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West Papuans visit Brisbane Valley

Young people from West Papua with their Brisbane Valley hosts. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Wycherley
WITH HARMONIOUS singing and stories of life back home, a group of West Papuan students recently visited the congregation of the Brisbane Valley Uniting Church.

West Papua, once known as Irian Jaya, lies to the west of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and is part of Indonesia.
The students were in Brisbane to further their English studies.

For the last two years Shelley Houghton of UnitingWorld has been tutoring these students in the city of Jayapura, West Papua.

For three months these young men lived with families in the Brisbane Valley to immerse themselves in the English language.

The Uniting Church in Australia has been in active partnership with the church in West Papua for more than 20 years.

A medical clinic has been supported through UnitingWorld and the Synod of South Australia. UnitingWorld has facilitated numerous volunteers, such as Ms Houghton, to undertake placements with the Church.

The English language programs provide young people with an opportunity to develop their communication skills which will help them to assist local government leaders and to be more effective advocates for their people.

Brisbane Valley Uniting Church is now seeking further ways to support this UnitingWorld initiative.

From a colourful and eye-opening presentation, the congregation learned about life in the primitive mountain villages. West Papua has one of the highest mortality rates in the world, with many people dying at around 40.

Arthen, 24, talked about his childhood: “I spent nine years in an orphanage. It was very difficult.” The students spoke of how they will use their new found language skills when they go home.

Simon explained: “My people need to organise themselves in business; the children need education. Now I can really help them.”

Photo : Young people from West Papua with their Brisbane Valley hosts. Photo courtesy of Rosemary Wycherley