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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the story behind the Wallace Line?

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

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

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

Not bad for someone who was self-educated!

How does your book have to say about Indonesia?

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

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

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

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

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

Where can we find out more information?

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

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

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

By Sudirman Nasir, Universitas Hasanuddin

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

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

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

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

Injustice is toxic, makes us all unhappy

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

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

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

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

Unfair conditions promote risky behaviour

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equality is good and possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Science in Indonesia needs more collaboration, not competition

By Dicky Pelupessy, Universitas Indonesia

After outnumbering Thailand in academic publications for the first time, Indonesia is upbeat that it will catch up with its more productive neighbours, Singapore and Malaysia, in 2019. However, in 21st century, the science world needs more collaboration than competition.

To measure Indonesia’s academic achievement, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education and several universities pays a lot of attention to publications indexed in Scopus (one of the largest academic databases) and world university rankings.

In August this year the ministry announced with delight that, for the first time, publications by Indonesian academia (9,349 publications for Indonesia and 8,204 for Thailand as of the July 31, 2017) outnumbered those by Thailand academia. Now, Indonesia sits in the third position in the ASEAN, behind Malaysia and Singapore.

Whether or not Indonesia can retain this recent third position until the end of this year remains to be seen. However, the ministry is upbeat Indonesia will soon catch up and outnumber Singapore, which is currently No. 2 by number of publications, and by the end of 2019 it will pass Malaysia and be No. 1 in the ASEAN.

The data cited by the ministry was not bad at all. We should praise and be proud of it. Yet, we also need to critically assess it.

Looking beyond numbers of documents

We need to take a look beyond the sum of publications. Bibliometric database SCImago recorded in 2016 that Indonesia produced 11,470 publications, resulting in 4,604 citations. Thailand produced 14,176 publications, resulting in 11,331 citations.

Interestingly, citation-wise, Indonesia ranks even lower than Vietnam, which has less publications than Indonesia (5,563 in 2016) but more citations at 4,970.

There are various reasons why published work may or may not be cited. As a rule of thumb, citations indicate the relevance of the published work to the work of other scholars. The data from SCImago shows Indonesia’s citation is far behind Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

The data suggests it’s important for Indonesian academics to put more effort into getting their publications cited by other academics. Indonesia needs to publish more, and publish research more relevant to other scholars.

University rankings

Citations are also important because these are linked to the performance of a country in world university rankings. There are different university rankings in the world. The Times Higher Education world university ranking, considered the most reliable and comprehensive, confirms Indonesia’s standing compared with Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

Using five performance indicators – teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income – The Times Higher Education’s latest ranking lists two Singaporean universities within its top 100, making Singapore the best among the four ASEAN countries.

The other three countries do not have any universities listed in the top 100 but Malaysia has nine in the whole list and one of them is in the top 400.

Thailand has ten universities in the list, one of them in top 600.

Three of Indonesia’s most reputable universities – Institut Teknologi Bandung, Universitas Gadjah Mada and Universitas Indonesia – are within the top 1,000 and Institut Pertanian Bogor is in the list’s 1,000+ band.

Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings lists only the top 200 universities, under 50 years old. In 2017, this list recognised one Singaporean university, six Malaysian universities and one in Thailand. Sadly, Indonesia is not on the list.

Times Higher Education world university rankings show that Indonesia not only needs to beat just the number of publications by Malaysian or Singaporean academics in 2019 but also the relevance of their research.

The century of collaboration for science

The ministry has tried to incentivize scholars with money to publish more scientific papers, but Indonesian academics need to go further than that.

Research finds 21st century science is about working with researchers from different disciplines and even public stakeholders. This sort of collaborative approach can be the basis of which to improve Indonesia’s higher education practices. This cooperation facilitates a shared vision to address complex challenges better.

Other research shows publications authored by teams of researchers have been more frequently cited and had a greater scientific impact since 1960s, compared with publications by a single author.

These studies – both written by teams – argue for team work, saying it is increasingly significant in producing knowledge.

Collaboration, not competition

The higher education ministry needs to place a greater focus on enhancing team-based research and pursuing collaboration between Indonesian researchers and foreign researchers, especially from countries or universities that have a strong reputation in scientific publication.

Data from SCImago below shows the percentage of academic articles from Indonesia written by authors from more than one country keeps falling while Singapore’s going up.

In addition to ministerial regulation on incentives for scholars writing scientific articles, the ministry needs to allocate research grants specifically endorsing collaborative projects.

The collaboration should be between Indonesian and foreign researchers to avoid insularity.

The ConversationIndonesia may need to start with its neighbours. Indonesian academics may not need to compete with Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. What they should do is to collaborate with them.


By Dicky Pelupessy, Lecturer, Faculty of Psychology, Universitas Indonesia.

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Are Indonesians really not interested in reading?

File 20170831 22614 94cm2n
School children read books at Palipis beach in Mandar, West Sulawesi. Urwa/Pustaka Bergerak, CC BY-NC-SA

By Lukman Solihin, Research and Development Agency of Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry

It was a sunny day at a public elementary school in a rural area near Yogyakarta. Students lined up to return the books borrowed from Helobook, a non-profit organisation that regularly lends books for free to schools in the province’s outskirts.

The kids looked happy and laughed a lot because this was their opportunity to access new, interesting books and movies.

Their school’s own library collection was mostly made up of books from government aid in 1990s, published by state-owned publisher Balai Pustaka. The books were out of date and there weren’t enough of them.

These students were also disadvantaged by the fact that their nearest book store is 15 kilometres away and the nearest public library is about 20 kilometres away. This is a problem because these students are from low-income families who can’t afford to travel to borrow books.

Are Indonesians interested in reading?

Low rates of interest in reading among Indonesians is something frequently referenced in news reports from media like Kompas, The Jakarta Post and Antara, which quote data supposedly sourced from UNESCO. These stories quote that one in every 1,000 Indonesians has a high interest in reading. But an exploration of UNESCO’s database and a request for this data have both failed to confirm these statistics.

This perception has also been reinforced by officials and public figures, who have raised the same concerns.

Students of public elementary school in Sleman regency, Yogyakarta, look at books brought by literacy community Helobook. Image: Lukman Solihin, author provided

Last year, a Central Connecticut State University study put Indonesia’s literacy rate at 60th out of 61 countries, one above Botswana. Officials and public figures also quote this but the ranking is not about reading interest. It’s about computer access, newspaper circulation, and reading comprehension, among other things.

A National Socio-Economic Survey by Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency showed the country’s TV audience reached 91.5% in 2015 while newspaper readers sat at 13.1%, the lowest point since 1984.

This low rate of reading might not be due to a lack of interest but rather a lack of opportunity to read.

Book access and library condition

Let’s take a look at the data that could serve as a parameter to understand reading interest. First, school library data.

In 147,503 primary schools we only have 90,642 libraries, that’s 61.45%. The percentage shrinks more when we look at the condition. From the total 90,642 libraries, only 28,137 are in good condition (19% of schools, 31% of total libraries). Junior high and high schools have similar situation.

The quantity of village or subdistrict libraries is the same. From 77,095 villages, Indonesia has only 23,281 libraries or about 30%.

The number of book stores is also much lower compared to the vastness of the archipelago. The biggest book store network, Gramedia, has only 100 stores in only a handful of big cities, out of the 514 cities and regencies of Indonesia.

The number of book stores, school and public libraries show how limited the access to books is for many Indonesians. How would people develop some reading interest if access to books is limited?

Library quality and communities of readers

Nurturing reading interest begins with making books available. Unfortunately, the number and condition of school and public libraries are far from adequate. Some school libraries might have a decent building, but the collection is an entirely different matter.

Libraries often serve a dual purpose, such as a storage room or sports hall. One library in Sleman in Yogyakarta, for example, is complete with a ping pong table to indicate its “flexible” function.

The government has instructed schools to allocate budget – increased to 20% of the government school funds in July from previously 5% – for library development and buying textbooks. But most of the funds are spent to buy school textbooks. The result is underdeveloped reading interests among students because of the inadequate book collection; students are bored with outdated books.

Amid this inadequacy, communities of readers in these have proven valuable. These communities open mini libraries in neighbourhoods. One example is the moving library network, Pustaka Bergerak. The growth of these communities is massive and sporadic, as readers reaching out to underrepresented and remote areas.

The government estimated there were over 6,000 mini libraries across the country. Meanwhile, as of August 2017, the Pustaka Bergerak network recorded reaching 312 communities, and counting.

This network has library ponies, libraries on rickshaw, libraries on bicycles, libraries on boats, and even a mobile herbal drinks seller that brings books to lend for free.

Villagers, mostly children, welcome a library pony in Rangkasbitung, Banten province. The volunteer spirit of literacy communities helps develop reading interests in off-the-beaten-track places in Indonesia. Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani/Pustaka Bergerak, CC BY-NC-SA

This movement has had a positive response from the government. After a meeting between literacy activists and President Joko Widodo on May 2 this year, the government, through state postal company PT Pos Indonesia, allowed citizens to send books free of charge to the communities registered in this list on the 17th day every month.

Small in scale but big in spirit

Communities of readers are usually built on the members’ love of books and their aspiration to share. Enthusiasm, idealism and capacity to build network are key to the growth of literacy communities and have less to do with the existence or the absence of government funds.

The network has been facilitated by Community Libraries Forum, initiated by the government. Pustaka Bergerak network has also shown great passion in their social media account, enabled by initiator Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka.

The number of these communities of readers, compared to the geographical and population size of the country, is perhaps minuscule. Nevertheless, this movement deserves an appreciation for its impact: nurture reading interest.

An example of the success of these communities is Pustakaloka Rumah Dunia in Serang, Banten. This community enabled a scavenger’s son to finish higher education, a fried snack seller to become a journalist, and a farmer’s son to become a poet. Their stories are compiled in a book Relawan Dunia (World Volunteers).

Discovering books also changed Muhidin Dahlan’s life. He was a kampung boy in Sulawesi’s remote area, who was curious about books, before he moved to Yogyakarta to become a writer and an activist in Indonesia Boekoe, a community known for its dedication in archive management, book publishing and establishing Radio Buku. His story is written in a book, Aku, Buku, dan Sepotong Sajak Cinta.

Unlike formal education institutions like schools, the success of reader communities is not measured quantitatively, like how many people have their access to books improved, or how large their book collection is. But the lack of impact in this area is dwarfed by their spirit, their effort to share the importance of books and the efforts to help others access books. Literacy, in this case, is not merely about reading materials and knowledge, but also about volunteer spirit.


The ConversationThe author is doing a research on literacy movement by communities in Yogyakarta, in Anthropology Department in Gadjah Mada University.

By Lukman Solihin, Researcher, Research and Development Agency of Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry.

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

How can Indonesia win against plastic pollution?

Thomas Wright, The University of Queensland

Four of Indonesia’s rivers rank among the 20 most polluted in the world in terms of mismanaged plastic waste measured in metric tons.

This makes Indonesia the second-largest contributor to marine plastic pollution after China. A recent research article, published in the journal Nature Communications, estimates that between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year from rivers. Of this, Indonesia is estimated to emit around 200,000 tonnes of plastic from rivers and streams, mainly from Java and Sumatra.

Plastic debris can kill marine animals that get entangled and drown or starve after they ingest particles they cannot digest. Toxins leach from plastic as it breaks down, posing health risks for animals, while also entering the food chain and eventually ending up on our plates.

Many in Indonesia often use single-use plastics in the form of plastic bags, cups, straws, bottles and other utensils, making plastic a common part of daily life.

In Feb. 2016 the government tried to reduce plastic use by introducing a tax of Rp 200 (2 US cents) on single-use plastic bags. Critics lamented the additional charge was not high enough and that there should be more transparency in how the tax revenue would be used. In October, the Indonesian retailers association decided to stop the program altogether, citing lack of legal grounds to charge the bags.

Need for better land-based waste management

To stop Indonesia polluting the ocean with plastic it is important to change the country’s land-based waste management.

The study in Nature Communications revealed that “land-based sources, as opposed to marine-based sources, are considered the dominant input of plastics into oceans”. This includes mismanaged plastic waste – domestic and commercial – that is discarded, deliberately or unintentionally, in rivers.

At the UN’s first Ocean Conference last June, which focused on the sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources, Indonesia pledged to reduce plastic debris by 70% by 2025.

Commitments such as this are good steps towards policy change. But some environmentalists and scholars are sceptical about the effectiveness of current government efforts. Currently Indonesia’s Law on Waste Management doesn’t have any specific reference to plastic waste.

What has law got to do with it?

To start with, some basic definitions are needed. It is crucial to distinguish between degradable plastic, recyclable plastic, biodegradable plastic and compostable alternatives to plastic.

There are widely held misconceptions about plastic said to be degradable. In fragmented form it can actually leach toxins, enter the food chain and become highly hazardous to the environment and human health.

More stringent laws could prohibit some plastic usage, set standards for waste minimisation in packaging and impose producer responsibility for waste disposal as well as set out reuse, recycling and disposal obligations.

Indonesia’s Law on Waste Management states that the national and regional governments share responsibility for rubbish. But the law does not indicate who is to do what.

The national government has the authority to set national policy and strategy. It’s the only level of government that can set “norms, standards, procedure and criteria” (article 7).

The national government is also authorised to create incentives and disincentives for reducing rubbish (article 21). It is unclear whether local governments can do the same.

In December 2014, the governor of Bali announced that the island would be “plastic bag free by 2018”. But follow-up action has been slow. This is partly due to confusion about which level of government should act first. To date, the national government appears reluctant to lead the way.

The Law on Protection and Management of the Environment enables provincial governments to create incentives and disincentives such as environmental taxes, fees to use a public facility and subsidies. Unfortunately, it seems that regional governments are still deferring to the national level unless they are given a green light to proceed.

Current policies

The Indonesian government is structuring a national program to tackle land-based management of waste over four years. The intention is to dedicate up to US$1 billion to reduce plastic pollution. What such a program may look like is yet to be confirmed.

A number of NGOs, individuals and private and public organisations are already working to reduce plastic pollution across Indonesia, by educating schoolchildren, cleaning beaches and advocating for better waste management.

Across Indonesia, Bali appears to be a stronghold for such campaigns. This is perhaps because its natural beauty and status as an international tourist destination are under threat from mismanaged waste and debris.

Fifteen city administrations, including Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan, are expected to engage in controlling plastic waste.

Eleven ministries, including the Co-ordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and the Ministry for the Environment and Forestry, have agreed to a National Action Plan, starting in 2017, to tackle marine plastic.

The plan includes activities to change behaviour through education and awareness-raising, limiting plastic consumption, better waste management and financing mechanisms.

More than awareness and education

Community awareness about the hazards of poorly managed plastic waste is important. But it’s unlikely to be sufficient to actually reduce dependency on single-use plastic.

To win the battle against plastic pollution, the Indonesian central and regional governments need to strengthen their legal framework.

Nationally applicable definitions are needed to distinguish between degradable plastic, recyclable plastic, biodegradable plastic and compostable plastic alternatives. There is a need to be clear about responsibility at each level of government and the creation of new norms, standards, procedures and criteria.

The government must embark on a multi-tiered approach that engages affected communities. Those who continuously experience plastic pollution live with the urgency for action on a daily basis.


The ConversationThomas Wright co-wrote this article with Dr Sarah Waddell, an Indonesian environmental law specialist.

Thomas Wright, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, The University of Queensland

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

Member Spotlight: Balinese dancer, teacher and arts enthusiast Jane Ahlstrand

AIYA member Jane Ahlstrand has a prolific record of Indonesia engagement. From performing and teaching Balinese dance to appearing on Indonesian television, she has been an avid advocate of cultural engagement and shows no signs of stopping. (She’s even authored a few articles for us at the Blog!) Jane spoke to AIYA about her fascinating experiences in the Australia-Indonesia space.

What brought you to engage with Indonesia? What do you enjoy most about the country?

Jane at the IndOz Festival in Brisbane.

Although my primary school offered me my first exposure to Indonesia through weekly Indonesian classes, only through actual direct contact with Indonesia did I come to recognise its true appeal. That moment of realisation happened when I was 16 back in 1998. My family saved up for our first trip overseas to Bali. It was definitely a big deal for us back then.

When we arrived in Bali and breathed in the balmy, tropical night air, I was just blown away by how different and beautiful Bali was. Coming from a tiny country town meant that I had very limited exposure to other cultures so a trip to Bali really opened my eyes. I also realised that the bits and pieces of Indonesian I had learned in primary school were in fact useful and worth cultivating.

Oh, and I had the chance to see Balinese dance for the first time. I was just riveted by the dancers’ wonderful expressions, movements and costumes. At the time, I only saw myself as a foreign tourist but did have a small hope that I would step out of that box one day and truly get to know Bali.

After that, I was motivated to study Indonesian at university. At uni, I made lots of Indonesian friends, most of whom happened to be Chinese Indonesians at the time because they fled the violence of 1998. For me, it was really interesting but also saddening to hear their stories of life in Indonesia as a minority. I also made a trip back to Indonesia in 2001 and travelled across Java by bus, train, taxi, motorbike, becak and bajaj. I felt so alive! I have a clear memory sitting on the back of a motorbike riding through the electric green rice fields outside of Jogja and being overwhelmed by happiness. By then, my Indonesian was much better and I was able to interact freely with the locals.

After graduating, sadly, work took me in a different direction. I ended up living in Korea and studying Korean for a while. I also worked with the Queensland Government developing the International Student Program and my Korean language skills were put to the test there. After a while, Indonesia called my name. Especially Bali. I investigated some options for returning to Indonesia.

Since 2011, my life has been Indonesia-focused.

How did you come to perform Balinese dance? What’s the best part?

In 2011 I enrolled in the Darmasiswa culture and arts scholarship program offered by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture. I studied Balinese dance at the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Denpasar, Bali. My Indonesian language skills really helped me in making friends and understanding the dance.

Even though my stiff bule body did not want to cooperate much at first. Since then, I was determined to master this ridiculously difficult art form. Learning it as a foreigner and an adult certainly made it a challenge. Most Balinese learn it from when they are very young and their bodies move naturally into the right position. For me, I had to force it until it also became natural.

 

The best part is actually the build up to the performance. All the hard work and practice along with the big expectations for the event. The event itself is always a challenge because I have to do the makeup and costuming, usually not only for myself but for my students. I love teaching and sharing the love of dance but it takes many years to master its various aspects of the dance, including the intricacies of the costume and makeup. I feel a lot of pressure to get things done on time. It takes over an hour to do the costume and makeup for one person. Some nights before a big performance, I can’t sleep because I worry about all the things I have to do the next day.

Tell us about your NAILA experience in 2015?

I was so thrilled to win the Wildcard category for NAILA. I think because I picked Balinese dance as my topic, I just had to do a good job. My speech was almost like a performance and I was very passionate about sharing my knowledge of Balinese dance with the audience. Thankfully, other people appreciated it. I memorised the speech and when I delivered it on the night of the event, it was almost like an out of body experience for me. That night, I was too excited to go to sleep afterwards. What a rush! I am so thankful to the team at NAILA for putting together such a fantastic event and giving us the chance to put our language skills to the test.

How about CAUSINDY 2016?

CAUSINDY was great. It was held in Bali so that was a real bonus! I suppose I was selected because of my identity as a budayawan. Many of the other participants came from professional backgrounds and I must admit, I felt a bit odd and lacked self-confidence. Nevertheless, at the conference we were given the task of developing a potential project that would help strengthen the bilateral relationship and that’s when I felt I could offer something useful.

I was placed in a group of others who also recognised the value of cultural engagement. We came up with the idea of a website that showcases engagement between our two nations through the arts while also giving artists a voice and the recognition they deserve. We all agreed that the arts sometimes gets overlooked and undervalued when in fact it is a fantastic resource for building friendship and communicating ideas.

Jane at CAUSINDY.

What is JembARTan?

So, JembARTan is the name of the blog that was launched following the conference. My friend John Cheong Holdaway (NAILA winner and CAUSINDY delegate) came up with the beautiful name. He is really clever. He also set up a basic WordPress blog. Then I just started writing. I have quite a few friends who are active in the arts, so it wasn’t too hard to find some interesting subjects for the blog. After a while, I had written quite a few posts and then JembARTan sort of just ended up becoming my pet project. I started writing mainly in Indonesian, and the articles were then published by ABC Australia Plus Indonesia as well as several leading Indonesian news media outlets. I was quite satisfied to know that my Indonesian writing skills were good enough to make it into the local Indonesian media.

Then, the team at CAUSINDY showed their interest in developing JembARTan further. We now have funding from telkomtelstra (a joint Indonesian-Australian telecommunications company) to create a spiffy new website and also engage in more interviews with cool artists. I also have a new member, Freya Gaunt, who is helping me to write new articles and expand JembARTan.

Where do you see the Australia-Indonesia relationship heading in the future?

I’m really depressed about the low level of enrolment in Indonesian language subjects at the high school and tertiary level. It’s honestly shocking and worrying. I really wish that universities would do more to encourage student interest in the program rather than just letting it die off. I know that universities are profit-driven but they also have a broader duty as educational institutions to contribute to Australia’s role in the Asia-Pacific region.

What’s your next move?

I have to finish my PhD! I am actually getting really close to my deadline and things are looking very precarious for me at the moment. It was my dream to become an academic, but I feel that I might be more interested in a more exciting life, particularly in the media. I have done a bit of television work with NET.TV Indonesia, and it really gives me a rush to participate in news production. I am also trying to learn to sing so I can pursue a career as a dangdut singer and tour around Indonesia. Hahaha. Just kidding (?).

A big thanks to Jane for her time and her support of the Australia-Indonesia cultural canvas. Read all of her submissions for the AIYA Blog here.

What is UniBRIDGE Project – and how can you benefit?

Membership of AIYA offers Indonesian and Australian youth numerous benefits, but perhaps one of the lesser-known advantages is free access to the UniBRIDGE Project online language exchange platform. But what exactly is UniBRIDGE Project? Chris Hall gives us a rundown.

What is the core philosophy behind UniBRIDGE Project?

UniBRIDGE Project can be summed up in three key words: connect, understand, and interact. The idea behind UniBRIDGE Project is that if Australians and Indonesians get together and interact with each other on a regular basis then misconceptions are smashed, barriers are overcome and friendships are formed. This is true even if the regular interactions are via web-conferencing software. UniBRIDGE Project overcomes the tyranny of distance (and costs of travel) and allows Australians and Indonesians to share language and culture through online technologies. It is improving the bilateral relationship at a grassroots level.

Screenshot of the UniBRIDGE Project web-conferencing platform. Image: Chris Hall

How did UniBRIDGE Project come about?

The basic idea behind UniBRIDGE Project is to allow Australians and Indonesians to engage in language and intercultural exchanges using the latest educational software. Participants can engage with each other from anywhere that has an Internet connection and they are also supported by a dedicated team and provided language and cultural education material.

UniBRIDGE Project started its journey in 2012 as a pilot program inspired by Asia Education Foundation’s school BRIDGE project. The working committee behind the brainstorming of the project included the likes of David Hill and Aaron O’Shannessy and was ultimately founded and led by Dr. Richard Curtis at Charles Darwin University (now at University of Sunshine Coast). Back then it was called Tertiary Bridge Project and I was a student studying externally from Sydney.

Since then it has become permanent and I transitioned from student, to mentor, to volunteer, until in 2016 I was asked to take over the management of the program. Since 2012, the program has grown from involving one Australian and one Indonesian university, to students from nine Australian universities and five Indonesian universities, as well as AIYA members.

UniBRIDGE Project participants in Australia. Photo: Chris Hall

Tell us about your own Indonesia journey – how formative were these experiences?

My Indonesian in-country study trips have left quite an impact on me, and they really did shape my motivation to make an effective organisation that builds bridges at the grassroots level.

My first Indonesian in-country trip involved three weeks in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), and three weeks in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB). It was the early days of UniBRIDGE Project but I instantly felt at ease in Kupang because I had a local support network of friends who I had been speaking to via UniBRIDGE Project for the previous six months or more.

I first realised the value of the UniBRIDGE Project experience while in Lombok. I couldn’t help notice the contrast. In Lombok, there was very little cross-cultural interaction, despite the fact that the Australian students were in their target country. Most of the Australian students mainly spoke to restaurant staff, taxi drivers and hotel workers. This experience highlighted the value of regular, real-time, contact with overseas peers – especially when eventually travelling in country.

UniBRIDGE Project participants gather together in Kupang. Photo: Daniel Hall

You also teach?

Yes, I have been an English language teacher since 2007. I have taught all levels of English and several specialist courses including Cambridge exam courses, English for Academic Purposes, and Business English. I also have experience teaching and developing learning material for French and Indonesian.

What other experiences have you sought in the Australia-Indonesia space?

I studied a Diploma of Languages (Indonesian) which involved a couple of in-country study trips. I’ve also promoted and sold crafts made from traditional tenun ikat from NTT. This idea arose in UniBRIDGE Project while chatting to one of my early language partners, whose family makes and sells these craft items in Kupang. So we worked together to get things going and now people in the US, Germany and Australia enjoy handmade tenun ikat products from Kupang. The idea is to support the local artisan community in NTT in some small way through promoting small business.

What is the best part of coordinating UniBRIDGE Project?

The best thing is seeing students develop and learn. This is both in terms of language and cultural knowledge. I like seeing Indonesian and Australians finally realise that they have different ideas of how to use the word ‘semester’, for example. And it is nice to see Indonesian students finally stop using Pak, or other Indonesian honorifics, when speaking English. And with recorded language exchanges, we can see clear development of language speaking and, importantly, increased confidence.

Australian students visiting their UniBRIDGE Project friends in Kupang. Photo: Qrezpy Pariamalinya

How would you like to see UniBRIDGE Project or similar tools used in the future?

UniBRIDGE Project relies heavily on online communication technology. This technology is only going to become more widely used, especially as more people become connected to increasingly better quality Internet. With the right kind of organisation and management, the potential for education and cross-border interaction are huge.

Already, through UniBRIDGE Project, hundreds of Australian and Indonesian university students are able to see each other, and speak to each other in real time. Imagine how would the bilateral relationship would develop if tens of thousands of Australians and Indonesians interacted with each other every week?

Finally, where can we go to find out more?

To find out more about UniBRIDGE Project visit the website here. And if you’d like to improve your English or Indonesian, check out Chris’ free language learning worksheets.

Indonesia Garudas Headed to Melbourne to Join 2017 AFL International Cup August 5-19

The Indonesia Garudas, a team of young Indonesian footballers from clubs, schools and orphanages across Indonesia, are heading to Melbourne to join the AFL International Cup from August 5-19 2017.

The AFL International Cup is held every three years. In 2014, Papua New Guinea won the men’s final while Canada won the women’s final.

This Sunday 6th August, the opening round of the 2017 AFL International Cup (AFLIC) will be played at Melbourne’s Royal Park. Reining 2016 AFL Asia All-Asian Cup winners, the Indonesia Garudas are ready for the 2017 tournament.

The 2017 AFLIC is comprised of 18 men’s teams and eight women’s teams competing. The men’s fixture will be played across two divisions, and 6 of the eight teams in the new Division 2 are from Asia. All teams will play a total of 4 round games with 1v2, 3v4, etc. Grand Finals to follow.

The Indonesia Garudas are set to make their mark in this year’s AFLIC after winning the inaugural AFL Asia All-Asian Cup in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in October 2016.

Indonesia Garudas Win All-Asian Cup 2016

More recently in May 2017, through sponsors, raffles, selling hats and t-shirts they raised enough money to send some players to play in China. They joined the curtain raiser match to the AFL’s first ever match in China, between Port Adelaide vs. Gold Coast.

As the 2017 AFLIC approaches, the Indonesia Garudas are keen to do one better and take on the best teams in the world.

Check out this video of the Indonesia Garudas to hear their story.

The Garudas have worked hard to get to Melbourne this year fundraising through Fundrazr to meet costs for a place to train and equipment to train with, passports, visas, flights, accommodation, warm clothes, and new playing gear.

The Indonesian Garudas will open their campaign for the Cup against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
You can catch the Garudas at the below matches:

Indonesia vs. Sri Lanka – Sun 6th Aug 9.30am, Royal Park – Western Oval
Croatia vs. Indonesia – Wed 9th Aug 11.45am,
Indonesia vs. China – Sat 12th Aug 12.00pm, Diggers Rest
Semi finals – Tues 15th Aug
Grand finals – Fri 18th Aug

The Indonesia Garudas v Team China game on Saturday 12 August in the outer-Melbournian suburb of Diggers Rest is a big game for fans of footy in Asia and is crucial for both teams if they want to challenge for the 1v2 Grand Final.

“Having seen first hand the improvement in Asia’s local players and knowing how hard these guys have been training for this occasion, I’m confident we will see a massive improvement in skills and game awareness from teams like Indonesia and China where the local development programs managed by our clubs are strongest.” – AFL Asia President Grant Keys

The Garudas narrowly defeated China at last year’s inaugural All-Asian Cup, but Team China showed their improvement at the Shanghai Cup in May 2017 beating the combined Asian Lions team that featured many of the Indonesia Garudas players.

Through AFL Indonesia, some of the Indonesia Garudas players now have jobs, teaching AFL football in local schools and orphanages. They run free weekly football sessions at over 20 schools throughout Jakarta, with plans to expand further.

For more information on the AFLIC and tickets visit their website, here.

Mari kita memperdalam pengertian dwibahasa kita bersama Pojok Indonesia

Siapa pernah mengalami kesulitan ketika belajar bahasa asing di negara kita sendiri?

Sekarang kita sudah dapat mengatasi kesulitan dan rasa malu waktu berbicara menggunakan bahasa asing seperti Bahasa Indonesia atau Bahasa Inggris, dengan suatu kelompok mahasiswa dari Universitas Queensland (UQ) di Australia. Kelompok tersebut bernama Pojok Indonesia, dan dulu didirikan dengan tujuan membantu para pelajar di UQ untuk lebih lancar berbicara Bahasa Indonesia, tetapi grup itu sekarang sudah berkembang dan memperbesar.

Minggu ini AIYA bertanya ‘Apa Pojok Indonesia itu sebenarnya?’ kepada salah satu ketua kelompok, Andrian Liem, bersama dengan masukan dari dosen Studi Indonesia di UQ, Dr Annie Pohlman, salah satu pediri Pojok Indonesia lima tahun yang lalu.

Kegiatan seperti apa yang dilaksanakan Pojok Indonesia?

Andrian: Pojok Indonesia adalah sebuah grup diskusi/ngobrol informal tentang berbagai topik yang diadakan seminggu sekali. Beberapa kali sempat ada makan malam bersama di restoran Indonesia.

Kelompok mahasiswa saat salah satu pertemuan Pojok Indonesia. Foto: Jane Ahlstrand

Mengapa Pojok Indonesia didirikan?

Andrian: Tujuan Pojok Indonesia didirikan setahu saya adalah sebagai sarana untuk membantu mahasiswa yang mengambil mata kuliah Bahasa Indonesia melatih percakapan dengan orang Indonesia asli.

Tetapi Pojok Indonesia tidak hanya untuk mahasiswa – siapa saja yang tertarik atau punya pengalaman dengan Bahasa dan budaya Indonesia bisa datang ke sini.

Annie: Awalnya Pojok Indonesia didirikan pada tahun 2012 oleh saya (sebagai wakil program Bahasa Indonesia di Fakultas Budaya dan Bahasa di UQ) bersama dengan UQISA (UQ Indonesian Students’ Association), khususnya Dr Pan Mohamad Faiz and Dr Mirza Satria Buana, yang merupakan kedua President UQISA saat itu (tahun 2012 dan 2013 masing-masing).

Tujuan kami pada waktu itu adalah untuk mendukung diskusi mengenai hubungan Indonesia-Australia dalam Bahasa Indonesia.

Bagaimana peran Pojok Indonesia dalam memperjuangkan pengajaran Bahasa Indonesia?

Andrian: Di Pojok Indonesia ada orang Indonesia asli sehingga mereka yang ingin meningkatan kemampuan Bahasa Indonesianya bisa berlatih untuk bercakap-cakap di sini.

Selain kosa kata, bisa juga menambah pengetahuan tentang Indonesia yang tidak diajarkan di kelas.

Tolong bagikan suatu contoh cerita lucu yang pernah terjadi saat pertemuan Pojok Indonesia, atau suatu ingatan yang paling mengesankan.

Andrian: Sebagai fasilitator dan orang asli Indonesia, kadang saya suka geli ketika mendengar orang asing mengucapkan kata atau kalimat dalam Bahasa Indonesia karena terdengar berbeda. Atau kadang orang asing juga geli dan heran ketika ada kata Bahasa Indonesia yang sangat berbeda jauh ketika diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Inggris.

Misalnya dalam suatu pertemuan topiknya adalah bunga. Bunga marigold kesannya anggun kalau dalam Bahasa Inggris tetapi menjadi jelek ketika diubah ke Bahasa Indonesia, yaitu “bunga tahi ayam” karena aromanya yang kurang sedap.

Contoh kata lain yang jauh maknanya ketika diterjemahkan adalah ibu jari karena kalau diubah ke Bahasa Inggris jadi motherfinger.

Foto: Jane Ahlstrand

Apa yang seharusnya kita lakukan supaya lebih banyak mahasiswa memilih untuk belajar Bahasa Indonesia, dan juga lanjut sampai ke tingkat mahir?

Andrian: Sebaiknya Bahasa Indonesia dikenalkan sejak usia dini, mungkin dari tingkat sekolah dasar. Tidak hanya Bahasa tetapi Budaya Indonesia, misal melalui tarian, makanan, dan pementasan drama yang diangkat dari cerita rakyat atau legenda nusantara.

Apakah ada rencana untuk Pojok Indonesia ke depan?

Andrian: Baru-baru ini Balai Bahasa dan Budaya Indonesian Queensland (BBBIQ) didirikan dan akan membawahi Pojok Indonesia ke depan. Harapannya lebih banyak orang asing yang datang ke Pojok Indonesia dan belajar Bahasa Indonesia.

Tertarik dengan Pojok Indonesia? Join grup Facebook mereka di sini.

Cultures in harmony: Celebrating NAIDOC with live artist Indigenous Australian and Indonesian artist collaboration

A series of events across Jakarta celebrated Australia’s rich Indigenous cultures during NAIDOC week.

National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week is a celebration of the history, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Jakarta and the Australian Embassy got behind the celebrations as part of the Embassy’s #AussieBanget Diversity month, highlighting Australia’s multiculturalism through hosting a number of events including an exhibition and collaboration.

Of these events was a unique international art collaboration by Australian Indigenous artist Jandamarra Cadd and Indonesian artist Jerry Thung.

Cadd is descendent of the Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Warung people and acclaimed Aboriginal painter. Cadd’s art seeks to bridge the storytelling divide between Aboriginal & mainstream Australia. Through insightful, vibrant and emotive pieces Cadd’s art presents a peaceful voice for unity.

For the live art collaboration, Cadd worked with Bogor-born artist Thung to create an artwork representing the close connection relationships Indigenous Australian’s and Indonesian’s have had over generations. Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson said the joint artwork by Cadd and Thung followed a long history of collaboration between Australians and Indonesians.

“The relationship between our two countries is built on deep and strong personal connections between our people.

“As early as 1700, fishing communities in South Sulawesi made the voyage to Northern Australia to trade, forming new links and communities.”

The artwork bridges Australian Indigenous and Indonesian culture and land with bright colours, symbolic and mythical creatures of both lands.

Jandamarra Cadd and Jerry Thung live in action

The artwork is comprised of colourful sea turtles that swim between our two nations connecting them by sea and the dragons representative of mythical stories from across three Indonesian regions that fly between our countries. The artwork also includes traditional clouds, often seen in batik pieces, from Mega Mendung from Cirebon in West Java.

The artists shared that they wanted the artwork to depict the harmonious relationship between our two countries by the meeting of land and sea through the turtles and dragons.

As part of the celebrations, the Australian Embassy presented its Inaugural Exhibition Celebrating Indigenous Australian Cultures showing the richness and complexity of Australia’s Indigenous cultures.

In the exhibition, the Embassy brought together its collection of Indigenous art together in one place for the first time. A total of 50 artworks and photographs are drawn from three separate locations were on show at the Embassy, they included vibrant contemporary pieces to digital reproductions of bark art from the National Museum of Australia’s Old Masters exhibition.