Three years ago, I was invited to work with a gutsy young filmmaker who had begun to document and expose the removal, brutality and betrayal of a Papua New Guinean community who lived on the shores of Port Moresby, one of the oldest settlements on the island. The struggle by the Paga Hill community, led by resident and anthropologist, Joe Moses against forces wanting the land for development, was boldly captured on film by the intrepid Hollie Fifer, who traveled to PNG at high risk to chronicle their fight.
Her remarkable documentary, The Opposition, gives visibility to a community displaced and fragmented by the delusions of progress.
Too often, the horrors of eviction and demolition experienced by settlement and Indigenous communities, justified on claims to economic advancement, go unnoticed and undocumented. The dumping of these people on lands that have no connection to the generations before them and the consequent destruction of cohesive communal infrastructure, is not only a deep violation of their human rights, but a negligent contribution by governments and their agents to fostering divided, unproductive, damaged communities whose life prospects are thwarted and harmed by the violent, frequently unlawful, acquisition of land.
The Opposition study guide takes the reader into the world of community resistance and its precarious cycle of the heroic moves forward and the inevitable falling back.
It provides a practical palette of strategies that may assist in challenging the forced eviction of communities and the holding to account of governments and corporations, the beneficiaries of these acts of inhumanity. The guide covers critical components of effective opposition to human rights violations, from the use of domestic litigation and international human rights mechanisms, to the protection and role of human rights defenders and the power of global alliances.
The extraordinary impact of The Opposition is ultimately the value of the visual, the documentary form which serves not only as a disrupter, but also as a means of taking us as the audience straight in to the blows of real worlds and their wounds. It also stands as a testament to collective resistance and the courageous struggle by marginalised peoples around the world for a home, for their livelihood and for their dignity.
Professor Andrea Durbach
Director, Australian Human Rights Centre
Faculty of Law
University of New South Wales