It’s 3.30am in Washington DC when Voice of West Papua hits the air in Melbourne, but the show’s founder, Herman Wainggai, rarely misses it. “I’m so excited about this program!’ he says.
Herman, one of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers whose arrival in Australia, by outrigger canoe, in 2006 caused a diplomatic incident with Indonesia, last year established what is the first West Papuan radio show in the world, but he’s recently relocated to the US capital to ramp up his political advocacy.

“I’m away from my community, away from my family, living as a single person in the United States,
” Herman says, “But listening to the music, listening to this show on 3CR every Monday, brings the memories back.”

Music plays a major part in the program, which interweaves updates on what’s happening inside West Papua, discussion of the international politics around its situation and information on community events in Melbourne with songs by Papuan acts Black Brothers, the Lani Singers and Arnold Ap, PNG performer George Telek and local artist David Bridie.

“When you’re talking about ‘the voice of West Papua’,” Herman says, “you can’t separate singing. Most Papuan, or Melanesian, people are singing a lot in their lives”.

Four of the show’s five current presenters sing or play in bands— the upbeat, contemporary Tabura, which recently took to the stage with Blue King Brown at WOMAD, and the traditional Black Orchid String Band— and they’re keen to share the Melanesian sound with a broader audience.

“Everyone contributes to the diverse culture we have here in Melbourne,” says presenter and
Tabura bassist Ronny Kareni.

“We want people to hear our music and wonder ‘Who’s that?’ and to listen in,” adds Petra Rumwaropen, who sings in Tabura with her two sisters. Of course the Voice of West Papua has a more serious message for Australians as well. “It’s actually genocide that’s happening,” Petra says. “It’s happening to ordinary people through all different ways.”

While the horror of torture, rape and killings suffered by West Papuans over decades is remote from the lives of most Australians, the rise of social media is making it less so. The revolution in Papuans’ ability to get information out of the territory is one of a series of developments giving the Voice of West Papua crew a sense of optimism.

In recent months the establishment of the Australian chapter of International Parliamentarians for West Papua, the successful launch of the ‘rize of the morning star’ awareness campaign, and support from the Australian Greens have left them hopeful that Australian interest in West Papua’s situation is building.

Throughout the diaspora and inside Papua itself the radio show is another cause for optimism. People are astonished to find out it exists, Herman Wanggai says.

“They look at the 3 CR schedule and see Mondays—Voice of West Papua, 6.30 to 7.00, and they say, ‘Oh Herman, what you say is true!’. ‘Yes,’” Herman laughs, “I say, ‘Of course. You thought we were just dreaming or what?’”

Voice of West Papua presented by Ian Okoka, Petra Rumwaropen, Jeffry Yikwa, Sixta Mambor & Ronny Kareni.

Source : http://www.3cr.org.au/files/cram%20for%20the%20web.pdf