Rabaul Historical Society

The Rabaul HistoricalSociety is a volunteer group, working to preserve, safeguard, and exhibit the history and relics of East New Britain’s past through its various phases of settlement, governance and occupation.

Rabaul Historical SocietyWith the co-operation and assistance of Rabaul's New Guinea Club (founded in 1933), RBS plans to create an Historic Memorial Learning Centre (HMLC). The HMLC will extend the existing Rabaul Museum, and add a public library, research library and community centre. 

Prior to the 1994 volcanic eruption that destroyed Rabaul, the Rabaul Public Library was considered to be the best in Papua New Guinea but it has never been rebuilt and its important role in the community never properly replaced. The Museum attracts a lot of overseas visitors with relics from PNG’s indigenous past, German colonisation, Australian administration and WW2 Japanese occupation. The HMLC will serve as an extended cultural and educational resource and as a restoration of community.

Location

The Historical Society and its proposed HMLC are located in Rabaul, the former provincial capital until 1994 when 80% of its buildings collapsed beneath the falling ash of the Mt Tavurvur volcanic eruption. The capital was moved to nearby Kokopo, but Rabaul is still popular as a tourist destination, ironically for its volcanoes and slightly surreal atmosphere, but also for superb scuba diving and snorkelling, and rich World War II history. Thanks to its spectacular deep harbour, Rabaul’s port facilities and associated industries have kept the town alive and there’s quite a bit of activity still buzzing around the market and nearby streets. Before the eruption, Rabaul was a busy commercial and recreational boating destination and today 10 - 12 cruise ships still visit Rabaul each year, including the 5000 passenger Queen Elizabeth. Tourism is a major industry in Rabaul and East New Britain generally. 

Assistance requested

The RHS has strong links to local and provincial levels of government and co-ordinate a number of local activities, such as school excursions, historical events, and public awareness campaigns. The proposed HMLC has strong grass roots community and tourism assets to leverage from, but it will require support in building local capacity to strengthen administration, archiving, and electronic filing. It will need technical assistance to improve IT structure, and guidance and training to realise tourism and educational potential. Critically, the RHS will require support to source funding and ensure financial sustainability.

Impact

Through the Australian Volunteers program, an Australian Government initiative, Rabaul Historical Society has begun a partnership which is in its infancy but which has enormous potential to deliver significant benefits to Rabaul and East New Britain province.  The cultural and historic reclamation is of great importance to the local community, as will be the financial empowerment and economic benefit of developing the HMLC as a major tourist attraction.