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Papua New Guinea
& Bougainville 

About PNG & Bougainville 


Papua New Guinea (PNG), located in the southwestern Pacific, comprises the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous other islands, including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB). Bougainville has a complex history, having been part of German New Guinea until World War I, after which it came under Australian administration until PNG's independence in 1975.


Tensions over the establishment of the Panguna mine by an Australian company in the 1960s led to calls for Bougainville's secession. This escalated into a violent civil war from 1988 to 1998 between the PNG government and Bougainville Revolutionary Army, resulting in thousands of deaths and widespread destruction. A peace agreement in 2001 granted Bougainville autonomy within PNG, but a 2019 referendum saw overwhelming support for independence, though PNG has not agreed to it yet.



PNG: Port Moresby

AROB: Buka


Main Religions

PNG: Christianity, Protestant, Catholic AROB: Catholic (80%)


Time Zone

PNG: UTC+10, +11 (PNGST)




PNG: English, Hiri Motu, Tok Pisin

AROB: Pidgin and English



PNG: 8,935,000 (2020 est) AROB: 300,000 (2019)



9,318 km²

Arrival of Marists


Number of Marist Brothers Communities and location

3 - Mabiri, Port Moresby, Madang

Number of Brothers

PNG: 3


Marist Schools & location

1 - St Joseph's School, Mabiri

Marists' Impact in PNG and Bougainville: Bridging Cultures, Transforming Lives 


In 1940 Bishop Thomas Wade SM invited the Australian Marist Brothers to open a school on the Island of Bougainville, which at the time was part of the Australian Territory of New Guinea. The first Brothers arrived in August 1941 and went to Chabai on the west coast of the main island where a catechetical boarding school already existed. The timing was tragic. Four months later, the Pacific war started, Bougainville was invaded by the Japanese and became a theatre of war. Brothers Augustine, John and Donatus were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and beheaded sometime around October-November 1942.


Six years later, Brothers Borgia and Simeon arrived on Bougainville, marking the return and continuation of the Champagnat Marist mission. Supported by Bishop Wade and the Marist Fathers, the Brothers moved to Rigu, next to Kieta in central Bougainville, where they established their school, St Joseph’s.


Over succeeding decades, the school grew and developed a fine reputation. Tragically, during the Bougainville crisis it was totally destroyed.


Present day


In 1999 the school was relocated and restarted at what had been St Joseph’s farm property at Mabiri. It is now a boys’ boarding school for over 400 students.


In 2024-25 it will take in its first Years 11 and 12 students.


The Marist spirit of Rigu is alive and well at Mabiri. In the 1950’s, the Marists involvement, in what by that time was Papua New Guinea, developed gradually. In 1950 three Chinese Brothers, who had fled the communist government, arrived in Rabaul to lead Sacred Heart School which was comprised mostly of Chinese students. Soon after Australian Brothers arrived to support the mission but the school closed in 1959.


In 1954 the Brothers opened a small school at Tarlena, on the north west coast of Bougainville Island. The Melbourne Province agreed to send men to the Sepik and in 1959 they arrived at St Xavier’s on Kairiru Island. Melanesians had started to join the Brothers in the 1950’s and a local Juniorate was established at Kieta in 1967.


The decades of the '70s, '80s and '90s were years of more rapid development in the footprint of Marist Ministry. On Bougainville, communities opened at Koromira, Buin and Marai. In PNG proper, Brothers went to Wewak, Kunjingini, Passam, Bongos and Yangoru in the East Sepik. They also opened communities in Goroka, Port Moresby and Madang.














The Marists also ventured beyond their strongholds to the Enga and Western Provinces in this period. The Marist mission on Bougainville came to a standstill during the Crisis of 1988 to 1998.


However when peace was restored, the Marist Brothers were invited to help re-open the schools on what was then the Autonomous District of Bougainville (AROB). Hutjena High School (on Buka Island), Bishop Wade High School (Tarlena), St Mary’s (Asitavi), St Gregory’s Vocational School (Koromira) were all re-developed with Brothers either Principals or members of staff. 


While the works in PNG were initially started and staffed by either the Provinces of Melbourne or Sydney, the Marist mission there gained a degree of autonomy when the District of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands was established in 1984. Its leaders were Jeff Crowe, Des Howard, Ray Arthur, Brendan Neily.


This was reorganised into the District of Melanesia in 2003 when Vanuatu and New Caledonia were added to the administrative unit. Brendan Neily, Ken McDonald and Jean-Marie Batick were its leaders.


In July 2020, the District merged into the Province of Australia. At various times there have been houses of formation in PNG, notably at Wewak, Goroka, Tsiroge and Madang. 


Ministry Today


Over the last twenty years, as the expat Australians left and the number of local Brothers declined, there has been a gradual withdrawal from places of ministry. Currently St Joseph’s Mabiri on Bougainville is the only Marist led and governed School in PNG.


Recently some Brothers have worked at the Lasallian Vocational school in Port Moresby and other Brothers have been members of the staff at Divine Word University Madang; one is still there.


Marist Family


There is no formal arrangement that gives the broader Marist family an identity in PNG. However, there are many former Brothers, ex-students and former staff members who have maintained close connections with the Champagnat Marists. There is an informal network on Bougainville.


There are currently three Communities in PNG.

One at Mabiri, Bougainville; one at Korobosea, Port Moresby, which was the former District Administration Centre; and one on the site of Divine Word University, Madang.

Marist Presence in PNG & Bougainville

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