Hubert Murray

John Hubert Plunkett Murray (1861-1940), Chief Judicial Officer of British New Guinea and Administrator of the Australian Territory of Papua. Born in Australia, and educated in Australia and England, Murray became a barrister in London after graduating from Oxford University. In 1886 he joined the legal profession in Australia, in 1900 fought in the Boer War in South Africa and in 1904 became the Chief Judicial Officer of British New Guinea. At the 1906 Royal Commission into the administration of Papua, he attacked the Administrator, Captain F.R. Barton, for failing to support European commercial enterprise in the colony. Barton was retired and Murray appointed Acting Administrator and in 1908 Administrator.

Initially he attempted to follow a dual policy of encouraging European development and protecting the local people against gross exploitation by the settlers. These aims were incompatible. Murray’s protection of the people, and external factors over which he had no control, discouraged large-scale settlement. From 1912 he concentrated on the extension of Administration control by mainly peaceful means and the gradual integration of the local people into Western society. He appointed Village Councillors and Native Medical Assistants, and encouraged the missions and subsidized their schools. His paternalistic “pro-native” policies were opposed by most European settlers. Although Murray shared the view of other colonists that the natives were intellectually and culturally inferior, and passed racially discriminatory legislation against them, he thought more highly of Papuans and credited them with more ability than did most expatriates. Murray refused to retire and died in Samarai hospital, at the age of 79, after an inspection of the Trobriand Islands.

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