Two West Papuans awarded 2021 Eureka Australia Medal

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Edison Waromi, Prime Minister of the West Papua Transitional Government, and Parliamentary Chair Buchtar Tabuni, were each awarded the 2021 Eureka Australia Medal during a moving ceremony on 3 December 2021 at the historic site of Bakery Hill in Ballarat (Victoria, Australia).

The Eureka Australia Medal is awarded by the Anarchist Media Institute to “activists who have demonstrated, through their activities, the universal qualities outlined in the Eureka oath taken by gold-miners in the colony of Victoria on 11 November and 3 December 1854: We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties.


Edison Waromi, photo-text biography (PDF, 21 slides)

[click to view/download] Edison Waromi, 3 Dec 2021 (with border)

Buchtar Tabuni, photo-text biography (PDF, 22 slides)

[click to view/download] Buchtar Tabuni (with border)

Eureka Australia Medal Ceremony, 3 December 2021

In Ballarat on 3 December 2021, after a Dawn Service at the site of the 1854 Eureka rebellion and massacre, an appreciative crowd assembled at Bakery Hill (where the goldminers had sworn an oath of solidarity and raised the Southern Cross flag) for the Eureka Australia Medal ceremony. Electronic links had been established with the two West Papuans in Jayapura, but were disrupted when Indonesian police and military surrounded Buchtar Tabuni’s home forcing him to find a place to hide and take the call (Photos by Linda Duckham).

i) Looking for Buchtar
ii) Still looking for Buchtar: Dr Joe Toscano, Jacob Rumbiak, Kamesan Woirei, Joe Malignaggi

iii) “Ground control to Major Tom”

iv) Buchtar Tabuni viewing his medal from Jayapura via electronic media

 

What does the Eureka Australia Medal honour?

The Eureka Australia Medal honours the courageous pursuit of more democratic conditions by destitute gold-miners in Ballarat in their fight against the cost of digging licences and the brutality and corruption of the government officials who enforced them. It recognises their oath “to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties”, and their flag which they modelled on the most recognisable constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. It recognises and rejects colonialism, recalling the slaughter by the Victorian Colonial Military Forces as they invaded the miners’ stockade of tents, on the traditional land of the Wadawurrung people (“on the edge of the civilised world in southern Australia” The 40th Regiments of Foot in the Australian goldfields Lancashire Infantry Museum, Northern England). The essence of the miners demands were i) Full and fair representation; ii) Manhood suffrage; iii) No property qualifications for members of the Legislative Council; iv)Payment of members; v) Short duration of parliament (condensed from the Ballarat Reform League’s four-page handwritten manifesto).

Swearing Allegiance to the Southern Cross 1854 (Charles Doudiet, a Canadian in the stockade).

Eureka Stockade 1854 (George Browning, 1989, one of Australia’s official WWII artists)

The Eureka diggers achieved much, and their stand is well rooted in Australian folk lore as the birth of democratic rights and independence. Gold-digging fees, which were not a tax-on-earnings but a cost on the right-to-work, were replaced by a claim-title that cost £1 per year (the colonial treasury’s ‘lost revenue’ was replaced by an export-tax on gold bullion). The claim-title also gave diggers the right to vote in elections for the colonial legislative council, and the subsequent Electoral Act 1856 mandated suffrage for male colonists in the Victorian Parliament.

Artist George Browning recognised that one of the miners in the stockade was an African-American called John Joseph. Joseph shot the 40th Regiment’s Captain Henry Christopher Wise (the captain’s legs were amputated at the makeshift hospital and he died on 21 December 1854). John Joseph was also the first of the thirteen miners tried for high treason. (All were released without conviction; the only person jailed being Henry Seekamp, the editor of the Ballaarat Times). (More on John Joseph in Our African Roots: Australia Uncovered SBS Television, https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/watch/1952984643554)

Magnified section of George Browning’s Eureka Stockade 1854 showing John Joseph (kneeling, blue shirt, raised pistol) after shooting Captain Wise on his white horse.

Sarah Munyemba Muyunga, whose family is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, reciting the Eureka Oath during the 2021 Eureka Australia Medal presentation (Photo-Linda Duckham)

For more on the history and relevance of the Southern Cross Flag and the Eureka Oath, see The Eureka Flag’s Strange Bedfellows, by Dr Joesph Toscano, Convenor, Reclaim the Radical Spirit of the Eureka Bellion Celebrations, at https://www.facebook.com/BendigoTradesHall/posts/1581926715521146

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