Francis Ona, a leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), (sixth from left, brown hat) ...

Accession Number P04580.108
Collection type Photograph
Object type Colour - Film original transparency (positive) other
Maker Bohane, Ben
Place made Pacific Islands: Solomon Islands, Bougainville, Central Bougainville
Date made 1994
Conflict Period 1990-1999

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright

Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

Francis Ona, a leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), (sixth from left, brown hat) meets with a group of BRA guerillas at Guava village near the Panguna mine, central Bougainville. Ona is leaning on a Japanese samurai sword from the Second World War. Most of the guns the men are carrying are homemade. Francis Ona was a surveyor at the mine and a strong voice in the New Panguna Landowners Association, demanding 10 billion kina (A$14.7 billion) in compensation from Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) for environmental damage caused by the mine. He led the first BRA operations against the mine in late 1988 and has remained the key 'Big Man' on Bougainville. From the start of the civil war until today, he has not left Guava village and his Me'ekamui Defence Force maintains a no entry zone around the mine. Panguna mine, operated by Conzinc Riotinto Australia, closed in 1989 after conflict over the mine became violent: 'Landowners' were dissatisfied with environmental damages and the social impacts of mining. The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) and the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) were deployed to the island, and grievances over the mine turned into a general separatist insurgency. The BRA is the main separatist force in Bougainville, declaring independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1990 after PNG forces withdrew from the country. Following a period of anarchy the PNG forces returned to areas of Bougainville where they had local support. The Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF), aligned with Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the PNG Defence Force, was founded to oppose the BRA. Australia became involved in peacekeeping activities on Bougainville in 1994, when it provided logistic support to the South Pacific Peace Keeping Force (SPPKF) whose role it was to provide a secure environment for the Bougainville Peace Conference.