Aussie Diggers will tell stories of Papuans running under heavy Japanese fire during World War II to pick up wounded Aussie solders bringing them to safety.
But for over 40 years, Australia has been ignoring the plea for help of the very people who risked their lives with outstanding bravery to save our own.
If you want to read up on a brief history of what has taken place in West Papua all this time, you can read this. But be prepared to be shocked.
Just recently, The Age published an article on the genocide happening on our doorstep in West Papua, named in the article as “Indonesian Papua”.
Why are some of us, but most especially our politicians, too afraid to use the correct name “West Papua?
Back in 2006, the then Howard government signed the Lombok Treaty with Indonesia, reaffirming Australia’s recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua, a position held by successive Australian governments to this day. Indeed, this was reiterated by Kevin Rudd in a meeting with the Indonesian president in July 2013.
Arguably, this was against the national interest. A Newspoll survey in 2006 found Australian support for West Papuan self-determination to be over 75%.
When it comes to West Papua, all we have done over the years is express ‘concern for human rights in the region’, but not once have we taken it as the serious issue it is.
Let me be crystal clear: Australia has moral and legal obligations to pursue, through its close relationship with Indonesia, an end to the atrocious human rights abuses happening there.
Thankfully, there are some members of our Parliament who doing what they can to help our abused, oppressed and forsaken Papuan neighbours.
Two minor parties in Parliament have found in each other unlikely allies: the Greens and the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
Last year, DLP Senator John Madigan moved a motion that the Senate expresses its condolence at the death of Ms Vikki Riley, a campaigner who dedicated her life to helping refugees and the people of West Papua and East Timor. The government and opposition failed to support the motion, because Ms Riley’s involvement with West Papua was “in conflict” with Australia’s foreign policy.
And all because the motion contained the name “West Papua”, instead of the Indonesian name “Irian Jaya”.
The DLP and the Greens have continuously been questioning the Foreign Minister on Australia’s involvement in promoting and encouraging human rights in West Papua. The usual responses have been less than satisfactory, no surprise there.
Unfortunately, one of these two parties has been playing politics and not the issue.
In November 2011, DLP Senator Madigan supported a Greens motion in support of West Papua, which was knocked down by the house, but the Greens did not return the favour when Madigan put up a similar motion only moments later. See Hansard pages 9502-9504.
While the Greens website outlines a general commitment to human rights and justice, the DLP website clearly shows the Party’s commitment to West Papua, with practical steps that can be taken.You can read the DLP policy here.
By Vince Stefano