Three years on, Papuans win the right to a life

Three years on, Papuans win the right to a life

Andra Jackson

FOR the past 4½ years, life in Australia for West Papuan asylum seeker Izack Marani has meant constant worry that the Australian Government might give in to Indonesian demands and return him to West Papua.

But that cloud of uncertainty has disappeared thanks to the Immigration Department granting permanent residency to him and the 38 countrymen with whom he arrived by boat in 2006.

The 46-year-old former sailor said he felt "free and safe". He has been working on a banana plantation near Cairns, and feels he can now look for a permanent job.

Marike Tebay was 17 when she boarded the large outrigger canoe that was to carry her to an unknown future in Australia. "It changes everything," she said of gaining residency. "I can now choose a study course. Before I couldn't."

The people she met on her arrival had been helpful, she said. "Now I feel like I have a home."

The group's final visa was received last week by student David Wainggai, the son of leading independence figure Thomas Wainggai, who died in an Indonesian jail.

David's cousin, Herman Wainggai, leader of the group, who is studying English, said: "For me and my friends it now feels like we are living permanently in Australia. They (the Australian Government) respect our position."

He said it was sad that four of their original party — a couple and a father and daughter — had returned to West Papua, but said they were offered inducements by Indonesia.

Mr Wainggai said the group wanted to show their appreciation to the Australian community by inviting them to a celebration this Thursday night at Northcote Uniting Church.