Paul Stewart’s All the Rage, edited by Peter Wilson and published by Melbourne Books in 2022, is a racy memoir by a charismatic bad boy who took years to channel his anguish and anger after the Indonesian military murdered his brother Tony (and five other newsmen) at Balibo during the invasion of East Timor in 1975. “I resolved then to never take life for granted. Yep, I wouldn’t burn the candle at both ends. I would set the whole thing on fire with a blowtorch” (pp17-18).
Paul Stewart’s All the Rage (review)
All the Rage is a biography of a life full lived, from the totally reckless to the utterly masterful, but is also a mapping by an astute music journalist of Melbourne’s rock and punk scene for the past forty years. Almost everyone and everything in the genres are named: the famous and infamous bands, musicians, radio shows, venues, roadies, producers, photographers, managers: what they said or didn’t say, and did and didn’t do. Many facts but still a great read, and so many insider-whispers it’s hard not to imagine lawyers sniffing at the trough. Airport bookshops should buy copies. Media lecturers should make their students read it (Paul, after all, was awarded an Order of Australia in 2020 for service to the community and the arts).
All the Rage is also an inspiring handbook for activists, with delightful vignettes about who did what for marginalised causes like East Timor and West Papua. Who knew that The Wiggles built water and sewage facilities in six Timorese villages? Or that a Collins St dentist raced his gold Ferrari around Albert Park for West Papua? (pp85,167). There’s also a few paragraphs about politicians Paul crossed swords with, like Joe Bjelke-Petersen and Gough Whitlam (pp105, 112, 169-171, 189-192) and even one about being ripped off by other activists (p218).
Paul Stewart AO was music critic for the local Murdoch media for thirty-five years, and even longer as frontman of the infamous PAINTERS & DOCKERS, an anarchist punk band that ‘mounted fun-filled sweaty gigs’, which according to the Vancouver Sun in 1989 were ‘cheaper and more fun than The Stones’ (pp88-89). While Paul’s newspaper job has long gone, the band, now forty years old, still performs its popular repertoire of three-chord street-anthems to full houses, most recently at the Maritime Union’s 150-year celebration in Williamstown, and at the RSL’s Memo Music Hall in St Kilda on 11 November 2022.
Paul’s understanding of his brother’s assassination deepened after he met East Timorese musician GIL SANTOS who had a much bigger story of family loss to the Indonesian military (and before that to the Japanese military for protecting Australian soldiers in 1942). ‘I lost one brother in East Timor but found another in Gil, who I met in an old caravan parked at a protest rally outside the Indonesian Consulate in St Kilda Rd … he changed my life’ (p114). The young Fretilin activist convinced him that guitars can be as influential as guns, and together they formed the DILI ALLSTARS. This flexible clique of Australian and East Timorese musicians toured the world promoting East Timor’s freedom: most raucously as Australia’s representative at the celebration concert in Dili in 2002, most notably in Lisbon for the Portuguese Communist Party in 2003, most sublimely in St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral for Bishop Hilton Deakin’s funeral on 13 October 2022 (45:16′ mark at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6fOYkJolYo; and at 42:15′ for offerings by West Papua’s Jacob Rumbiak and Clovis Mwamba from the Democratic Republic of Congo).
Not many rock’n roll musicians would feel comfortable owning a miracle, but Paul does, after the intercession of an East Timorese nun when he was at the pointy end of an eighteen-month battle with liver disease, lying in the Palliative Ward of the Austin Hospital with Hepatitis C (yellow skin), Ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen) and Encephalopathy (toxin accumulation in the brain). A liver arrived just in time for a life-saving transplant; just as ‘the little nun sitting on the end of my bed said it would’. But Sr Helena had also said: “If we pray for you Paul, and get you a new liver, you must help the women and children in Timor”. Which is why Paul champions the ALMA SISTER’s work with disabled children and orphans in East Timor and West Papua.
The ALMA religious order was founded in 1963 by a Dutch priest, Father Paul Hendrikus Janssen, who spent his life in Asia (working in China and Indonesia, studying in Manila) developing a unique style of treatment for youth with special needs. The treatment begins with loving the kids without discrimination, and educating the carers, families and local communities. ALMA kids don’t live in ‘orphanages’ but in ‘homes’ with their ‘mumma’ religious sisters. In Australia, the Jesuit Social Services ‘Just Voices Speakers Program’, where Paul has worked since 2011, provides awareness- and fund-raising platforms for the Alma Sisters working in East Timor whose most recent visit was in November 2022.
REVIEW, ‘All the Rage’ [PDF for download/print] Review, All the Rage
Sr Anastasia and Sr Isabella (ALMA Sisters from East Timor) at Readings Books in Melbourne on 17 November 2022 for another launch of ‘All the Rage’. Also David Tenenbaum (Melbourne Books), Babuan Mirino and Louise Byrne (West Papua Womens Office, Docklands), Jacob Rumbiak (Minister for Foreign Affairs, West Papua Transitional Government).
West Papua: Paul Stewart vs PM Howard (6 slides)
Paul Stewart’s recovery from his brother’s assassination by Indonesian troops in 1975 is an inspiring journey across the contours of East Timor’s struggle for independence from the Indonesian Republic. Threaded more sparsely across the memoir is Australian Prime Minister Howard’s poisonous campaign against the West Papuans’ right to self-determination. This pernicious politician, whose family owned copra plantations in New Guinea until 1962 (link below for David Marr’s Howard’s hidden past) aimed to “de-link the situation of East Timor from West New Guinea in the public mind, domestically and internationally, including Indonesia” (Ruth Verrier in her government-commissioned paper Is West Papua another East Timor?, link below). Just months after East Timor’s referendum (which required Australian soldiers to quell Indonesia’s scorched earth program) Howard struck, secretly dispatching a posse of Foreign Affairs bureaucrats to ‘advise’ the editors of Australia’s major media not to report on West Papua and the Vice-Chancellors of universities to exclude the topic from their curricula.
Against Howard’s poisonous script activists had no chance of publicising atrocities in West Papua without Paul’s veteran knowledge of the 4th Estate. Below are examples where his passion and artful advice scarified the prime minister’s directive and forced Australians to remember West Papuans are Melanesian, not Asians, and still own their right to self-determination. SLIDE 1 is a photo of Rev. Martin Luther Wanma in October 2000 being driven around Melbourne in a gold ferrari: scintillating enough for the Herald Sun newspaper to publish alongside text about an historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) about to be signed by Australian trade unions with West Papua. SLIDE 2: ten months later, a photo of Jacob Rumbiak’s pig Yabon in The Age newspaper, on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House, with text about West Papua’s extraordinary MOU with mainstream churches, religious organisations, and the unions. SLIDE 3: Yabon in The Age again, in the CBD, advertising the first seminar on West Papua in decades. SLIDE 4: in 2002 Paul organised photo-stories in The Herald Sun and The Australian of RMIT University’s appointment of Jacob Rumbiak as Senior Research Associate and ‘leading scholar on Indonesia and West Papua’. The Indonesian Government immediately objected to this recognition of their (escaped) political prisoner and black-listed the university.
SLIDE 5: After PM Howard’s insidious injunction against ABC-Radio JJJ recording a Concert for West Papua, bookings escalated from 200 to a full house of 2,500. SLIDE 6: the courage of 43 West Papuans’ odyssey, in a double-outrigger canoe around their huge homeland and across Torres Strait, and their searing accounts of Indonesia’s brutal governance aroused Australian civilians, journalists, cartoonists, photographers, NGO’s and politicians. Even Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone turned on the prime minister and a month later issued the Papuans protection visas. SLIDE 7: a diplomatic fight between the Indonesian and Australian governments over the 43 Papuans lasted for twelve months and was expressed most publicly by the nations’ celebrated cartoonists. Twelve months later the people rendered Howard only the second Prime Minister in Australian history to lose his seat. At the same time, his nemesis, Paul Stewart, who had resolutely kept the lights on for West Papua, was hospitalised with chronic kidney disease, a debilitating condition remedied eighteen-months later by the miraculous arrival of a donor-kidney.
1. Australian Trade Union Memorandum of Understanding with West Papua, 2000
Sunday Herald Sun, 22 October 2000
The MOU signing ceremony at RMIT Theatre in Melbourne on 24 October 2000 began in the street outside the theatre, with two gold Ferraris carrying Jacob Rumbiak and Pastor Luther Wanma speeding along Swanston Street challenging perceptions of the West Papuan independence movement as men in penis gourds with bows and arrows. When asked why Melbourne’s business elite was supporting a marginalised freedom struggle, Collins Street dentist Jon Kozeniauskas replied “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”.
2. Churches and Trade Unions signed MOU with West Papua in Parliament House, 2001
The Age, 17 August 2001 (Royal Abbott) with AAP photo
With the Prime Minister’s poison still potent, Paul tore up our hard-worked Media Release for this major event in Parliament House and said “Go and get Yabon (Jacob’s pig) and I’ll sort the rest”.
3. Yumi Wantaim Seminar for West Papua, 2001
The Age, 27 August 2001 (Heath Misson)
Yabon’s political activism was funded by individual Australian unions, including the Maritime and Telecommunication unions. See Note 3 for link to his diary of successful endeavours.
4. RMIT University appoints Jacob Rumbiak Senior Research Associate, 2002
The Herald Sun, 7 August 2002; The Australian, 7 August 2002
Although RMIT was careful to cite Jacob’s appointment as Specialist Scholar on Indonesia and West Papua, the Indonesian Government immediately black-banned RMIT, and ‘advised’ all its secondary and tertiary education institution to not send their students to the Melbourne university.
5. Morning Star Concert for West Papua, Melbourne Concert Hall, 28 February 2003
Three days before the concert, only 200 tickets had been bought. Then word got out that PM Howard had banned ABC-Radio JJJ from recording it. The next day all 2,500 tickets sold.
6. West Papuan asylum-seekers beach traditional canoe on Cape York Peninsula, 2005
After the West Papuan asylum-seekers were awarded Australian protection visas, Indonesian President Yudhoyono recalled his ambassador from Canberra.
7. The Cartoon Wars between Australia and Indonesia over West Papuan asylum-seekers
PM Howard’s attempts to mend Australia’s relationship with Indonesia became a source of fodder for cartoonists (Note 4 for link to the 28 cartoons) although he eventually succeeded with the Lombok Treaty, which outlawed the Morning Star flag in both countries!
West Papua: Paul Stewart vs PM Howard, (PDF)
Publisher David Tenenbaum, Melbourne Books (video, 15′)
Jacob Rumbiak, Update, West Papua (PDF, Video 7′)
United Nations Periodic Review of Indonesia, 9 Nov 2022
Memorial for the Martyrs and Heroes (3 slides)
Filep Karma was the West Papua Provisional Government’s Representative for Asia. His non-violent protests were always violently opposed by the Indonesian military, including during the Biak Massacre in July 1998 and his incarceration after raising the Morning Star flag in 2004.
Walking on Water by Tony Millman (lyrics)
Notes and References
1. Howard’s hidden past, David Marr, the Age, 10 June 2006 https://www.theage.com.au/national/howards-hidden-past-20060610-ge2hs2.html
2. The Howard Government followed the commissioned advice of Dr J. Ruth Verrier, Is West Papua Another Timor? 27 July 2000, Verrier, Is West Papua Another Timor, 2000
3. Yabon the pig, Symbol of justice and peace in West Papua (short story)
4. West Papua, Exhibition of 2006 Cartoons