ENDANGERED WEST PAPUA is a glorious free-standing fused-glass sculpture by BARBARA TIPPER of a baby green turtle in the wondrous waters of the RAJA AMPAT ISLANDS. It was bought by DR JON KOZENIAUSKAS, a Collins St dental specialist, during the Sampari Art Exhibition for West Papua in Melbourne in December 2015. The expertly rendered work mirrors a beautiful image by Queensland photographer JÜRGEN FREUND, whose series of baby turtles embark on what scientists call a ‘swimming frenzy’ to escape the predacious shore waters and begin their ‘lost years’ (up to a decade) in the open sea.
Tipper’s fused-glass work is a technical victory (as well as artistic triumph) over a difficult artform …. requiring the exquisite placement of opaque and transparent dry-glass powder and pieces, which are then vitrified in kiln-temperatures of 1000-1400 degrees fahrenheit.
Because the glass elements wax and wan at different rates while melting and transforming, the heating and cooling processes have to be intricately calibrated to maintain the integrity of the composition and avoid stress faults—like cracking, wrinkling, warping, bubbling.
Tipper’s baby reptile is a lively symbol of all the joy and vitality of Melanesian-Papuans. The grace, the singing, the songs, the dance to protest, or to meet the new bride, whatever; always. Tipper obviously knows the culture, perhaps because she too is a songstress, and loves celebrating the divinity in reason and creative order. It is from the title of her work, and the Sampari Catalogue, that we learn something about the looming extinction of both Papuan people and Papuan turtle in the Indonesian colony.
CATALOGUE, SAMPARI ART EXHIBITION FOR WEST PAPUA …. Indigenous Papuans with ancestral tenure over their reefs and beaches have stewarded their turtle populations for thousands of years. However, the Indonesian Republic recognizes neither indigenous identity nor customary rights. In 2010, a ‘slow motion genocide’ was blamed for 546,126 West Papuans missing since 1963—assassinated, poisoned, exiled, born dead or not at all. Unsurprisingly, the number of leatherback turtle nests recorded since 1984 has decreased by 78% ….
Others have written in more detail about this monstrous colonial baggage:
Jim Elmslie A people reduced from 96% of the population in 1971 to a small and rapidly dwindling minority of 28.99% in 2020 ‘West Papuan Demographic Transition and the 2010 Indonesian Census: Slow Motion Genocide or not?’ Sydney University 2011
World Wide Fund for Nature The green turtle is one of the world’s seven species of turtle on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list 2015 Living Blue Planet Report
Tom Allard There’s a vessel every month from Raja Ampat to Townsville, loaded with thousands of tons of red soil rich in nickel and cobalt, for the Yabulu refinery owned by one of Australia’s richest men Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 2011
[click for Tom Allard’s full article] Tom Allard, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 July 2011, Sea of Trouble
MAJOR BARBARA TIPPER (ret.) was a member of the Australian Defence Force between 1986 and 2011, and used her military downtime writing poems and singing songs, mostly gospel. During rotations in Kuala Lumpur and South Jakarta she recorded many of them with prominent Christian song-writer and pastor Ng Wah Lok from Malaysia and Indonesian musician Sophia Manusama from Maluku. It was during her time in South Jakarta as an English-language consultant to the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) that she visited Jayapura, the capital of West Papua. Since retiring from the rigorous disciplines of military life, she has been flying the world of metaphor significance and meaning from her studio on the Mornington Peninsula. In December 2014 she performed FLY THE FREEDOM, a solidarity anthem she wrote for West Papua, in Federation Square (Melbourne) with the BLACK ORCHID STRING BAND and ROSE TURTLE, another extraordinary singer-songwriter (NOTE 4).
FLY THE FREEDOM [click to play] Sung & Recorded by Barbara Tipper
Fly the freedom, Shake the pole now, Ride the wind to make us whole now
Write the vision, State the goals now, Prioritise to save the souls now
Find the rhythm, Stamp the meaning, Trace the songlines of the people
Guide the river, Chant the seeing, Down the mountain, streams of freedom
Fly the freedom, Fly the freedom, Ride the wind to make us whole now
Prioritise, Decolonise, Prioritise to save the souls now
Adrift on the breeze of peace, Struggle for justice ease, Wind blow to bring release, Jubilee
Forgiveness and amnesty, Seed of the soul sing free, Merdeka will come to be, Immunity
Ride the wind, Wind of changelessness, Spirit of all ages
Ruah, Breath of God, Cry the tears, Tears of faithfulness
River of compassion, Mountain, Mother love
JON KOZENIAUSKAS, COLLINS ST DENTIST AND PROUD OWNER OF TIPPER’S GLASS SCULPTURE OF A BABY TURTLE IN THE WONDROUS WATERS OF THE RAJA AMPAT (WEST PAPUA) AT THE BEGINNING OF ITS TEN-YEAR ODYSSEY IN THE OPEN SEA
JON KOZENIAUSKAS was born in 1955 in a Displaced Persons Settlement in Narrogin in Western Australia. His parents, Alexandras and Veronika, carried an ‘Alien Certificate of Registration’, and were welcomed by the Australian government, with 10,000 other Lithuanians, as indentured labourers. Lithuania, a country the size of Tasmania, had been independent for twenty-two years when Communist Russia re-occupied the territory in 1940, followed by Nazi Germany (1941—44), then Russia again between 1944 and 1990. One historian claims “There has never been more than two million Lithuanians, but somehow they have managed to survive as a nation for almost eight centuries in their Baltic homeland, surrounded by and fought over by immensely powerful neighbours—among them the Poles, the Germans and the Russians”.
Between 1940 and 1959, Russia and Germany were responsible for the death of 683,185 Lithuanian citizens (22.17% of the population)
Refugees in Australia in the 1950s were required to work for two years, then ‘naturalize’ and adopt the ‘Australian way of life’. The 250 families in Narrogin were bonded to the Main Roads Department, the Government Railways, or the Municipal Council. They were mostly Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, and Germans, commonly lumped together as ‘Bloody Balts’, and housed in an assemblage of tents and Nissen Huts at the edge of the town [NOTE 5]. Going to church, or shopping, meant walking down one side of the road, while locals (except Aborigines) walked on the other. Soon after Alex moved his family to Melbourne, Jon’s eleven-year-old sister, Nijole, was killed in a schoolyard ‘accident’. Two years later, in 1959, his mother died. Jon aged five, was then brought up by his father—a man never treated for the psychological trauma he carried from Europe or the emotional trauma of losing his young wife and daughter [NOTE 6].
LITHUANIAN refugees have never been more than 0.01% of the Australian population, but have a reputation for shouldering a healthy share of civic engagement and social responsiblity. Olegas Truchanas, for example, a Displaced Person who ended up in Tasmania, was one of our first and greatest wilderness photographers, his work inspiring and synonymous with the pioneering campaigns to protect Tasmania’s environmental heritage [NOTE 7]. We might also talk about Jon Kozeniauskas’ and West Papua’s freedom struggle, which he has supported for years—probably because Indonesia’s genocidal policies mirror those of Communist Russia and Nazy Germany that forced his parents into their heart-breaking odyssey to the other side of the world.
Jon established his dental practice after studies at Melbourne University, and has been recognised ever since for his dedication to scientific research as well as good operative and preventive dentistry, patient education, staff development, and business management. During the 1970s, he developed a conservative treatment for temporo-mandibular joint disorder, whose victims then, especially women, despite disabling levels of physical pain, were usually dismissed as malingerers with psychological problems [NOTE 8]. By the late 1980s he’d become fascinated with the science and technology of titanium dental implants, and was the first Australian trained by Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark, the Swedish pioneer of osseointegration procedures and techniques [NOTE 9]. As well as these commitments he has always been willing to support established social issues as well as difficult political issues, like the self-determination of West Papua (and East Timor) for which his support has been innovative and transformative [NOTE 10].
CAN DENTISTS BE FREEDOM FIGHTERS TOO?
As clocks around the world ticked from one millenium to the next, the East Timorese liberated themselves of a genocidal occupation, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra began quietly ‘advising’ newspaper television and radio editors to de-link the situation of East Timor and of West New Guinea in the public mind [NOTE 11]. Recall the hegemonic power of the press before electronic media democratized what we saw and heard and read? It took a GOLD FERRARI (owned by Jon Kozeniauskas) and a BABY PIG (that he bought for Jacob Rumbiak) to subvert the government order. The Ferrari, replete with Morning Star flag, powered through the banned space, blasting long-standing perceptions of the Papuans as ragged assemblies of thread-bare cloth, penis-gourds and hand-made wooden guns. The pig followed, cloaked with information, reminding Australians that West Papuans are not Asians of the Indonesian Republic, but indigenous Melanesians of the Pacific.
On 20 October 2000 Jon and a friend raced their rare Giallo Moderno Ferraris around the Albert Park Grand Prix track for a Herald Sun journalist writing about a MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING between West Papua and the AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL OF TRADE UNIONS. Two days later, defying Swanston St speed limits, they transported Jacob Rumbiak and Pastor Martin Wanma to the signing ceremony at RMIT University’s Capital Theatre. The amalgam of ferrari, union, and freedom fighter projected West Papuans as a freedom-seeking people riding rich (their land, after all, generates the biggest gold-and-copper field in the world) and with the capacity to coach western capitalists and socialists into the same court. The Indonesian government was further angered by the MOU being signed by a Papuan who President Suharto had condemned as a terrorist and locked up for years as a political prisoner.
[click to read] YUMI WANTAIM 2000, ACTU SIGNING CEREMONY WITH WEST PAPUA
Yumi Wantaim 2000, Ceremony for West Papua, by Louise Byrne
“If my Ferrari can do anything to help prevent in West Papua what we were forced to witness in East Timor, then I’ll ring my friends and get ten more” (Jon Kozeniauskas’ riposte to a journalist’s quip about Melbourne’s business elite supporting West Papua’s independence)
YABON, the baby pig Jon bought for Jacob Rumbiak in 2001, was immediately adopted by Melbournians as a legitimate symbol of West Papua’s independence movement. Jacob claimed “With Yabon, things started looking up. I walked him every day, like a dog, to exercise him. People talked to me, teachers asked me to address their students, journalists rang for stories. It was amazing to watch my pig creating space for West Papua’s story in Australia. Then an old chief from home rang and said ‘Son, are you really taking our culture to that country?’”
WHAT DID YABON DO FOR WEST PAPUA?
Galvanised media to publish West Papua stories [Click to read] Yabon, A symbol for peace and freedom in West Papua, by Louise Byrne
Initiated relations with the Wurrunderjeri and Taunwurrung peoples of Australia
Rekindled long-lost relations between West Papuans and other Melanesians [click to play video-documentary of SANAP WANTAIM Ceremony for West Papua]
[click to play] ABC-Radio National, Risking the Sacred, 5 October 2003, a fascinating analysis of Sanap Wantaim Ceremony by religious journalist Margaret Coffey
NOTE 1. Jim Elmslie, West Papuan Demographic Transition and the 2010 Indonesian Census: Slow Motion Genocide or not? Sydney University 2011(https://sydney.edu.au/arts/peace_conflict/docs/working_papers/West_Papuan_Demographics_in_2010_Census.pdf)
NOTE 2. Living Blue Planet Report-species, habitats and human well-being World Wide Fund for Nature, Zoological Society of London, 2015 (http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/living_blue_planet_report_2015.pdf)
NOTE 3. www.smh.com.au/environment/sea-of-trouble-20110701-1gv49.html. Tom Allard was The Age correspondent in Jakarta.
NOTE 4. Barbara Tipper RECORDING at https://soundcloud.com/barbaratipper; ART at https://instagy.com/user/naturephileart.
Rose Turtle Ertler at http://www.roseturtleertler.com/
NOTE 5. A Nissen hut is a semi-cylindrical timber and corrugated iron structure. There were three for the refugees in Narrogin, one for recreation, one for cooking, one as a bathroom. In 2015, the huts were heritage-listed as a place of World War 11 history and cultural significance (Narrogin’s tent city: post WWII migrant families who worked on railway to be honoured ABC Great Southern News, 9 Dec 2015, at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-09/narrogin-tent-city-post-wwii-migrant-families-honoured/7014322)
NOTE 6. For the Lithuanian refugee experience in Australia, see Lithuanians in Australia by Algimantas P Taškūnas (http://www.slic.org.au/Community/History/Taskunas.htm). Also Welcome to little Europe: displaced persons and the north camp (Josef Sestokas, Little Chicken Publishing, 2010). Raymond Gaita, the son of a Romanium Displaced Person in Victoria, assayed the post-war refugee story in Romulus, my father, which novelist Richard Flanagan described as ‘a profound meditation on love and death, madness and truth, judgement and compassion’. (Award-winning film of the novel directed by Richard Roxburgh and starred Eric Bana).
NOTE 7. Truchanas’ work to protect the ecologically sensitive Lake Pedder and Pieman River from being damned by the Hydo Electricity Commission was the first environmental campaign in Australia. It seeded the campaign that saved the Gordon and Franklin rivers, and spawned the first Green Party in the world. The opera OLEGAS by Constantine Koukias, and book PEDDER DREAMING by Natasha Cica, are award-winning accounts of Truchanas’ life. The film WILDNESS directed by Scott Millwood is a homage to Truchanas and his celebrated protégée Peter Dombrovskis (a Displaced Person from Latvia who also ended up in Tasmania).
NOTE 8. The treatment regime was trialled by the Melbourne Dental Hospital. See The Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry, July 1988, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp98–105 Bilateral arthrographic evaluation of unilateral temporomandibular joint pain and dysfunction Jon J Kozeniauskas, B.Sc., B.D.S, William J Ralph, D.D.S.
NOTE 9. Australian Dental Journal, Vol. 40, Issue 3, pp173-181, June 1995 Osseointegrated implants for single tooth replacement in general practice: a one-year report from a multicentre prospective study PJ Henry, IR Rosenberg, IG Bills, RW Chan, AC Cohen, KG Halliday, JJ Kozeniauskas.
NOTE 11. Brief 1, 2000-01, Parliament of Australia, IS WEST PAPUA ANOTHER TIMOR? Dr Ruth Verrier A primary challenge for Australia’s Government is to de-link the situation of East Timor and West New Guinea in the public mind. Just as Government policy on East Timor as it unfolded from 1999 expressly excluded the question of East Timor from other separatists claims in Indonesia, so it needs to make this distinction clear to its domestic constituency, and to the international community including Indonesia (www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/cib0001/01cib01).
NOTE 12. JORDON IK was poisoned in Sorong on 14 April 2009 and died in agony a few hours later. He’d spent ten years in Kalisosok Prison (Surabaya) promoting peace and justice for West Papua, as well as two terms in Abepura Prison in West Papua. [click to read] Who killed Jordan Ik?