Escape From West Papua: How and Why Refugees Came to Australia

Alan Nichols


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What would drive 43 refugees to set out from West Papua in a traditional canoe across stormy Torres Strait to reach Australia? Only desperation. This book is their story. It tells their dramatic tale – why they left, how they survived at sea, and how their faith sustained them. It also recounts the rift in Australian–Indonesian relations that arose when they received refugee status in Australia and voices their hopes and dreams of an independent West Papua nation.

Canon Alan Nichols, AM, is an Anglican minister and author. He served for seven years in refugee work, first in Thailand with the Jesuit Refugee Service Asia Pacific, and then with World Vision Australia. He was present at the Rwanda border during the 1994 genocide, is a Trustee of the Barakabaho Foundation, a foster care agency there, and is a Canon of St John’s Cathedral, Gahini, in Rwanda.

I have maintained a strong affection for Melanesian people since living among them for a decade in Papua New Guinea. Many have embraced a natural and unselfconscious Christian faith from which we Westerners can learn. Alan Nichols has in this book applied his great skills to the plight of the Melanesians in the Indonesian province of Papua, as an encapsulator of complex issues, and as an empathetic listener to people confronted by life-and-death challenges, from Thailand to Rwanda. The people of Papua form the  human fault-line between Pacific and Asian cultures, and they should command the full attention of all those – including Australians – whose futures are bound up with linking Asian and the Pacific.

Rowan Callick
Beijing correspondent for The Australian newspaper, and Pacific specialist

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