16 September 1975

Papua New Guinea gains independence from Australia.

AS THE SUN SET on the afternoon of 16 September 1975, the Australian flag came down for the last time from Hubert Murray Stadium, in Papua New Guinea’s capital of Port Moresby. Almost 70 years of Australian governance was coming to an end.

At 9.30am the next day, a different flag – black and red with a golden bird of paradise – rose on Independence Hill, near a newly formed Parliament House. PNG was no longer an Australian territory but an independent nation.

In contrast to other recently independent states such as Uganda and Kenya, the change of authority in PNG was marked not by bloodshed but by celebration. Sir John Guise, the first Governor-General of PNG, said at the flag lowering ceremony: “It is important the people of Papua New Guinea, and the rest of the world, realise the spirit in which we are lowering the flag of our colonisers. We are lowering the flag, not tearing it down.”

Australia shares a complex history with its closest neighbour. The Australian government first assumed responsibility for the southern half of modern-day PNG in 1906, when Prime Minister Edmund Barton agreed to take control of what was then a British colony.

Australia’s interest in the region lay primarily in the exclusion of other European powers. At the time, Germany occupied the northern half of PNG, so the southern half served as a buffer zone between the Australian mainland and German territory. During the First World War, Australian forces expelled the Germans, and ex-German New Guinea was also claimed as Australian territory.

When the Japanese invaded PNG in July 1942, Australian and Papua New Guinean soldiers banded together to halt the advance – first at Milne Bay and then along the Kokoda Track. The victories underscored the importance of these territories to Australia’s security.

By the 1970s, control of PNG was affording little strategic benefit to Australia and many Papua New Guineans yearned for independence. In 1972, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and PNG leader Michael Somare began working together toward decolonisation. Three years later it became a reality.

Trial separation
Although formally separated since, Australia and PNG have maintained a close relationship. “What seemed like a divorce in 1975 is a trial separation, in which the two governments can negotiate a new way of living next to each other,” says Donald Denoon, writer and former Professor of History at the University of Papua New Guinea.

With some of the worst health and education problems in the Asia-Pacific region, PNG continues to rely heavily on Australian aid; our government will next year provide $482.3 million in funding to promote development and help lift Papua New Guineans from poverty.

Some historians argue that many of the problems stem from a rushed independence – that PNG was not ready to govern itself. Donald disagrees: “Despite immense problems, Papua New Guinea was well governed for at least a decade after 1975. We cannot assume that longer Australian tutelage would have produced better [native] governance.”

Australia is set to provide continuing support, but the ultimate goal is to make PNG self-sustaining. “Papua New Guinea did become independent in 1975,” says Donald, “but I now see this as a phase in a much longer relationship, rather than the end of a turbulent story.”

14 August 1975

The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the longest-running release in film history, opens in London.

It’s astounding, or at least it must be reviewers who panned The Rocky Horror Picture Show when it first flashed its fishnets 40 years ago: Time is fleeting, but the film remains an interactive fixture in theaters around the country, where it has earned the distinction of being the longest-running movie in history.

Rocky Horror — the now-classic tale of a young couple whose lives change when they stumble upon an extraterrestrial transsexual/mad scientist — looks as good in a corset as it did when it opened in London on this day, Aug. 14, in 1975. It premiered in Los Angeles the following month. It has been playing ever since, often as a midnight show, drawing costumed devotees carrying rice, toilet paper and toast, among other props, to throw at the screen.

Critics almost universally slammed the film when it premiered; they’d given mixed reviews to the stage musical it was based on, too. The play had done well in London, where it began its run in 1973, and where the New York Times called it “the trendiest entertainment in town.” In New York, the musical retained its leading man — Tim Curry, who also brings the movie to staggering heights of platform-heeled camp, and whom the Times lauded for “flashing his eyes like headlamps, tossing his curls roguishly, and talking in a voice of sugared bile” — but lost some of its audience appeal.

TIME’s reviewer, for one, was not impressed. “It is not easy to see why this campy trash was a long-running hit in London and a smash success in Los Angeles,” notes the 1975 review, “except that transvestism has always fascinated the British and the L.A. scene is almost as kinky.”

By 1985, TIME’s film critic had kinder words for the movie, calling it “a cross-generational phenomenon, an evocation of ’50s monster movies wrapped in the anything-goes spirit of the ’60s that found a niche in the ’70s and has blossomed in the ’80s into a rite of passage for millions of American teenagers.”

The film, by now, is beside the point, as Roger Ebert noted. It has evolved into a mere vehicle for the audience participation that has sustained its creative spark so long. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not so much a movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon,” Ebert wrote. When the movie’s midnight showings were at their peak in the ‘80s, he said: …the fans put on a better show than anything on the screen. They knew the film by heart, chanted all of the lines in unison, sang along with the songs, did dances on stage, added their own unprintable additions to the screenplay, and went through a lot of props like toilet paper and water pistols. They also formed a sort of weird extended family. They met every week, exchanged ritual greetings, celebrated each other’s birthdays and other major holidays, and even dated and married and gave birth to a new generation of “Rocky Horror” cultists.

Rocky Horror’s standing as a social phenomenon hasn’t wavered; if anything, it’s become more mainstream in recent years. It was the focus of a Glee episode in 2010; this year, Fox announced that it would give the film a modern-day makeover as a TV movie.

And while that remake will rely on the original script, Fox doesn’t anticipate renewed criticism for kinkiness. “Though full of innuendo,” Entertainment Weekly concludes, “it’s unlikely Rocky Horror would receive its original R rating by today’s standards.”

30 May 1975

The European Space Agency is established.

The ESA Convention was signed in Paris on 30 May 1975 by the nine original Member States Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. It entered into force on 30 October 1980 with the deposit of the last instrument of ratification by France, in accordance with its Article XXI, 1.

The idea of creating an independent space organisation in Europe dated back to the early 1960s when six European countries – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK – formed the European Launcher Development Organisation to develop and build a heavy launcher called ‘Europa’. In 1962, those same countries, plus Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, formed the European Space Research Organisation to undertake mainly scientific satellite programmes.

In 1975, a convention was concluded at diplomatic and ministerial level to set up one ‘European Space Agency’, effectively merging ESRO and ELDO, and broadening the scope of the agency’s remit to include operational space applications systems, such as telecommunications satellites.

The ESA collaborated with NASA on the International Ultraviolet Explorer, the world’s first high-orbit telescope, which was launched in 1978 and operated successfully for 18 years. A number of successful Earth-orbit projects followed, and in 1986 ESA began Giotto, its first deep-space mission, to study the comets Halley and Grigg–Skjellerup. Hipparcos, a star-mapping mission, was launched in 1989 and in the 1990s SOHO, Ulysses and the Hubble Space Telescope were all jointly carried out with NASA. Later scientific missions in cooperation with NASA include the Cassini–Huygens space probe, to which ESA contributed by building the Titan landing module Huygens.

As the successor of ELDO, ESA has also constructed rockets for scientific and commercial payloads. Ariane 1, launched in 1979, carried mostly commercial payloads into orbit from 1984 onward. The next two versions of the Ariane rocket were intermediate stages in the development of a more advanced launch system, the Ariane 4, which operated between 1988 and 2003 and established ESA as the world leader in commercial space launches in the 1990s. Although the succeeding Ariane 5 experienced a failure on its first flight, it has since firmly established itself within the heavily competitive commercial space launch market with 82 successful launches until 2018. The successor launch vehicle of Ariane 5, the Ariane 6, is under development and is envisioned to enter service in the 2020s.

The beginning of the new millennium saw ESA become, along with agencies like NASA, JAXA, ISRO, CSA and Roscosmos, one of the major participants in scientific space research. Although ESA had relied on co-operation with NASA in previous decades, especially the 1990s, changed circumstances led to decisions to rely more on itself and on co-operation with Russia. A 2011 press issue thus stated.

14 September 1975

Pope Paul VI canonized the first American saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton.


Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, known as “Mother Seton,” is special to all Americans for historical, humanitarian and spiritual reasons. Though born in the New York City area, she lived in Maryland from 1809 until her death.

Elizabeth Ann Seton was widowed at the age of 29 and left to care for her five children alone. Her late husband’s shipping business had been unstable, and money was scarce. In order to support her family, she attempted to establish a school but met with little success. To the dismay of her friends and relatives, she converted to the Catholic faith. With encouragement and assistance from John Carroll, the first Catholic Bishop of Baltimore, Seton came to Baltimore and established the first free school for girls in 1808. This school, which was the forerunner of the Catholic school system, soon outgrew its original location on Paca Street and moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1809. Also in 1809, Seton founded the first American religious order for women known as the Sisters of Charity. This religious order, later evolved into the Daughters and Sisters of Charity. The order grew throughout the United States and expanded into several foreign countries. Beginning in 1814, Mother Seton and her religious daughters established schools, orphanages and hospitals throughout the world.

On September 14, 1975, Pope Paul VI proclaimed, “Elizabeth Ann Seton is a Saint,” making her the first native born American to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is located in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

26 March 1975

The Biological Weapons Convention takes affect.

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The Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production and stockpiling of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction, was opened for signature on 10 April 1972. The BWC entered into force on 26 March 1975. The Second Review Conference agreed that the States Parties were to implement a number of confidence-building measures in order to prevent or reduce the occurrence of ambiguities, doubts and suspicions and in order to improve international cooperation in the field of peaceful biological activities. The CBMs were expanded by the Third Review Conference.

Under these agreements, the States Parties undertook to provided annual reports – using agreed forms – on specific activities related to the BWC including: data on research centres and laboratories; information on vaccine production facilities; information on national biological defence research and development programmes; declaration of past activities in offensive and/or defensive biological research and development programmes; information on outbreaks of infectious diseases and similar occurrences caused by toxins; publication of results and promotion of use of knowledge and contacts; information on legislation, regulations and other measures.