Inspiring Women of ANU Law: Veronica Koman
Veronica Koman (LLM '19)

Veronica Koman (LLM '19) is a human rights lawyer and West Papua activist.

To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the women who make our College a world-leading institution for legal education and research.

Veronica Koman is an ANU Law alumna and human rights lawyer. She was awarded the 2019 Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award for her work exposing human rights violations in West Papua. Despite being threatened with imprisonment by Indonesian authorities and subjected to online abuse, Veronica has remained steadfast in her mission to raise international awareness about West Papua.

What inspired you to study law?

I initially wanted to pursue political studies to fight social injustice, but then I realised that mastering political studies does not mean you can also understand law. On the other hand, mastering law can help you understand politics at the same time. I therefore thought that it would be more effective to fight social injustice and unjust laws by understanding law and using it as a tool.

What motivates you?

The injustice and never-ending sufferings that West Papuan people have to endure is what motivates me. Due to fighting against state machineries, I have to be creative and keep learning about new ways to combat the impunity.

West Papuans are the most resilient people I know. As long as justice goes unachieved on their behalf, I will keep going. Besides that, I have been very passionate about the always evolving international law since high school, so it has never been a burden for me to study law.

Who is a woman you look up to?

Yosepha Alomang, an award-winning West Papuan Indigenous elder whom lives at the site of the Freeport [gold and copper] mine. She had been tortured badly and lost her first child while fleeing to the forest. Despite everything she has been through, she is still very persistent in fighting for human and environmental rights.

That is a really high benchmark of resilience, and it really helps me amid all the attacks by the Indonesian government against me over my West Papua advocacy. On top of that, through her storytelling, Mama Alomang made me really understand how intertwined Indigenous and climate rights are.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It allows us women to gather and empower each other through this invisible bond. I hope that intersectionality discourse in feminism will get more and more advanced as we celebrate International Women’s Day each year.

What advice would you give your more junior self?

Being offensive when getting our points across will not work because the other person will only become resistant to our idea. Also, avoid grandstanding.

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