West Papua Warriors are set to make history this Friday, when they play a Nines game against the Philippines Admirals in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta.
West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea, and it has been taken over by Indonesia.
In 1963, West Papua was taken over militarily by Indonesia and was illegally occupied.
In 1969, the ‘Act of Free Choice’ was held, which Indonesia insisted was a fair vote. In actual fact, 1,026 West Papuans were forced at gunpoint to vote for integration with Indonesia.
The UK and USA had strong links with Indonesia’s right-wing dictator Suharto, and so did not intervene.
The largest gold mine in the world at the time, Freeport, is located in West Papua.
Since 1963, it is estimated that some half a million West Papuans have died at the hands of Indonesian occupying forces, some 25 per cent of the total Papuan population.
Flying the West Papuan Morning Star flag is considered an act of treason by the Indonesian government, punishable by prison, which makes the emergence of the Warriors rugby league team all the more significant.
The team will wear a kit emblazoned with this symbol of West Papuan freedom when they face the Philippines.
Funds were raised for the trip to Australia thanks to a Go Fund campaign.
The players come from Papua New Guinea, and many have roots in West Papua. The team has been sanctioned by the RLIF and the NSWRL, and this will be the first time anywhere in the world that a West Papua team has competed internationally.
Love Rugby League wishes the West Papua Warriors all the best for the future.