By Rod Hunt
Unbelievably Bad Contributor
Luke Furlong of Sydney punk outfit GRIM was so appalled by the long-running situation in West Papau and the people’s struggle for independence from Indonesia that he decided to organise a benefit gig to help raise some funds for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). The Inner West Denim Fest to benefit West Papua gets loud this Saturday, May 13, at Marrickville Bowling Club.
UB spoke to Luke, Mo Mayhem of Mucho Sonar, who are also playing at the benefit, and film-maker Ash Brennan, director of the documentary Punks For West Papau.
How did you first become aware of the situation in West Papua?
Luke Furlong (GRIM): Through social media. I learned that all this genocide is happening less than 250km away from Australia and most Australians have no idea about the situation in West Papua. Bloody mainstream media, aye?
Why did you decide to put on a show to benefit the Free West Papau campaign and what do you hope that it will achieve?
LF: Mostly to raise awareness about West Papua. Raise money for Free West Papua and to rock out with like-minded passionate bands. Hopefully through the power of music, people will be inspired to become involved with the Free West Papua campaign.
Why is West Papua achieving independence from Indonesia an important issue?
Mo Mayhem (Mucho Sonar): On a personal level, I was born in Apartheid South Africa, with my second-class racial status stamped on my birth certificate. The ideas of self-determination as a “lesser person” mean so much to me, especially when you consider what is classic colonising force behaviour by Indonesia. Then you have the fact that our government turns a blind eye (at best) and is utterly complicit (more accurate) in the brutal human rights violations the Indonesian government commit in West Papua. Then you have the fact that our government kowtows to the Indonesian government in regard to staying silent re: atrocities because of our government’s desperation to maintain strong diplomatic relations with Indonesia (mainly as a way to sell them weapons and have Indonesia help us with our asylum seeker torture program aka ‘the pacific solution’ which our country have been running for a while now). So, for us in Australia, this is not just an issue about a people’s self-determination, a revulsion at the human rights abuses committed but also about our government’s complicity in these human rights violations (and by extension, our personal complicity), the reason being, so Indonesia can help us with our direct human rights violations that occur as a result (and stated aim) of the pacific solution. Where our country has acted as a bad neighbour, someone who has, even via omission of argument, caused innocent bloodshed. I often wonder (this is tongue in cheek by the way) if our government could somehow figure out a way to monopolise West Papua’s resources, we’d be more concerned with their “freedom”, ala East Timor.
How did making the Punks For West Papau doco come about?
Ash Brennan (Punks for West Papua documentary director): Punks for West Papua is an Australian punk rock movement started by Sydney punk band Diggers With Attitude (DWA). Disturbed by the images they saw on social media of the ongoing genocide in West Papua, they decided to do a one off show at Sydney’s Town and Country Hotel. No one could’ve predicted what would happen next. The Australian punk rock community would turn this event into a no holds barred Australia wide benefit, involving over 50 bands in seven cities around the country, making Punks for West Papua the biggest, and no doubt, loudest punk rock showcase in the nation’s history. The money the punks raised had a direct impact on West Papua’s journey to self determination. A midnight text message to me, a film-maker and friend, started the wheels in motion for a small video think piece. But after interviewing the leader of the Free West Papua Campaign, Benny Wenda, I decided this story needed to be more than just a five-minute web promotion. I felt angry that my own government, for the last 50 years have been complicit in the genocide of the of the West Papuan people. Since the early 1960s the Indonesian Government has imposed a media ban on West Papua. No foreign journalists or foreign aid are allowed in to report on the human rights abuses by the Indonesian Military . And as a worker in the media, I felt that it was my duty to shine a light on West Papua, in my first documentary, Punks for West Papua. Since its release in 2016, the film has won a number of film festival awards around the world, but more importantly, it has raised much needed awareness. I am now the Australian representative for the international Free West Papua Campaign.
The Inner West Denim Fest to benefit West Papua takes place this Saturday, May 13 at Marrickville Bowling Club, from 3pm to midnight. Entry is $15. Featuring The Persian Drugs, Nunchukka Superfly, Witch Fight, Meat Cake, Mucho Sonar, Devine Electric, Skinpin, Dog, GRIM and Durry.