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May 05.21

Pedalling for Papua

Posted In: Charity Pot

This week, Jeremy Bally is joining the LUSH blog just as he prepares for another incredible adventure with Pedalling for Papua. We're proud to have Jeremy and his incredible organization as part of our Charity Pot family and we wish him the best of luck on his journey and sharing the messages from West Papua.

I pored over my itinerary last night with a calculator, and realized that I’ll be cycling 12,633 kilometers before this year is over. I haven’t started training yet, and it’s about 3 weeks until I leave. But I really don’t feel concerned. At least about that.

On the 1st of May in West Papua, dozens of demonstrations were held around the region to protest the 50th anniversary of Indonesia seizing control over the area. Over those 50 years, it’s been estimated that as many as 500,000 West Papuans have been killed either by the Indonesian security forces that operate with impunity there, or by the inequitable lack of development in their resource rich homeland. These protests saw 2 more added to that number, as military and police fired indiscriminately on peaceful protestors. Incidents like this fuel the belief that a slow motion genocide is still being perpetrated against West Papuans, who in the past few years have become a minority in their homeland. This is what I feel concerned about. I figure it’s worth more worry than a pair of tired legs.

A few years back a friend asked me if I’d ever heard of West Papua before. I said what everyone usually says - “Nope. you mean Papua New Guinea?” “It’s the Western half of the same island that Papua New Guinea is on,” she said, “But it’s a different place. I want to raise awareness about it. Do you have time to help?”

And that’s how it started.

Somewhere between cycling becoming my main form of transportation, and discovering a personal passion for storytelling through my childcare work, this idea popped up. I’m going to bike across Canada and tell people about this story. It seemed like the simplest way to do it, to be honest. Just go to people and ask to borrow their attention for some good old-fashioned story time. Simple face-to-face communication.

But I didn’t really feel like I’d earned the right to tell the story yet - I needed to get permission first. So I went to Indonesia, learned the language well enough to conduct interviews, and caught a boat to the easternmost province of the archipelago - West Papua. Posing as a hapless tourist (showing an interest in human rights there is a sure way to get deported), I conducted clandestine interviews with Indigenous Papuans about their experience. I heard first hand accounts of torture for the first time in my life, but not the last. I heard about land being stolen. I heard about mass killings. I heard about hope for a more peaceful future.

And then, after a few months of transcribing interviews and fixing up my ride, I cycled the story across Canada.

And then I thought, I should probably do that again. So this is where I’m at now. In January and February of this year, I recorded a series of Skype conversations with West Papuans exiles and refugees living internationally. Those recordings have been edited into a track, which has been set to an original animation. This will be projected onto a custom screen beside me on stage, while I narrate using original spoken word poetry and ukulele based hip-hop. I’ll be towing all the gear for this performance by bike through Canada, the US, UK, Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia over 6 months.

The campaign is arts-based because it’s a more inviting way to engage people. I want the audience to come because they’re expecting a great show. I want them to leave knowing how to make the world a more peaceful place. To this end, we are providing two key opportunities for audiences to engage in this issue:

First, the fundraising campaign will be directed towards West Papuan solidarity networks in the countries where the campaign is being run. In Canada, this will be Pacific Peoples Partnership, Canada’s only organization working directly with grassroots networks in West Papua.

Secondly, we are organizing an advocacy campaign to seek the immediate and unconditional release of the approximately 40 West Papuan political prisoners currently sitting in jail in Indonesia for peaceful acts of dissent. These efforts will work only by engaging members of the public all over the world in this story.

Now here’s where I’ve got to give a shout out to LUSH. Last year I organized nearly everything on my own - including funding, media, and event bookings. This was a great learning experience, but also very taxing and logistically limiting. LUSH Cosmetics has been the only corporate champion of this issue to emerge publicly, and the support they’ve shown for this campaign has been incredible. The potential now exists for this campaign to reach the international community in a way I could never have imagined. This is how peace is begun. Plus they give me nice toothpaste and happy soap to keep me looking at least passably professional. Biking is smelly work, and I’ve got to talk to lots of people. Thanks, LUSH!

Donations and steps towards action can be taken at, which also contains links to more information about the issue including other organizations that are working towards peace for the region. This is also where you’ll find info about upcoming events or how to contact the campaign team.

I’ve spent the last 4 years of my life thinking about this place. It’s got the second largest jungle left in the world. It’s home to the greatest underwater biodiversity anywhere on our planet. Its people showed me unbelievable hospitality and kindness during my time there, and now I’m lucky to call a few West Papuans my friends. They deserve to be heard, and I can’t imagine a better way to spend my time than supporting their efforts. The international community (by which I mean you) has a major role to play in this - if enough people start listening, it won‘t be as easy to fire a gun towards a peaceful crowd without getting caught. Let’s work together to turn West Papua into a household topic.

Peace and Bike Grease,

Jeremy Bally