launched-97142

Scambary, J. (2013). Conflict and resilience in an urban squatter settlement in Dili, East Timor. Urban Studies, 50(10), 1935-1950. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098012470396

Sharp, S., & Papoutsaki, E. (2008). Two models for Pacific islands journalism education. In Papoutsaki, E., & Harris, U. S. (Eds.), South Pacific island communications: Regional perspectives, local issues (pp. 82-101). Singapore & Auckland, NZ: Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) and the Pacific Media Centre.

Tacchi, J., Horst, H., Papoutsaki, E., Thomas, V., & Eggins, J. (2013). PACMAS: State of media and communication report 2013. Melbourne, VIC: ABC International Development.

Tange, U. l. (2020, June 9). Settlement needs water supply. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com.pg/settlement-needs-water

Underhill-Sem, Y., Cox, E., Lacey, A., & Szamier, M. (2014). Changing market culture in the Pacific: Assembling a conceptual framework from diverse knowledge and experiences: Changing market culture in the Pacific. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 55(3), 306-318. 10.1111/apv.12063

Wane, U. (2020, 11 March). Get rid of settlements. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thnational.com.pg/get-rid-of-settlements

Wang, C. C., Yi, W. K., Tao, Z. W., & Carovano, K. (1998). Photovoice as a Participatory Health Promotion Strategy. Health promotion international, 13(1), 75-86. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/13.1.75

World Bank Group. (2014). Papua New Guinea : Sanitation, water supply and hygiene in urban informal settlements. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Workshop helps settlement youths understand social media (2019). The National. Retrieved September 2, 2021, from https://www.thenational.com.pg/workshop-helps-settlement-youths-understand-social-media/

PJR icon
How to Cite
Molus, W., Thomas , V., Kauli, J., & Buys, L. (2021). ’I want to buy my own block of land’: Representation of urban settlement communities in Papua New Guinea. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 27(1 & 2), 232-250. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v27i1and2.1196