As an international student living in Australia for nearly 3 years, I have found many awesome ways to spend my Sunday morning. These mostly include having “food babies” with great food loving friends, cultural activities or road trips to the country. However, I must say that having the opportunity to interview two celebrities from Jakarta that have come to Melbourne for the Indonesia Film Festival (IFF) has outshone anything else on my list.
Writer and Producer Robert Ronny and supporting actress Feby Febiola were in Melbourne to present their film “Kapan Kawin, When will you get married?”. This lighthearted comedy focuses on the life of a successful hotel manager from Jakarta, Dinda, who at 33, is tired of her family’s pressure to get married. In a bid to relieve herself of their disapproval, she hires a street actor to accompany her to her family gathering in Jogjakarta and pose as her partner.
After a quick chat about the release of the movie on February 12 in Indonesia and their first visit in Melbourne, Robert Ronny and Feby Febiola kindly answered my questions about the film in a relaxed interview. I then had the opportunity to view the film later that day, at its screening for IFF.
Robert as a writer and producer, tell us, how you came up with the idea for this film?
Well in Indonesia, we have this cultural phenomenon of rudely asking women when they are going to get married. Maybe in Jakarta the pressure is not felt because Jakarta is a megapole hence it is normal to see people in their 30s still single but it is not the case in other cities like Jogya, where we shot the movie. In certain cities if you are a single woman at 25 years old it is considered a sin.
The crazy thing is that in every Indonesian family gathering from Eid to Christmas it is ok to ask “when will you get married?”, whereas in a western culture I believe it is impolite to ask.
As a writer I want the film to question some unshakable values that is in this film, that Indonesian parents are always right! I don’t agree 100% with that saying. Being older doesn’t mean they are wiser. Their own values in today’s society are not applicable to anyone. I have seen parents ruining their own children life by pressuring them to marry.
Feby, what encouraged you to accept to play your character, Nadya, Dinda’s happily married sister?
I directly fell in love with the script because I could relate to the story.
Although I am happily married, I am 36 and people keep asking me if I’m really happy or if there is anything wrong with me because I do not have kids. While in the first place the question should not been asked, because it is my private life.
I believe, parents want the best for their children, they mean well, but sometimes they have to accept that they don’t know what is best.
However, some people from the older generation in Indonesia watched the movie and understood the message behind it, an elderly couple in their 60s told me they won’t put pressure on their daughter to get married.
Feby, do you think this pressure is also felt among men in their 30’s?
Yes, of course our generation think if you are married then you are successful consequently happier than when you are single and that goes for men as well.
In the film my character Nadya is happily married and has a son, and her life looks perfect compared to Dinda, but slowly you discover that things are not what they seem to be.
Robert, what message do you want to deliver with this romcom?
Although I believe comedy does not translate well across culture, I want this lighthearted romcomedy to make people reflect more about that social pressure, i think this pressure is applicable all around the world and everybody wants to be happy.
Interestingly, the divorce rate in Indonesia for the last 5 years is the highest in the Asia Pacific, it is not a taboo anymore to get a divorce that fact demonstrates that society is changing.
The message behind the comedy, the simplicity of the interview and the friendliness of these two celebrities, were all motives to watch the screening later on that night. I nearly forgot that at the very first, one of the reasons that pushed me to attend the film, was the synopsis, it reminded of a French romantic comedy I had seen back home “Prete moi ta main” translated in English as “I do, How to get married and stay single”. The story of a man in his late 30s who made a deal with his best friend’s sister and paid her to act as his temporary wife in order to get rid of his family’s (composed only by women) pressure to settle.
The similarity with the film Kapan Kawin ends with the title, indeed Kapan Kawin’s subtlety addresses the cultural pressure of marriage among women in their 30s in Indonesia. Yes, I mostly spent the first half an hour of the movie laughing, but the underlying theme of this cultural phenomenon takes force towards the end of the film and it is moving.
In his desire to challenge the thought that parents know best for their children and that, no matter how adult they are, Robert Ronny, uses his characters to depict accurate family dinner moments that everyone can relate to (especially me!). And it encourages us all to be true to ourselves.
Finally, the beautiful shoot locations around Jogjakarta, the subtlety of the film within a film, the jokes that sometimes were lost in translation, the chemistry between the two main characters and the unexpected plot from Dinda’s parents make this movie sweet and a must see.
Sejatinya majua jua, seruan warga Batak Karo dari Sumatera Utara, mungkin belum lazim terdengar di telinga sebagian masyarakat Indonesia. Namun bagi sutradara Rako Prijanto nuansa keberagaman tersebut adalah jiwa dari film ‘3 Nafas Likas’ dimana sosok pahlawan nasional kelahiran Batak Karo, Djamin Gintings (diperankan oleh Vino G. Bastian) yang diceritakan dari sudut pandang istrinya, Likas Tarigan Gintings (yang diperankan bergantian oleh Tissa Biani Azzahra, Atiqah Hasiholan dan Tutie Kirana).
Kekentalan keberanian visi sang sutradara terasa dari penataan film. Penonton secara terus menerus dimanjakan oleh keindahan alam melalui teknik pengambilan gambar yang sangat apik tatanannya, membawa kita seakan hadir menjamah Bumi Karo dan menggerak kerinduan hati saya untuk segera kembali untuk menjelajahi sudut berbeda Tanah Air.
Dengan latar belakang tersebut Likas muncul di antara keindahan kampung halaman Sibolangit, mencuri perhatian para penonton dengan segala tingkah jagoan dan impiannya untuk menjadi guru. Pertentangan antara Likas dan Nande-nya adalah titik pertama dimana kita sebagai penonton diundang untuk menghayati dunia Likas: perjuangan seorang gadis menjadi seorang dewasa dalam budaya patriarki yang sangat kental dalam budaya Batak dan perjuangan sebuah keluarga dalam masa hangatnya perjuangan kemerdekaan yang marak diwarnai oleh kisah kehidupan yang bahagia maupun tragis.
Ketika Likas bertemu Djamin dan memutuskan untuk hidup bersama pada saat pergejolakan perang menunjukkan betapa tegarnya Likas sebagai perempuan yang seringkali berjuang sendirian ditengah keadaan yang sangat tragis. Ketika keadaan semakin membaik, peran Likas-pun terbenam di balik sinar Djamin yang sedang menjadi sorotan menunjukkan bahwa idealisme Likas pun bisa luntur tergerus waktu. Diceritakan bahwa meskipun mempertahankan idealisme bukan hal yang utama lagi baginya sekarang, Likas masih tetap bisa terlihat tegar walaupun pada akhirnya tiga sosok yang ia jadikan alasan untuk untuk tetap bernafas selama ini pada akhirnya meninggalkannya dirinya satu per satu – dimulai dari ibunya, abangnya Jore dan akhirnya suami tercinta Djamin sendiri.
Film ini adalah sebuah cerita tentang Likas, bukan semata-mata tentang sosok Djamin yang dilihat dari kacamata istrinya. Pentingnya peran wanita dalam segala aspek kehidupan masyarakat Indonesia, khususnya peran mereka dibalik kesuksesan para pria yang sesungguhnya menjadi premis utama film ini memang terlihat kontradiktif dengan apa yang terjadi dalam realita kehidupan sehari-hari dimana wanita diperlakukan secara marjinal dari segi sosial, politik dan ekonomi. Tetapi nyatanya memang cerita yang diangkat dari perspektif perempuan mampu mendominasi layar lebar Indonesia selama ini seperti yang disampaikan Rako Prijanto saat menjadi pembicara Kelas Film Indonesia yang juga termasuk bagian dari rangkaian acara IFF 2015.
Industri perfilman Indonesia cenderung mengusung tema nasionalisme nan heroik dengan mengangkat riwayat hidup tokoh nasional sebagai sumber inspirasi. Keputusan Rako Prijanto untuk mengangkat sosok Djamin Gintings patut dihargai karena beliau menceritakan kisah pahlawan nasional yang tidak diketahui kebanyakan masyarakat awam dari sudut pandang sang perempuan. Dalam cerita tersebut kita diajak merenungkan kembali tentang kesadaran sosial akan peran wanita dalam sejarah bangsa Indonesia, terutama bagi mereka seperti Likas Gintings yang telah memberikan nafas kehidupan kisah Sang Ibu Pertiwi dari balik layar.
AIYA Victoria is a proud Media Partner of Indonesian Film Festival 2015, which will take place from April 9 – April 18 at Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne. Throughout IFF 2015, AIYA Victoria will keep you informed of the festival via social media and the AIYA Blog. In the blog post below AIYA Victoria President Daniel Brooks introduces us to the festival program and highlights some of the films.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Indonesian Film Festival (IFF) – the largest celebration of Indonesian screen culture in Australia. IFF returns with the theme “Another Face of Indonesia” and thus aims to introduce festivalgoers to lesser known parts of Indonesia and Indonesian film.
Whilst the main program will run from Thursday 9 April until Saturday 18 April, there is a lot more to the festival than film screenings.
IFF Short Film Competition
The IFF Short Film Competition was held again in 2015. More than 100 entries were received from filmmakers from Australia, Indonesia and throughout the world. The main prize was awarded to Sowan by Bobby Prasetyo Retandi.
IFF Under The Stars
On Saturday 14th March a number of filmgoers turned up to South Lawn at the University of Melbourne to watch Arisan! in a version of open-air cinema (layar tancep). Though it was a cold and rainy evening, many of the audience stayed until the end of the film. One of these people was AIYA Victoria member Erin McMahon who was fortunate enough to win the “door” prize: a festival pass for IFF 2015. Congratulations, Erin!
Eleven films will be screened as part of IFF 2015, including two Educational Screenings for school groups. Below we highlight three films from the festival program. All films will have English subtitles so regardless of whether you speak Indonesian or not make sure you come along.
3 Nafas Likas (Likas’ 3 Breaths) | OPENING NIGHT | Thursday 9 April, 7:00 PM
The Opening Night film of IFF 2015 is based on the true story of an extraordinary woman, named Likas, who achieves remarkable success against the odds. Her actions are motivated by her promises to the three most important people in her life: her father, her brother, and her husband.
Tabula Rasa | AIYA NONTON BARENG | Wednesday 15 April, 6:45 PM
Tabula Rasa is the first feature-length film from director Adriyanto Dewo. This mouth-watering drama follows Hans (Jimmy Kobogau), an orphaned teenager from Serui (Papua) who travels to Jakarta to pursue his dream of becoming a soccer superstar but ends up working in a Padang restaurant.
On Wednesday 15 April instead of holding AIYA Victoria Language Exchange, AIYA Victoria invites you to join AIYA NOBAR: Tabula Rasa at IFF 2015. Make sure to check the AIYA Victoria Language Exchange Facebook for details in the coming days.
Jalanan (Streetside) | CLOSING FILM | Saturday 18 April, 6:45 PM
A number of AIYA Victoria members would already be familiar with Jalanan which screened at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) in 2014. For those not already familiar with the film, Jalanan is an award-winning documentary that tells the stories of three gifted, charismatic, and marginalised musicians – Titi, Boni, and Ho – as they struggle to make a living on the busy streets of of Jakarta. Director Daniel Ziv follows the lives of the musicians over a tumultuous five-year period in their lives. The musicians speak to us through their experiences but also through their music. This film will be a highlight of IFF 2015.
Following the screening, festivalgoers will have the opportunity to Q&A with the director and all three film stars. This marks the first time all three stars have toured together internationally and the first time that Ho and Boni have travelled overseas. Come and make them feel welcome in Melbourne. Don’t miss out on seeing Jalanan at IFF 2015; tickets are likely to sell out.
For more information on the Educational Screenings on Friday 17 April check out the IFF website.
IFF 2015 will run in Melbourne from Thursday the 9th of April until Saturday the 18th of April. For more information about the festival program and to book tickets, visit IFF’s website or following them on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. AIYA Victoria is a proud media partner for IFF 2015.
AIYEP yang merupakan singkatan dari Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program alias Program Pertukaran Pemuda Australia adalah program kerjasama Pemerintah Indonesia dan Australia di bawah tanggung jawab Kementrian Pemuda dan Olahraga Republik Indonesia dan Department of Foreign Affair and Trade (DFAT). Di Indonesia, pelaksanaan program dikoordinir oleh Dinas Pemuda dan Olahraga (Dispora) dan juga Purna Caraka Muda Indonesia (PCMI); sedangkan di Australia ada Australia Indonesia Institute (AII) dan The Communication Network (TCN). AIYEP dikenal dengan tema utamanya tentang profesionalitas dimana 18 peserta Indonesia dan 18 Australia terpilih beri kesempatan untuk menggali pengalaman di dunia kerja di kedua negara tersebut. Dalam kurun waktu empat bulan pelaksanaanya, program ini dibagi dalam dua fase yakni fase Australia dan dilanjutkan dengan fase Indonesia yang masing-masing fase dibagi menjadi fase desa dan fase kota.
AIYEP untuk periode 2014/2015 dilaksanakan pada tanggal 8 Oktober 2014 sampai dengan 12 Februari 2015. Pada periode ini, AIYEP untuk fase Australia dilaksanakan di Australia Barat dimana Perth sebagai fase kota, dan Margaret River sebagai fase desa. Sedangkan untuk fase Indonesia, program ini dilaksanakan di Provinsi Kalimantan Selatan, tepatnya di kota Banjarmasin dan di Desa Mattone.
Seperti yang sudah diungkapkan di atas, tema utama dari AIYEP adalah tentang dunia kerja. Oleh karena itu, salah satu kegiatan utama di program ini adalah kerja magang. Para peserta diberi kesempatan untuk kerja magang di kantor-kantor maupun institusi-institusi yang sesuai dengan latar belakang pendidikan, bakat, minat dan juga keterampilan para peserta. Beberapa contoh untuk periode 2014/2015, peserta dengan latar belakang pendidikan, minat dan bakat di dunia pendidikan mendapatkan kesempatan magang di sekolah dan universitas, sedangkan untuk yang berlatar pendidikan di komunikasi dan hukum berkesempatan untuk magang di Kantor Berita, Surat Kabar dan Lembaga Hukum.
Kegiatan utama lainnya antara lain adalah tinggal bersama keluarga angkat, penampilan budaya, dan pengembangan masyarakat. Selama menjalani fase kota dan desa di Australia dan Indonesia, para peserta tinggal bersama penduduk asli dari masing-masing negara sebagai keluarga angkat. Melalui keluarga angkat ini, peserta bisa belajar budaya atau gaya hidup dari penduduk asli di dua negara tersebut. Tidak menutup kemungkinan, beda keluarga angkat beda pula gaya hidup dan budayanya. Dalam kesempatan tersebut, kita pun belajar untuk beradaptasi dan membangun komunikasi yang baik dengan lingkungan di sekitar kita sehingga kita bisa menjalin hubungan yang baik pula dengan keluarga angkat.
Tidak hanya belajar dan terus belajar, AIYEP juga memberikan kesempatan kita untuk bisa berbagi dengan lingkungan di sekitar kita. Penampilan budaya merupakan salah satu cara kita untuk bisa berbagi dengan para siswa-siswa di sekolah. Kita menampilkan beberapa tarian daerah dan juga medley yang merupakan gabungan dari lagu-lagu daerah Indonesia dan juga beberapa lagu dari Australia. Dengan penampilan budaya, kita mengenalkan budaya Indonesia dan Australia. Kita juga ingin menunjukkan bahwa perbedaan bukanlah hambatan buat kita utuk bisa bersahabat dan menjalin hubungan baik. Perbedaan di antara kita itulah yang memberikan warna dalam hidup yang bisa memperindah hidup kita. Dan dengan hal ini, kita bisa lebih menghargai perbedaan sebagai keindahan dan kelebihan.
Kegiatan berbagi yang lainnya adalah pengembangan masyarakat (community development) yang hanya dilaksanakan di fase desa di Indonesia. Dalam waktu tiga minggu kita tinggal di desa Mattone, kita mengadakan beberapa program yang bisa mendukung pembangunan desa tersebut. Program-program tersebut bergerak dalam berbagai bidang seperti pendidikan, olahraga, kesehatan, pariwisata, ekonomi dan lingkungan. Dengan mengumpulkan semua gagasan, keterampilan dan juga kemampuan kita, kita bekerja bersama dengan warga desa untuk mensukseskan program yang kita buat. Dari program-program tersebut, kita bisa menghasilkan beberapa program berkelanjutan yang pelaksanaannya akan dilanjutkan oleh warga desa setelah para peserta AIYEP meninggalkan desa. Hal ini menjadi prestasi tersendiri buat kita semua sebagai peserta AIYEP sekaligus pelaksana program pengembangan masyarakat.
Belajar dan berbagi itulah filosofi hidup yang kita dapatkan dari AIYEP. Banyak hal yang kita bisa pelajari, dan banyak kesempatan juga buat kita untuk bisa berbagi dengan sesama. Melalui AIYEP juga kita mempunyai banyak keluarga dan sahabat yang akan selalu dekat dengan kita meskipun harus terpisah oleh jarak. AIYEP membuat kita terikat secara emosional yang akan membuat kita selalu rindu dengan keluarga angkat dan sahabat kita. Terima kasih AIYEP, terima kasih pada semua orang yang sudah kita temui selama program karena dari kalian semua kita belajar banyak hal. Semoga hubungan baik yang sudah terjalin di antara kita semua bisa membawa manfaat dan kebaikan untuk kita sebagai individu dan juga untuk Bangsa dan Negara.
Joko Widodo, the 7th President of Indonesia has proclaimed Indonesia’s geography as an advantage and has clearly stated that his vision is to make Indonesia a global maritime nexus, in his speech at The East Asia Summit 2014. What are the key objectives of Jokowi’s Maritime Policy?
A restoration of Indonesia’s maritime culture, especially connecting the link between Indonesia’s identity, the country’s archipelago, and livelihood.
Improving maritime diplomacy, with an aim to Indonesia’s partners to collaborate together in solving cases of sovereignty, illegal fishing conflicts, and environmental problems such as maritime pollution.
Revitalise Indonesia’s maritime economy by enhancing the country’s shipping industry, port infrastructures, and tourism.
Refining the management of Indonesia’s fisheries and oceans, by creating maritime “food security” and sovereignty, and also the development of Indonesia’s fishing industry.
Strengthen the maritime defenses of Indonesia, which will help preserve the country’s maritime security and wealth.
He established a new Maritime Security Agency (Badan Keamanan Laut, BAKAMLA) on 13 December 2014 with the purpose to limit illegal fishing boats that are equipped with large amount of personnel and act as coast guard for Indonesia. Furthermore, Jokowi collaborates with his Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs. Susi Pudjiastuti to ensure the sovereignty of Indonesia’s maritime security.
Jokowi stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that nine-tenths of the 5.400 fishing boats in Indonesia are illegal, which costs Indonesia $3 billion annually. Moreover, Jokowi and Susi took actions to conserve Indonesia’s fisheries. On 5 December 2014, a Vietnamese fishing boat that was illegally hunting at Riau islands in Indonesia, was confiscated by Indonesia’s navy and destroyed? after the crew was removed. The Indonesian Navy also destroyed 2 illegal Thailand fishing boats on 28 December 2014. In addition, Jokowi wants to send a message that Indonesia takes serious actions against illegal fishing by sinking the ships.
One of Jokowi’s key tenants of maritime policy is improving interisland connectivity and refining port infrastructures of Indonesian archipelago. Indonesia’s archipelago has 6 million square kilometers with thousands of islands which are crucial to develop Indonesia’s maritime industry. There still exists a lack of interisland connectivity on Maluku, Eastern Indonesia, and North Maluku. Jokowi needs to build Indonesia’s port infrastructure in order to expand Indonesia’s maritime economy in the future.
Jokowi also needs to encourage maritime security and diplomacy especially in the code of conduct in the South China Sea between ASEAN and China. Jokowi is currently working alongside the Foreign Minister, Ms. Retno Surmadi to establish a more bilaterally driven, assertive, and self-interested strategy to Indonesian diplomacy.
To learn more about Jokowi and his maritime policy, visit the official website of Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I’ve been asked to write this month about learning bahasa. My first thought was, ‘oh dear’. For the last eight months I haven’t been in the language-learning mindset of writing out sentences, memorising vocabulary and substituting in grammar structures. I’ve been ‘immersing’ in Indonesia instead – and naturally, I’m sure, my bahasa has developed.
The path ahead learning bahasa for me is definitely a long tunnel though. That’s why it’s good to enjoy the ride. Stepping into the street or making friends in my classes when I first arrived in Jogja for my study abroad semester, there was a motion to bahasa that hadn’t been there in the textbook approach. Gradually, the words people spoke morphed into form in my ears and I could uphold a conversation without asking, “maaf, tolong ulangi” (please can you repeat that) too often.
I started to enjoy sinking into the flow of conversation and repeating back sharp and energetic sounds similar to the ones I was hearing. The big surprise I had heard time and time again in my Indonesian classes at Melbourne university but had not realised for myself until study abroad, was how dynamic and ever-changing bahasa Indonesia is. Particularly, bahasa gaul (the colloquial register). At this stage in my bahasa, this is why the tunnel ahead is long – inadvertently, by wanting to be in and honour Indonesia’s cultures and people.
One of the lovely things to come from facing challenges with speaking is the empathy it you develop for foreigners in Australia learning English. It really is humbling – and I am personally grateful to each person who has listened and wanted to have a chat, not fixating on the form of my words.
After the experience of AIYEP, just recently, my love and adoration for Indonesia has expanded in all directions. Language was the seed – and it is the present path. It is the way we are eventually able to relate to and form friendships. And a way we can be curious and take an interest in a truly beautiful place. For me, it tends to be something to flow with and enjoy. Yet, language learning is also a special way to give back to a place generous to the core that welcomes humanity with open arms.
I don’t know how this got soppy. Learning bahasa itself has been a lot of fun. There have been funny moments. The time in year 12 I asked when we were going to die (meninggal) instead of leave (meninggalkan). The time I walked up to the counter in a printing shop, only to have the guy on the other side explode into fits of laughter. The multiple times someone has done a double take when I open my mouth and bahasa (in my individual tongue) comes out. Situations I know other bahasa-learners also experience. And that I know will (and am bemused to have) continue unfolding as I keep along a path of discovering Indonesia.
Thushara Dibley is Deputy Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Her research focuses on the system of international aid and development, its interface with grassroots and transnational activism and their influence on human rights based policy and practice in Southeast Asia. In addition to her academic work, Thushara has undertaken a number of consultancies in Southeast Asia. She has served on the Board of Inside Indonesia since 2007 and was the postgraduate representative for the Asian Studies Association of Australia in 2009-10. Thushara took some time out of her busy schedule to share her thoughts on Indonesia with the AIYA team.
Tell us a little about your background — what did you study, and where did you begin your career after you graduated?
I studied a Bachelor of Liberal Studies – the degree for people who didn’t know what they wanted to be when they grew up. As part of the degree I had to do a science major, an arts major and a language. For the first three years of the degree most of my time was devoted to the science part of the degree (neuroscience). Once that major was out of the way, I was finally able to commit myself to Indonesian language and Asian Studies, and for the first time, I really LOVED being at university. I went on to do Honours in Indonesian Studies, focussing on the role of Indonesian language in Timor-Leste. It was a very empowering experience. I had grown up in Indonesia, but my time in Timor was the first time I had used my Indonesian language as an adult. Immediately after submitting I started a research assistant job at the University of Newcastle, but my real focus was on how to get over to Timor-Leste, which eventually I managed to do in September 2005 through the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program. After about 10 months in Timor-Leste working as an advisor to a local NGO, I returned to Australia to do more research assistant work, and eventually started a PhD in 2008 that looked at NGOs involved in peacebuilding in Timor-Leste and Aceh.
Tell us about your current job — where are you working, and what do you do? Do you use your Indonesian experience in this position?
Currently I am the Deputy Director of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney. It is an extremely diverse role. I am responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the centre, liaising with academics around the university and representing the university when we have visitors from or interested in Southeast Asia. On some days I could be pouring over spreadsheets working on financial issues related to running the centre, and on others I could be hob knobbing with high level diplomats from the Laos Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
My Indonesia knowledge and experience plays an important part of my role. Just at the moment, I am working with colleagues from around the university to run a training session for 25 Indonesian women from the NGO sector. Knowing how to speak Indonesian and having an understanding of Indonesian civil society is very important for this particular project. But, having knowledge of Indonesia is important more generally because it helps with aspects of my job like understanding appropriate cultural practices when meeting and greeting guests from Southeast Asia, having networks in Southeast Asia and being able to advise students and academics travelling to Indonesia for the first time on what to expect.
What do you enjoy the most — and least — about living and working in Indonesia?
I lived in Indonesia as a child for about 10 years. Since then, I have visited, but not lived there for extended periods of time. Having spent such a long time there as a kid, Indonesia feels very familiar to me. There are some things that just haven’t changed since I lived there in the 1980s and 90s… like the smell of the Hero supermarket or the sound of a kaki-lima going by, or the call to prayer. For me, going back to Indonesia evokes lots of memories my childhood, which is one thing I really love about it.
What I like least is the pollution, and (like everyone else) the traffic and seeing the effects of poorly managed over development on the country.
If you had four weeks to travel in Indonesia, where would you go?
My next research project is looking at the disability movement in Indonesia. I have planned to visit disability activists in six different cities across the country: Jakarta, Yogya, Makassar, Kupang, Banda Aceh and Padang. So… my next four week trip to Indonesia will hopefully involve visits to all of these places.
What kind of opportunities do you see in your field of work for young Australians with an interest in Indonesia — and vice versa?
From where I sit within the university, there appear to be more and more opportunities for students to travel to Indonesia. Our centre has been successful in winning funding through the government’s New Colombo Plan. We have sent over 30 students in the last twelve months to Indonesia, including many who have never been to or thought about traveling to Indonesia before. We have programs planned that involve sending at least that many, and possibly more, to Indonesia over the next twelve months. There also seems to be a growing recognition from the government’s perspective that this sort of exposure to Indonesia, and other countries in the region, is valuable.
That said, knowledge of Indonesia is pretty niche, which means that opportunities for employment where that knowledge can be directly applied are few and far between. The people in my networks who have an interest in Indonesia and who have been able to gain employment that draw on this interest have had to be creative entrepreneurial. For some, they have pursued this interest by undertaking a PhD. But with the shrinking of Indonesian Studies around the country, they have had to choose topics with an Indonesia focus, but also with a disciplinary focus that allows them to be employed in more than just an Indonesian studies department. Others have taken their passion for Indonesia into the government and private sectors, but have really had to be strategic and campaign hard to make sure that their job within those sectors allows them to continue to engage with Indonesia. Others have taken a gamble with private consultancies, their own small businesses, or pursued their interest voluntarily. For those who are truly passionate about Indonesia, they manage to create ways in their life to keep up their passion.
How useful have your Indonesian skills been for finding work in your industry?
I have been lucky in that every major career move I have made, my Indonesian skills have played a major role in being selected for the role. I was selected as a volunteer for the AYAD position in Timor-Leste, even though I had no experience at that stage in the development sector, because I could speak Indonesian. My roles as research assistant have often been because I have an Indonesian Studies background. And in my current role, knowledge and experience of a Southeast Asian country were one of the essential job criteria.