Kareni, who has had several jobs with bodies such as Multicultural Arts Victoria, now works full-time for the West Papuan cause. I ask him why he does it. ''Because if I don't,'' he says, ''who will?'' Kareni says West Papuans formed 96 per cent of the population of their country when the Indonesians arrived. They now number less than half and the Indonesian authorities exercise, in his words, a ''culture of impunity'' in their dealings with them.
Kareni is a political man with a political message. He argues that, as a result of the Third Papuan People's Congress in Jayapura last year, West Papuans now have an elected leadership to begin round-table negotiations with Indonesia and a third party such as the United States. He doesn't rule out West Papua remaining part of Indonesia but says: ''There must be recognition of our rights as indigenous people to live freely, without repression and intimidation.'' The Indonesian authorities arrested 300 delegates to the Third Papuan People's Conference. The bodies of two others were found shot. Kareni's father had his skull fractured.
Saying armed struggle ''is not effective'', Kareni advocates non-violent activism and believes his people will win their freedom. His belief comes from his faith in the Christian God, from the Bible being the story of a dispossessed people, and from the strength of West Papuan culture. ''Our message is in our songs. Our songs are our message.'' He is part of a West Papuan band called Tabura, named after the shell blown like a horn to bring people together.
But I say, ''You're relying on the rest of the world to act on your behalf. What if they don't?'' ''Then I would have to question God,'' he replies after a pause. ''I would say, why have you created us and placed us in West Papua and allowed this to happen to us?'' Then he adds, ''If there is one West Papuan left, the cause of West Papuan freedom will continue.''