West Papua’s Morning Star freedom flag twinkled amongst the 26,000 competitors at The Age Run Melbourne 2012. Several West Papuan activists—joined by a delegation from Vanuatu—competed in the popular charity event, all sporting their national freedom flag.

Photo Australia West Papua Association Melbourne,2012

The Age Run Melbourne is a community-oriented fitness event over 5 or 10 or 21.1km runs that starts and finishes in Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square.

The West Papuans and ni-Vanuatu stood out in their colourful flags, clearly expressing their political ambition, yet also clearly violating the Lombok Treaty between Australia and Indonesia (that bans displays of separatism).

Their participation must present policy-makers in Canberra with a dilemma: to abide with international law (that is, let the West Papuans run their right to self-determination) or respect the treaty obligation with Indonesia that outlaws the Papuans popular symbol of liberation.

In recent months, the Morning Star flag has been raised at Womadelaide Festival, Byron Bay Blues Festival, Victoria’s Multi-cultural Arts Film Festival, as well as at Parliament House in Canberra.

Given that The Age Run Melbourne’s sponsors include the Commonwealth Bank, Coles, City of Melbourne, and the international sports company Mizuno, is there some sort of sensible precedent for disobeying an unjust law? Or should raising the Morning Star flag continue as a crime, as it is in West Papua and in Indonesia, where it has always been associated with a life sentence or the death penalty?

Louise Byrne
Australia West Papua Association-Melbourne