Q&A with actor and shortlisted ReelOzInd short film producer Ben Mortley

The ReelOzInd short film festival brings together Australian and Indonesian filmmakers in the hope of highlighting our friendship and common bilateral struggles. This week we hear from producer Ben Mortley, one of the people behind Mukhtar’s Story, a short film originally shot as part of the feature-length documentary Aceh: beyond the tsunami, which has upcoming screenings you can find out about at the end of this post.

Aceh: beyond the tsunami explores the extraordinary stories of survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in the province of Aceh, Indonesia, where approximately 170,000 lives were lost. Watch the short film HERE.

How did Mukhtar’s Story come about?

Mukhtar’s Story was just one of about 25 interviews we recorded for our feature length documentary called Aceh: beyond the tsunami. His story did not ultimately make it into the final cut of the film, but it was such an incredibly evocative and powerful story that we cut it into its own short documentary.

We were over in Aceh filming during the 10th anniversary commemorations of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The idea came from the director, Tim Barretto, who was interested to see how the survivors had rebuilt their lives in Aceh. Aceh had been the area that was worst affected by tsunami with close to 170,000 lives lost, and yet most media coverage (especially in the West) had been about areas that hosted lots of Western tourism. Local Acehnese stories had remained largely unheard.

What is your background in film and acting?

My background began in acting. I performed in my first film when I was 13. Later I went to drama school at NIDA and began to work in the industry in theatre, film and television.

About five years ago I decided to act on the urge I had to be more involved behind the camera, so I did a post-grad diploma in Film and Television. Not long after that I met Tim, and we made a short film while travelling together through Indonesia (it is a country we both love). Then a few years ago Tim and the [ReelOzInd] film’s other producer, Melanie Filler, approached me with the idea that ended up becoming Aceh: beyond the tsunami and Mukhtar’s Story.

Why did you decide to submit to ReelOzInd, and what was the filmmaking process like?

It was really just a process of serendipity. After we cut together Mukhtar’s Story, Tim came across the ReelOzInd! Short Film Festival, which seemed to have the same ethos we did. It wanted to help foster a greater understanding and healthier relationship between the two neighbouring countries, and on top of that the theme of this year’s festival was ‘water’. It seemed a perfect match.

The filmmaking process was hard work, as it always is, and this was amplified by the language barrier. It increased the workload dramatically in post-production, especially with having to get translations and transcripts of every single interview. Even through our translator on location, when we were receiving delayed and abbreviated translations of the interviews, we knew the stories were incredibly powerful, and sometimes it was hard not to be emotionally affected.

In your eyes, how does the production of a documentary differ from a work of fiction?

The biggest difference that comes to mind immediately is the sense of responsibility one feels in a documentary. There is a responsibility to the stories that our participants shared with us. And it is very difficult thing to wrangle with at times. After filming nearly 50 hours of interviews we have had to whittle it all down to a story of 71 minutes. And it has to be crafted in such a way as to keep an audience’s attention. There is so much that is left out, and yet you still want to represent people in a fair and honest way. It makes me painfully aware of how easily people can be misrepresented in the media.

What would you say is the foremost piece of advice you could give to emerging filmmakers and actors?

Know what you want to say with your work and why you want to say it. Then get as much experience as you can on as many projects as possible. Learn how other people work, and steal from the best.

Any future plans?

I hope I continue to get to travel and work – both in front of and behind the camera. Travelling is one of my favourite aspects of this business, both in Australia and abroad. I love meeting new people, in new cultures, and celebrating what is different, and finding the commonalities that make us the same.

Read more interviews with ReelOzInd filmmakers here and here. Mukhtar’s Story also has upcoming screenings in Yogyakarta and Banda Aceh:

AIYA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Albert Christian Soewongsono

Welcome back to AIYA Member Spotlight! In this regular series, we talk to a different AIYA Member from either Indonesia or Australia to hear their story. This week, let’s learn about Albert Christian Soewongsono, ANU Masters student and past AIYA NTT committee member.

Where is your day job/what are you studying?

I am currently pursuing my Masters degree in Mathematics at the Australian National University, with the [Indonesian government’s] LPDP scholarship.

Credit: Albert Christian Soewongsono

What is your favourite place to visit in Australia?

I would say that Canberra is my favourite place in Australia, since I have found that the city isn’t as busy or crowded  as other cities in Australia, which is great for study. It also reminds me of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, where I came from. Also, the nature and wildlife here are well-preserved.

What is your favourite meal in Australia?

Honestly, I have not tasted many Australian dishes, but I think a meat pie is on the list. I distinctly remember eating this with my friends on the train from Melbourne to Canberra to attend a conference at ANU.

What is your favourite word in English?

My favourite phrase in English would be “community engagement,” which describes what both countries need to accomplist.

What is your favourite film/book/music artist?

My favourite Australian music band would be B2M. I think their songs are very catchy and traditional, and definitely contain local values of Indigenous Australians. The first time I heard about them was when they were invited to perform on stage during the International Education Fair 2014 at Nusa Cendana University [in Kupang, NTT].

How did you first become interested in Australia?

I remember the very first time I became interested with Australia was in high school. There was a representative from the Kang Guru Indonesia program who gave a workshop at my school. I still even have a sticker I got from that day stuck on my study desk. But it was not until I was introduced to the UniBRIDGE Project at my previous university where my passion for Australia grew bigger. That was the first time I learned more about Australian cultures and people, and so here I am, pursuing my Masters degree in this country.

How did you first get involved in AIYA?

I heard about AIYA when I was an undergraduate student at Nusa Cendana University – actually, it was CAUSINDY, one of the AIYA’s initiatives. The first time I got involved with AIYA was when Chris Hall, then AIYA NSW’s Community Outreach Officer and also the project officer of UniBRIDGE Project, came to Kupang to give a workshop about AIYA. Starting from that, we initiated the AIYA NTT chapter, which today is known as AIYA Eastern Indonesia. I then took the role of chapter treasurer.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

I am looking for better people-to-people relationships in both countries, especially for youth. Exchange programs like UniBRIDGE Project and AIYEP, in my opinion, have been wonderful opportunities for both Indonesians and Australians to experience both cultures and to learn from each other. I hope that these kinds of programs can last for a long time, and hopefully there will be more opportunities like these.

What do you like most about AIYA?

What I like about AIYA is that the people who are involved are really passionate about Indonesia and Australia, and they are very creative in planning their activities as well. Things like trivia night, social gatherings and the NAILA initiative tempt people to engage with and learn more about AIYA. Also, I think AIYA has managed to reach out to the wider community by having chapters in different parts of both Australia and Indonesia.

Sum up your experience as an AIYA member in three words.

Creative, engaging, awesome!

Thank you to Albert, and we look forward to sharing the next Spotlight on an AIYA Member soon! If you like what you hear and want to become an AIYA Member, you can do so here.

Q&A with award-winning emerging theatremaker and actor Rosie Clynes

The ReelOzInd short film festival brings together Australian and Indonesian filmmakers in the hope of highlighting our friendship and common bilateral struggles. This week we hear from actor, screenwriter and theatremaker Rosie Clynes, whose film Hilang won Best Fiction for 2017!

Watch Rosie’s winning film HERE.

Still from the short film Hilang. Credit: Rosie Clynes

“I feel like a stranger in my own hometown.”

Can you tell us about the film and how it came about?

The film is a short film called Hilang, or Lost – it’s got two names – and it’s a ten-minute film that I wrote and co-directed with Jonathan Soerjoko, who is a friend of mine.

We’re both Indonesian-Australians (I’m from Melbourne), and so it’s essentially about what it means to feel displaced in your own hometown. I think we came to the subject matter by saying, “Let’s do the film about what this year has been like for us” – because we both moved to Indonesia to, essentially, learn Indonesian.

The film is about two women who meet on a beach and exchange stories about their families and their lives. They talk about the family members they miss, and so on. It turns out that one of the women is the aunt of the other woman, but from another time – so it’s a little mystical and fantastical.

In terms of the message, we specifically made the film for ReelOzInd, so basically wanted to draw on the idea of water as a separator of families, and how more and more these days people are separated from their families by water, by the ocean. It’s all about longing.

What is your background in filmmaking?

I came from my usual headspace of a theatremaker, where I would make my own material and perform in it. But this turns out to be rather hard to film… nevertheless, I was acting in it and I also screenwrote.

I previously graduated from the VCA in theatre practice, which is essentially about acting but also writing for theatre.

Behind the scenes photo from the making of ‘Hilang’. Credit: Rosie Clynes

Were you influenced by anyone in particular?

Joe was inspired by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. We watched a beautiful film of his called Dreams, about a young Japanese boy who meets the spirits of a destroyed peach orchard.

And for me it’s probably David Lynch – just how surreal it is. He works with surrealism really well.

Who else was part of the production team?

It was me and Joe steering the ship, but we also had a lot of really talented Indonesian friends. We had the help of a local sound engineer and cameraman from Yogyakarta; we were friends with him so he was kind enough to help us. There was also a local photographer. So, lots of different friends from Yogya.

Were there any troubles filming on location?

We shot on a beach about two hours away from Yogya. We tried to use the live recordings from the original shoot, but the audio was hazy because of the wind – so we decided we’d have to dub it. I was hoping it wouldn’t be noticeable, but because we were running so short on time… We ended up recreating all the sounds in a studio.

The total process was about a month, so we kind of whacked it together pretty quickly because we knew we had a deadline coming up – at one point we suddenly realised, we have to put this together.

Another still from the film. Credit: Rosie Clynes

Overall, how would you sum up your ReelOzInd experience?

It’s been cool! It’s just been really nice to delve further into the film community in Indonesia, and then to see the films from Australia being shown and getting noticed in Indonesia. We managed to meet quite a lot of cool filmmakers, new film friends – people who are interested in that sort of stuff.

Any future aspirations?

I’ve been writing a lot of stuff recently, which has made me realise how much I like performing. I think in the future I’d like to stick more with acting for film, and acting for theatre as well. I also would like to be based in Indonesia for now.

Ultimately, I guess the dream would be [making] indie films.

Congratulations to Rosie, and you can read an article she wrote for the Australia-Indonesia Centre here.

Got a cold? In coin rubbing Indonesians trust

By Johanna Debora Imelda, Universitas Indonesia

Coin rubbing is a form of folk medication practised in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian and East Asian countries, such as Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, South Korea and southern China. In Vietnam and Cambodia, the practice is called cao gio and in China gua sha. In Indonesia, this practice is known as kerokan, which comes from the Javanese word meaning to scrape.

Coin rubbing and common cold

Kerokan is a dermabrasive therapy used to treat symptoms of the common cold such as nausea, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness and fainting. These can be caused by viral infection, which usually will go away by its own in five to seven days. The sick person only needs a good rest, to drink a lot of water and to eat proper food.

Coin rubbing is one way to warm the body as rubbing the skin produces heat. Kerokan, mostly applied on the back, neck, shoulder and chest, begins and ends with a massage using ointment containing camphor, such as Tiger Balm, Vicks or coconut oil.

Rubbing begins by firmly using the edge of a coin to produce parallel stripes on the chest and the back. It can also be done using other blunt tools, such as spoons, bones or wooden sticks, and for children, shallot with coconut oil.

Some people also take medicine such as paracetamol and aspirin after applying kerokan. The sick person will feel relieved and sleepy, then will get better and feel refreshed after several hours of sleep. The illness will be cured within two or three days after the sick person takes total rest at home.

A teacher demonstrates coin-rubbing technique in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 88studio/Shutterstock.com

Folk belief in coin rubbing

Indonesian folk medicine is influenced by a Chinese philosophy of health and illness. Chinese traditional medicine has influenced Southeast Asia since the fifth century.

According to Chinese beliefs, health is a state of spiritual and physical harmony with nature. A healthy body is in a state of balance between yinand yang, which are generally translated as hot (yang) and cold (yin), but these refer to qualities, not temperatures.

In some societies, responses to illness are grounded in a system of beliefs and practices, which have their own logical structure. From a scientific standpoint, beliefs about the source of illness might be irrational, but the treatments are a logical consequence of those beliefs.

In the case of kerokan, Indonesian people believe the practice is done to release excess cold wind which is considered responsible for the illness. In Indonesia the symptoms of the common cold are referred to as masuk angin, which literally translates as “the entrance of wind”.

It is said that the reddish mark symbolises the disappearance of the cold wind from the body. It is not entirely true, as a healthy person will get the same reddish mark if his/her skin is being rubbed. People also believe that if the sick person sweats a lot and lets out a fart, this is a sign of the cold wind leaving the body.

If the skin has recovered from the reddish marks, it is said that the wind has been dispersed. It may take two to three days for the skin to be recovered.

Scientifically, the idea sounds irrational because wind cannot enter or leave the body through the skin. It is also not wind inside the body that is responsible for the illness. However, many people believe in this practice and testify to the efficacy.

Side effect: irritation, red marks and dependence

Some people consider it a harmless procedure, but kerokan causes skin irritation, creating severe red marks that some people say do not fit into modern life. It looks awful if someone goes to the office with kerokanmarks on his/her neck. Nevertheless, people still do kerokan and seem unembarrassed about the reddish marks.

Other side effects include physical and psychological dependence on kerokan; some people routinely do kerokan even though they do not experience serious symptoms.

The body has at least 360 acupuncture points relating to organs inside the body. If kerokan is done properly, the acupuncture points can be reached. Moreover, the rubbing will apply pressure to points that might also affect the nervous system and brain, producing endorphin hormones.

The body produces endorphins as a local reaction to ease pain during the rubbing, but as the rubbing is continuously applied, the body might overproduce the hormone. Endorphin release makes the body deal with pain better, but it can also make the person feel they need it more than necessary.

Others are more dependent on the psychological effect of kerokan. In their book on traditional treatment, George M. Foster and Barbara G. Anderson wrote that it has a psycho-social support and psychotherapy effect. As it is mainly applied on the back part of the body, a proper kerokan should be applied by someone else, preferably an experienced traditional healer, relatives, friends or neighbours.

In The Art of Medical Anthropology, Susan R. Whyte wrote that interaction during treatment can also lead to psychological dependence because one of the characteristics of folk medication is courtesy and friendliness to the clients.

The whole process of kerokan needs at least 30 minutes, when the sick person and the healer can talk about not only the illness, but also family problems, economy, politics and gossip about neighbours.

Besides skill in massaging people, the masseur should have communication skills and experience. They usually know all the neighbourhood gossip and keep up to date with economic and political issues. A masseur without such skills and experience will likely not be hired a second time.

In this sense, the communication during the process of kerokan has psychological benefits for the sick person and it might make one go for kerokan again and again.


By Johanna Debora Imelda, Universitas Indonesia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Q&A with school student and award-winning ReelOzInd filmmaker Michael Abimanyu Kaeng

The ReelOzInd short film festival is on for another year, bringing together Australian and Indonesian filmmakers in the hope of highlighting our common bilateral struggles and friendship. This week we hear from Indonesian school student Michael Abimanyu Kaeng, whose film Water for Grandpa Jan won Best Youth Film for 2017!

Watch Michael’s winning film HERE.

Bagaimana latar belakang Michael?

Nama lengkap saya Michael Abimanyu Kaeng. Saya bersekolah di Penabur Secondary Kelapa Gading, yang mengajarkan saya beragam pelajaran penting yang menginspirasi saya. Saya dan keluarga sangat suka membuat film untuk menghibur teman-teman dan keluarga yang mengalami kejadian di film tersebut, seperti contohnya di film saya (saya ingin menghibur teman-teman yang kebanjiran).

Saya mulai membuat film waktu saya di kelas 4 SD, waktu pertama kali saya dihadiahi handphone dari ayah saya. Saya sangat entusias saat membuat film dan akhirnya terjun ke dunia short filmmaking.

Tolong ceritakan tentang alur cerita film Water for Grandpa Jan. Ide untuk film tersebut berasal dari mana?

Saya tinggal di Jakarta Pusat, di Bendungan Hilir, pusat keramaian kota. Saya benar-benar ingin menggabungkan tema air, yang disiapkan oleh ReelOzInd Film Festival 2017, dengan tema Jakarta ini. Seperti yang kita ketahui, Jakarta dipenuhi dengan masalah-masalah yang terjadi tiap harinya: kemacatan total di seluruh Jakarta, bebanjiran warga yang terjadi hampir setiap tahun di Indonesia, kekurangan air, kemiskinan warga, dan hal-hal lainnya. Setelah beberapa hari brainstorming bersama-sama dengan keluarga saya, akhirnya saya mendapatkan ide bagus. Saya memakai dua problem khas Jakarta ini: banjir, dan kekurangan air di beberapa area kecil di Jakarta.

Akhirnya saya kepikiran dan membuat film, Water For Grandpa Jan ini, yang ternyata memenangi kategori ‘Youth’ di ReelOzInd Film Festival 2017, yang diadakan bulan-bulan lalu.

Mengapa Michael membuat film untuk kompetisi ReelOzInd? Bagaimana tahap-tahap penulisan naskah, produksi dan paska-produksi?

Sebenarnya, saya tidak terlalu berharap. Saya membuat film itu karena ingin saja untuk mencoba ikut dalam ajang pembuatan film ini. Dalam produksi, saya tidak menggunakan alat-alat yang begitu canggih. Bahkan 50% footage dari film saya diambil dengan menggunakan handphone. Lainnya saya menggunakan Kamera XA-3 untuk mengambil scenes sinematiknya.

Ayah saya membantu dalam proses produksi film ini. Saya menggunakan ‘iMovie’ yang saya pinjam dari ayah saya, untuk mengedit film ini hingga menjadi film yang entertaining dan lucu.

Siapa saja tokoh sutradara atau aktor yang Michael sukai/kagumi? Mengapa?

Saya suka Mira Lesmana dan Riri Riza dari Indonesia, karena saya sangat terinspirasi oleh cerita Laskar Pelangi yang menurut saya sangat hebat.

Saya ingin bisa membuat film sekeren itu di masa-masa mendatang.

Apakah Michael mempunyai cita-cita menjadi sutradara atau produser profesional?

Ya. Itu salah satu probabilitas pekerjaan yang kira-kira saya mau.

Selamat, Michael! Nontonlah film Michael serta film-film ReelOzInd lainnya di sini.

Australia tries to unlock the benefits of proximity with Indonesia

By Kyle Springer, University of Western Australia

Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours. But surprisingly the two G20 countries trade and invest very little between each other. In fact, it is difficult to find two G20 neighbours that trade and invest in each other as little as Australia and Indonesia do.

File 20170924 17262 aldk2d.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
It is difficult to find two G20 neighbours which trade and invest in each other as little as Australia and Indonesia do. Source: Shutterstock.com

If you look at the numbers, Indonesia ranks as Australia’s 14th largest trade partner and Australia takes 10th place in Indonesia. The value of two-way trade stands at US$8.6 billion.

Compare these numbers to a couple other G20 neighbours in the table below.

Examples of bilateral trade among G20 economies. Source: World Bank World Integrated Trade Solution Analytical Data (2017)

The investment numbers are even more disappointing. The total Australian investment in Indonesia is less than 1% of Australia’s total outbound investment.

These numbers certainly do not reflect Indonesia’s rising economic importance and that it is predicted to become the fourth largest economy by 2050. Even if this prediction, based on a forward-looking report by PwC turns out to be too optimistic, Indonesia’s demographic dividend will still propel Indonesia’s economic growth over the next 25 years.

This narrative justifies a renewed effort on behalf of Australia to try and fix limping economic relations.

More than Indonesia’s investment risk

In July 2017 a group of Australian and Indonesian experts gathered in Perth, organised by the Perth USAsia Centre, to examine the causes behind weak economic relations and what can be done to improve them. In a report outlining their findings, the Perth USAsia Centre’s Working Group on Australia – Indonesia relations observed that both economies might not be complementary. Because of their reliance on natural resource exports Indonesia and Australia are actually competitors rather than collaborators.

In the report, the Working Group recognised Australian companies find it difficult to navigate Indonesia’s business climate. Foreign ownership rules and other regulations render attractive investments unappealing. Unable to withstand higher risk, Australian businesses move on to other opportunities.

But low risk tolerance cannot explain everything. Australian businesses have worked and thrived in complicated business environments elsewhere. Take China for example. With its lack of government transparency, shaky property rights, and bureaucratic corruption, it actually falls rather close to Indonesia on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.

What Australia does have is a narrative China’s economic rise and how it has benefited directly from it. Driven by demand from China, Australia’s mining exports more than tripled within 10 years. This gave Australia’s per capita disposable income a prosperous boost.

Indo-Pacific shared narrative

Rather than perception of risk and uncertainty, the working group explained that Australia simply has yet to see Indonesia as an opportunity.

There is yet a narrative of Indonesia’s rise and what it could mean for Australian businesses. The working group recommended Australia and Indonesia to craft a shared “Indo-Pacific” narrative. Instead of perceiving each other as a threat, they should choose to see each other as an opportunity.

There are signs of change in the way Australia thinks about Indonesia. Australia opened a new consulate in Surabaya in September to focus on commercial engagement and expanding Australia’s diplomatic footprint in the country. Four Australian states have trade and investment representatives based in Jakarta.

The state of Western Australia this year appointed its first minister for Asian Engagement, Bill Johnston. With his portfolio comes a mandate to promote trade, investment, cultural links, and government-to-government ties. Minister Johnston is making his first visit to Indonesia in September.

On the business side, there are plenty of success stories. Interflour Group, an Australian joint venture with Indonesia’s Salim Group built flour mills in South Sulawesi and West Java and supplied them with Australian wheat.

To underscore the proximity advantage that Australia and Indonesia have, it takes a grain ship only nine days to travel from the grain terminal in Western Australia to sail to Makassar and back. A comparable trip to ports in southern China would take about 10 days one way.

IA-CEPA: substantive starting point

Currently under negotiation, the Indonesia – Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), might be a substantive starting point to revive Australia and Indonesia economic relations.

If finalised, the IA-CEPA would be Indonesia’s second substantive bilateral trade and investment deal, after its agreement with Japan went into force in 2008.

Now the IA-CEPA has completed its sixth round of negotiations. Both governments have committed to conclude the agreement before the end of 2017. The working group sees this goal critical to solving the tepid trade and investment climate.

The ConversationIndonesia and Australia find themselves locked together by geography in the midst of the most economically dynamic regions in the world. The choice is simple: work together and prosper or ignore one another and miss out on the benefits their proximity offers. With IA-CEPA and an earnest Australian strategy to engage with Indonesia, it looks like both countries are on the right track.


By Kyle Springer, Program Manager at the Perth USAsia Centre, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

AIYA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Disty Winata

Welcome to AIYA Member Spotlight! In a new regular series, we’ll be talking to a different AIYA Member from either Indonesia or Australia to hear their story. We begin this week with Disty Winata, our new AIYA Links editor!

What are you studying?

I am currently a postgraduate student in commerce at the University of Sydney, majoring in marketing and strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship. Other than that, you can find me curating news about Australia and Indonesia for the AIYA Links!

What is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

My favourite city in Indonesia would be Yogyakarta. As I was raised in Jakarta where everything is fast-paced and hectic, Yogyakarta is pretty much the slower neighbour with incredible food. It is great to see that Yogyakarta has been in the spotlight for its culture and talent, and with recent development in tech start-ups and creative creators there, I would highly recommend everyone to put Yogyakarta down as the city to visit when in Indonesia.

I have only been in Sydney for seven months now and have discovered new places every week, so it is hard to pinpoint what my favourite place is in Australia for now.

What is your favourite Indonesian dish?

Tempe! I grew up eating tempe my whole life, and ask my mom to make me tempe orek (sautéed tempe with soy sauce) every time before I leave for Australia. I remember making it to my friends to introduce them to Indonesian food, and it was a smash hit!

Also, I think the halal snack pack deserves more attention. It is my cheat food and I happen to live next to one of Sydney’s best kebab houses. HSP combined with sambal is perhaps the best Australian meal combination next to a vegemite, butter and vita weat sandwich.

What is your favourite word in Indonesian?

My favourite Indonesian word or phrase would be gotong royong. It perfectly encapsulates everything about the kind and friendly people I have met in Australia and Indonesia.

What is your favourite music artist?

I am digging The Avalanches. They just came back form a 16-year hiatus and I was lucky to see them perform live at Vivid Sydney this year and was quite surprised to see such a mixed audience group across different generations. They sound as amazing live as they do on their albums.

How did you first become interested in Australia?

I remember in elementary school, I read RPUL (General Knowledge Pocket Book) and was so fascinated to learn about the geography of Australia. I remember learning about Mount Kosciuszko, Tasmania and also the Sydney Opera House, and how fast the country is. However, I did not visit Australia until 2011, where I fell in love in Sydney and would find any way to live there. Fast forward six years later, I am here as a student and having a great time!

How did you first get involved in AIYA?

Before moving to Australia, I lived in Canada for eight years and felt that I had lost touch with Indonesia as I could not find that many Indonesians studying there at that time. When I moved to Australia earlier this year, I immediately looked up different Indonesian communities and signed up for AIYA Links in my first week. I love the semangat spirit the team has as truly believe in the AIYA mission, and feel that I am closer to home.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

I would like to see more exchanges or mentorship programs in the creative community between Indonesia and Australia. I think both countries could benefit from sharing insights in the future of work, cultural resonance and also the spirit of entrepreneurship. I find both countries are uniquely entrepreneurial. Indonesians are known to be resourceful or “ngakalin” despite limitations, while Australia’s thriving creative ecosystem has empowered many small entrepreneurs to innovate.

What do you like most about AIYA?

The team at AIYA is very diverse but works really well together. Everyone has their own expertise and it is amazing to see such powerful team putting together so many amazing initiatives to foster the Australia-Indonesia relationship. It is also very active, where you could pretty much find events to attend or opportunities to partake every week.

Starting a new life away from home can be quite stressful, but AIYA takes the anxieties away as you have so many opportunities to meet a bunch of smart people who are really doing meaningful work in the community.

Sum up your experience as an AIYA member in three words.

Dynamic, friendly, engaging!

Thank you to Disty, and we look forward to sharing the next Spotlight on an AIYA Member soon! If you haven’t already, become an AIYA Member here.

Q&A with award-winning animator and artist Fierrany Halita

The ReelOzInd short film festival is on for another year, bringing together Australian and Indonesian filmmakers in the hope of highlighting our common bilateral struggles and friendship. This week we hear from Indonesia-based animator Fierrany Halita, whose film Acquiescence won Best Animation and Co-Best Film for 2017!

Watch Fierrany’s winning film HERE.

What is Aquiescence about, and where did the idea come from?

Aquiescence is a short animation that tells the story of Fig, a magical banyan tree who survives a wretched incident that causes her to lose her friends and surroundings. She tries to adapt to her new environment, but the changes never stop; it’s a never-ending cycle. Fig becomes the witness of all the changes that happen, every hello and goodbye.

In this animation, I choose to tell the story from the perspective of a tree because trees have been given deep and sacred meaning throughout the ages. Humans have often seen them as powerful symbols of growth, death and rebirth. Trees also have a longer lifespan than humans, some living for thousands of years, and because of that, trees are often considered a symbol of eternal, immortality and fertility.

So how does it feel to be a tree? To be something immortal, seeing every change without being able to do anything? If we think closely, as an individual human, we can’t really do anything to change the entire world. We see how modern technologies are growing fast, and although we might want to prevent them from growing even further, we might never defeat technology, ever – all we can do is adapt.

What was the animation process like?

For the 2D animation technique, I decided not to used the traditional hand-drawn animation, which takes a long time to finish perfectly. As this was an individual project with a limited timeframe, I picked an easier and more unusual way of working, using a program called After Effect because I LOVE anti-mainstream stuff. Basically, it works in the same way that motion graphics work. I was inspired by certain artists, animated films and games that use the same technique, such as the detective game Jenny Leclue, the Disney Junior television series Jake and The Neverland Pirates, and some of Daniel Gies’ works.

What is your background in animation?

I was a student of animation at Binus University in Alam Sutera, Jakarta. This short animation was my final individual project for graduation. At university, I learned about the entire animation process, from pre-production to production and post-production, but mostly in 3D – so we used 3D software such as Maya and 3Ds Max. But as I chose to make a 2D animation for my graduation project (because I LOVE 2D animation!), I needed to learn by myself by watching several tutorials, and also did some extra training independently outside my major.

I had an internship experience as a 3D animator at Infinite Studios, working on Disney Junior Octonauts, Sonic Boom, and Bob The Builder projects. But I currently work as a storyboard artist and visual development artist at BASE studio in Bali.

Have you found success at other short film festivals?

Yes, indeed. At the beginning, I never imagined that I would be able to find success at film festivals, including both local and international competitions. I have now won at seven festivals (local and international) so far, and have been officially selected for screenings and nominations at 20 other festivals.

What have been some of your major animation influences?

My biggest influence in animation is Disney, of course! I like the styles, the colorful styles, the fantasy themes and its extraordinary imagination.

What is the most important thing for emerging animators to remember?

One of my favorite quotes from the Frozen Artbook in on page 15: “A strong story will carry a weak animation, but the most polished animation can’t save a weak story.” Story is the most important thing on every film, no matter how beautiful the visuals are. By contrast, with a weak story the whole film will turn for the worse.

And one more thing is RESEARCH. Research really helps to develop ideas and the imagination.

Do you have any insights on the Indonesian film industry?

The Indonesian film industry, especially in terms of animation, still has a long way to go in chasing the Hollywood standard. But we’re getting there!

Well done to Fierrany and the other winners! Watch her film here.

Explore the collision of continents with Ian Burnet’s “Where Australia Collides with Asia”

Prolific writer and historian Ian Burnet has authored numerous books about Indonesia, and has travelled expansively across the archipelago. With the recent release of his latest publication, Where Australia Collides with Asia, we decided to delve into what it is about the nation’s cultural and biological diversity that so fascinates Ian.

What is Where Australia Collides with Asia about? How did you come to write it?

Alfred Russel Wallace is one of my heroes. He left school at 14 and became interested in the natural world while working in the countryside as an assistant surveyor. He started collecting and pressing plants before he had any idea there was such a science as botany. He then educated himself through local libraries and the Mechanics Institutes that were being set up all over Britain.

He then decided he could make a living collecting natural history specimens (insects, butterflies, birds, animals) in the Amazon and sending them back for sale to collectors in England.

I always wanted to write a book about Wallace but had to find a way that was new and different to what had already been done. It was introducing the story of continental drift and where Australia collides with Asia that allowed me to do this.

What is the story behind the Wallace Line?

In 1856 Wallace arrived for a few days on the island of Bali. Here he saw all the same birds that he had seen in his previous three years of collecting specimens in Singapore, Malaya and Borneo. When he crossed from Bali to Lombok and further into the eastern archipelago, he never saw the same birds again, instead seeing Australian species such as cockatoos, honeyeaters, bush turkeys and birds of paradise.

The Wallace Line represents the biogeographic boundary between the fauna of Asia (elephants, tigers, and all kinds of placental mammals including primates) and the fauna of Australasia (marsupials and all the different birds mentioned above).

Wallace was one of the founders of the science of biogeography. He was the founder of the idea of continental drift, because 50 years before Alfred Wegener had introduced the concept of continental drift and 100 years before the science of plate tectonics, Wallace had already concluded that Australia had collided with Asia. He was also, along with Charles Darwin, the co-founder of the most important scientific breakthrough of the last few hundred years – the concept of evolution through natural selection.

Not bad for someone who was self-educated!

How does your book have to say about Indonesia?

The fact that all these discoveries took place in Indonesia is something for Indonesians to celebrate. It should increase awareness by Indonesians of Indonesia’s unique position in the natural world and the importance of conservation of its already threatened species.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I lived and worked in Indonesia for 15 years as a geologist and have visited Indonesia for work or travel almost every year for another 30 years. It was after I retired in 2004 that I started researching and writing books about the always fascinating history of Indonesia and its people (including Spice Islands, East Indies, Archipelago and Where Australia Collides with Asia).

How important is it for you to both explore personally and share with others the history of Australia’s interactions with Asia?

Indonesia, spread across seventeen thousand islands and stretching the same distance as from Perth to Wellington in New Zealand, is the most culturally diverse nation on the planet. All this is on our doorstep as Australians, but for varying reasons most of us remain unaware of how much there is to see and experience in Indonesia. My books, the tours across Java, and the sailing voyages around the eastern archipelago are my contribution to bringing the wonders of Indonesia to a wider world, especially those in Australia.

Where can we find out more information?

Details about the books and the tours/voyages are available at this website. About 130 blogs, written over five years, about my travels and interests in Indonesia are available here.

A big thanks to Ian Burnet for his time and passion for Indonesian biogeography and diversity.

Inequality harms the health of all Indonesians, not just the poor

By Sudirman Nasir, Universitas Hasanuddin

When we talk about inequality, the victims that commonly come to mind are the poor. But in fact, inequality harms all parts of the society, including the middle and upper class.

Oxfam and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) released early this year a report on inequality, revealing that the gap between the rich and the rest of the population in Indonesia has widened over the last two decades compared to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia. “The four richest men in Indonesia now have more wealth than the poorest 100 million people”, the report stated.

Indonesia’s inequality, measured by the Gini index, increased from 0.30 in 2000 to 0.41 in 2015. The Gini, developed by Italian Corrado Gini in 1912, measures income distribution with a scale of zero to one. Zero means perfect equality and one means all the country’s income is earned by a single person.

The widening inequality in Indonesia will create or worsen public health problems, such as physical and mental illness, as well as increasing acts of violence that impact the whole society.

Injustice is toxic, makes us all unhappy

Inequality is divisive and corrosive for the whole society. Studies have shown various forms of health and social problems are much worse in societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor.

Worse health and social problems means we have more people with physical and mental illness, more people engaging in violence, and a lower level of trust in the community. The situation can lead to drug abuse, more people in jail, and teen pregnancies. It affects children’s well-being, with a higher likelihood of those children scoring lower in maths and literacy, thus reducing their chances of having a better life than their parents.

Recent studies have advocated reducing the gap between rich and poor to reduce such problems. They conclude inequality and injustice are toxic to our health and well-being.

According to Indonesian Health Ministry data from 2013, 6% of Indonesia’s population older than 15 years old, or about 14 million people, suffered anxiety and depression. An estimated 400,000 people have severe mental disorders and 57,000 of them are shackled or have been a victim of shackling. Fortunately, the 2014 Mental Health Law outlaws shackling, but Indonesia needs to make greater efforts beyond the law on paper.

Unfair conditions promote risky behaviour

High levels of inequality can affect how people view themselves in the society. Public health researchers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, in their seminal 2009 book on inequality, “The Spirit Level”, say greater inequality prompts “status competition” and “status insecurity” among adults and children and across all income groups.

Competition and insecurity breed individual alienation and vulnerabilities like worsening stress and frustration. They promote risk-taking behaviour such as heavy smoking, alcohol dependence and involvement in violence or even suicide.

This man lived shackled in stocks for nine years in a back room in his family’s home in Cianjur in West Java. When he was released, his legs had atrophied from disuse. Andrea Star Reese for Human Rights Watch, CC BY-NC-ND

Evidence shows surprising differences in countries’ well-being with different level of equality. The intentional homicide rate in 2011 in the United States, which has low equality, was 47 people for every million population. Compare the figure with those in more equal countries: 15 in Canada and three in Japan.

The cost of defending ourselves from such social problems is high. We need more money for police, jails and specific public services to tackle the problems, sometimes with high cost but low impact.

The middle and upper classes also suffer in situations of high inequality because of fear, threat and cost related to such problems. Take as an example the fear and anxiety related to the real threats of crimes, from petty ones to violent robbery on our streets. The economic, social and psychological impacts of these crimes are enormous because they can lead to injury, trauma, disability or even death.

Equality is good and possible

A large majority of the whole population — between 90% and 95% – benefits from greater equality, studies show. We, especially the government and the private sector, have to take the recommendations from the Oxfam-INFID report seriously.

A more equal society will benefit us all; we will have a better chance to improve our lives and have more capacity to live and work together. We will have less violence, crime, drug use and suicide in a more equal society.

Newer studies on mental health prescribe equality as part of the cure, and criticise the undue focus on individual solutions to mental illness. Individual treatments like therapies and drugs work well for many individuals, but the studies propose “social solutions” as well. We need to reduce inequality, based on the strong evidence that our mental health is highly sensitive to inequality.

Achieving equality is possible. Healthy public policies can help overcome the intergenerational cycle of inequality, by addressing its various drivers.

The Indonesian government has several options to combat inequality. One option is improving local service delivery in nutrition, sanitation, health, family planning and education, which then provides a better start for the next generation. Others are improving social protection programs such as conditional cash transfers, education subsidies and job training for young people.

We will need more funds to do this, but we can find the money if we tackle corruption and implement a fairer taxation system that forces more taxpayers to pay. The combination of these structural and individual programs can reduce inequality and promote better health and well-being.

The ConversationThe future of Indonesia’s development as a nation depends not merely on superficial economic indicators like economic growth but also on the more meaningful social measures of a more equal and just society.


By Sudirman Nasir, Lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Public Health, Universitas Hasanuddin.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.