WEST PAPUA: Flying the Morning Star flag at ‘RUN MELBOURNE’


An ageing Indonesian-speaking Anglican priest will run alongside West Papuan frontman Ronni Kareni in The Age’s Run Melbourne fun run on Sunday 17 July 2011.

Rev. Peter Woods resigned in 2009 from being a parish priest to work as a full-time activist for the West Papuan independence movement. His commitment to the long-standing freedom struggle began when he and his wife were missionaries in West Papua between 1978 and 1982 and their third son was born in Angguruk, a highland homeland of the Yali people.

Woods’ political activism is unique, almost renaissance-like, ranging from personal testimony and community development to political presentations in venues as diverse as the Maraki Vanuariki Council of Chiefs in Port Vila (Vanuatu) and the George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia (USA). He was the only foreign witness to the massacre at Cendrawasih University in 2006, which on his return to Melbourne hit the front page of The Age (Cover-up fear over dead in mine riot, 27 March 2006, Andrea Jackson).

Woods is also an artist of some distinction, the focus of fifty large-scale paintings almost entirely on revolutionary West Papua. His first painting was of two highland women he’d photographed in West Papua in 1980 while he and his family were on a camping trip in Manokwari. This was exhibited at St Francis Catholic Church in Melbourne in 2001 as part of a special mass for West Papua led by Bishop Hilton Deakin (himself renowned for leadership in Australia of East Timor’s quest for liberation from Indonesia)

Woods’ rendition of the forty-three West Papuan asylum seekers who arrived in Australia on a traditional double-outrigger canoe in 2006 graces the cover of Alan Nichols’ Escape from West Papua—the story of the 43 West Papuans who arrived in Australia by boat in 2006 seeking asylum.

Woods’ portrait of Jacob Rumbiak, the West Papuan independence leader who has lived in Melbourne since escaping from jail in Indonesia, was entered in the 2009 Archibald Prize, and exhibited at Smart Artz Gallery’s ‘Hidden Faces of the Archibald 2009’ (salons de refuses) in South Melbourne.

His latest effort in revolutionary art is a West Papuan take on Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, that will be part of a major exhibition in October that will focus on West Papuan women, the hidden heroes of the independence struggle.

For Interview with Peter Woods and Australia West Papua Assoc (Melbourne):

Louise Byrne, mobile 0410816915