AIYA Links: 28 October

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My AIYEP Experience in Community Development: Rahmah Eka Saputri

Three years ago I was selected to be a part of the AIYEP family. Eighteen brilliant young people from eighteen different provinces in Indonesia met eighteen great young people from Australia for two months of unforgettable experiences. In December 2013, we met the Australians in Sydney to learn about each other, conduct meetings, arrange planning and organize the programs that would be implemented when we got to Indonesia. In Indonesia we went to Koto Sani in Sumatra for the first month, and Bukittinggi for the second month.

Rahmah before a cultural performance. Photo: Rahmah Eka Saputri
Rahmah before a cultural performance. Photo: Rahmah Eka Saputri

The first month in Koto Sani was an unforgettable experience. Koto Sani is a small village located 40km from the capital city of West Sumatra, Padang. It is a refreshingly natural place to live. There are rice fields for farming and fishponds to grow fish. Since most people work as farmers, fish breeders and traditional artists, this place is also renown as the center for high quality rice, fresh fish and also for learning traditional dance.

It was amazing when the 36 of us were first welcomed into the community. They performed the traditional dance of West Sumatra, tari piring, which involves the use of plates. The plate dance is a dangerous dance as performers dance on and balance plates on their hands.

At the end of performance, a group of dancers dropped the plates on the floor, smashing them and jumping on them with a big smile. We were shocked that they could still smile while stepping on harmful glass. While it appears harmful, it actually does not harm them at all. The dance is a way for the West Sumatran people to welcome their guests, provide traditional food and show their guests that they are grateful for their presence.

The group after completing a water irrigation project in Koto Sani. Photo: Eka Saputri
The group after completing a water irrigation project in Koto Sani. Photo: Rahmah Eka Saputri

During one month in Koto Sani, we undertook a community development project where we worked with the community and the participants to increase the quality of the society and bring about developmental changes. The participants lived with host families in different houses and parts of the village. This was a great way of directly understanding how West Sumatran people socialize and interact with their family members, and they treated us as not only guests, but as their family as well.

Koto Sani is renown for their rice trade and we discussed with village leaders about what the needs of the community were. They had irrigation issues and needed to fix a broken pipe located at the top of a hill that was used to provide fresh water to the rice fields. A large group of us climbed to the hill to find the broken pipes, and after sourcing the material to fix the problem, the participants and the village community worked together to carry the heavy pipes into the forest to repair the pipes and construct new ones. For me, this was a very special moment, seeing Koto Sani’s local community working with the Indonesian and Australian youth to climb through the forest and fix the problem together. The mission was accomplished when we enabled the water to flow again.

Rahmah and the group in Sydney. Photo: Rahmah Eka Saputri
Rahmah and the group in Sydney. Photo: Rahmah Eka Saputri

At the end of the village experience we arranged a farewell party with the community. To show respect, we had learned and prepared a traditional dance from West Sumatra to perform at the farewell party. We practiced the dance every night and had training with Uda, a local dance teacher in Koto Sani. Uda understood that the movements of the dance were difficult to learn, so he was patient with us until we were ready to perform it. On the day of the farewell party we performed the dance in front of all of the villagers. In return, they performed the Randai dance and the plate dance to say thank you.

It was an incredibly rewarding and memorable experience, and I learnt many great things.

This article is part of a series of reflections from alumni of Australia-Indonesia student exchange programs. Read the experiences of other AIYEP participants here. The editors of the AIYA Blog would also like to thank Samantha Howard for her assistance in commissioning and editing these articles. You can find her solo and collaborative blog and journal writing here and here.

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.

AIYA Links: 21 October

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AIYA Links: 14 October

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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.

AIYA Links: 7 October

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Canberra high school students celebrate Indonesia at ANU

The future of Australia-Indonesia relations is in safe hands with secondary students in Canberra demonstrating a keen interest in their language studies.

The annual Indonesia Day event run by the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association – ACT Chapter (AIYA ACT) has again proved to be a massive success for the third successive year with attendance by 170 students.

High school and college students from across the ACT studying Indonesian came to ANU where they had the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of cultural, linguistic and history workshops.

The workshops gave students an insight into the diversity of Indonesian culture across the archipelago.

School students enjoy the musical delights of the angklung workshop. Photo: Floranesia Lantang

University student volunteers had the opportunity to showcase their skills to students as well as the wide variety of opportunities that are available to students who speak Indonesian.

Australian students who studied the Indonesian martial art pencak silat and the traditional Acehnese dance Saman were able to showcase the opportunities that they had to learn these skills in-country through programs such as the Australia-Indonesian Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) and in-country university study.

Indonesian university students showcased their skills to students in various areas of Indonesian culture, such as the bamboo instrument angklung, getting an opportunity to share their culture to young Australians.

Education is vital to a healthy relationship and it is important that we foster students’ keen interest in Indonesia from a young age whether that be in language or other.

Students enjoying one of the more lively aspects of Indonesia studies. Photo: Kirrilly McKenzie

Language classes battle with ‘more fun’ subjects in the elective part of the curriculum in later secondary school, damaging the progression language skills making programs like this vital to demonstrating the importance of learning languages.

Canberra students choosing to study Indonesian have the added difficulty of the continuation of their studies as the schools from primary to high school, and finally college, may not offer Indonesian.

Indonesia from Canberra can feel like a whole world away, but with growing interest in the region and Indonesians making up 2.5 per cent of Canberra tourism, it will become increasingly important for the ACT to make themselves more open to engagement with Indonesia.

Read about various past Canberra and ANU events hosted by AIYA ACT here. The team also regularly organises Language Exchange events, which you can keep up to date about on their Facebook page.

ANU Indonesia Update: Challenges for Indonesian authorities (Part 2)

The ANU Indonesia Update conference was held at the Australian National University recently. This year’s Update focused on Digital Indonesia, exploring the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution. Michael York, a General Member for AIYA ACT, has a comprehensive rundown of conference proceedings and the major themes and topics discussed by this year’s speakers (read Part 1 here).

The second day of the Indonesia Update covered issues of security, media and economy in relation to Indonesia’s emerging digitalisation.

Indonesia has long suffered conflict and unrest which has stemmed from terrorism, separatism and violent religious movements. This is, however, re-emerging as a threat in Indonesia with ISIS taking steps to specifically target troubled areas of Indonesia. Indonesia has seen an increase in the number of terrorist related arrests, the number of attacks and the number of people associating with such violent groups. Approximately 100 Indonesian fighters have returned to Indonesia after fighting in conflict zones which has been met with significant concern by Indonesian authorities who worry about the training and ideologies they will bring back to and promote in Indonesia.

The audience at the ANU Indonesia Update 2015. Photo: ANU Indonesia Project

Digital technologies have been a significant challenge for authorities, allowing people who engage with terrorist organisations and their networks in a secret and secure way. This is also enabling the much quicker dissemination of such materials to individuals vulnerable to violent ideologies. Radicalisation via the internet has become increasingly concerning simply due to its highly pervasive nature within a community. This is further compounded by an increasingly conservative society which has seen the further isolation of religious minorities and a more potent religious influence in Indonesia’s economic and political sectors. President Jokowi has brought issues of radicalisation and terrorism to the attention of leaders at various regional meetings with leaders which demonstrates the commitment of Indonesia to deal seriously with these issues.

The Indonesia Update 2017 will highlight issues of sovereignty, defence and security, three extremely important areas of Indonesian policy which will strongly influence the interactions of states operating in the region over the coming decades. This will no doubt weigh upon Australia’s foreign policy and role in the region.

The Indonesia Update 2016 has again successfully brought together world class experts in the field of Indonesian studies at a university which boasts one of the largest and most respected faculties of Indonesian research and study in the world. The Indonesia Update, which was significantly larger in size and scale than lectures of other regions in the update series, is a testament to the strength and breadth of the Australia-Indonesia relationship and the immense interest by economic, political and social leaders from both Australia and Indonesia. We look forward to the next update and would like to thank the tireless efforts of all who have made this year’s conference so successful.

The opinions and views of speakers at the ANU Indonesia Update as described in this rundown are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the Australia Indonesia Youth Association. Proceedings from each conference are published in the Indonesia Update Series – so keep an eye out for 2016’s edition!

AIYA Links: 30 September

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