Debate: Is Australia doing enough to help West Papua?

Published in:

A debate sponsored by the Melbourne City Council in its glorious Yarra Room on
Sunday 30 October 2022 : 2pm, with Coffee on the (Beatles) Balcony at 3.30pm

What’s more important? Human rights or Geo-strategic Security? Do we have a moral obligation to support our close neighbour West Papua, and risk our trade, economic and political relations with Indonesia? This debate is one that Australia has to have, because it will lift these vexatious issues above the parapet in Canberra and encourage our politicians to view Australia’s relations with Indonesia much more critically.

West Papua is Australia’s nearest neighbour, just 67 kilometres across Torres Strait, yet we have maintained a national silence on the atrocities endured by the Indigenous Melanesians since 1962 when the United Nations illegally passed the administration of its Non-Self-Governing Territory to Indonesia. Despite the republic’s systematic racist policies and crimes-against-humanity, the West Papuan people have maintained their resistance and developed an independent nation. In 2019 their legal and political claims against Indonesia finally incited motions of support by the Pacific Islands Forum (18 UN member-states, including Australia and New Zealand) and the African Caribbean Pacific Group (79 UN member-states). The parliaments of the United Kingdom, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, and the European Union then passed similar resolutions.

Fiji-Australian author Bernie Golding convened the debate. Monash University’s Dr Jonathan Benney summarised the arguments. Sarah Muyunga from the Democratic Republic of Congo introduced each of the debaters. The event opened with a moving rendition of the West Papua anthem on French horn by Julian Gillies-Lekakis and his mother Pepe Gillies.

Video-record of the Debate
Note: the Melbourne City Council technician experienced difficulties broadcasting Morris Kaloran’s important contribution. The original (good) video is here:

Transcripts of the Debater’s Presentations
1. Rev’d Dr Gordon Preece
Transcript, Debate, Rev’d Dr Godon Preece
2. Pablo Paskos
Transcript, Pablo Paskos, 30 October 2022
3. Major Ross Himona (ret.)
Transcript, Debate, Morris Kaloran, 30 October 2022
4. Morris Kaloran
Transcript, Debate, Morris Kaloran, 30 October 2022
5. Chris Lynch
Transcript, Debate, Chris Lynch
6. Senator Janet Rice
Transcript, Debate, Senator Janet Rice

Dr Jonathan Benney’s Summary
Transcript, Debate, Jonathan Benney, 30 October 2022
Jacob Rumbiak’s concluding speech
Transcript, Jacob Rumbiak, Debate, 30 October 2022
Zoom Chat
Debate, zoom-chat

Rev’d Dr Gordon Preece is Senior Policy Officer at Catholic Social Services Victoria; Chair of Social Responsibilities Committee at the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne; Director of the Centre for Applied Christian Ethics at Ridley College and of the University of Divinity Centre for Religion and Social Policy; Director of the Evangelical Alliance Centre for Christianity and Society (ETHOS). Chris Lynch is a writer and teacher; a white New Guinean-Australian of Gaelic ancestry who lives alongside the Merri Creek on Wurundjeri Country. Major Ross Himona (retired) was a soldier in the New Zealand Army for twenty years with service in Borneo and Vietnam. He studied Bahasa Indonesia and spent some time in Indonesia. For the next forty years he has been involved in Maori Development advocacy, issues and projects, as well as arts governance. He is an essayist and sometime poet. Morris Kaloran Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, West Papua Provisional Government; Director, Government Remuneration Tribunal (Vanuatu); Former UN Women’s National Project Coordinator (Vanuatu); Former Secretary-General of SHEFA province (Vanuatu). Pablo Paskos is a 15 year old who has a great interest in politics, international relations and what Australia can do to help the people of West Papua. He believes that the youth of today have a pivotal role in shaping the Australia of tomorrow. Senator Janet Rice Founding member of the Victorian Greens; Former Mayor of Maribyrnong; Senator for Victoria since 2013; Chair of Community Affairs References Committee, and Deputy Chair-Community Affairs Legislation Committee. (The Australian Greens is the only Australian political party that recognises the West Papuan peoples’ right to self-determination.)

Some topics addressed in the debate

1. The 2008 Lombok Treaty between Australia and Indonesia is always quoted by Liberal and Labor politicians in reference to West Papua. The Treaty requires Australia and Indonesia, both UN member-states, to have mutual respect and support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national unity and political independence of each other, and also non-interference in the internal affairs of one another. Essentially, the treaty outlaws use of the West Papuans’ Morning Star flag in Australia and Indonesia; it means not criticising Indonesia’s governance in West Papua, and it comes dangerously close to banning the publication of human rights reports.
[click to read/download]

The Lombok Treaty was drafted by the Howard government in response to Indonesian President Yudhoyono’s demands for some sort of ‘reparation’ after Australia granted permanent residence to 43 West Papuan asylum-seekers in 2006. The Papuans had circumnavigated their great island-home in a purpose-built traditional canoe before crossing the treacherous waters of Torres Strait and beaching on the western coast of Cape York Peninsula in the Aboriginal Shire of Mapoon. The treaty negotiations were exacerbated by Liberal politicians crossing the floor (in defence of human rights), extraordinary campaigns by Rural Australians for Refugees and the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, and the unique commitment of almost every mainstream-media cartoonist. Twenty-eight of their cartoons were exhibited at The Australian Catholic University Art Gallery in Brunswick in 2016. (View cartoons at
For more about the crude and ugly war between Australian and Indonesian cartoonists over West Papua in 2006 see Cartoon Catalogue

Pat Campbell’s cartoon. Welcome to Democracy, the Canberra Times, January 2006

2. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) comprehensive report The Neglected Genocide – Human Rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977 – 1978 details the rape, torture and murder of more than 4000 innocent West Papuan people in the Central Highlands of West Papua which the Commission described as systematic genocide.
[click to read/download] 2013, Asian Human Rights Commission, The Neglected Genocide
[click to read/download] Australian-supplied helicopters used by Indonesia in West Papua ‘genocide’ (ABC News report, 24 October 2013)

3. State Responsibility in International Law, often called Right to Protect (R2P), for internationally wrongful acts was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005. These laws affirm that States have a Resonsibility to Protect all those within their territory; that third States have a right and obligation to complain of wrongful acts committed by a sovereign States; and finally, that sovereignty can be questioned where a people within a sovereign states are subject to serious violations of their human rights. Two well-known Australians, James Crawford and Gareth Evans, have been prominent in its most recent development and application.

See (downloadable) treatise on the application of these laws to West Papua by Annette Culley from the West Papua Womens Office in Docklands, at

FEATURED IMAGE Dani Man by Paris based Polish photographer Magda Zelewska. It is said that this Dani elder sits in the Wamena Market (in the Central Highlands of West Papua) alongside an enlarged image of this photo every weekend.

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