Learn about the remote Mentawai tribal community with Rob Henry and ‘As Worlds Divide’

Nine years ago, Rob Henry left Australia and traveled to the Mentawai Islands, 150 metres off the coast of West Sumatra, to live with an indigenous tribal community. Now, he has returned with a simple message: watch a film, save a culture.

Photo: Rob Henry

Why did you make the shift from metropolitan Australia to remote Indonesia?

There were a number of reasons that influenced my decision to resign from work and head over to the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. After the collapse of the global economy in 2008, I wanted to leave the mainstream city environment behind because I felt I was contributing to a system that I no longer trusted. I needed to explore alternatives – a more meaningful, fulfilling and sustainable way to exist. This desire, combined with my connection to surfing, brought me to Mentawai.

I am back to Australia on and off at the moment to release a documentary film called As Worlds Divide, which is aimed at raising awareness and support to help the Mentawai community prevent the devastating loss of their indigenous culture.

Describe daily life in the Mentawai Islands. What was it like for you as an Australian joining from outside?

The pace of Mentawai daily life is much slower than what I had become accustomed to in Melbourne, which, whilst difficult to adapt to in the earlier stages, I now feel is a much healthier and more balanced way to live.

The first few months were incredibly challenging because I didn’t speak Indonesian or the Mentawai language. I was living with a government settlement community in a small coconut farming village, which is where I learnt the basics of the language. Here, I also learnt about a tribal community living further into the forest. My shift into the tribal community wasn’t as challenging as my initial arrival because I was able to communicate with them and therefore understand whether they were happy to have me there or not!

Photo: Tariq Zaidi

What was the biggest hardship you encountered?

By far the most eye-opening but also heart-breaking observation to grasp was just how different the people from the forest are to those who had been resettled into government villages. Seeing how rich their lives are in the forest – in terms of resources, pride, purpose, belief, attitude and even aesthetic – I realised that those from the coconut-farming village, despite being provided national schooling and various other infrastructural developments, were in fact living in a state of poverty. This troubled me for many months and in the end led me to undertake years of research in trying to understand the exact cause of this change and consequential disparity.

What was the single biggest takeaway from your time there?

If having to state just one, I’d say the biggest takeaway would be just how integral culture and connection to the land are to sustain the health and wellbeing of an indigenous people, or any group of people for that matter. Beyond the practicalities – where the land provides food, water, medicine, building resources and so forth – the sense of belonging to a community, having purpose and belief is such a critical ingredient in the makeup of one’s physical and mental health. For the Mentawai, maintaining a strong connection to culture protects them from destitution – for both the people and the land.

Photo: Rob Henry

What do you hope to achieve with the premiere of the As Worlds Divide documentary?

Over the past nine years, in support of the community’s Cultural and Environmental Education Program (CEEP), we’ve established a non-profit organisation in Australia called the Indigenous Education Foundation (IEF) and a yayasan in Mentawai called Yayasan Pendidikan Global Pribumi Indonesia (YPGPI).

The role of IEF is to help raise global awareness and support to empower YPGPI and enable them the necessary tools to implement their suku Mentawai CEEP. In effect, the As Worlds Divide film is key to sharing the Mentawai voice throughout the world – informing people about their indigenous culture, the issues they face, the community-driven CEEP solution, and of course reaching out for support to facilitate its success.

To help this along, IEF have developed the film’s #wafsac (“watch a film, save a culture”) campaign, whereby we invite people all over the world to do exactly that – #wafsac. This can be achieved by simply hosting a small screening and/or registering your details to join the #wafsac community and help us spread the word. This is what we hope to achieve with As Worlds Divide.

Masurak bagatta, thank you.

For more info on the Mentawai Islands and how to get involved with #wafsac, visit www.iefprograms.org/wafsac.

Foster your passion for Indonesia with language skills, says career champion Jeffrey Neilson

“When a local Dayak leader started negotiations by laying his sword on the table between us, I decided it was time to leave.”

The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists. Today we hear from Dr Jeffrey Neilson, researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.

Tell us a little about your early career. What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

Jeffrey at the Ubud Food Festival in 2016.

I started studying Indonesian at high school in Australia, and first got excited about Indonesia during a field school that my school organised to Bali in 1989. After a few backpacking trips across Sumatra, I then picked up Indonesian language again at university, where I was studying Environmental Science as my main degree.

I participated in semester-long program at Universitas Indonesia in 1994, where we sat in on Indonesian literature classes and did an internship with a World Bank Land Administration project. My first exposure to research was a study on how land administration and titling might affect Dayak communities in the Meratus Mountains of South Kalimantan, who were practicing swidden agriculture.

I decided to stay on in Indonesia after the semester program once I found a job with an environmental consulting firm in Jakarta. It was my language skills that got me this job. I would translate reports and Indonesian laws for the company while developing skills in environmental and social impact assessment. For the next few years, while I completed my degrees in Australia, the company would fly me up to Jakarta to work during university breaks.

Like so many other people I know, I got my first professional job because of my Indonesian language skills.

Tell us about your current occupation.

After graduating, I worked from 1999-2001 on a gold mine in Central Kalimantan. This was a very tense work environment as both the Australian company, who held a Contract of Work with the government, and a community of some 5000 small-scale miners were equally intent to access the ore. It was my role to mediate. When a local Dayak leader started a negotiation meeting by laying his Mandau sword on the table between us, I decided it was time to leave the mine.

I enrolled in a PhD program in geography at the University of Sydney, where I studied livelihoods and the coffee trade in the Toraja region of Sulawesi. This led to an Australian Research Council postdoc and then a lecturing position at the University of Sydney. Again, I believe that my Indonesian experience was a key factor in my employment. I continue to do research on rural development, natural resources and global markets in Indonesia.

In addition to research activities, I also design and develop opportunities for undergraduate students to experience Indonesia through short-term field schools and semester-long learning programs that combine language learning with geography. I am a big believer that language learning should ideally be combined with other disciplinary specific or technical knowledge and skills.

What do you enjoy the most about working in Indonesia?

I love the natural beauty and cultural diversity of Indonesia – in short, the geography of the country. The mountainous regions of Sumatra, Sulawesi and Papua are particularly favourite places. Australia has great beaches (like Indonesia), but we don’t have the same mountainous beauty that Indonesia has, and the mountain peaks are themselves so different from the sweltering coastal plains where most Indonesians live. Fortunately, my work on the Indonesian coffee sector takes me to these same mountainous regions.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of resources?

There are some interesting complementarities between Australia and Indonesia in the food and agricultural sectors. We generally produce food items that the other country doesn’t produce, allowing a robust trade. Indonesia is developing a sophisticated food processing sector, and Australia is benefiting from the supply of raw materials – just think of the Australia wheat used to make Indomie, which is then exported all around the world.

And Australia has one of the most dynamic and innovative specialty coffee sectors in the world. Australian coffee styles are now being adopted in the US, Europe and across Asia (including in Indonesia). Some interesting relationships are now developing between Australian roasters and the many regions of Indonesia that produce high quality Arabica. I’d love to see these complementarities further developed, and to see more Indonesian culinary influence in Australia.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in working in resources?

The only bit of advice I would give is to follow whatever it is you are passionate about. Indonesia offers so many opportunities for young Australians who have language skills, who are willing to learn about the society and culture, and who have a particular passion they would like to follow.

AIYA would like to thank both Jeffrey and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. You can find Jeffrey on LinkedIn.

Orang muda Indonesia ini berinovasi untuk membuat dampak sosial di Indonesian Ideas Conference

About ICON 2017
Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Australia University of New South Wales (PPIA UNSW) dengan bangga mempersembahkan acara terbaru kami, INDONESIAN IDEAS CONFERENCE yang dapat disingkat ICON.

Acara perdana ini merupakan sebuah konferensi yang bermisi untuk menginspirasi masyarakat Indonesia melalui ide-ide kreatif dan inovatif yang memberi dampak positif bagi generasi selanjutnya. Selain menginspirasi setiap generasi, PPIA UNSW juga akan turut serta membantu Panti Asuhan “RUMAH HARAPAN” dimana semua keuntungan yang diperoleh dari acara ini akan disumbangkan kepada yayasan tersebut yang berlokasi di Jakarta, Indonesia.

Tahun ini, ICON mengangkat tema “IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES” yang bertujuan untuk memotivasi masyarakat Indonesia untuk berani bermimpi, berinovasi, serta mengembangkan potensi diri dalam setiap peluang yang ada. Sesuai dengan tujuan dari konferensi ini, pembicara-pembicara ternama dari tanah air akan diundang untuk membagikan inspirasi kreatif. ICON juga akan dilengkapi dengan berbagai penampilan menarik dan spektakuler yang akan menghibur para peserta konferensi.

Selain menginspirasi setiap generasi, PPIA UNSW juga akan turut serta membantu Panti Asuhan “RUMAH HARAPAN” dimana semua keuntungan yang diperoleh dari acara ini akan disumbangkan kepada yayasan tersebut yang berlokasi di Jakarta, Indonesia.

Pembicara-pembicara dan pengisi suara untuk ICON 2017
Tahun ini kami dengan bangga mengumumkan tokoh-tokoh pembicara ternama dari Indonesia untuk membagikan pengetahuan dan pengalaman mereka untuk menginspirasi generasi Indonesia selanjutnya.

Tidak perlu diragukan lagi bahwa semua rakyat Indonesia pasti mengenal Andy F Noya. Andy terkenal dengan gelar wicara Kick Andy yang sering juga dikenal orang sebagai gelar wicara Indonesianya Oprah Winfrey. Andy juga telah menginsipirasi jutaan orang Indonesia dengan mengangkat dan membahas masalah sosial yang ada di Indonesia. Di acara ICON, Andy akan berbagi pengetahuan dan pengalaman bagaimana menjadi kewirausahaan sosial dan memberikan dampak perubahan untuk era baru Indonesia.

Daniel Mananta terkenal sebagai tokoh di industri hiburan yang pernah menjadi pembawa acara Asian Idol yang ditayangkan di enam negara dan juga memenangkan Panasonic Global Awards 2013 untuk kategori Pembawa Acara Terfavorit. Kreativitias Daniel tidak hanya berhenti disini, dia merintis usaha industri rumah tangga pakaian yang sangat terkenal DAMN! I LOVE INDONESIA yang meningkatkan patriotisme dan nasionalisme bangsa Indonesia. Di acara ICON, Daniel akan berbagi pengetahuan dan pengalaman bagaimana meningkatkan rasa nasionalime bangsa Indoneisa.

Alamanda Shantika adalah salah satu pelopor aplikasi GoJek yang merombak sistem transporasi Indonesia. Dibawah kepemimpinan Alamanda, Gojek berhasil berkembang dari usaha kecil di Kerinci menjadi salah satu perusahaan terbesar di Indonesia yang bernilai lebih dari satu milyar dolar. Sekarang, Alamanda adalah pelopor dan CEO akademi teknologi – BINAR Academy yang bertujuan untuk memperkuat dan mempersiapkan generasi pengusaha selanjutnya. Di acara ICON, Alamanda akan berbagi ilmu bagaimana cara merintis perusahaan start-up hingga berhasil.

Noor Huda Ismail adalah wartawan yang telah bertemu and mewawancarai banyak teroris dan dia mendedikasikan hidupnya untuk berjuang melawan terorisme dan menciptakan kedamaian. Salah satu upaya nya adalah dengan membuat sebuah film dokumenter berjudul Jihad Selfie yang mengungkapkan bagaimana pemuda/pemudi direkrut sebagai anggota ISIS. Noor juga merintis organisasi anti terorisme The Institute of International Peace Building in Indonesia. Tindakan dan keberanian Noor telah merubah banyak pendapat orang dan mengklarifikasi topik ISIS yang tidak pernah didiskusikan sebelumnya. Di acara ICON, Noor akan membagikan pengalamannya menjadi wartawan dan cerita tentang ISIS yang mungkin belum pernah kita dengar sebelumnya.

Isyana Sarasvati memulai karir musiknya sebagai penyanyi opera klasik yang kemudian menjadi penyanyi pop. Sejak saat itu, Isyana berhasil mendominasi industri musik Indonesia dan memenangkan banyak penghargaan seperti artis pendatang terbaik dan penyanyi terbaik pada tahun ini. Kami sangat bangga bahwa Isyana akan berbicara di ICON tentang bagaimana dia mengelola tren menjadi musik Isyana juga akan mempersembahkan suara emas nya untuk menghibur penonton ICON.

Ticket details
ICON akan diselenggarakan pada Sabtu, 27 Mei 2017, yang bertempat di Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of New South Wales (UNSW). Register here.

Contact our ticket officers:
William Tjoa (+61 412 476 964)
Yohanna Allenzia Hendrawan (+61 414 848 665)

These young Indonesians are innovating for impact at the Indonesian Ideas Conference

The University of New South Wales’ Indonesian Student Association of Australia (PPIA) is bringing young Indonesian’s together to innovate at the inaugural Indonesian Ideas Conference (ICON) on Saturday 27 May.

PPIA have crafted ICON to be a conference where participants can challenge their limits and become the best version of themselves. PPIA’s mission is to motivate and inspire individuals to dream and to take on every opportunity they encounter.

With an exhilarating conference theme “Imagine the Possibilities”, ICON is a space for students and young professionals to see what happens when they disrupt norms, break the status quo, and undertake extraordinary action. All in the name of creating social impact.

In line with ICON’s social mission ICON is donating all profits from the event to the Jakarta-based orphanage Rumah Harapan or “Hope House”.

Who will be there?
ICON will bring prominent figures from across Indonesia including entertainers, musicians, peace builders, tech superstars and social entrepreneurs together with young professionals and students. These well-renowned leaders will share their knowledge, experiences and ideas to will inspire the next generation of Indonesian’s to make an impact to society and create a better world.

Acclaimed entertainer and the founder of the famous household clothing brand Damn! I Love Indonesia, Daniel Mananta, will speak about how to make a nationalistic impact in modern Indonesia.

Hear from Alamanda Shantika, one of the key thinkers behind major Indonesian company and app GoJek and founder of own tech-academy BINAR Tech Academy. Alamanda will discuss how she coded, designed and built the Gojek app from the beginning while at the same time worked on people’s development and built the company’s capacity. Alamanda will also share insights on her work at BINAR Tech Academy where she continues her pioneering and socially conscious tech work

Kick Andy host, Andy F Noya, is a household name and he has inspired millions of Indonesians by raising awareness of social issues in Indonesia. At ICON Andy will provide insights on how to become a successful social entrepreneur and influence change in modern Indonesia.

ICON will truly inspire with, Noor Huda Ismail, a Jihad-terrorist journalist and founder of The Institute for International Peace Building in Indonesia, speaking on how he has dedicated his life to fighting terrorism and creating peace. Noor’s work has included directing a film called Jihad Selfie a documentary that unfolds how teenagers are being recruited into ISIS.

Award winning Isyana Sarasvati will provide insight on how she mastered piano, electone, flute and saxophone to became one of the most popular young composers and musicians in Indonesia today.

The ICON conference isn’t just talks and workshops it is equipped with various attractive and spectacular appearances to entertain conference participants.

Join ICON for a dynamic day of discovery and inspiration as well as networking and social events. These exciting reflections, stories and lessons are not to be missed.

ICON is a testament to the ongoing success of Indonesian’s studying, working and living in Australia.

If you want to know more about ICON or the inspiring young Indonesian’s behind it at PPIA, you can find more information on their website.

Or if you are keen to be part of Indonesia’s next generation of innovation – head along to ICON on Saturday, May 27, 2017 from 15.00 – 20.30 at Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of New South Wales (UNSW). Register here.

For any ticket enquiries contact our ticket officers:
William Tjoa +61412476964
Yohanna Allenzia Hendrawan +61414848665

Career Champion: language lover Ochie Chandra DeMeulenaere

The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists and winners. Ochie Chandra DeMeulenaere, a finalist in the tourism/travel category, is this week’s interviewee.

Tell us a little about your career.

I was born and raised in Padang, West Sumatra. I studied English Literature at Andalas University, Padang. At that time, my dream was to work equally to men. My professor, Ibu Diah, taught me lots about feminism and women’s empowerment. I left my hometown after I graduated and started to work in advertising companies in Jakarta.

After a few years of working to deadlines, I applied to become a lecturer at the Bina Nusantara University (BINUS), to teach advertising and English. This was my chance to learn about writing for curriculum, syllabus and teaching plans. I learned about organizing classes and and learned what was effective.

After six years living in Jakarta, I left for Bali and started working at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in 2010. The next year, my husband Stephen and I founded Cinta Bahasa, an Indonesian language school. Stephen taught me lots about business and my experience working at advertising agencies and university helped a lot in preparing learning materials for the school and organizing almost 200 hundred volunteers for the UWRF.

What brought you to connect with Australia?

We had Australian Studies and Australian events in my university, but that was all. After I moved to Bali, I met more Australians who visited or lived in Bali. They loved Indonesia and they wanted to learn more about Indonesia. They helped me to understand Australia better. Most of our students in the first year Cinta Bahasa was opened were Australians. Some of them started learning from zero and some of them already spoke some Indonesian!

Tell us about your current occupation.

I’m the Co-Founder of Cinta Bahasa Indonesian Language School and from 2010, the Volunteer Coordinator at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and the Ubud Food Festival.

How did you find your current job?

I created my current job. When I first moved to Bali, I was expecting a more integrated community of expats and Indonesians like I have seen in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bandung. My husband and I realized that expats needed a place where they can learn Indonesian language and to communicate and interact better with the locals. We started with just one teacher in an occasionally-rented room in a local college to test our teaching methodologies and our unusual concept of a formal school starting by teaching informal language, and grew from there.

I think we’re successful because most people learn Indonesian language with the goal that they will need to be able to use it. It wasn’t too hard for us to come up with the name for our school, Cinta Bahasa, because we knew that a method that taught people to love (cinta) speaking Indonesian language first was the right method.

We were afraid that institutions would avoid learning with us because they probably only want to be able to speak formal Indonesian with each other, but we were wrong, they also want to be able to speak to people’s hearts and not just their minds, and so we’ve had clients like the US Army and Marines Indonesian language specialists, Australian Consulate in Bali and many other government, embassy and corporate clients.

What do you enjoy the most about working in relation to Indonesia?

When I visited Australia, I was moved by students and teachers who were learning Indonesian at their school or taking private tuition. Some of them speak some Indonesian and have visited Indonesia at least once. When Cinta Bahasa opened in Ubud, we received many Australian students and some of them have become my good friends. They are kind and generous people, they’ve showed me how important Indonesian culture and language are to them. I really like that Australians, like my Canadian husband, are very practical-minded, down-to-earth and ready to lend a hand and cooperate.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of tourism/travel?

The Indonesian government is trying to attract more and more Australian tourists every year. Many Indonesians are also traveling to Australia just to visit or to study to expand their experience and perception, and improve their skills. There are more and more friendships built between Australians and Indonesian both in here and in Australia. To support this grassroots effort, the Australian Government should make it easier and cheaper for Indonesians to get a visa to enter Australia.

Also, I think Indonesia, or Bali in particular, needs to educate people who work in the tourism sector to make sure that tourists respect the local culture and people, in how they dress in public and their behaviour. Indonesians also need more training on how to deliver a high-quality experience.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in tourism/travel?

For Australians I would recommend they make the effort to learn the language and culture and adjust themselves to living as Indonesians do. Make friends with locals because this is very valuable. Learn to ride a motorcycle in Australia and get licenced before you come to Indonesia. If you ever need to drive or ride on the back of a motorbike, be sure you wear helmet at all times.

For Indonesians I would recommend they also make the effort to learn English and educate and adjust themselves to living as Australians do. I think it’s important to experience living as other people do, rather than to make judgments about it. A lot of Indonesians think that every thing in Australia is expensive, but actually if you pay attention, you will find many ways to reduce the cost of living to the point that it can be affordable for young Indonesians to visit Australia.

What does the future hold?

I’m in this for the long-term, and I will keep trying different things until I’ve found a formula for success. I have visited different parts of Australia and I’m looking for more opportunities to visit the parts I haven’t been to yet, such as Melbourne and Brisbane to meet with students and teachers at schools and universities there. It’s not only about business, I also want to see the area and make friends, so we make time to meet with clubs and catch up with acquaintances and friends.

We would like to thank both Ochie and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. You can find Ochie (ochie@cintabahasa.com) on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Q&A with “Angkot dan Bus Minangkabau” author David Reeve (Part 2)

David Reeve’s new book, Angkot dan Bus Minangkabau: Budaya Pop & Nilai-Nilai Budaya Pop, translated by Australia-based linguist and lecturer Iskandar P. Nugraha, reveals the colour and complexity of this aspect of Minangkabau pop culture in vibrant and entertaining fashion. We talked with both to find out more about their new work. You can read the first half of the interview here.

What do you hope to achieve with the book’s publication?

David: I am just delighted to make a record and provide some analysis of this very lively, creative and fun cultural phenomenon. I’m concerned that it is in danger of disappearing. For example the wonderfully decorated Padang city buses have almost all gone now that the Trans Padang bus service has been introduced … from a very lively popular art form they are now almost extinct. The number of angkot are also declining, down to about 2000 now from some 2200 a few years ago. Cheap credit for motorcycles has taken away some of the clientele. And online alternatives like Gojek and Grab haven’t started yet in Padang, but are most likely to come.

And further still, although outsiders are very impressed by the angkot of Padang, the angkot are not well-regarded by Padang authorities, seen as transgressive and rather wild. Current moves to ‘clean up’ Padang may affect the angkot too. Whereas in Manila, the very colorful and distinctive jeepneys are seen as an asset for city tourism. So as well as drawing attention to this form of popular culture in West Sumatra, I hope to stimulate interest in such from of decoration across the archipelago, and just possibly to help the angkot to be more appreciated in their home city (if that is not aiming a bit too high).

Iskandar: Given the current situation of angkot and buses of Minangkabau, I am totally with David that we should appreciate this West Sumatra icon of popular culture as such. This is the first publication that I know of which focuses on discussing the angkot as a cultural phenomenon and I hope it paves the way for further research in this area. Furthermore, the bilingual layout of the book and word lists for Minang, Indonesian and English should make it an invaluable teaching resource and accessible to a wide audience.

What has the response from readers been like so far?

Iskandar: We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from readers and publication reviews such as Jawa Pos and Republika but my proudest moment as a translator came when hearing from a local Minang while in West Sumatra. The young man from Bukittinggi said that he enjoyed the Indonesian translations very much and found it very accurate. He said, ‘The one who did the translations must have a very good understanding of Minangkabau culture.’

Tell us about the book tour in Indonesia – what was the response from bedah buku attendees?

Our original book tour schedule was to begin at Bandung Book fair with our publisher showcasing two new books: David’s angkot book and Peter Carey’s history of corruption in Indonesia book. There was obviously some political backlash surrounding Peter’s book and the venue cancelled our event. So while the publisher set about rescheduling our tour, David still managed to attend our book fair stand for a meet and greet with the fans.

After a 12 day wait, we finally got on the road. Our tour covered Java, Sumatra and Bali taking place at universities, cafés, libraries and bookshops (Kedai Tjikini Jakarta, Togamas Affandi bookshop Yogyakarta and C20 library Surabaya). Universities we visited included State University of Padang, Airlangga University of Surabaya, Brawijaya University of Malang, Wisnuwardhana University of Malang and Ngurah Rai University in Denpasar.

Among public figures appearing on our discussion panels were Indonesian LGBT campaigner and linguist expert Dr Dede Oetomo, well-known writer Seno Gumira Ajidarma, West Sumatran historian Zul Asri, Maya Ardiani and university academic Ary Budhi and Dr Kustyarini. The tour events were varied in format such as general lectures, book discussions and presentations. Kompas and Surya Malang published enthusiastic articles about the tour in Jakarta and Malang. David was also interviewed by local television in Jakarta.

Attendees at a book discussion in Padang. Photo: Iskandar P. Nugraha

In the towns in Indonesia we visited for the book tour, the responses were amazing. The events were always full, mostly by university students, academics and journalists. In some places like Jakarta, the event attracted people from varied backgrounds and ages, such as students of urban transport, artists, writers and so on. The questions were also varied. As online transport was becoming a hot issue during the book tour, some of of the audience were throwing questions around that issue too.

It has been planned that the second book tour for other Indonesian cities will held in the coming month of August 2017.

What’s next for you both?

There are a number of projects for us to go after this. Most likely we’ll get straight back to the long awaited biography of famous and respected Indonesian Chinese historian Ong Hok Ham. We have been working on this for sometime now. After that perhaps some more work on the Indonesian diaspora in far off-countries like South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname and New Caledonia, formed centuries ago by particular aspects of the colonial situation.

Q&A with “Angkot dan Bus Minangkabau” author David Reeve (Part 1)

David Reeve is well-known not only within the ranks of Australian academics of Bahasa Indonesia, but also as a researcher and expert on Indonesian culture. His new book, Angkot dan Bus Minangkabau: Budaya Pop & Nilai-Nilai Budaya Pop, translated by Australia-based linguist and lecturer Iskandar P. Nugraha, reveals the colour and complexity of this aspect of Minangkabau pop culture in vibrant and entertaining fashion. We interviewed both to find out more about their new work.

David, what is Angkot dan Bus Minangkabau all about?

Witty words and phrases, bright colours, pictures and symbols – these are the elements in a tradition of decoration of various kinds of transport in different parts of Indonesia: becaks, bajajs, trucks, bemos, buses and passenger vans (angkot) … sometimes combined with booming music. The trucks of the north coast of Java are famous for sexy or pious pictures plus snappy phrases. Buses north and south of Yogyakarta are often covered with big pictures and a range of phrases and slogans. The angkot of Medan and Makassar are sometimes quite boldly decorated. But the peak of all this decoration is found in West Sumatra, particularly on the fabulously decorated angkot of the city of Padang, and in a range of buses, large and small, including Padang city buses (now disappearing), and intercity and interprovincial buses. The book Angkot dan Bus Minangkabau is an attempt to record, celebrate and analyse this dramatic and fascinating phenomenon of popular art, popular culture and popular values.

What was the main impetus behind the writing of the book?

The first impetus came from my career as a teacher of Indonesian over several decades. I am always interested in dramatic and memorable language, language that packs a punch – language that I can use in Indonesian classes. I’ve found some terrific language in signs, posters, billboards and ads of all kinds, in print media, radio, television and the internet. I went to Padang in 2006 for a wedding and was bowled over by the angkot, these moving works of art flying up and down the city streets, and started recording the language decorations on them. Then I went to Bukittinggi and realised that the buses have their own forms of decoration as well, with big pictures more prominent. I thought this was all so dynamic, creative and fun that it was worth recording. Eventually the notes, taken over several years and several visits, became the core of the book.

Tell us about the writing process – what kind of research did you do? Where, with whom?

My research started with recording the language, words and phrases, on angkot and buses, not always easy as they tend to fly past at a considerable speed. Then the greater sophistication of mobile phones allowed me to take pictures as well, so I had a rapidly growing corpus of words and phrases on the one hand (in various languages, mainly English, Indonesian and Minangkabau), and an expanding collection of pictorial decorations on the other. I added to the collection on the occasions I could make short visits to West Sumatra … so the research was from a collection of short visits of a few days, but over about six years initially.

Iskandar and David at the book’s launch and panel discussion in Jakarta. Photo: Komunitas Bambu

I was really only intending to make a collection of teaching materials, but as the word bank and picture collection grew, I began to see that there were very specific themes recurring in the data … and that these themes represented various values, and further that the values endorsed there were very different from the ‘standard’ or ‘official’ version of Minangkabau values. I came to see the popular culture expressed on the angkot and buses as showing a counter-culture, in opposition to official values. So I started with a language collection but ended, almost despite myself, writing something more like sociology and ethnography – based on a corpus of language items.

For the first few years this was more like a personal hobby, but in the later few years I realised I needed help, especially with the Minangkabau language of course. So various individual Minangs helped out as research assistants, and I established a good contact with the Universitas Negeri Padang, where several staff and students helped, particularly in the last couple of years when it became clear that this was to be a book rather than a set of teaching materials. In Australia, Iskandar P. Nugraha helped in many ways, far beyond the very good translation he did. It is a bilingual book, with English on the left-hand page, and Indonesian on the right. And it has about 300 pictures.

Iskandar, tell us about your role as translator?

I’ve been living in Australia for over 20 years now. During that time I’ve worked with UNSW, USYD, NSW Department of Education, ABC and SBS and other Australian academics in various roles from lecturer and editor to voice over artist and actor. Working in these various environments has given me a diverse experience.

David and I have a history of working together; while at UNSW I assisted David with the development of the communicative language material with an emphasis on bahasa gaul (street language) and other informal language. I was also involved in the editing and translation of David’s 2013 book Golkar of Indonesia: An Alternative to the Party System. The Indonesian edition was also published by Komunitas Bambu with title Golkar sejarah yang hilang: akar pemikiran & dinamika. With the Angkot book, initially I was assisting David with the planning, research and collation of material both in Australia and Indonesia. I had already become quite immersed in the project so when the publisher suggested the book be bilingual, and David insisted that I was the best person to translate, it was rather exciting. My understanding of bahasa gaul was essential for this book.

You can read the second part of this interview next week.

Career Champion: cricket enthusiast Bruce Christie

The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists. Bruce Christie, a proponent of cricket in Eastern Indonesia, is this week’s interviewee.

Photo: Bruce Christie

Tell us a little about your early career.

I studied Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland, living at International House in St Lucia. I worked in private veterinary practices in Gympie and Caboolture before beginning work with the NSW government in 1982.

I was appointed to the position of Australian Animal Health Advisor with the Eastern Islands Veterinary Services Project, an AusAID/GOI project from 1989 to 1992, and returned as the Project Leader for the second phase from 1995 to 1998. I was based in Kupang, NTT.

I was appointed the NSW Chief Veterinary Officer in 2002 and now hold the position of Deputy Director General Biosecurity and Food Safety within the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

In 1989 I applied for a position with the Eastern Islands Veterinary Services Project (EIVSP). I was successful and moved to Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, for three years. I then returned frequently to Indonesia on short-term assignments for the same project before returning again as team leader in 1995. Following my return to Australia in 1998 I continued to work in Indonesia through projects with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

It was during our second term in Indonesia that I started to teach young Indonesians to play cricket. Working with the Nusa Tenggara Timur Cricket Club, we picked five of the best players to participate in a cricket tour to Bali to challenge the Bali International Cricket Club. To cut a long story short, we lost but were competitive. The group (consisting of Soni Hawoe, Melvin Ndoen, Yeri Rosongna, Bernadus Bena and Zack Awang) went on to become the founding members of Indonesian cricket. Soni, for example, is now General Manager for Persatuan Cricket Indonesia (PCI) and the others are still employed by PCI and the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Since 2014 we’ve had some great success in reinvigorating cricket in NTT. We’ve taught cricket to many children at primary and secondary schools and at universities as well as other young adults. The NTT men’s team recently came third at the Indonesian national games, PON 2016. This was the first time that cricket had been included in PON and the first time an NTT team has won a medal at PON. So unusual was this that the Governor of NTT gave each of the cricketers a house!

I believe that sport provides many opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and socio-economic development and we have already demonstrated proof of this. Our original group are good examples. They all have jobs and families, and they have been to many different countries as a result of playing in or managing cricket teams. They have also passed their knowledge on to another generation of Indonesians who are now paid to play and participate in the management of cricket, all of whom believe in the importance of Australia and Indonesia being friends.

Read more about our plan for cricket in the region on the NTTCC website.

Tell us about your current occupation.

I am the Deputy Director General Biosecurity and Food Safety with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Biosecurity is all about protecting our economy, environment and community from pests, diseases and weeds and food safety is about protecting people from food related illnesses, both of which and are extremely important in both Australia and Indonesia.

I was very lucky to live and work in Indonesia, particularly eastern Indonesia, for over 10 years. During that time I made many friends and hope I was able to help some of the people of Indonesia, by working in my professional capacity with Indonesian government officials and farmers to help develop their livestock production systems and in my private capacity to develop cricket.

I am also very grateful to Indonesia for what I learned while I was there as it has helped me in both my career and life in general. The skills I learned are many and include: learning a new language, learning to see life from different perspectives, to understand what it’s like to be a minority, and to manage projects and to deliver outcomes, sometimes in difficult situations.

Photo: NTTCC website

What do you enjoy the most about working in Indonesia?

My Indonesian friends, the variety of cultures that exist in Indonesia in relative harmony, singing Indonesian love songs at karaoke, Indonesian food, the variety of different environments that exist across Indonesia, the surf, fishing and snorkelling.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in sport?

Sport offers a great way to improve cross cultural awareness between our countries and within each country as well as providing socio-economic benefits to those who participate.

Cricket is an international game, played across the world. This opens up opportunities for players to travel the world and to see how others live. It teaches individuals physical skills that can help to keep both children and adults healthy. It teaches skills that are applicable to life in general, such as living and working within a set of rules that apply to everyone. It teaches respect for the law and the umpire. It teaches teamwork as well as praising individual effort. It teaches respect within a team and between teams. It teaches religious tolerance and it offers the opportunity for raising socio-economic levels within communities.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in working in sport?

If you get the opportunity to travel or live and work in another country, grab it with both hands and make the most of it.

Go with an open mind and heart. Learn what makes us similar but also recognise and learn to understand the differences that exist. Being different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. No one has the answer for everything and there are usually a number of different ways of doing things.

Travel! See as much as you can while you are there and make sure you keep in touch with the friends that you make when you return. Be generous. You are in a very privileged position being able to spend some time in a foreign country. Be respectful of the cultures you visit. Try new things and have fun.

We would like to thank both Bruce and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. You can email Bruce at vbchristie@gmail.com, and find out more about the Nusa Tenggara Timur Cricket Club at nttcricket.com.

ReelOzInd! 2017: Call for Submissions

ReelOzInd! Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition and Festival returns in 2017!

Near neighbours should be friends not mysteries!
Short films are a great way to share stories and build understanding.

After the success of the inaugural ReelOzInd Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition and Festival in 2016, The Australia-Indonesia Centre is excited to announce its return in 2017.

The inaugural ReelOzInd! saw hundreds of entries from both nations and a shortlist of films screened in over a dozen cities in Australia and Indonesia. A global online audience of more than 5000 viewers had the opportunity to view and vote for their favourites to select the People’s Choice Award.

ReelOzInd! Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition 2017 theme is WATER.

As island nations and neighbouring archipelagos, Australians and Indonesians have a special connection to the seas and waterways that flow around and through their lands.

“Water provides us with playgrounds for fun, sites for ritual and food for our tables, but it is also sometimes a source of hardship and insecurity,” says Festival Coordinator Jemma Purdey.

“Looking to the future we each have shared concerns and challenges. Water as a precious resource is one of these.”

ReelOzInd! 2017 is seeking documentary, fiction and animation short films incorporating WATER as a theme within the story narrative, or as a visual element in the film.

A shortlist will be judged by high-profile Australians and Indonesians from the film industry.

Awards will be given for Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Animation, Best Fiction and special awards for Best Youth Film (created by a filmmaker 13-18 years) and Best Collaboration between Australian and Indonesian filmmakers.

The best films will be screened across Australia and Indonesia (September to November 2017) in a
travelling festival (bioskop keliling).


ReelOzInd! was established in 2016 to encourage Australians and Indonesians to share their stories because although we are close neighbours, Australians and Indonesians know little about each other.

But we also know that Australians and Indonesians want to get to know each other better and that we share a great sense of humour and passion for creativity.

ReelOzInd! is unique. There is no other festival that brings Australian and Indonesian film makers together to share their work and stories on the same screen.


“ReelOzInd! has given us a tremendous experience to see our work getting screened in so many places in Indonesia and also abroad, Australia. It encourages us to speak up louder with our film. We doubted before, but we have seen that it is possible. We wish such opportunity will come again for our next projects!” – Stephanie Pascalita, Producer, ‘The Eagles’ Eyes’, Winner Best Documentary

“The selected films really reflect the uniqueness of Australian and Indonesian culture and the relationship between the two countries that not many people know…. ReelOzInd! plays a strategic role in growing the understanding among the young generation, future leaders of both countries.” – Ina Riyanto, Head of Film and Television, Universitas Multimedia Nusantara, Tangerang

“Seeing all the great work from Indonesian filmmakers and also collaboration entries alongside my film Dog and Robot up on the big screen at ACMI was amazing. I even got to speak on a panel with the producer of The Matrix, one of my favourite films.” – Blair Harris, Animator, ‘Dog and Robot’, Winner Best Animation


Best Film – AUD $3,500
Best Collaboration between Indonesian and Australian – AUD $2,500
Best Documentary/Best Animation/ Best Fiction – ea. AUD $2,500
Best Film in Youth category – AUD$1,500

For more information, visit reelozind.com.

Career Champion: professional footballer Robbie Gaspar

The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists and winners. This week’s second interview is with professional footballer Robbie Gaspar.

Tell us a little about your career.

I played professional football for about 14 years throughout Australia, Europe and Asia. Most of my time was spent playing in Indonesia for about seven years. I retired from professional football in early 2013 and decided to head back to university, where I am currently completing a Bachelor of Business majoring in accounting and Indonesian. I also work for the Professional Footballers Australia as a Player Development Manager and as an advisor to FIFPro

Photo: Robbie Gaspar

Asia, which is the World Players Union for professional footballers. My work for FIFPro Asia is mostly Indonesia-, Malaysia- and Singapore-focused.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

Prior to moving to Indonesia in 2005 to play football, I had never been to Indonesia and never really had much experience with Indonesia. I had a few Indonesian friends but did not know too much about Indonesia in general. Back in 2004 I finished my contract in Malaysia and I was looking for a new club when my coach contacted me and said that a club in Indonesia was keen to sign me. I thought, “Why not? I will give it go,” as I had nothing to lose. I enjoyed my time so much in Indonesia that I left at the end of 2012. I had many offers to leave Indonesia to play elsewhere but I enjoyed my time so much living and playing in Indonesia that I decided to stay put.

Tell us about your current occupation.

I am currently a Player Development Manager with the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and also an Advisor to FIFPro Asia. My experiences and relationships built over the seven years have helped me tremendously with my work with both the PFA and FIFPro Asia. An example is that during my time in Indonesia I learnt how to speak Bahasa Indonesia and this is invaluable when I travel to Indonesia and Malaysia for FIFPro Asia.

How did you find your current job?

The opportunity to work with FIFPro came up in 2013 when the former Chairman of the PFA and FIFPro Asia and current UNI World Athletes Executive Director Brendan Schwab asked whether I would like to help with the restart of the Malaysian Players Union, which had been dormant for the past two years. I jumped at the chance, as I am extremely passionate about and advocating for player’s rights. Within six months the union was back up and running and continuing to go from strength to strength. The reasons why I was successful in getting the position was first and foremost because I am extremely passionate about protecting and advocating for rights of players, and secondly because my experiences in Malaysia and Indonesia and relationships with the players there help me to achieve this.

What do you enjoy the most — and least — about working in relation to Indonesia?

What did I enjoy the most about Indonesia? I enjoyed being able to do something I love in front of massive crowds day in, day out. Indonesians live, eat and breathe football and until you experience it you can’t believe it. What I didn’t enjoy and do not miss is the long travel by either planes or buses. Travelling from one end of Indonesia to

Photo: Robbie Gaspar

another and then having to play and then travel again, and back up three days later in the heat and humidity for another game is not easy.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of sport?

Being a former professional sportsman I am a big advocator of sports diplomacy and it is great to see that the Australian Government released a sports diplomacy strategy in 2015. There is so much potential to build on the bilateral relationship through sport. Australians and Indonesians are so similar that we are both so passionate about our sports. I feel through sports, especially football or soccer, we can build those people-to-people links and maintain and strengthen cultural relations which are so important to the relationship.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in sport?

For Australians, do you research first before you head to Indonesia. Importantly, be humble and respectful and make a conscious effort to try learning the language as soon as you can.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

I loved my time in Indonesia and I am the person I am today due to my experiences there, so I wouldn’t want to change anything.

We would like to thank both Robbie and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. You can find Robbie on Twitter and LindkedIn.