Celebrations a plenty as Freedom Flotilla West Papua visits Townsville

Media release – 5 August 2013

Celebrations are a plenty across the Capricorn Coast this week as the ‘Freedom Flotilla West Papua’ passes through on its land and sea convoy from Lake Eyre to West Papua.

This 6,000 kilometre journey aims to raise community awareness on the environmental and human rights issues effecting Aboriginal Australians and West Papuan peoples.

West Papuan spokesperson Ronnie Kareni was thrilled with the positive response the flotilla received while travelling through Queensland .

“We’ve spoke to many locals throughout Queensland and they gave us their full support to bring peace and stability to West Papua”, said Mr Kareni.

While in Townsville, they hosted a fundraising night at The Old Court House and visited the Townsville Harbour region to welcome the arrival of some of the sailing fleet.

At Marlborough, the Flotilla met up with members of the ‘Reef Walk 2013’, who are walking from Cairns to Gladstone to highlight the damage that the expanding coal and gas industry will cause to the Great Barrier Reef.

“It is so exciting to see the diversity of people who are coming together to make the world a better place to live” said Reef Walker spokesperson Rosalie Schultz.

The Freedom Flotilla West Papua began at the shores of Lake Eyre on 20 July with a moving ceremony where they collected sacred waters from ancient mound springs. These waters will be carried throughout the journey and presented to West Papuan elders by Uncle Kevin Buzzacott from Arabunna Nation.

Flying the Morning Star

Flying the Morning Star

‘The ceremony was unique in the way we connected with country and in the exchange of sacred waters that have flowed from near our home lands in the far away north”, said Mr Kareni.

Decades of mining and water extraction from the Lake Eyre Basin has impacted on sacred mound springs by reducing water flow to these ancient sites. Current mining leases at Roxby Downs allows 43 ML (megalitres) of water to be drawn from the aquifer every day.

Human Rights groups estimate that more than 500,000 West Papuans have been killed since Indonesia invaded in 1962. Even today, the raising of the West Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag can result in a 10 year jail sentence, or sometimes even worse.

“It is important to remember that we are one people, regardless of skin colour, creed and religion. Our journey follows the footsteps of our forefathers and aims to strengthen family links between all people”, added Mr Kareni.

From Townsville, the convoy heads to Cairns to prepare the sailing fleet. A celebration will take place in Cairns for when the fleet departs on 17 August .

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