OPINION: We Should All Care About West Papua Because We Are All Pacific Islanders

OPINION: We Should All Care About West Papua Because We Are All Pacific Islanders

“I’m a Pacific Islander, and so are you.” New Zealand is an island that sits in the biggest ocean in the world, making you a Pacific Islander. If not ethnically, then geographically.

On Monday 23 September, our Dunedin community came together to learn more about what is happening in West Papua right now. It was special. Our goal was to create a safe space for this discussion and to light a fire. We mobilised the student body and created a group called Plights of the Pacific.

The genocide of the indigenous West Papuan people has just seen its 57th birthday. Over 500,000 West Papuans have been killed, in a time period as old as your parents. If that doesn’t ring bells, keep in mind that our beloved Harlene Hayne just turned 58.

Pacific Island nations, including New Zealand, share many cultural values and experiences dating back to colonisation. However, unlike most Pacific Islands, West Papua has never been liberated. To this day. They continue to fight for their children, their freedom, and their lives.

Indigenous Pacific Islanders only make up a whopping 4.7% of the total student body. As such, our voices are quietened by the bustle of the 71% European representation. We are asking you to stand with us, to use your voice to amplify our messages. They are the cries of our people, of your people, in your Pacific. It is our collective responsibility, not only as Pacific Islanders, but as humans. We must fight for the basic human rights of others.

The cliché of “know better, do better” is cliché because it’s true. Know better, do better.

What can you do?

  • ENGAGE! Come to our events, become an advocate, and become an ally. We are going to be having more events and campaigns around campus and the Dunedin community so when you hear about it please come along.
  • Get to know your neighbour. Ask them for their story. Extending your sense of community begins with your neighbour.
  • Look out for the indigenous West Papuan Morning Star flag on campus, on our social media profile thumbnail, and our #grassrootschallenge. When you see it, take a photo and tag us on Instagram at @plightsofthepacific. Join us. We need YOU.
  • Get in touch, via our Instagram page, to see how you can help.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2019.
Posted 10:01pm Thursday 3rd October 2019 by Otessa Tuisila.