Are language differences an impediment to bilateral relations?

The annual AIYA Membership Survey is conducted to provide an in-depth analysis of the issues and perspectives of young people engaged in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. The much-anticipated AIYA Survey 2016 Report was released last week, and since it hit our screens we’ve been enjoying the extremely useful – yet sometimes surprising – results. One of the findings which may raise an eyebrow is:

“Language differences are not seen as too large an impediment to bilateral relations.” 

We asked three Awardees of the 2016 National Australia Indonesia Language Awards to respond.

Penny Vakalopoulos
Senior Awardee 2016

The Australia-Indonesia relationship is fraught chiefly because of cultural misunderstanding. In this vein, language differences are obstacles only insofar as they reflect cultural differences. When considering the practical use of English and Indonesian in our diplomatic discourse, the differing languages in themselves are not culpable for bilateral tensions, primarily because we have abundant resources at our disposal to translate and convey with accuracy.

That being said, we cannot overlook the strength of the connection between language and culture. The two are so thoroughly intermingled that it is difficult to even speak of the languages “in themselves”. Languages are, in many ways, direct representatives of culture. Thus language differences in fact can become a large impediment to bilateral relations, where these differences are reflective of a deeper gulf between our cultural values and perspectives. Moreover, such values are not always translatable.

Andrew Parker of The Age himself admitted that business and trade relations with Indonesia have been hampered most substantially by the fact that “we don’t really understand them culturally”. For this deficit of cross-cultural understanding to be addressed, we can in fact first address linguistic misunderstandings. This is because having a greater command of each other’s language will help to bridge the cultural gulf between us, since language is one of the most powerful pathways into another culture.

Therefore, if the notion of language differences becomes inclusive of the notion of cultural differences, the impediment to bilateral relations is not insignificant. Reducing language differences by expanding and deepening the Indonesian-proficiency of Australian citizens is, in my view, a necessary measure to ensure the success of future relations.

Sally Andrews
Wild Card Awardee 2016

Having spent the last semester in Yogyakarta (on exchange at Universitas Islam Indonesia through the support of ACICIS and the New Colombo Plan), it seems to me that language differences are a substantial barrier to forming long-lasting connections, establishing common ground, and engaging in nuanced discourse. The significance of this barrier should not be underestimated. The fact that our two heads of state can only communicate via the use of an interpreter doubtlessly impedes the ease with which policy collaboration can be undertaken, and creates an immediate sense of distance within negotiations.

While it may be relatively easy for a native English speaker to pick up Indonesian – what with its relatively simple grammar and pronunciation – it is fiendishly difficult to learn English. English is truly a nightmare language and my experiences in learning Indonesian have given me an immense sense of admiration for all those taking on the task of trying to master English. For the millions of people across Indonesia who are labouring hard to acquire English language skills, the distance – both geographic and cultural – from Australia may not seem so large. But for those who do not have access to English language teaching, language barriers do have a substantive impact on the perceived proximity between nations. One way in which this proximity could be lessened is through a dramatic increase in the numbers of Indonesian language speakers in Australia.

Muhammad Arif Zamani
Native Speaker Awardee 2016

I believe that language is a very important instrument in social interaction. One important milestone in the history of the struggle of Indonesia in gaining independence was the Annual Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda), which declares the one national language as Bahasa Indonesia. Language of the World (2005) notes that there are at least 742 different languages ​​used by the peoples of Indonesia. These languages ​​represent differences in customs from Sabang to Merauke. Perhaps, if there was no Youth Pledge at that time, it would have been very difficult for Indonesia’s founding fathers to communicate the message to strengthen the national unity of Indonesia. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to conclude that language is a unifying media, especially in the context of intercultural relations. The same thing may apply in the framework of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia.

Nowadays, Indonesian people are open to the concept of globalisation. In a positive sense, English is not something strange anymore as an international language, especially among young and educated people. In the framework of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia, language may not be a huge barrier because of this globalisation. However, from my experience in interacting with Australians both within AIYA and in everyday life, language has a deeper meaning than simply for communication. When I find an Australian who can speak Indonesian – even if just a little – I feel closer to them somehow. In return, I studied some typical Australian greetings like “G’day mate! How’s it going?” It may be simple, but may dissolve the boundaries of formality between the two cultures.

The use of English as an international language means that differences in language may not be an impediment in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia. However, I believe that by studying the language and culture of the two countries we can further strengthen our relationship.

Download the AIYA Survey 2016 Report here, and for more information about NAILA visit the website.

ModCon: Q&A with Australian Winner Alannah Scorer

The winners of ModCon, the Australian Embassy digital art competition, were recently announced to be Hasanuddin University student Anisa Shabrina Yunus from Makassar, Sulawesi, and University of Western Australia student Alannah Scorer from Perth, Western Australia. Their artworks received the most number of votes on the Embassy’s Instagram account (@KedubesAustralia). After meeting Anisa last week, this week we hear from Alannah Scorer about what she hopes to convey with her intriguing, multifaceted work Different, and how she feels competitions like ModCon strengthen cultural ties.

Anti-socialite by Alannah Scorer. Image: Australian Embassy, Jakarta
Different by Alannah Scorer. Image: Australian Embassy, Jakarta

Congratulations Alannah on being the Australian winner of ModCon! Where in Australia are you from? How does this place influence your art?

Thanks so much! I am from Perth, Western Australia. Perth is a place waiting to be discovered, from the beautiful beaches, urban cityscapes and rural bushlands (a few hours out). I would say that Perth has influenced my art as over the years we as individuals learn to view suburbia with a unique eye, to see what makes my town different from the next. Everything, even small ‘boring’ suburbs can be beautiful with the right mindset and outlook on life.

Your artwork is an intriguing composition of many items, at the forefront of which is the phrase ‘Anti-socialite’. What does this collection of items represent about you as a person? What message in particular were you hoping to convey to viewers about the artist behind the artwork?

This artwork was sporadically placed in such a way that represented where my head can sometimes be at as a student. Focusing on everything from love to assignments, and everything in between can be excruciatingly hard work. ‘Anti-socialite’ is a visual representation of ‘dream-like’ and ‘uneasy’ feelings that I wanted to convey, about how I personally handle those daily tasks. As an artist, I wanted the viewers to study each item individually, and then look back at the image, as a whole, and search for their own interpretation.

How did you hear about the ModCon competition, and what prompted you to enter?

I heard about ModCon though an online notice by my University tutor. At first, I did not want to enter, worrying about putting more pressure on myself, but then after persuasion from family members and personal motivation, I thought ‘why not? What’s the worst that can happen?’ …and I’m so glad I did!

What do you hope to gain from your time in Indonesia? What are you most excited about?

I have visited Indonesia (Bali) once before and loved the strong culture and friendly locals. I am hoping to gain some hands-on advice on how to better my digital art from international professionals.

What are your goals or aspirations for when you return from Indonesia?

My goals/aspirations for my return would be to come back with a new mindset about producing digital art. I would love to return to my country with a certain drive to get straight into creating more artworks and producing what I love (with better skills and more knowledge).

How do you feel about the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, and what do you think creative exchanges such as ModCon can bring to the relationship?

I believe the relationship between Indonesia and Australia is extremely strong. I think the Australian Embassy is doing such a cool and innovative new thing, which should definitely be experienced by students who are interested in digital art/filmmaking. As an Australian, I believe creative exchanges such as ModCon bring the Australian and Indonesian ties closer together, as ModCon enables winning entrants to explore and learn in a whole new place (a place that they might not be able to experience otherwise).

View all shortlisted entries on the Embassy website. To learn more about ModCon head here, and if you’re a digital artist make sure you remember it for next year! Alannah is on Instagram: @laniscorer.

ModCon: Q&A with Indonesian Winner Anisa Shabrina Yunus

ModCon, the Australian Embassy digital art prize, was awarded to Hasanuddin University student Anisa Shabrina Yunus from Makassar, Sulawesi, and to University of Western Australia student Alannah Scorer from Perth, after their artworks received the most number of votes on the Embassy’s Instagram account (@KedubesAustralia). This week we spoke to Anisa about the inspiration behind her gentle, rich and beautiful artwork The Current Face of Indonesia, and what she’s most looking forward to on her professional development adventure in Australia. We’ll meet Alannah next week.

The Current Face of Indonesia by Anisa Shabrina Yunus. Image: Australian Embassy Jakarta
The Current Face of Indonesia by Anisa Shabrina Yunus. Image: Australian Embassy Jakarta

Congratulations Anisa on being the Indonesian winner of ModCon! Where in Indonesia are you from? How does this place influence your art?

Anisa Shabrina Yunus. Photo: Australian Embassy, Jakarta
Anisa Shabrina Yunus. Photo: Australian Embassy, Jakarta

I was born and raised in Makassar, South Sulawesi, which is the largest city in Sulawesi. It is mostly known because of the great landscapes, traditional foods, cultural heritage, and so on. I look at this city as a repository of society’s collective memories which I can always be inspired by. Other than the places that influence me in making artwork, it is the people that matter because they keep me going on. The local community and the city atmosphere is what influence my art the most.

Your winning artwork is a beautiful and gentle composition of some iconic Indonesian elements, traditional and modern. What were you hoping to convey to viewers about your country?

I was trying to point out the interesting points of Indonesia, either the traditional values or the contemporary ones. So I made a number of lists that contain key points such as technology, mobility, youth activities, landscapes, hang-out places, culture, faith, and natural resources – those key points then being connected to the current phenomenon of the digital era. I would like to convey the society activities nowadays regarding to what is up today. I finally came up with an idea to combine all those key points in my artwork.

The first one I aim to convey is the traditional values that strongly remain in my country through the presence of public transportation and street vendors. Their presence was combined with contemporary values such as app-based transportation due to technology development. I also added youth activities such as music and visual art as a symbol of the contemporary era in which each individual has the opportunity to express themselves. And the last one I tried to describe is the natural attraction which is the thing Indonesia is mostly known for. After all, I am willing to show the current look of Indonesia, in a genuinely good way through several aspects.

How did you hear about the ModCon competition, and what prompted you to enter?

I stumbled upon the Australian Embassy twitter account and found this information about the digital art competition. I usually use my spare time to look for any learning opportunities such as scholarship programs, youth forums, competitions, and so on. I felt the urge to join this competition since the very first day. I thought this is what I am capable of and moreover, I have always been wanting to go to Australia for study because they have an outstanding rank in the field of art and design. I can say that I kinda felt like this is a golden opportunity for me to develop self-capability.

What do you hope to gain from your time in Australia? What are you most excited about?

Other than a very valuable experience, I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge, developing communication skills, building a wider network on an international level that will eventually have an impact on my career development. I am so excited about meeting new people that have the same passion as mine, and going to some artsy places, and getting involved in the international exhibition. I can’t wait to be faced with another reality where it can train my self-reliance and endurance in facing the situation which is completely new, so there will be a greater awareness of the relationship between people from different countries.

What are your goals or aspirations for when you return from Australia?

As soon as I return, I am looking forward to holding an exhibition and workshop in my hometown as a follow-up to my program in Australia. I hope my trip there will broaden my vision about the making of visual artwork and add my references in the field of art and design so that I can learn from them and share them straight through the ModCon program.

How do you feel about the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, and what do you think creative exchanges such as ModCon can bring to the relationship? 

Australia and Indonesia has a well-maintained relationship since both countries lead each other to mutual cultural understanding through government collaborative programs. I can see that from the presence of the embassies in both nations that actively work to build stronger relationships. There are a lot of things that this kind of exchange program can bring to this case, like a broader network of between each country’s local communities, a greater understanding and tolerance of other cultures, and a sustainable connection between both nations in the field of art and design that will possibly lead to collaborative works, and the sharing of links.

To learn more about ModCon head here, and if you’re a digital artist make sure you remember it for next year! Anisa is on Twitter: @nichasy and Instagram: @nichasy.

Best Semester Abroad: Q&A with the two Indonesian winners

The Best Semester Abroad program sponsors 20 young people from ten countries to live and study in Queensland, and is conducted by the State of Queensland through Trade and Investment Queensland. We spoke to the two winners from Indonesia, Fitri Suci Puspita Sari from Palembang and Alfian Mahardika from Jakarta, about their plans for life in Queensland and what the competition opportunity means for them.

Photo: Fitri Suci Puspita Sari

Fitri, tell us about your home in Indonesia.

I am from Palembang, an hour’s flight from Jakarta. Palembang is a river city located in South Sumatra province. Palembang is popular due to its beautiful Musi River. One of the main delicacies is called pempek, the main ingredient of which is fish. We also have a traditional cloth called songket Palembang, which is woven from golden thread.

How did you find out about Best Semester Abroad?

I knew about the Best Semester Abroad program from a non-profit organisation based in Palembang called Blue Sparkle, which focuses on contributing through education within the communities of South Sumatra.

Why were you interested in studying in Queensland?

I wanted to study in Queensland due to its quality of education. The knowledge that I will gain in Queensland will strongly support the developments currently needed in communities in Palembang.

Where will you be studying?

I will be studying Early Childhood Education at Charlton Brown in Brisbane, because there is a need for early childhood education training for the under privileged children I have been teaching at a non-profit organization in Indonesia called Save Street Child Palembang.

How do you think studying in Australia will benefit you?

Studying in Australia will definitely be very beneficial for me. It will help me to find appropriate teaching strategies, leadership skills and networking procedures that I may be able to apply in my voluntary work.

How do you feel about the Australia-Indonesia relationship?

I believe that Indonesia and Australia have a strong, positive relationship and have the same commitment in collaboration through education. Indonesia and Australia’s relationship is growing and a bright future will come.

Alfian with Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson (left). Photo: Trade and Investment Queensland

Alfian, where are you from in Indonesia? 

I’m from Jakarta, a third year student at the University of Al Azhar Indonesia.

How did you find out about Best Semester Abroad? 

I often attend seminars and exhibitions on education abroad. Exactly a year ago, in the Education World Expo event organised by My Study World at Balai Kartini in Jakarta, I tried the lucky draw with prizes to Singapore but failed. Then I got an email from them to try to win a five-month study program in Queensland. I sincerely and confidently hoped to win it.

Why do you want to study in Queensland?

Because it would be my first time out of Indonesia and my dream from childhood was to be an International Student. I was inspired by former President B.J. Habibie. I want to be the next Habibie of my generation. Additionally, there are many Queensland universities which rank among the top 100 universities of the world.

Which university will you be studying at?

I will be studying at TAFE Queensland on the Gold Coast where I will major in IELTS preparation. I chose to prepare for my future to continue postgraduate studies with a target IELTS 8 per band.

How do you think studying in Australia will benefit you? 

Students in Australia have a very multicultural mindset. People from more than 200 countries currently study in Queensland, and this will open wide the opportunity to network and co-operate with others for my future career.

How do you feel about the relationship between Australia and Indonesia? 

Australia-Indonesia relations are very close. Before I left for Queensland, The Australian Embassy in Jakarta held a Best Semester Abroad ceremony that was fantastic. This was in collaboration with Trade and Investment Queensland and also Fostrust Education Services. Incidentally, Paul Grigson (Australian Ambassador) has family in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, so we got a lot of advice from him. He said, “The first month may be difficult with the language, the culture, and the different systems and you may find it very hard but if you persevere the rest of the time should be easier and will run smoothly.”

As an international student ambassador for Indonesia, among ten other international student ambassadors, I am very proud of Indonesia in the eyes of the world.

Find more information about the Best Semester Abroad competition on their website.

Melbourne Writers Festival: Q&A with Goenawan Mohamad

Goenawan Mohamad is a towering figure in Indonesia. He founded Tempo in 1971 and at various times in his life has been a journalist, editor, activist, poet, essayist, arts philanthropist, theatre director and playwright. He is currently in Australia for the Melbourne Writers Festival, where he will speak to his long-term translator and friend Jennifer Lindsay about a wide range of issues, including the complexities of Indonesia, past and present. Goenawan also just released another book, In Other Words: Forty Years of Essays. AIYA had the honour of interviewing him via email.

Goenawan Mohamad. Photo: Melbourne Writers Festival

How has your writing changed over the past 40 years? Do you still write with the same fervor as when you first put pen to paper?

I am not sure how. But I think there has been a change, although I am not acutely aware of it. It may be due to the size of the format; I have to adjust to the column Tempo designs for my weekly piece. It may be due to a different political setting. Since the fall of Suharto there has been a much wider space for free ideas – I can talk openly on Marxist ideas, for example – and there have been other burning issues I have to deal with, and along with them, the presence of a new audience, imagined or otherwise, that I should speak to. Or probably it has something to do with my need to go deeper into issues that have become commonplace. I am not at home with ready-made concepts.

Every time there is something new I learn or discover, I write as if I do it for the first time.

How do you see the worlds of Indonesian media, art and literature in contemporary times? Who do you think are the most exciting voices, politically and artistically, in Indonesia today?

I am no longer following what is happening in the media. Things move very fast and erratically in this field. My impression is that the digitalised information, along with the thrust of the so-called ‘social media’, has made people less prone to think and rethink; the public debate has been determined by the fastest draw.

The Indonesian visual arts are more exciting. I have just visited a big exhibition of Indonesian arts collected by Sukarno; they are, on the main, of good quality, but they belong to a generation of painters with a self-conscious poise vis-à-vis the idea of the ‘modern’. Today’s painters have a stronger desire to de-freeze identities and break artistic regimes.

Literature is still a small cultural circle. The reading habit in Indonesia is one of the lowest in the world. But more novels, more short stories and poetry have been published than ever. And they are of good quality.

I am not good at liking writers. I am more comfortable with liking their works. The question should be what books instead of who make the most exciting voices.

More and more often Indonesian television, advertisements and cinema, particularly films made in Jakarta, feature English dialogue. Do you fear for Bahasa Indonesia or believe in its resilience?

I am concerned. Even the police use English words for their slogans. What I am worried is the deepening linguistic gap, which is also a class problem, between the English speaking/reading people and the rest of the population.

You’ve had a long and enduring translation partnership with Jennifer Lindsay. What has enabled this partnership to last?

Jenny takes translation seriously. There are two things I like about her: her willingness to do an impossible thing, i.e. doing translation each week continuously, and her skill in the Indonesian and Javanese languages. We speak and write to each other in three languages as a matter of course.

And our friendship started even before she translated my Catatan Pinggir. [This is the title of Goenawan’s column in Tempo, the first of which was translated in 1977.]

What do you think is most important for young journalists and writers to consider/explore/challenge in the current political environments of Australia and Indonesia?

The genesis, growth and future of religious bigotry and hatred.

Goenawan Mohamad speaks to Jennifer Lindsay at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Saturday 3 September at 2.30pm at ACMI Cinema 1. Book tickets here. He will also be appearing on the Coffee & Papers panel that morning at 8.30am, but tickets have sold out.  

ModCon 2016: Q&A with Alison Purnell, Australian Embassy Jakarta


ModCon (short for Modern Conference) is a competition in which students and emerging artists from Australia and Indonesia submit their original digital artworks. The ten shortlisted artworks will be featured on the Australian Embassy’s Instagram account (@KedubesAustralia) for public voting. Winners will win a trip to Indonesia or Australia to meet professional digital artists, participate in workshops and have their artwork exhibited in galleries.

ModCon is a collaborative project between Jakarta 32ºC (a forum and biannual student arts festival initiated by arts collective ruangrupa in 2004) and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. AIYA previously heard from Jakarta 32° Coordinator Andang Kelana, and today shares an interview with Alison Purnell, Counsellor (Advocacy and Outreach) at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.

What role does the Australian Embassy play in organising ModCon?

The Australian Embassy is committed to forging closer ties and understanding between Indonesians and Australians through arts, culture and technology. There is a range of public engagement and creative collaboration already underway between our two countries, and we want to build on that. Therefore, together with ruangrupa and Jakarta 32ºC, the Australian Embassy established the ModCon digital arts competition, which encourages participation from young Australians and Indonesians. We will also work together to facilitate exhibitions, art work collaboration, networking and capacity building opportunities for young people in both countries.

What are the main benefits of collaboration between the Australian Embassy and ruangrupa?

The Embassy partnered with ruangrupa due to our similar interests in helping build the creative sectors in both countries. Certainly, ruangrupa has established an extensive network and built a strong reputation in Indonesia.

In Australia, ruangrupa has been involved in many projects including the Ilmu Festival Performance 2010, the 7th Asia Pacific Triennale 2012, Artlab collaboration with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney in 2013, the Darwin Festival in 2014 and the WANITA program.

How does ModCon benefit the creative economy of Australia and Indonesia?

According to Central Bureau of Statistics Indonesia (BPS), Indonesia’s creative economy represents 7% of Gross Domestic Product. It’s a similar figure in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – at around 6.9% of Australia’s GDP.

ModCon provides a platform for students and emerging artists to showcase their talents and gain valuable experience. The winners’ program will include professional development sessions that will help these young artists understand how they can commercialise their art, and therefore contribute to the broader creative economies of both countries.

What are some ways Australian and Indonesian youth can engage with and benefit from the creative economy?

As a starting point, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta runs a number of programs, including ModCon, Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants Program (ACDGP), Australia Awards Scholarships and Fellowships (AAS) which offer professional development opportunities. For example, we’ve recently announced new short courses in International Business Readiness (Jewellery Design, Fashion and Textile, etc), Museum Management, and Taking Business to the Next Level for entrepreneurs and innovators of technology-enabled start-ups.

ACICIS has also established a Creative Arts and Design Professional Practicum (CADPP), which exposes Australian students to contemporary Indonesian arts and cultural production. Students and emerging artist may also be interested in participating in the New Colombo Plan (NCP).

Is the Australian Embassy involved in any other cultural/creative endeavours?

The Australian Embassy is involved in a number of cultural and creative endeavours in film, fashion, food, performing arts, jewellery and much more.

Recently, we supported a co-production between Ballet.Id and Western Australia Ballet (WAB) called Once. The tour incorporated a number of professional development programs which involved Australians sharing their expertise with Indonesian theatre technicians.

In the past few months we also launched an e-learning game, Next Door Land, which is a fun way to learn about Australian and Indonesian history, music, sports, architecture, culture and mythology. AIYA was involved in this project, which allows players to take a virtual adventure in either Australia or Indonesia. The game has been a big success and was made possible by the Embassy’s partnerships with the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture, Asia Education Foundation and AIYA.

For a full rundown of ModCon, head over to the website. The ModCon submission deadline is 30 August. Voting is from 15 September to 15 October.

ReelOzInd!: Q&A with Dery Prananda, Winner of Best Fiction & Best Film

The winners of the inaugural ReelOzInd! Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition and Festival have been selected. The ReelOzInd! team caught up with director, producer and screenwriter Dery Prananda, winner of Best Fiction and Best Film for Amelis.

Amelis. Photo: ReelOzInd!
Amelis. Photo: ReelOzInd!

What was your inspiration behind this story?

At first, I made this film because of the duty coming from my professor at my university (art institute). While I was finding the ideas for that, it reminded me of a conversation with Aleta Baun, an environmental warrior from Timor Island.  She joked about the journey of a motorcycle taxi driver (ojek) who brought a corpse back to his hometown. Beside the truth behind that story, I think it is an interesting story to tell. So I did some research about that, and the facts show that there are many cases in Indonesia, especially for people living in rural areas, where they don’t have access to good health facilities. That is why they often bring their own corpse from their family with public transportation. So this is actually the basis of the Amelis story.

Where was the film made? How many people made up the cast and crew? How long did it take to shoot and how long was post-production?

This film was created in Yogyakarta with a crew of less than ten and a few extras that we found on location, and of course some of the crew were also extras. The shoot took two days working from morning until the afternoon. Post-production, editing and so on, took less than a month to complete.

The film is both sad and funny. What was the mood like on the set?

We had an enjoyable time on set. Even when there were a few problems, these could be solved easily. The crew included a theatre actor who gave lots of advice to the other actors in this film. I just gave some opinions from my point of view for the pictures. The rest, all the actors and the crew finished by themselves.

How did you cast the film? Was it difficult to find an actor for the part of the father?

While the scenario development was still in process, I immediately thought of my friend Paulo Da Silva, as perfect to play the role as the son. Paulo is a filmmaker and already made some short films, so I thought it wouldn’t be hard for him to act in front of the camera. Meanwhile for the role of the father, he is a neighbour of one of our crew members. When I saw the picture of Mbah Harto (that’s the name we usually call him) I immediately wanted to ask him to play the role of the father. From the beginning process of the film, we did it very simply, and we wanted to maintain that.

Have your films been screened outside of Indonesia before? How do you think Australian audiences will respond to the film?

This film has never been on screen before. Even in our city, Yogyakarta. ReelOzlnd! is our first screening. I did not expect such a good response from the judges and I hope this film can impress audiences in Australia.

The ReelOzInd! Australian premiere festival screening will be hosted by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) at Federation Square, Melbourne on Sunday 21 August at 6.30pm, including the announcement of the jury selection of award winners. Entry is free, but reserve tickets here. On Monday 22 August, the Indonesian premiere festival screening will be hosted by Petra Little Theatre, Universitas Kristen Petra in Surabaya. After the premieres, ReelOzInd! hits the road. For all the info head here. To read a Q&A we did with the organiser of this groundbreaking initiative, head here.

ReelOzInd!: Q&A with Josephine Lie, winner of Best Collaboration

The winners of the inaugural ReelOzInd! Australia Indonesia Short Film Competition and Festival have been selected. The ReelOzInd! team caught up with Josephine Lie, winner of the Best Collaboration section to hear about her film Miner’s Walk: Supeno.

Miners Walk_Supeno
Miner’s Walk: Supeno. Photo: ReelOzInd!

Tell us a little about the project this documentary is a part of. How did you choose Supeno as a subject for the documentary?

Miner’s Walk is an interactive documentary exploring the stories and livelihoods of the sulphur miners working in the Ijen Crater, East Java, Indonesia. It will be available to experience on in a few weeks. The documentary will allow audiences to literally follow a miner’s journey from the top of the crater’s rim down into the depths of the crater where the sulphur is collected and carried. Along the way, audiences will also be able to view 12 short videos which explore different aspects of the Kawah Ijen story – such as portrait documentaries like Supeno, and themes like the effect of tourism in the region. We are seeking to share the multifaceted and complicated environment that is entailed within the sulphur miner’s story.

Where was the film location? How many people made up the cast and crew? How long did it take to shoot and how long was post-production?

Supeno was filmed in part at the Kawah Ijen location, as well as Plampang village where Supeno lives with his family. It was important to me to speak with the miners away from the crater itself, because it was here where they could relax and be with their family. You see the miners in a completely different light by doing that.

We filmed over six days, and in that time did interviews with miners and others. We also attached GoPros to the backs of some of the miners themselves. Hence why audiences of Miner’s Walk will literally have the opportunity to follow the miner’s journey down into the crater.

The people involved in Miner’s Walk were basically any people who were willing to share their stories in the short six we were filming. So that ended up being five miners, and a mixture of people involved with the Kawah Ijen site, or connected sulphur factory.  Collectively about eight people were interviewed.

The crew was minimal, about two people. It was me shooting, with Niken helping with the video shooting and scouting for interview opportunities. We also had tremendous help from a local ranger and environmentalist Mas Kisma, who helped connect us with some of the miners. Day to day the crew expanded and shrunk to one to three people. Niken was the main other crew member. I am still in production for the ‘interactive’ side of Miner’s Walk, with my developer Martyn, here in London, building the website, as I design it. (I’m a User Experience Designer by trade.) The whole project has been in production for about nine months now, and hopefully it will be done soon.

What took you to Indonesia? Was this your first experience making films in Indonesia/with Indonesians?

I’ve been so fascinated by Indonesia since spending a year living there as a student. My family background is also Indonesian, and that’s always been a part of me. But what I love about the place is that it is so vibrant and unique culturally and geographically. Capturing its surreal beauty and human stories is a pleasure. This was not my first experience filming in Indonesia. In 2011 I filmed and designed a different interactive documentary Merapi: Stories from the Volcano, a piece that explores the 2010 eruption of Mount Merapi, and its impact on 21 different individuals.

What is your impression of the film/creative industry in Indonesia at the moment? Can you see yourself taking further opportunities for collaborations in Indonesia and with Indonesians?

My impression is that Indonesia has an incredibly rich tradition with the creative arts which permeates through the country. How that translates exactly to a commercial film/creative industry, I can’t really speak to. What I can say, is that the DIY spirit and genuine enthusiasm to create everything from exhibitions, arts, film and music is something Indonesians seem to have in bucket loads. That’s why I’m always so excited to see content made by Indonesians no matter what medium. Yes, I would definitely be interested in further opportunities to collaborate with Indonesians again.

How would you describe the collaborative process overall?  Would you encourage other Australians to do the same?

Suffice to say, if Niken, and the other local Indonesian people were not there, this project couldn’t have been made. There was too much cultural nuance, too much possibility to offend, to possibly attempt on my own. Niken had never filmed before (her background is fashion photography), but I was more than confident that she would be able to pick it up quickly. And in exchange I saw how effortlessly Niken smoothed over situations, ensured interviews were well executed, and in general made the whole filming process a team effort. She was an absolute sport, because some of the shooting environments were really challenging amongst the sulphur gas, and the trek there etc. Absolutely I would encourage other Australians to collaborate with Indonesians.

The ReelOzInd! Australian premiere festival screening will be hosted by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) at Federation Square, Melbourne on Sunday 21 August at 6.30pm, including the announcement of the jury selection of award winners. Entry is free, but reserve tickets here. On Monday 22 August, the Indonesian premiere festival screening will be hosted by Petra Little Theatre, Universitas Kristen Petra in Surabaya. After the premieres, ReelOzInd! hits the road. For all the info head here. To read a Q&A we did with the organiser of this groundbreaking initiative, head here.

Celebrating Indonesian Independence Day 2016 in Australia

aiya hut ri

With the commemoration of 71 years of Indonesian independence on 17 August, we decided to take a look at where Australians and Indonesians in Australia are able to join in the celebrations. There is a plethora of events across Indonesia from Palembang to Makassar to Jayapura, but where might someone in Brisbane or Adelaide take part in commemorating Indonesian Independence Day 2016?


The Consulate-General of Indonesia (KJRI) in Melbourne is holding a two-part celebration including a flag-raising ceremony in the morning of 17 August at KJRI and a public celebration at Federation Square in the afternoon, featuring a cultural display of music and regional dance. Find out more information on the Facebook event or the main KJRI Melbourne page.

The Indonesian Students Association of Indonesia (PPIA) Victoria presents the musical drama Temu Lawak on 20 August at Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne. By helping to coordinate this event, PPIA Victoria aims to foster notions of nationalism and a sense of belonging as an Indonesian.


Eastlakes Shopping Centre will be the venue for one of this year’s free Independence Day celebrations in Sydney from 19-20 August. Co-organised by PPIA UNSW, this event will feature traditional food, gamelan and cultural performance.

The Indonesian Hillsong Community will come together at Hillsong Church in Waterloo and Alexandria in Sydney for Indopendence 2016, a series of multiple services across two days, 20-21 August.

It isn’t quite an Independence Day celebration, but you won’t want to miss AIYA NSW’s screening of Ada Apa Dengan Cinta 2 and live Q&A session with members of the cast at Ritz Cinema in Randwick on 22 August. Find out more information and grab tickets here, and join in experiencing the hype for the event on the AIYA NSW Facebook page.


PPIA QLD will host its annual Pesta Rakyat (Pesra), a “one day Indonesian culture trip”, at King George Square in Brisbane on 21 August. You can find some lively discussion for the event here, and the Pesra website features great highlights from the previous year’s celebration.

A week later, King George Square finds itself host to the IndOz Festival 2016; not only a showcase of culture and nation but also a prime business networking opportunity. Organised by Synergy Indonesia Australia (SIA), the two-day event from 26-27 August gives a chance to “Experience the Wonderful Indonesia”. Interested?


Over in Perth, the KJRI will also be holding an official flag-raising ceremony and networking opportunity for invitees on Wednesday at the KJRI complex in East Perth.

Later in October, you can experience the wonders of Gayana 2016, PPIA WA’s Indonesian Culture and Arts Festival held at Curtin Stadium in Perth on 30 October. This promises to be a great celebration of a nation and enable people to come together as a community.


In South Australia, the Australian Indonesia Association (AIA) SA and PPIA SA have come together to organise a “free family event” for Independence Day at Glenelg North in Adelaide on 27 August.


Interested in something a little more academic to quench your Indonesian independence thirst? Look no further than the UTAS Asia Institute’s ‘Islam in Indonesia’ public lecture from Associate Professor Pamela Allen, held at the Centenary Building at the University of Tasmania on 25 August. The presentation will focus on the dynamic between Indonesia as having the largest Muslim population in the world while simultaneously being defined as a secular state in the nation’s constitution.


KJRI Darwin will hold day-long festivities at the Consulate on the big day, which include flag-raising, social networking opportunities, fun Indonesian games (not just for the kids!) and the impressive efforts of Darwin High School Music Ensemble. Read more information here!


The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra actually held its celebration of 71 years of independence last week, but this AustraliaPlus Indonesia article reveals the enthusiasm of participants (and resilience against the cold), and the photos on the Embassy’s official Facebook page show the strength in numbers of Indonesian expats and visitors.

These aren’t the only relevant events happening this week, so be sure to keep an eye out for more! Otherwise, use #HUTRI71 on Twitter for updates from both countries about this year’s celebrations.

ISRSF Indonesian History Essay Competition


The Indonesian Scholarship and Research Support Foundation (ISRSF) invites talented Indonesians to participate in the Foundation’s History Essay Competition. The goal of this competition is to recognise the work of Indonesians interested in history and to inspire young Indonesians to become academic historians.

Who can enter the competition? 

  • Any Indonesian citizen with a strong interest in history
  • Anyone with either an S1 or S2 degree as of the end of 2016
  • You have not yet started any Ph.D program
  • Anyone who is 35 years old or younger at the time you submit your essay
  • No one currently affiliated in any way with ISRSF can submit an essay

What can I write about?

  • Any subject or period in Indonesian history from 1800 to 2000
  • The focus can be on a social, economic, political, cultural, religious, or ideological topic
  • You can focus on individuals, groups, movements, trends, ideas, organizations, or any combination of these
  • It must be an original essay written exclusively for this competition and not submitted or published anywhere previously

What are the criteria for winning?

  • Originality, clarity, coherence, use of sources, and the quality of the writing.
  • Essays must be written in English and carefully edited for content, spelling, and grammar.
  • Essays must be non-ficton, based on research, and be 2,500 words or less.
  • Essays must be written and edited by the same individual (no outside help).
  • Each writer can submit only one essay for this competition.
  • Essays must be new, original, and written specifically for this competition.
  • Previously published essays, whether in print or online (in any form), will not be accepted.
  • All sources (primary or secondary) used in the essay must be fully and properly cited. All direct quotes must appear in quotation marks.
  • ISRSF will scan all essays using plagiarism software that can detect any material previously published in books, articles, or available online.
  • Essays should have a title. The author’s name should appear under the title. Avoid using headers and footers.
  • Essays must be submitted in Word .doc or .docx format. Use 12 pt Times New Roman font. PDFs will not be accepted.
  • Margins should be set to 1” on all sides. Pages should be numbered.

All essays will be read and judged by an independent panel of Indonesian and international historians. The panel reserves the right not to award a prize if no essay qualifies. The panel’s decisions regarding prize winners are final.

Based on the decisions of the judges, IRSRF will award first, second, and third prizes. The prizes for these places are:

1st Prize: Rp. 10,000,000

2nd Prize: Rp. 8,000,000

3rd Prize: Rp. 6,000,000

Prize winners will also receive an award certificate from ISRSF and will be featured on the Foundation’s website. Prize winners are also automatically eligible to be interviewed by ISRSF for a prestigious Arryman Fellow award and eligible for an interview for a full scholarship to study for a Ph.D. in history at Northwestern University.

Please send your essay attached with the History Essay Competition Form and a scan of your ID (KTP) for verification to:

Essays must be submitted online to ISRSF no later than 15 November 2016 at midnight (WIB).