Interview with My Kitchen Rules winners and AIA finalists Tasia and Gracia Seger

A few years ago, Melbourne’s Tasia and Gracia Seger won My Kitchen Rules. Now, they answer some quick-fire questions for us after being nominated for the Australia Indonesia Association Awards 2018 (in the Food category of course!).

Photo: Tasia and Gracia Seger

Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to apply for MKR?

We both were born in Jakarta before moving to Darwin, India and now Melbourne. Our grandma and our relatives are still living in Indonesia and we often return to Indonesia to visit them – and of course for the amazing food!

I (Tasia) completed my degree in Psychology before we entered My Kitchen Rules (MKR), while Gracia completed her Master in Biomedical Health Science. While we both took different career paths, we always had a passion for food. When we finished our studies, it was the perfect time for both of us to apply for the show. Our time being on the show and winning the competition allowed us to be even more confident that we both wanted to pursue our careers in the food industry.

What’s life like post-MKR?

Since the winning the show, we have been focusing on and pursuing opportunities in the food industry. We travel around Australia and Asia doing food demonstrations, working with food brands on recipe development and food contents, private catering, pop-up restaurants and have launched our own brand of satay sauce. We are also opening our first restaurant in Melbourne called Makan in April or May, serving Indonesian food to all.

Photo: Tasia and Gracia Seger

Why do you think you have found success in your current culinary ventures?

It has been two years since we started running our own venture and working on our brand to experience the food business. We think we are successful in our business venture due to the fact that we are sisters, hence we understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And also our same passion, goals and dream for food.

What do you love most about Indonesia?

Indonesia is where we are from, hence it will always be a part of us. We love its food, people and its diverse and rich culture.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship (and food)?

We think that it will be stronger in the near future and will continue to be so. This is merely due to the fact that there is more awareness of and exposure to Indonesian food in Australia – with Indonesian festivals and the Satay Festival to name a few.

Photo: Tasia and Gracia Seger

What advice would you offer youth?

Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, take risks and most of all enjoy both positive and negative experiences, as they will always lead towards more learning and self-development.

What would you do differently?

Apply for My Kitchen Rules sooner!

See what the MKR sisters been cooking on Instagram, Facebook and their website. Keep an eye out for more Career Champion interviews with AIA finalists in the coming weeks!

Champion of Indonesian ethnomusicology Professor Margaret Kartomi (Feature)

Margaret Kartomi is an ethnomusicologist, researcher and Professor of Music at Monash University. She is also a finalist in the Research category at the Australia Indonesia Awards 2018, organised by the Australia Indonesia Association (AIA) in NSW. An expert on the music of Sumatra, Margaret has received an Order from the Government of Lampung for her Sumatra research, was given the title Ratu Berlian Sangun Anggun (Beautiful Queen Jewel), and kindly has offered to share her journey as a Career Champion.

Where did you begin your career?

Source: Monash University

I first became interested in Indonesia at age nine in Adelaide, where my Quaker parents invited Adelaide’s first Indonesian Colombo Plan students to our home for lunch on Sundays. I fell in love with Javanese gamelan music when, as a music student aged 18 at the University of Adelaide, I wrote a thesis for my BA on that wonderful musical tradition.

After obtaining my doctorate of philosophy in ethnomusicology at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1968, I was employed in the Department of Music at Monash from 1969, first as a Research Fellow, then as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and from 1989-1999 and 2001- 2003 as Professor and Head of the Department of Music.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

I connected with Indonesia due to my family’s interest and my meeting with Indonesian Colombo Plan students in Adelaide, one of whom – Hidris Kartomi of Banyumas – I married. My interest deepened as I wrote my doctoral thesis at Humboldt University in Berlin and I accepted an Indonesian-oriented teaching and research job at Monash from 1969.

My husband and I carried out Australian Research Council-funded fieldwork almost every year from 1971 in different parts of Indonesia, and over the decades I published five books and hundreds of academic articles on aspects of Indonesian music and dance. With Javanese gamelan lecturer Poedijono we presented annual concerts attended by the general public and thousands of primary and secondary students throughout Victoria. I realised that I and my students and colleagues needed an archive in which to house all the field recordings, musical instruments, and other artefacts that we collected on our field research trips.

So in 1975 I established the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU), which contains many musical instruments, puppets, masks, textiles and other artefacts. Many of my students as well as other collectors donated their Indonesian music and dance recordings and videos and other collected items to MAMU, which became a substantial archive of Indonesian and other cultural artefacts.

How do you use your Indonesia experience in your current work?

I am still a Professor of Music at Monash (now in my 48th year) where I supervise graduate students’ theses and interns. Each intern spends a semester in our Archive learning archival and museological skills which are useful to them in the workplace later on. I also remain Founding Director of MAMU, which is located in a suite of eight rooms on the fourth floor of the Menzies Building (68) at Monash Clayton, where we welcome visitors, including AIYA readers, if interested.

Why do you think you were successful in getting the position?

I likely succeeded in obtaining my job at Monash because I have always been enthusiastic about the marvellously varied music culture of Indonesia, and because my husband and I enjoyed travelling around the islands of Indonesia photographing, videoing, recording and researching the music, dance and theatre and collecting the musical instruments and textiles. I have also always enjoyed teaching and supervising students’ research.

What do you enjoy most about Indonesia?

I love the warmth, politeness and generosity of the Indonesian people of all ages, especially in the villages, and talking to them about their fascinating arts and life achievements and problems. I also love durian and all the other fantastic fruits of Indonesia, the tremendous variety of lauk pauk, the tropical weather, and the beautiful scenery of the islands.

Thoughts on the future of the bilateral relationship?

Monash is planning at this moment to convert the Music Archive of Monash University into Australia’s first Gallery of Musical Instruments and Artefacts, most of which are from Indonesia and other parts of Asia. It will comprise special displays of musical artefacts from Lampung, Aceh, Riau Islands, Java, Bali and many other parts of Indonesia, serve as a gateway to Monash Clayton, and welcome Indonesian and other Asian students to Monash.

From 2018, the Monash Faculty of Arts will fully fund annual trips to Indonesia for thousands of Australian students as part of the GIG – Global Immersion Program – in order to introduce them to Indonesian culture and boost their interest in learning Indonesian language and culture. This mass program will not only impact university students and their families but will boost the relationship between Australians and Indonesians at a national level.

What advice would you offer youth?

Young Australian students should feel free to study the HASS/arts subjects related to Indonesia as well as the STEM subjects when they come to university, for there are bound to be jobs in the future for committed students as they graduate and enter the job market. Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours and both governments and peoples are increasingly realising how necessary we are to each other, how we can benefit from collaborating in many fields of endeavour, and how Indonesia’s economy is predicted to be one of the five top world economies by 2030.

Indonesian students who want to study in Australia should study the English language well in order to gain a place in an Australian university. You may wish to study Australian society and promote better relations between our two countries, or study the other HASS or STEM subjects and work to improve Indonesia’s economy and cultural opportunities in future.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

Nothing! I have enjoyed and expect to continue to enjoy a wonderful life, enriched by my involvement with the people and the arts of Indonesia and Australia.

Discover more about music at Monash here, and keep an eye out for more Career Champion interviews with AIA finalists in the coming weeks.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: NCP Scholar and nasi padang enthusiast James Ritchie

Welcome back to Spotlight on an AIYA Member! In this regular series, we talk to a different AIYA Member from either Indonesia or Australia to hear their story. This week, New Colombo Plan Scholar and nasi padang enthusiast James Ritchie answers some questions.

What is your day job?

I am currently a political adviser to a Member of Parliament. I graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Business, as well as studying International Relations and Islamic Finance in Indonesia.

What is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

There is no shortage of amazing places but Solo is definitely one of my favourites. The city has an incredible buzz with rich history, strong Javanese culture and it still seems to be relatively unknown compared to its next-door neighbour, Yogyakarta. Nothing struck me more than how polite and friendly the people were.

What is your favourite meal in Indonesia?

Nasi padang – rendang, vegetables and kuah. I love it. It doesn’t count if you don’t use your hands either!

What is your favourite word in Indonesian?

Selow – a word which basically means ‘relax’ but seems to defuse any situation of anxiety or hostility.

What is your favourite film?

Indonesian films are great and increasingly getting better. Initially I started watching films to improve my language skills. The first one I ever watched was Ada Apa Dengan Cinta as it was the only film I found with English subtitles at the time. Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed watching various films which gave me a better understanding about significant historical figures and events in Indonesian history. I think my favourite would be Rudy Habibie about the life of former President Habibie focusing on his time studying in Germany.

How did you first become interested in Indonesia?

I volunteered teaching English at a school during a gap year. Didn’t know a word of Indonesian but I quickly developed a love for the people and country. Since then I have kept coming back to study, intern and holiday.

How did you first get involved with AIYA?

After returning from a stint in Indonesia, a few guys in Tasmania came together to start a small AIYA chapter. When I later returned to Indonesia, I always endeavoured to get involved with the closest chapter to where I was staying.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

Being from Tasmania, I am hopeful and confident that Tasmania can engage more with Indonesia. With less Indonesians than any other state or territory, there is definitely scope to attract more Indonesian students to the state as well as developing business and tourism ties.

What do you like most about AIYA?

It’s a casual way to meet like-minded people and therefore accelerates knowledge transfer about both Australia and Indonesia.

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

Fun, engaging, opportunities.

Read more AIYA Member Spotlight interviews here.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: entrepreneur and martabak manis lover Fiona Bettesworth

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. Entrepreneur and AIYA WA member Fiona Bettesworth is our second interviewee for 2018.

Where is your day job?

I’ve just launched my own social-entrepreneurial business: Real Indonesia. We connect conscious, curious travellers to authentic travel experiences in Indonesia beyond the tourist strips of Bali. Our mission is to support local economic development and sustainable tourism while getting Australians to experience the real Indonesia; over 1 million Australians travel to Bali each year but in general Australians and Indonesians don’t really know each other. I think tourism has great power to improve the bilateral relationship at a people-to-people level.

What is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

This is a tough one. I, like everyone, love Jogja and I will always have a soft spot for Surabaya as that was the first place I went to beyond Bali. I’ve been to some amazing places in Indonesia, but if I could narrow it down to the top three highlights they would probably be Tangkoko National Park in Manado, Komodo Island and Lake Toba in Sumatra.

What is your favourite meal in Indonesia?

It depends what I feel like, but I love murtabak manis/terang bulan – with chocolate and no cheese! Just don’t look at how much butter/oil it’s made with…

What is your favourite word in Indonesian?

Another tough choice, but one of my favourites would be berapi-api, which translates as “fiery”. it has great imagery and I love using it in the context of when you are fired up and passionate about something.

What is your favourite Indonesian film?

I really like the Raditya Dika films, including Kambing Jantan, Koala Kumal and Single. They’re romcoms usually set in Jakarta, which are very relatable for young people.

How did you first become interested in Indonesia?

I chose to study Indonesian in high school because I had a cool Indonesian teacher and we got to go on a trip to Indonesia during school time. My high school, Tranby College, had a sister school relationship with SMAN 5 in Surabaya through the BRIDGE Program (run by the Asia Education Foundation and the Australian Government). Thanks to this program, I had the opportunity to go on exchange to Surabaya and for my Australian family to host students here in Perth.

This exposed me to the real Indonesia, which I absolutely loved, and gave me the opportunity to make some wonderful friends. That was seven years ago and I’ve been going back to Indonesia frequently ever since.

How did you first get involved with AIYA?

In 2012, I met some great people out of the University of Western Australia (UWA), where I was studying, who were talking about starting an AIYA chapter in WA. In 2013, we launched AIYA WA and I was a member of the founding committee. I’ve since had some time away from the committee but got involved again last year.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

A relationship that has more ballast and goes beyond the superficial. We could work towards this by having increased understanding of history, peoples and culture on both sides. In my opinion, the first step is for Australians and Indonesians to get to know each-other – “Tak kenal, tak maka sayang”. I hope, through Real Indonesia, that Australians will take up the opportunity to explore the real Indonesia and get to know some Indonesians.

What do you like about AIYA?

In WA we have a great team and we have so much fun organising and delivering events – and we get to do some really cool stuff. For example, last year we ran a Malam Trivia and raised over $1,000 for Bamboo Micro Credit, and a few years ago we hosted the pengamen (buskers) from the documentary Jalanan at a screening of the film in Perth, and they played a live gig as part of Fringe Festival!

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

Fun, friendly and engaging.

Subscribe to the Real Indonesia mailing list here and visit their Facebook page here.

Ubud Food Festival returns in 2018!

Read the full media release here.

The UFF today announced a sneak peek of the world class chefs, culinary heroes, and outstanding innovators who will join this year’s three-day program of high-energy cooking demos, decadent special events, in-depth discussions, and hands-on masterclasses with the F&B industry’s best.

From 13–15 April, 2018, UFF will welcome almost 100 speakers from across Asia and beyond, plating up pioneering culinary insights and ideas and fearless flavors, all energized by the theme ‘Generasi Inovasi’. The theme is inspired by Indonesia’s young, tech-savvy population, which is driving the nation’s booming innovation economy and transforming the entire spectrum of the nation’s food industry. From Sri Lanka to Jakarta, Sydney to Seoul, Byron Bay to Bali, the first lineup reveal is testament to Indonesia’s rising status on the world food stage.

The first Sri Lankan chef to receive Michelin status, Rishi Naleendra, was Chef de Partie at Tetsuya’s in Sydney before establishing Cheek by Jowl in Singapore. He’ll be joined by Australian Chef-Owner Sam Aisbett of Singapore’s Whitegrass, which was awarded its first Michelin star last year. The stars keep shining with Chef Jun Lee, whose Soigné restaurant in Seoul was awarded one star in 2016 and 2017.

With a mission to bring Indonesian food, culture and art to the world, UFF welcomes the return of MasterChef Indonesia judge Rinrin Marinka, as well as the beloved Queen of Indonesian cuisine, Ibu Sisca Soewitomo. Ibu Sisca has dedicated her 50+ year career to nourishing Indonesia’s food industry, and holds a warm place in the heart of the nation’s top chefs and food lovers alike.

They’ll be joined by Hans Christian, Chef de Cuisine of View Restaurant by Fairmont Jakarta, who prides himself on elevating Indonesia’s culinary scene, and Andrian Ishak, whose Namaaz Dining has been described as Indonesia’s first molecular gastronomy restaurant, and sits among the top of Jakarta’s fine dining establishments.

Proving that the nation’s capital can rightfully take its place among the world’s top dining destinations, Indonesia’s leading English-language F&B publication, FoodieS Magazine, has launched the inaugural Jakarta’s Best Eats Awards and Guide. Appearing at UFF will be the Award’s Best Chef and Best Pastry Chef, announced in March.

The Food for Thought stage, home to the UFF’s in-depth discussions with industry leaders, will welcome some of the nation’s top innovators tackling environmental problems and improving supply chains. Among them are David Christian, Co-founder of Evoware, a startup producing food packaging from biodegradable, chemical-free farmed seaweed, Thor Yumna of TaniHub and TaniFund, successful Indonesian startups empowering farmers and improving agriculture, and Helianti Hilman, Founder of JAVARA Indonesia, which works with over 52,000 farmers across the archipelago, selling over 700 artisanal organic products for the domestic and export market.

“This first round of speakers is but a tiny taste of the fantastic feast we’ll be serving up from 13–15 April,” said UFF Founder & Director Janet DeNeefe. “With world class chefs from across the region, and incredible innovators improving the lives of farmers and producers on who we all depend, we’re proving that Indonesia now has its rightful place on the world food map.

“We are also showing the world that now is actually a brilliant time to come to Bali,” DeNeefe continued. “It’s quieter, cleaner and more peaceful. As the source of Bali’s iconic rice paddies, spectacular landscapes and  extraordinary local produce, the Agung volcano is reminding us exactly what makes this island so magical.

“Without Agung there would be no Bali as we know and love it. So why not come and join our Festival Family and see why so many travelers have embraced the campaign #IaminBaliNOW?

“In the words of the revered Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroh, head of PR at Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency, ‘Nature is telling its story’. We hope you’ll be joining us to hear Indonesia’s inspiring innovators tell theirs.”

For more information, read the full media release here.

How can Indonesia increase the number of women legislators?

By Ella S Prihatini, University of Western Australia

As we enter 2018, the Indonesian public is starting to discuss the country’s next year’s general election. Aside from the predictions on presidential candidates, it is also important to talk about legislative candidates who will represent the people in parliament, as well as women’s representation in the assembly.

Women’s representation in the legislative body is important, not only to balance out the number of males and females in parliament. It is hoped the presence of women legislators will drive women’s interest issues, such as poverty eradication, education parity, and health care, as policy priorities.

Women’s representation in Indonesian state parliament has continuously increased from year to year. When the first election was held in 1955, women only secured 5.06% of the seats. The figure has gradually increased to 11.4% in 1997.

After the end of Suharto’s regime, a number of legal reforms introduced the gender quota system that aimed to increase the electability of women.

Gender quota not effective

However, looking at the experience of three election cycles in 2004, 2009, and 2014, the gender quota that obliges political parties to place at least 30% of women in their candidates list has yet to significantly increase women’s electability.

In 2004, women only managed to secure 11.24% of the seats in parliament. While in the next election, the rate increased into 18.21%. Meanwhile in 2014, women’s representation dropped slightly to 17%.

In general, the number of women legislative candidates from seven competing parties continues to increase. But then why hasn’t this translated to maximum electability for women?

Number 1 on the list

In their book discussing political recruitment Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart offered three levels of analysis: systematic factors, party factors, and individuals.

The Election Law, the political party system, and the country’s legal system are all under the systematic factors. Meanwhile, party factors include ideology and internal party rules regarding nominating women as legislative candidates.

The last factor, the individuals, includes motivation and the candidate’s resources.

I will focus my analysis on how political parties nominate female legislative candidates. We can measure the trend of placing women candidates at the top of the list of parties legislative candidates and the electability of women as the top candidate.

Statistical analysis from election results data shows the majority of elected legislative candidates are those who were at the top of the party’s legislative candidates list.

The graph below displays that list position greatly influenced a candidate’s electability. However, we should note that in the 2014 election candidates listed as number four and so on had a tenfold increase in terms of electability, from 1.6% in 2004 to 16.4%.

Meanwhile, the electability of candidate number one decreases from 73.6% in 2004 to 62.1% in 2014. This happened due to the “open list” system, enacted in 2014. Here, the candidate’s victory is determined only by the number of votes. This system increased the chance for candidates that were nominated under big numbers in the list; a trend that has continued to go up.

How parties nominate female legislative candidates

Analysis on seven political parties that competed in three general elections shows that each party has a different pattern in nominating female candidates.

The graph below shows two Islam-based parties, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), placed women candidates on number one with a contrasting trend.

PPP continuously increased the number of female candidates nominated as number one in the candidate’s list. Out of all parties, they have the highest ratio of women candidates nominated as number one. On the other hand, PKS continuously reduced the number of women candidates under number one.

In the 2014 general election, PPP placed women as number one nominees in 22 electoral districts (out of 77 electoral district coutrywide), meanwhile PKS only had one electoral district with a female nominee as the number one candidate.

Other parties, except for Golkar, have increased their allocation of women candidates nominated under number one. The Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the party of the current president Joko Widodo, had the sharpest increase of nearly 600% in 2014, compared to the 2009 election.

In the 2014 election, it was clear that 90% of the female candidates elected from PPP were those nominated as number one. In other words, a lot of PPP voters supported women candidates placed in the top numbers. Meanwhile in other parties such as Golkar and Democrat, the majority of the female winners are not those nominated as number one, some of them went into the race under number seven, eight, and nine.

This graph maps the success rate of women candidates nominated as number one on candidate lists in the 2009 and 2014 elections. In the 2009 election, the Democrat Party, PDI-P and PKS managed to send 100% of the women candidates listed as number one to parliament.

However, in the next election, the “success rate” dropped for all parties, except the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Awakening Party (PKB). This was caused partly by the open list system that enables all candidates to win regardless of their position on the candidate list.

Another aspect was that there were less women on the top of the list, such as in PKS where a woman was nominated as number one in only one electoral district.

What next?

Learning from the three election cycles, what can parties do to increase the number of women in Indonesia’s parliament? One thing is to continue to place women on the top of the candidate list, although with the open system, candidates placed anywhere on the list can win.

Additionally, some politicians and women’s rights activists have urged political parties to play a bigger role in preparing new women party cadres by providing serious political training for female legislative election candidates.

A survey by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in 2010 indicate that voters would like female candidates to have a number of traits. The qualities that voters look mostly look for are intelligence (35%), not corrupt (26%), and political experience (20%). This shows that to ensure they gain votes, women candidates must increase their value propositions for each of those factors.

The ConversationIn the end, increasing the number of women candidates is important to increase women’s electability in the election. It’s also important for political parties to place women at the top of their candidates list. But more importantly, parties should increase the quality of candidates so voters will be sure to vote for women candidates.

By Ella S Prihatini, PhD student, University of Western Australia

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

AIYA MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: AIYA Operations Officer Sophie Hewitt

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. Sophie Hewitt, AIYA’s new Operations Officer (Indonesia), is this year’s first interviewee!

What are you currently studying?

I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies (Year in Asia) at the ANU. In 2018 I’ll be undertaking ANU’s Year in Asia program, and will study in Indonesia for 12 months.

Where is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

Bandung: it was the first place I went on exchange in Indonesia (and the birthplace of martabak manis) so it’s very close to my heart.

What is your favourite meal in Indonesia?

Martabak manis – the more sweetened condensed milk the better.

What is your favourite word in Indonesia?

Banget – I appreciate this word because, depending on the tone of your voice, the word can carry an immense amount of sass.

What is your favourite Indonesian film/book/artist?

Author Eka Kurniawan. His book Beauty is a Wound was the first piece of Indonesian historical fiction I read. It was moving, of immense quality, and showed the world that Indonesia has fascinating and diverse stories, and a capacity to tell those stories on the world stage.

When did you first become interested in Indonesia?

I started studying Indonesian in my first year of university as I had the idea that it was easier than Mandarin or Korean. But after receiving a New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant to study on exchange in Bandung during my second year, I was completely captivated!

How did you get involved with AIYA?

After returning from study in Bandung, one of the other exchange students was involved in AIYA ACT and invited me to join. After being its Secretary in 2015-2016, I was then appointed President in 2016-2017.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

While Indonesia and Australia are undeniably different, I do believe that mutual likes such as enjoying the company of friends and family over food, is something that we should be more aware of. I believe that if Australians and Indonesians get to know each other in this familial sense, we will be able to work more productively and beneficially in the future.

What do you like about AIYA?

I love how AIYA is very people driven – each Chapter has its own personality, depending on the interests and passions of its committee and members. I also love how AIYA members are generous with their energy and commitment, and are genuinely passionate about furthering the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

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

Exciting, opportunities, relationships!

Thank you to Sophie, 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 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.