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Australia Indonesia Awards: Q&A with sports consultant Paul Mead

The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists and winners. Today we hear from sports enthusiast and consultant Paul Mead.

Source: Twitter

AIYA: Tell us a little about your career.

PAUL: I spent eleven years in the New Zealand Army as an Engineer Officer. I spent a lot of time serving overseas, including in Vanuatu, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Timor-Leste. Through my time overseas I gained a great deal of understanding on working effectively with people from different cultures. I learnt the challenges of trying to achieve a common understanding through language barriers, but also the shared understanding of success.

Upon leaving the Army I became a teacher and then worked in the sport industry. Both career changes have been focused on helping people learn and bringing people together.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

My connection with Indonesia was more recent. Living in Darwin since 2010, Indonesia is literally on our back doorstep. Our family has had many trips to Bali and this introduced me to the Indonesian people and language. I know that many Indonesians will say that Bali is not a true reflection of the rest of Indonesia, but I do know that it helped me reconnect with my love of working with different cultures.

In 2015, I was fortunate enough to be selected onto CAUSINDY and in 2016 returned as a mentor to CAUSINDY. It is through this program that I gained a deeper understanding of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia and saw the real opportunities to build stronger relationships, particularly through sport.

How do you use your Indonesian experience in your current occupation?

I work for myself as a sports consultant. Sport is like a universal language. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you drop a soccer ball or a cricket ball and bat for example, then most people know what to do with it. Sport helps to bring people together and connect, despite the challenges of language or cultural differences.

So, I enjoy taking these sport experiences and using them to build connection and people to people relationships, whilst overlaying education or economic benefits over the top. Sport is a powerful motivator to get people together to connect.

How did you find your current job?

The program Diamonds in the Rough was a program I worked on with a good friend, Narelle Gosstray. Narelle is a well-regarded coach and official within the baseball world, and passionate about projects that create change. I had just come off the 2015 CAUSINDY and wanted to explore how to build on what I had learnt and experienced. A DFAT grant was open, so we created the program and were successful in gaining funding now for two years.

The program takes our Australian Emeralds (Baseball Australia’s national women’s team) squad members, over to Indonesia to work with girls over a period of 1 – 2 days. They act as mentors, coaches and role models, not only in teaching the game of baseball, but also in leadership and confidence activities. Baseball is predominately a male sport, with females pushed to play softball. Our program encourages girls to play baseball, showing them that they have choices by using our female national representatives as role models.

Making choices in what sport you play is analogous to making choices in life and what career you want to follow. We hope that through our program and the ongoing connection with our in country partner who continues to run female baseball programs, that we will develop strong Indonesian female leaders, who have a connection with Australia.

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

The thing I enjoy the most is the food! The thing I like least is Jakarta traffic!

Share your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of sport.

Indonesia is fast becoming involved in the hosting of major sporting events. Jakarta is hosting the 2018 Asian Games and this is likely to be an amazing event. There is a lot of expatriate support to develop non-traditional Asian sport capacity, not only in Indonesia, but more broadly across Asia. The development of athletes through a sport pathway is required to start at the grassroots level. Australia has extensive experience in the development of participation pathways, through to gold medal success.

It is through this experience from Australia and the opportunities available in Indonesia to develop sporting pathways that the relationship through sport can be further developed. The proximity between the two countries offers ongoing sport competition options that are cheaper and easier to access for each country, when compared to travelling to Europe or America.

I see a lot more knowledge transfer and competition exchanges occurring between the two countries in regard to sport over coming years.

What advice would you offer to young Australians or Indonesians interested in working in the field of sport?

There are plenty of opportunities available, you just have to look. I was lucky enough to experience different cultures and language from an early stage in my career and it has certainly broadened my perspectives.

Those early in their career would benefit highly from a position outside of their comfort zone, whether this was a paid of volunteer nature. The benefits gained far outweigh the financial cost.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

The one thing that I have never taken up is the learning of a second language. My Bahasa [Indonesia] is almost non-existent and for all the travels I have done around the world I have relied on interpreters or a complex act of miming out what I need or where I am going! If I was to start again, I would learn languages from the outset.

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

AIYA Links: 17 March

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How to enhance cross-cultural understanding in the global work environment

Muhamad Sidiq Fanani shares his perspective on work and business habits in an era of increasing globalisation. How do Australians and Indonesians compare to the rest of the world?

Working for a multinational company is becoming increasingly common in the contemporary business environment, especially in a global era when businesses connect with and are engaged by other businesses across the globe at a swift pace. It has also become common for companies to use business-to-business or even government-to-government relations when expanding overseas. Indeed, the ability to work with people from other cultures is increasingly necessary in our global work environment.

The big question is this: How do we adjust our cultural habits and business strategies to suit the differing cultural and business identities of others? How can we handle these situations effectively? What is the best way to understand and respect the differences between us and use them to build an ideal work environment?

As an Indonesian, I have had some experience working in a Korean company with my friend from Australia, and I would like to share my thoughts on that cross-cultural understanding. I believe a basic understanding of cross-cultural differences in the work environment can be divided into five main aspects, as below:

Equality vs. Hierarchy

The marshmallow challenge being conducted to simulate communication between people of different cultures. Photo: Muhamad Sidiq Fanani

When working, for example, for a company in Korea, employees are exposed to a strong hierarchical culture in which they commonly prefer to take direction from their boss who enforces regulations and provides guidelines.

Australia and Indonesia of course have a slight tendency to resemble this culture, but this is not substantial as we both are influenced greatly by a culture of equality, whereby each employee has flexibility in the roles they play on work and relative freedom to challenge the opinions of their boss.

Directness vs. Indirectness

Australians prefer a direct style, speaking assertively and expressing their views in a frank manner. Indonesians, on the other hand, have a more indirect manner of interaction (in a similar fashion to Korea and Japan), focusing on not only what is said, but on how it is said, in order to be diplomatic and trust in the listener’s ability to accurately interpret their intended meaning.

Individual vs. Group

Image: adapted from Cultural Intelligence (Deborah Mackin, Brooks Peterson)

The USA is a country that exhibits a very individualised culture, whereby people prefer to use their initiative as individuals to make decisions on their own and move in and out of groups as needed.

Australia and Indonesia share some similarities with this individual culture in their respective work environments, but with globalisation and the spread of cultural values from Asia, we have been impacted by the group-oriented culture, when each employee acts cooperatively to establish group goals, maintain loyalty to friends as a high priority, and determine their identity through group affiliation.

Task vs. Relationship

Canada is an example of a country with a task-oriented culture – Canadians generally define others based on what they do by getting to business immediately; they keep most relationships with co-workers impersonal. In some cases, Australia and Indonesia are the same, but generally, we both have relationship-oriented cultures, whereby employees like to consider others based on who they are as people, aiming to establish comfortable relationships and a sense of trust with colleagues before getting down to business.

Risk vs. Caution

Australia is similar to New Zealand on this point in that both nations are influenced by a risk-oriented culture. Employees prefer to make decisions quickly without fear of any risk, and in their focus on the present and future are comfortable in changing their plans at the last minute. On the other hand, Indonesia is similar to many another Asian countries as we have a more caution-based culture in which every employee collects a considerable amount of information before making a decision, follow rules and guidelines, and dislikes changing plans at the last minute.

What’s the point?

Each of the above points is based on general research conducted within several multinational companies. The conclusion is that we should challenge the notion of an impenetrable barrier between our own culture and that of others, and that we should find a solution to synergise and create perfect cross-cultural working conditions.

I believe there are three main ways to enhance our cross-cultural understanding:

  1. Prior to doing business with a foreign company, get to know our own culture first before examining it in light of another country’s culture – this means we build positive dialogue at an early stage with a focus on the similarities that exist between the two parties. You will also learn more about your own habits and culture!
  2. It’s important for us to alter our communication depending on the culture in question, such as speaking slower or faster, or avoid the use of slang in our sentences.
  3. Developing social awareness of other cultures is important too. Every employee who starts a career overseas should develop a comprehensive understanding of the different cultures of their new home so they can begin to practice new cultural habits for the benefit of all.

Looking for work in Australia or Indonesia? Check out AIYA’s Opportunities page, updated regularly!

AIYA Links: 10 March

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AIYA Links: 3 March

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AIYA’s Submission to Foreign Policy White Paper 2017

AIYA submitted a formal response to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s call for submissions to the Foreign Policy White Paper in 2017. The Foreign Policy White Paper will create a comprehensive framework to guide Australia’s international relationships over the next five to ten years, and is the first of its kind since 2003.

AIYA’s submission presents a series of comprehensive recommendations to deepen and diversify the Australia-Indonesia relationship, and is based in part on the results of the 2016 AIYA Survey.

AIYA asserts that language skills, cross-cultural competency and understanding, and youth initiatives are paramount to developing strong relationships that advance Australia’s national interests in the region.

AIYA submits that the Australian Government should focus on successfully managing relationships and forming mutually beneficial partnerships with countries in the Asian region, with Indonesia being the country that matters most, in forming its foreign policy narrative for the next decade and beyond.

You can read our full submission here.

A summary of the recommendations made in the AIYA submission are as follows:

Recommendation 1:

The Australian Government should place greater emphasis on building meaningful and lasting people-to-people links between Australians and Indonesians through community based not-for-profit organisations.

Recommendation 2:

The Australian Government should increase its promotion of Australian culture in Indonesia as well as demonstrate Australia’s readiness to engage with Indonesia by sufficiently advertising Australians’ unique specialist Indonesian skills.

Recommendation 3:

The Australian Government should broadly promote positive opportunities to work in or with Indonesians to all Australians as well as focus on bolstering the capability of all Australians to understand and operate in Asia.

Recommendation 4:

The Australian Government should improve its promotion of innovative initiatives developed by Australians and Indonesians together and individually in one another’s countries.

Recommendation 5:

The Australian Government should increase support services to Indonesian students studying in Australia and alumni of Australian universities, making Australia a more attractive study destination for international students.

Recommendation 6:

The Australian and Indonesian governments should discuss, as part of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) negotiations, favourable immigration policies that:

  • simplify and expand visa options, such as the reciprocal work and holiday visa scheme; and
  • allow companies to easily employ interns and professional skilled workers on appropriate visas.

Recommendation 7:

The Australian Government should encourage all sectors to better match employees with Indonesian cultural literacy skills to Indonesia related work and/or posts.

Recommendation 8:

The Australian Government should consider developing a secondary school level exchange program to Indonesia, in collaboration with AIYA, to encourage the continuation of Indonesian language studies.

Recommendation 9:

The Australian Government should, through the Department of Education and Training, establish a National Register of Indonesian Enrolments to monitor annual enrolment data for Indonesian in schools (at all levels) and universities.

Recommendation 10:

The Australian Government should:

  • provide greater financial, in-kind and advisory support to AIYA and likeminded volunteer-youth-led organisations (VYLOs) and reduce the red tape in existing funding and acquittal processes;
  • assist VYLOs to connect with Commonwealth departments, state and territory bodies, and relevant private and public sector organisations; and
  • improve the frequency and pro-activity in which it reaches out to VYLOs to seek input on youth related issues,

to allow VYLOs to focus on developing and delivering innovative and cost efficient solutions that will advance our foreign policy interests in future years.

This submission was researched and written by Sally Hill and Nicholas Mark. Thanks also for input from Melanie Kilby, Sheila Hie, Samuel Bashfield, Katrina Steedman and Natasha Burrows.

“Let’s hope it’s quiet in Bali”: Eyes on Jokowi and Turnbull’s personal relationship

AIYA NSW Director of Events Owen James recently snuck a selfie with the Indonesian “People’s Champ” himself, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, during the latter’s visit to Sydney last weekend. How does the President’s trip to Australia bode for bilateral connections, and his personal relationship with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull?

President Jokowi still retains unprecedented public support among Indonesians despite some policy disappointments through 2015-16. Last Sunday, some of this immense public support was on display as 2500 members of Sydney’s Indonesian community clamoured to meet the much-loved president. Jokowi’s ketemu masyarakat (“meeting the community”) event filled the Sydney International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour almost to capacity, despite little prior notice of the visit. As this was Jokowi’s first official visit to Australia since his elections in 2014, it represented a rare chance for many members of the community here to meet their President.

“Cheeky selfie with the People’s Champ himself! #jokowi @AIYA” Photo: Owen James, Facebook

The excitement of the crowd was immediately visible as a batik-clad line formed outside the centre hours before the event was set to start. Soon the crowd filtered in, while various suit-clad men with earpieces milled around the venue nervously muttering to themselves. This was an important day for both Jokowi’s team and for the Australian Government as neither wanted to disrupt a recent trend of improvement in the relationship.

The event itself was the embodiment of Jokowi’s public demeanour – it was humble, pragmatic and sprinkled with humour. After making it to the stage Jokowi declined to launch straight into a speech. Instead, he suddenly hurried off the stage and into the crowd to greet his adoring supporters face-to-face in typical blusukan fashion. This willingness to reject political pedestals and be among his supports has always been central to his popularity. It is easy to see why a politician that prefers the floor to the stage is a refreshing change.

His speech itself was light on rhetoric. He talked the audience through a series of specific infrastructure projects his government is undertaking and explained their merits and progress. The speech did not read like a politician’s but like that of a concerned technocrat with a passion for highway development – dry but endearing. The whole affair was peppered with jokes, audience participation and plenty of little humanising moments.

On the way out, Jokowi was swarmed by the crowd. Calmly bobbing in a sea of frustrated looking security guards he took his time. He shook hands, smiled for selfies and seemed unfazed by the crush of the crowd. The event delivered. It gave the impression that more than anything Jokowi was here for his people.

What does this mean for the visit?

Since Malcolm Turnbull’s first state visit to Indonesian in November 2015, the bilateral relationship has stabilised but not noticeably improved. Mostly the lacklustre relationship seems to be ticking along with naught but the usual Bali-related hiccup here and there.

This visit however may have prompted a substantial improvement. Indonesia and Australia have agreed to greater economic access in several areas (LINK), to conclude the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) by the end of the year and to the full restoration of military cooperation. These are all positive developments and do represent a long-awaited improvement in relations – but this increase in cooperation is hardly a reason to declare a new age for Australia-Indonesia relations.

The real triumph of this visit is that some sort of a personal bond might be forming between Malcolm Turnbull and Jokowi. Since the two leaders appeared grinning wildly in Tanah Abang market during Turnbull’s visit to Jakarta in 2015, media commentators have been increasingly suggesting the two are developing a close and respectful personal relationship. Malcolm Turnbull’s behaviour on this recent visit certainly suggests this. During Jokowi’s visit Turnbull took the Indonesian President on a morning walk through the Botanic Gardens and introduced him to locals along the way, seemingly in homage to blusukan, appealing to a style of diplomacy more to the liking of the down-to-earth Jokowi. Jokowi was also one of the few international leaders to have been invited to a private dinner with Turnbull at Kirribilli House during his visit, suggesting that Turnbull has placed particular importance on their relationship. Perhaps these efforts are more than just token political gestures.

The interaction was certainly a success on the surface considering a series of mutually beneficial agreements that were signed. But did this political success accompany success in developing a leader-to-leader connection – the kind of connection that will be critical to promote long term improvement in the relationship? It seems likely that it was a success. Almost immediately after Jokowi’s visit was concluded Malcolm Turnbull announced that he would be making a ‘surprise visit’ to Jakarta next weekend – surely an indication of the leaders seeking to capitalize on the momentum of a successful visit to strengthen ties. This is good news for the relationship and definitely could be the catalyst for big changes for the better.

It will be an important weekend. Let’s hope it’s quiet in Bali.

AIYA Links: 24 February

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The purpose of learning Indonesian: an instructor’s perspective

Learning Indonesian? There are plentiful ways to go about it, and a great many reasons to do so. It isn’t always a hard slog either. Kartika Wijaya, who helps run Indonesian courses for expats and visitors in Bandung and online, today provides a few memorable and amusing moments from her time in the classroom.

Being a teacher has been a passion for me since I was younger. But I never thought that being an Indonesian language instructor of English speakers could be such an interesting experience for me.

Most of my students are Australians. They come from different backgrounds and occupations, such as students, researchers, school teachers, tourists who plan to visit Indonesia with friends and family, members of the military, people with business interests in Indonesia, and those who have Indonesian spouses who can hardly speak English so there’s no other way but to learn Indonesian to enable communication between them.

Teaching German students. Photo: Kartika Wijaya.

As they all have different backgrounds and purposes in learning the Indonesian language, the learning materials are also customized to each individual’s needs. Of all my Australian students, I always find those with Indonesian spouses to be the most hilarious ones. Sometimes they’d ask me funny questions such as how to say ‘Please don’t be jealous’ or ‘If you trust me, you wouldn’t ask me to delete her number off my phone’ in Indonesian, and other amusing lines.

On one occasion, out of curiosity, I asked an Aussie man married to a Indonesian woman, “As you speak very little Indonesian and she speaks hardly any English, have you two ever quarreled?” He smiled and nodded: “Oh yes, we do quarrel. I speak in English and she speaks in Indonesian. We don’t understand each other and we keep talking in our own languages. But now I need to know several Indonesian words for cursing so that I’ll understand her when she’s cursing.” He winked. I couldn’t help but laugh hearing this!

So you can imagine that his vocabulary list might consist mostly of words used in arguments. Other types of words are used in different situations such as romance and when going shopping, telling time, etc.

Student excursion to a nearby village. Photo: Kartika Wijaya

Another interesting teaching experience I once had was in conversation with a primary school teacher of the language. She described how challenging her work is, but at the same time also told me that she felt rewarded and pleased if her students got good marks at school. She also told me that there were very little Indonesian books available in bookstores in Melbourne. And the book she was using to teach her students at the school at the time was already old and yellowish as it was printed in the late 70s!

Another Australian student of mine is a businesswoman. She rents a villa in Bali and therefore she and her family travel there very often. Her Indonesian is quite good and she can communicate very well in Indonesian.

Although all of my students have different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common. They can only speak formal Indonesian language, not the spoken or colloquial form, as they think it is enough for them to learn only the formal language as it is widely used throughout Indonesia.

Well, now at least they can confidently travel to Indonesia and communicate with the locals, as I believe that is the purpose of learning Indonesian after all.