178,704 sq mi
462,840 sq km
462,840 sq km
Papua New Guinean(s)
Tok Pisin, English, Hiri Motu, 860 indigenous languages
Roman Catholic, Protestant (Evangelical Lutheran, United Church, Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal, Evangelical Alliance), indigenous beliefs
constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Papua New Guinea, an island country in the western Pacific, spans the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and includes many islands, with the largest being New Britain, New Ireland, and Bougainville. On the mainland, almost half the land area is mountainous, and about 20 percent consists of swampy plains that are seasonally flooded.
The islands have a tropical monsoon climate. Papua New Guinea gained independence from Australia in 1975. The indigenous population is highly heterogeneous because the mountainous terrain has separated communities for centuries. Some 860 native languages have been identified, but there are likely many more, some with only a few hundred speakers.
The country is a parliamentary democracy but has had some difficulty in governing the far-flung island nation. A ten-year rebellion on Bougainville Island was resolved in 2001 by giving the island more autonomy. Papua New Guinea possesses a modern economy based on oil and mining and a traditional economy where 75 percent of Papua New Guineans rely on subsistence agriculture.