AIYA Links: 28 August

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A Story From Asia Pacific Week 2015

Albert Christian from AIYA NTT recently visited the Australian National University (ANU) for Asia Pacific Week 2015. Read on to find out about his experiences of Asia Pacific Week and what he learnt from the conference.

Delegates for Asia Pacific Week 2015. Photo: Albert Christian. Photo: Albert Christian
Delegates for Asia Pacific Week 2015. Photo: Albert Christian

I would like to share my story joining Asia Pacific Week 2015 at ANU in Canberra. The theme for this year was “Roads Less Travelled” and it was held from 28 June until 3 July. There were about 100 delegates from Asia Pacific region joining this year’s conference.

There were also 2 other students from Eastern Indonesia joining this conference, Ananias Bees from UKAW in Kupang and Michael Jhon from Uncen in Jayapura. All of us represented our own universities and also our student organisation, Mahasiswa Indonesia Timur Relasi Asing (MITRA). We also went to this conference with our Australian friend, Nick Metherall. He is also one of the founders of MITRA.Arriving in Melbourne on 26 June, we stayed with Nick’s family. We then went to Canberra on 27 June by train the night before the conference began.

We went to ANU in Bruce Hall at 4 pm to register ourselves. We had the welcome dinner at 6 pm and we were gathered at the Dining hall and soon, the head of this year’s committees, Tammy Cho gave a welcoming speech.

The first day of the conference primarily involved discussion on China. The first panelist was talking about Political Dynasties in Central and South East Asia, including Indonesia. The topic was very good and new for me, as I got to learn about the history of political dynasties in Central Asia. The second and last panelists of the day talked about Aid and Development and Theorising Area Studies.

Every day, I had a chance to mingle with other delegates and get more knowledge from them. Most of the delegates were Masters and PhD students. Throughout this conference, we also had chance to promote MITRA and get more people to be involved in MITRA. It was very exciting to introduce MITRA to the delegates…

The conference was a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new friends. Photo: Albert Christian
The conference was a chance to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Photo: Albert Christian

On the next day, we started with the topic of Migration and Corruption. It was another interesting topic for me, because as you know, Indonesia has a big problem in dealing with corruption.

The most interesting part of that day was The War Games. For the War Games, we were divided into several groups and had to represent diferrent roles such as ASEAN countries and the Chinese Coast Guard. And, my team had to represent the China Coast Guard. Our tasks were to develop our nation while protecting our boundaries from others and to get a win-win solution for the Marshall Island, so we had to make agreements with other ASEAN countries that also wanted to negotiate with us. It was a tough job because most of the countries in South East Asia don’t like China but we did a very good job and it was a very fun and valuable exercise.

Then, we came to the 3rd day, which was all about “The Pitch”. The Pitch was a role-play activity where we had to sell unsellable things. My group had to persuade the audience that Eastern medicine is better than Western medicine. My group came out with some quite unusual ideas, and it was a great way to see how delegates from different countries draw on their cultural and historical knowledge in creative tasks.

During the final dinner, we watched the Great Debate between Academics and Delegates. The topic of the Great Debate was “The Eastern Traditional Cultures have a greater influence than Western Cultures”. My friend, Ananias also became one of the debators, together with some delegates from India. During his speech, Ananias presented a traditional sound from Central Timor called KOA, this sound is used to scare dangerous animal such as snakes and to celebrate harvest. Everybody seemed to really enjoy it. After the debate, we had to vote for the winner, unfortunately, the winner was the academics team.

On that last day of the conference, our friend, Nick was one of the panelists talking about climate change. He presented his 2 months research in Timor in providing clean water for the society in the remote areas and his experiences working with some NGOs in Kupang.

Time flies very fast, and at the Closing Ceremony and Gala Dinner, the committee director, Tammy Cho, gave a closing speech and appreciated our full participation during the conference. And, of course, we had a bunch of photo sessions with the committee, other delegates and Indonesian delegates after the dinner.

The gala dinner was a great way to end the conference. Photo: Albert Christian
The gala dinner was a great way to end the conference. Photo: Albert Christian

From the conference, I gained more knowledge about many things that I don’t know before, got more friends, make new networks and shared each other’s experiences. I encourage others to not be afraid of taking opportunities and to keep on the look-out for applications opening for conferences like this one at ANU, because all of them will help you in the future.


Celebrating 70 Under the Stars, with AIYA, CAUSINDY and ANZ

In celebration of Indonesia’s 70th birthday, the Australian Embassy held “Celebrating 70 Under the Stars” at Lucy in the Sky on 19th of August 2015 for the Australia Awards, AIYA and CAUSINDY alumni.

70 Under the Stars was held to celebrate Indonesian Independence Day. Photo: Karina Akib
70 Under the Stars was held to help celebrate Indonesian Independence Day. Photo: Karina Akib

The event was definitely a festive one, accompanied by a tower of cupcakes decorated in red and white as well as none other than ex-VJ and Founder of the clothing line DAMN! I Love Indonesia Daniel Mananta as the MC for the night, and performances by both surgeon and famous singer Tulus and upcoming DJ Delizious Devon.

Tulus and his band put on a great show for all that attended. Photo: Karina Akib
Tulus and his band put on a great show for all that attended. Photo: Karina Akib

The event started off with a greeting from the Ambassador of the Australian Embassy Mr. Paul Grigson, followed by a short hello from Australia’s Minister for Justice Mr. Michael Keenan. Even the former Ambassador, Greg Moriarty made an appearance who is now Australia’s Counter Terrorism Coordinator.

As the guests waited for dinner to be served, Daniel did a great job with bringing back the memories of the days in Australia as he quizzed the guests with the Vegemite song, Australian slang, and also quizzed Australians on their knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia slang. Then the evening went on into the night with an incredible performance by Tulus and his band.

The 70th birthday actually fell on the 17th of August 2015, and this year’s birthday is particularly special, as the dates 17 + 8 + 45 was also equal to 70. On that day, the nation celebrated with flag-hoisting ceremonies, traditional gunny sack races, and cracker eating competitions. Perhaps those are ideas for next year’s AIYA events?

Thank you again to all the AIYA members who attended the event. The night was definitely one to remember. We hope to see even more faces at the next event.

AIYA Jakarta members enjoying the festivities. Photo: Karina Akib
AIYA Jakarta members enjoying the festivities. Photo: Karina Akib

Web and IT Officer at AIYA National

AIYA is currently seeking expressions of interest for a Web and IT Officer. This voluntary role requires a commitment of between 5-7 hours per week. Applications for the positions close on the 7 September 2015. To apply, please email a copy of your CV and a cover letter of no more than 250 words addressing the selection criteria for the role to

The Web and IT Officer oversees and maintains the AIYA National website and IT systems (include email and database management). This person in this role will primarily work closely with the Director of Communications and other officers in the AIYA National Communications team. This role will also involve the future redesign of the AIYA website. Key responsibilities include:

  • Executing a redesign of the current AIYA website
  • Maintaining the AIYA website
  • Managing AIYA email administration
  • Maintaining the online membership process
  • Supporting other members of the AIYA team with their technology needs
  • Supporting AIYA initiatives including CAUSINDY and NAILA

Necessary skills for this position are:

  • Experience with WordPress, and ideally a background in web design including HTML and CSS
  • Some familiarity with collaboration and productivity tools such as Zapier, Wufoo, Google Drive and Basecamp
  • Ability to handle day to day cPanel web server and WordPress maintenance
  • Experience managing website development projects
  • Familiarity with email marketing tools such as MailChimp would be beneficial
  • A background with marketing and analytics tools such as Google Analytics would be highly valued
  • A demonstrated interest in the Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationship

AIYA Links: 21 August

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Another Country: Sebuah Esai Tentang Kehidupan Dari Ramingining

Festival Film Internasional Melbourne (MIFF) baru saja diselanggarakan pada tanggal 30 Juli-16 Augustus di kota Melbourne. Tahun ini MIFF menayangkan film dari berbagai negara termasuk film lokal yang dibuat di Australia. Salah satu film Australia yang muncul di MIFF tahun ini adalah Another Country. Berikut tanggapan pakar film Dr Gaston Soehadi terhadap film tersebut.

Aktor dan narator film Another Country, David Gulpilil. Foto: Gaston Soehadi
Aktor dan narator film Another Country, David Gulpilil. Foto: Gaston Soehadi

Another Country (2015, 75 menit) adalah sebuah film dokumenter yang menggambarkan kehidupan masyarakat asli Australia (Aborijin) di Ramingining yang mengalami gegar (culture shock). Gegar budaya, seperti yang digambarkan dalam film, ini mempunyai akibat yang amat dalam, yaitu kemiskinan. Permasalahan gegar budaya yang berujung pada kemiskinan masyarakat Aborijin ini telah menjadi masalahan nasional di Australia sejak lama. Dalam Another Country, masalah ini diperlihatkan melalui kehidupan sehari-hari masyarakat Aborijin yang menjadi penduduk mayoritas di Ramingining, sebuah kota kecil di Northern Territory.

Dalam sejarah perfilman di Australia, Another Country bukanlah film pertama yang berkisah tentang orang Aborijin yang terlilit kemisikinan. Film terakhir yang saya lihat dan bercerita tentang tema yang sama adalah Utopia (2013), film dokumenter yang dibuat oleh John Pilger, seorang aktivis sosial yang juga berprofesi sebagai pembuat film dokumenter. Perbedaan yang terpenting dari kedua film ini, terletak dari aspek yang ingin dibahas. Utopia (dengan John Pilger sebagai narator) mempunyai alur penceritaan dengan bias politik yang cukup dalam. Sementara itu, Molly Reynolds, sutradara Another Country, melihat permasalahan kemisikinan ini dari sudut pandang perbedaan kebudayaan Australia (di sini yang saya maksud adalah kebudayaan Eropa yang dominan di dalam masyarakat Australia) dan Aborijin. Selain itu, Molly Reynolds memasang David Gulpilil, aktor karismatik Australia berdarah Aborijin sebagai narator. Pemilihan David Gulpilil sebagai narator dan framing permasalahan yang berbeda dari Utopia membuat Another Country muncul sebagai salah satu film dokumenter yang perlu mendapat perhatian.

David Gulpilil sebenarnya telah mencapai puncak karirnya sebagai aktor film ketika ia dianugerahi gelar Best Actor dalam Cannes Film Festival tahun 2014 dalam perannya sebagai Charlie dalam film Charlie’s Country. Another Country tidak saja kembali mengukuhkan nama Gulpilil sebagai aktor nasional dan internasional, lebih dari itu ia menjadi sebuah ikon atau simbol penghubung yang penting antara kebudayaan Australia dan Aborijin. Gulpilil telah hidup di dua kebudayaan yang sangat berbeda ini semenjak pemunculan pertamanya dalam film Walkabout (1971) yang disutradarai oleh Nicholas Roeg. Walkabout juga bukan film pertama yang menjadikan Aborigin sebagai subyek penceritaan. Walkabout adalah film yang memberikan gambaran tentang Aborijin dan kebudayaannya dan Gulpilil berperan sebagai satu-satunya karakter Aborijin dalam film itu, yaitu seorang remaja yang tengah menjalani ritual ‘walkabout’ dimana ia harus bertahan hidup di lingkungan di luar sukunya. Dalam pengembaraan tersebut tokoh yang diperankan Gulpilil bertemu dan bersahabat dengan dua remaja kulit putih yang tersesat di padang rumput.

David Gulpilil lahir pada tahun 1953 di Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. Ia dikenal sebagai bagian dari suku Yolngu, yang sebagian besar bertempat tinggal di Northern Territory ini. Sejak kecil hingga remaja, Gulpilil dan keluarganya lebih banyak menghabiskan waktunya di kawasan yang dikenal sebagai bush dan outback. Ia tumbuh dan mempunyai keahlian sebagai pemburu dan pencari Jejak serta penari tradisional. Roeg berhasil mengangkat Gulpilil dan kebudayaan Aborijin dalam Walkabout. Gulpilil selanjutnya membintangi berbagai macam film, diantaranya Crocodille Dunde yang mencapai kesuksesan komersial secara internasional, tapi yang ia kritik sendiri beberapa tahun kemudian dalam film biografinya Red Blood (Darlene Johnson, 2002). Tiga film penting yang berjasa melambungkan nama Gulpilil sebuah ikon bagi industri film Australia adalah The Tracker (Rolf de Heer, 2002), Rabit Proof Fence (Philip Noyce, 2005) dan Charlie’s Country (Rolf de Heer, 2014).

Another Coutry dibuka dengan sekelompok remaja Aborijin yang menari dengan gerakan tarian tradisional tapi dengan iringan music rap. Adegan yang berlangsung kurang lebih dua menit ini bukanlah sebuah adegan istimewa secara sinematografi. Tapi dalam tinjauan budaya, mungkin dapat memperlihatkan bagaimana pengaruh kebudayaan asing yang telah masuk begitu dalam di kehidupan para remaja ini. Adegan yang mirip dengan adegan pemubuka itu bisa dijumpai dalam bagian tengah Another Country dimana kita melihat para penarinya adalah para wanita Aborijin yang melewatkan kebosanan mereka sehari-hari dengan menari.

Rangkaian adegan berikutnya memperlihatkan seekor kanguru yang tersesat masuk lingkungan Ramingining ini, binatang ini kemudian dikejar-kejar oleh anjing yang lalu menarik perhatian masyarakat Ramingining. Sesaat kemudian seorang pemuda melemparkan tombak membunuh sang kanguru, kemudian menjadi santapan bersama. Adegan kanguru tersesat ini menjadi metafora yang sangat bagus untuk menggambarkan ‘ketersesatan’ orang Aborijin ketika mereka dipaksa untuk hidup di alam kebudayaan Australia. Ketersesatan yang tidak pernah berakhir inilah yang mengakibatkan kebingungan dan kemisikinan merekam karena ketidakmampuan merekam untuk beradaptasi dengan kebudayaan baru.

Sebagai narator, David Gulpilil lebih menampilkan diri sebagai seorang kawan akrab yang tengah bercerita tentang dirinya dan kaumnya yang terpuruk dalam kemiskinan dan kebingungan. Berbeda dengan suara narasi John Pilger yang terdengar formal dan tendensius, narasi yang ditampilkan Gulpilil terdengar sangat santai, bersahaja dan bersahabat karena diselingi oleh canda dan tawa, mentertawakan dirinya sendiri maupun penontonnya. Misalnya, ia berkata di bagian awal filmnya bahwa bagi orang Australia, mengunjungi Ratu Inggris di Inggris terasa jauh lebih mudah daripada mengunjungi Ramingining.

Hal istimewa lainnya dalam gaya bernarasi ini adalah penggunaan kata ‘saya’ dan ‘kamu’ yang menandakan Gulpilil tengah berbicara kepada sang ‘teman’ dalam hal ini penonton di dalam cinema. Disinilah letak keistimewaan Another Country dimana Gulpilil tidak bermaksud menjadikan orang lain (atau kita yang menonton film ini) sebagai pihak yang dia salahkan atau bahkan menciptakan permusuhan. Gulpilil justru ingin merangkul penontonnya dan mengajak mereka memahami kembali mengapa politik asimilasi yang dilakukan terhadap orang Aborijin ini gagal dan apakah penyebab kegagalan tersebut. Menurut Gulpilil penyebab kegagalan ini hanyalah satu yaitu ketidakmengertian pemerintah Australia (yang mayoritas dipegang oleh orang kulit putih) dalam memahami kebudayaan orang Aborijin. Pemerintah Australia tidak mencoba untuk belajar tentang kebudayaan Aborijin, tapi memaksakan orang Aborijin untuk hidup dalam kebudayaan yang bukan kebudayaan asli mereka. Another Country mencoba melihat perbedaan ini dari tiga aspek, yaitu permasalahan lingkungan (sampah), uang dan waktu.

Bagi orang Aborijin, sampah adalah hal yang tidak biasa dalam kehidupan mereka. Tumpukan sampah adalah barang asing dalam tradisi mereka. Hal berikutnya adalah bagaimana peredaran uang memberikan perubahan dalam tradisi hidup kolektif merekam. Dan yang terakhir adalah tentang konsep waktu. Orang Aborijin mempunyai konsep waktu yang bersandar kepada siklus perubahan alam (matahari dan bulan). Perbedaan kebudayaan ini, menurut Gulpilil, adalah hal yang seharusnya dihormati dan jika dihormati maka hal itu tidak akan mengakibatkan satu pihak menjadi korban. Ada juga rangkaian adegan yang memperlihatkan bagaimana mereka menampilkan adegan teatrikal Jesus membawa tiang salib. Hal ini menunjukkan bagaimana pengaruh sebuah agama yang mulanya mungkin tidak mereka kenal, tapi kemudian telah menjadi bagian dari hidup mereka. Another Country tidak saja memperlihatkan gegar budaya yang membawa kegagalan, tapi juga transisi yang ‘berhasil’.

Acara pemutaran perdana Another Country dalam MIFF tahun 2015 ini diakhiri dengan tampilnya David Gulpilil disertai sutradara Molly Reynold dan produser Rolf de Heer dalam acara tanya jawab (Q & A) dengan penonton. Namun yang terjadi ternyata bukan acara Q & A sebagaimana yang sering dijumpai. Gulpilil malah bercerita panjang dan lebar tentang arti penting film ini untuk dirinya, keluarganya, orang Aborijin dan non-Aborijin. Gulpilil kemudian memanggil anggota keluarganya untuk tampil di atas panggung dan yang lebih mengharukan lagi ketika istrinya, Miriam Ashley, menceritakan awal pertemuan mereka. Bagi saya, acara Q & A ini sangat mengesankan karena terlihat dan terasa sebagai khas David Gulpilil.

Malam pemutaran Another Country itu benar-benar menjadi malam kebesaran buat seorang legenda industry film Australia. Another Country bukanlah sebuah film dokumenter biasa, namun sebuah monumen buat Gulpilil walaupun ia hanya muncul sebagai narator. Another Country adalah sebuah esai indah dari Ramingining yang tidak menempatkan Aborijin yang sebagai pihak kalah, tetapi sebagai sebuah masyarakat yang terus berjuang untuk bisa hidup sejajar tanpa mengorbankan kebudayaan mereka sendiri.

Celebrating Indonesian Independence Day

Indonesia will celebrate its 70th independence day on the 17th August, and there are various celebrations and games which Indonesians usually do on this day to recall the true meaning of freedom as a nation. Here are a list of some of the fun games and activities that Indonesians do on Independence Day:

1. Upacara Bendera (Flag Raising Ceremony)

upacara bendera jpg.
Indonesia is preparing to celebrate its 70th Independence Day. Photo:

Government officials and numerous students participate in flag raising ceremonies on the morning of Independence Day. A celebration is held at the Istana Merdeka (State Palace) annually. The Indonesian flag consists of two colours; red and white. The red means courage while the white stands for purity. We call the flag “Sang Saka Merah Putih (The Lofty Red and White)”.

The ceremonies also consist of musical performances from Indonesia’s diverse provinces and are regularly broadcast live on local television stations. Indonesian Air Force fighter jets will fly through the sky before the flag arrives at full mast.

2. Panjat Pinang (Palm Tree Climbing)

Panjat Pinang is a very famous competition in many Indonesian neighbourhoods on Independence day. At the top of palm trees, which have been lubricanted with clay and oil, interesting prizes such as toy bikes or electronic devices are placed. People from kids to adults must reach the top of the slippery challenge. People learn to collaborate together to win the prize. We can take the moral value that in this world, we need to believe in teamwork to achieve goals.

3. Lomba Makan Kerupuk (Cracker Eating Competition)

Indonesian children love to play this game where crackers are tied on raffia strings then the children try their best to eat the crackers while their hands are tied behind their backs. The child that finishes their cracker first wins! For Indonesians, crackers are a traditional snack that is relished by both poor and rich people. By playing this game, Indonesian people try to appreciate the importance of equality and humility. Furthermore, those hanging crackers and handcuffs remind us that success is accomplished by integrity and patience.

4. Gotong Royong (Giving Back to the Community)

In a lot of Indonesian neighbourhoods, both young people and elders perform shared work, which is ]known as gotong royong where people get together to clean up their neighbourhood. Generally, gotong royong is done during Indonesia’s independence day, however it’s best if it is exercised throughout the entire year. Gotong royong represents the true spirit of Indonesian nationalism.

5. Lomba Balap Karung (Gunny Sack Race)

Gunny sack race is one of the many fun activities that take place on Independence Day. Photo:
Gunny sack race is one of the many fun activities that take place on Independence Day. Photo:

Gunny Sack Race is a popular race where our bodies are cooped inside rice sacks as we hurtle towards the finishing line. The rice hinders us as we move rapidly towards the finish line. In addition, more than once, we will fall down and we have to get back up and continue hopping to reach the end point. Lomba Balap Karung teaches us a lesson about the importance of perseverance and it reminds Indonesian people of the tremendous efforts our forbearers made to achieve independence. Moreover, it teaches us that in life, we will stumble but we need to get back up and keep fighting to reach our goals.

AIYA Links: 14 August

We’re proud to announce the thirty young leaders who will be a part of this year’s Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth (CAUSINDY) in Darwin. Meet the delegates over at the CAUSINDY website.

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AFL and Multiculturalism – A Worthy Goal

I have been living in Melbourne for more than 6 years, but for the first two years I had found it challenging to penetrate into the “Australian life”. I had never strayed too far from the Indonesian bubble. It’s not that I didn’t want to blend in; it’s just that I didn’t know how.

Ghian holding the Richmond banner at the MCG. Photo: Ghian Tjandaputra
Ghian holding the Richmond banner at the MCG. Photo: Ghian Tjandaputra

That started to change after I befriended a small group of Australians, one of them an Australian of Macedonian descent. And then he introduced me to Australian Rules football.

As an avid (or rather, tragic) Collingwood loyal, he brought me to a Collingwood vs Carlton match. Little did I know that that sparked a journey that would set me on a path I’ve been looking for since I first arrived.

I’m not quite sure how for 20 years I had survived living a life blissfully unaware of AFL. For the past few years I have been going to at least 15 matches each season, my eyes are transfixed by Fox Footy all weekend and I can barely resist the temptation of checking Supercoach live scores every 5 minutes. This year, I’ve started working as an AFL Multicultural Community Ambassador with Richmond FC. I now live and breathe AFL.

I have always wanted to feel like I belong here, and the great game goes a long way in making me feel like I finally do.

Path to becoming a convert

The thing is though, my journey in becoming a convert is almost fully by chance. I stumbled upon it. I had to almost literally be dragged by a friend to go to a match. The AFL as an institution played virtually no part in converting me. This is both discouraging and encouraging.

It is discouraging because despite all of AFL’s effort in promoting multiculturalism and in reaching out to communities, it still had not been able to reach a most relevant target audience – international students and active members of a diaspora (and ones who are already obsessed with sport – i.e. Indonesian students).

It is encouraging because despite that, the AFL can still lure complete strangers to the game without any effort on its part. Imagine what would happen if it can tap into more target audiences.

This is not to say that they haven’t been trying. Far from it, the AFL has made a concerted effort to become a truly multicultural sport.

Ghian (left) alongside Richmond CEO Brendon Gale (centre) and Director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre Paul Ramadge (right).
Ghian (left) alongside Richmond CEO Brendon Gale (centre) and Director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre Paul Ramadge (right). Photo: Ghian Tjandaputra

Reaching out to marginal communities

The AFL claims that multicultural players make up 15 per cent of the player list as it makes various overtures in promoting multiculturalism. The most public one is the Multicultural Round. It strives to celebrate “Many Cultures” as it promotes it to be “One Game – Australia’s Game”.

A key element of its work is the Multicultural Ambassadors – both Player Ambassadors and Community Ambassadors. Player Ambassadors consist of the likes of Nic Naitanui, Nick Malceski, David Zaharakis, Lin Jong and Bachar Houli, perhaps the most notable player for his work in promoting multiculturalism through Bachar Houli Academy.

Community Ambassadors, though less known to the public eye, are doing the all-important work on the ground, in collaboration with the clubs and AFL Victoria.

Richmond FC has been very supportive of my effort in introducing AFL to the Indonesian diaspora in Melbourne. The Tigers has also done valuable work in engaging with the Indian community, particularly considering the challenging times the Indian diaspora experienced several years ago.

Nasya Bahfen, last year’s Multicultural Community Ambassador of the Year, has been doing significant work with North Melbourne’s The Huddle.

Ghian with fellow AFL community ambassadors Nasya Bahfen (left), Cody Halliday (right centre) and Bayu Pratama. Photo: Ghian Tjandaputra.
Ghian with fellow AFL Community Ambassadors Nasya Bahfen (left), Cody Halliday (right centre) and Bayu Pratama (right). Photo: Ghian Tjandaputra.

The Huddle itself is an excellent example of how the AFL can help address social problems. It strives to address disengagement among youths from migrant and refugee backgrounds in North Melbourne, Flemington, Kensington and Wyndham.

This program also shows AFL’s conscious effort in reaching out to marginal communities, and it is best reflected by its significant investment in reaching out to Western Sydney.

Bahfen, a journalism lecturer at Monash Universtiy, wrote that the AFL debut of the GWS Giants is the culmination of the AFL to “make inroads into the rugby league-obsessed, poor and predominantly refugee and migrant neighbourhoods on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks in Australia’s largest city’.

She also points out that AFL has thrown “everything but the kitchen sink” at the sea by building new stadiums, and devoting resources into programs and events to get members of the community to playing the game.

One must wonder: has all of this effort paid of? Why were they doing it in the first place?

Off-field and on-field progress – artificial or substantial?

It is always challenging to measure the true success of such effort, as numbers are difficult to obtain and even when they exist, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Fifteen per cent of the entire playing list is not an insignificant chunk, but when the numbers are closely examined, it portrays a different story.

There are approximately 476.000 Muslims in Australia; Bachar Houli, the returning Saint Ahmed Saad and emerging Suns Adam Saad are the only few Muslim players in the list. The number of Australians of Asian descent and Asian migrants in Australia is even bigger, yet Lin Jong is the only player in the list with an Asian ancestry.

This raises another question in measuring progress. Which is more important: off-field or on-field? Can one really be considered a success without significant gains in the other?

As previously shown, there is not much else that the AFL can do off-field. It has made a concerted effort to encourage multicultural communities to be engaged with the game; it even attempts to be a catalyst for social progress. This needs to be commended.

To a certain extent, the progress it has made off the field makes up for whatever shortcomings it has on the field. However, if the ultimate goal is to become a ‘multicultural game’, the AFL might still have its work cut out to ensure there is a satisfiable spread of multicultural communities represented in the game.

The conundrum – Australia’s Game

The AFL can stake a legitimate claim to be Australia’s Game, despite what those above the Barassi line might say. The AFL Grand Final remains the biggest sporting event in the Australian calendar (at least in Melbourne). It is Australia’s Super Bowl.

The AFL gives you access to be part of the Australian society, as I have experienced. Just by being obsessed with the game, I have become much more accessible. The inevitable otherness that my foreign background exudes starts to erode.

As I seamlessly navigate into conversations about that ridiculous decision (or non-decision) made by the score review or share the endless frustration of the inconsistencies in applying the holding the ball rule, Australians can reasonably see me more as “one of us”.

However, the idea of AFL as Australia’s Game poses an inevitable conundrum. If it is “Australia’s” Game, can it truly be everyone’s game?

The problem with it being Australia’s game is that it also unwittingly implies that only Australians can fully engage with the game. There will be a significant element in the society who doesn’t consider them to be Australians. If this is the case, how can they embrace Australia’s Game if they’re not part of it?

These are the questions that not just the AFL needs to answer, but also for the Australian society as a whole to address. How can multicultural communities embrace Australia if they feel from the outset that they are not part of it, or sometimes worse, be rejected from it?

This, in a sense, speaks to a larger issue with the idea of multiculturalism and the idea of Australia. They are not necessarily incompatible, but they are not wholly integrated with one another. If the AFL truly wants to reinvent itself as a multicultural game, it needs to figure out how to reconcile it with the idea of AFL as Australia’s Game.

Ultimately, sport can be a powerful unifying force. If by addressing those challenging questions the AFL can bring Australia one step closer to reconciling its identity, if the AFL can help Australia celebrate the strength of its diversity, then it is a goal worth pursuing.

AIYA Links: 7 August

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