Career Champion of culture: AIA finalist Chenaniah ‘Ken’ Darma

Chenaniah ‘Ken’ Darma was a finalist at the Australia Indonesia Association’s Australia Indonesia Awards in the Culture category. Find his responses as a Career Champion below, where he provides insights on his career up until this point and where he might like to head in the future.

Tell us about your background. Where did you begin your career?

I recently completed my studies at Macquarie University, attaining a Bachelor of Marketing and Media. During my time at university, I joined PPIA Macquarie, Macquarie University’s official Indonesian student society where I began my professional journey as an Internal and External Events Organiser. My dream career goal is to utilise my skills and passion for events, marketing and media in a job that allows me to contribute to Australian and Indonesian youth, strengthening existing relations between the two great nations by empowering the next generation of future leaders.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

During my childhood I was often confused about my identity as an Indonesian raised in Australia. It wasn’t until I joined PPIA Macquarie, where I developed a meaningful connection with Indonesians. When attended my first welcome gathering event, I was scared to make new friends because I was afraid that I would be different, and it turned out that I was. It wasn’t easy to assimilate with the Indonesian lifestyle when I grew up with only Australian friends, however I remained persistent in encouraging myself to belong to this community because something within kept drawing me back. After a few months I was promoted as one of the organisation’s key Event Organisers with opportunities to oversee events such as Soundquriang 4.

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

Aside from pursuing a career in events, marketing and media, I am currently leading a non-profit youth group gathering in various locations such as Macquarie Park, Central Park, and the southwest areas of Sydney. Though I am no longer a student at Macquarie University, I still have a heart for the youth community in the area, sharing the resources I have in my hands to empower young Indonesians and Australian-Indonesians to be the best they can be in their studies and social lives.

Why do you think you were successful in finding your current role?

I found my current day job as a Social Media Assistant through a fellow classmate, and hope to develop my skills in marketing communications so that I can be of good use and leverage everything I’ve learned to effectively communicate with Australians and Indonesians both online and offline. My work as a local Youth Leader was an opportunity my father gave me around five years ago when he started an Indonesian church in Macquarie Park. It give me great pleasure to work alongside my parents doing something I’m so passionate about, as their values and support have played a major role in making me who I am today.

What do you enjoy most about Indonesia?

I love living with my family in Indonesia because it allows me to embrace the culture and most importantly, great tasting food. Based on my previous experience working with Indonesians, they are hard-working and very patriotic. Something we could improve on could possibly be our communication skills and our willingness to work hand-in-hand with other nations.

What are your thoughts on the future of the bilateral cultural relationship?

It is evident that a strong Australian-Indonesian relationship exists among student-run Indonesian entertainment events. Indonesian student societies can be found in almost every mainstream university, particularly in New South Wales and Melbourne. Indonesian high school graduates leave their families and live abroad for the first time in their lives. For students who want more out of their university experience are eager to achieve something great for Australia and Indonesia, or just want to make Indonesian friends, joining your university’s Indonesian student society is one of the best things an Indonesian student can ever do. Entertainment events such as PPIA Macquarie’s Soundquriang has embodied what it means to be an Indonesian living abroad among fellow Australians and embracing dual cultures.

For the past four years, both Indonesian and Australian-Indonesian students have worked hand-in-hand to liaise with Indonesia’s greatest music artists and cultural performers such as Suara Indonesia, host over 1000 delegates, and donate up to $5,000 to Yayasan Tangan Pengharapan, an Indonesian charity that seeks to provide support to rural communities in NTT province. This particular event was supported by our Consulate General, reminding us that we were doing a good thing for Indonesia and Australia. Events like this really make a difference in our world.

What advice would you offer youth?

My advice to young Australians and Indonesians is to acknowledge existing barriers that exist and do everything you can to break them. Also, take every opportunity you can get to serve your local Indonesian-Australian community whether that be inside or outside of university. When you complete your studies you want the personal satisfaction of knowing you did everything you possibly could for Indonesia and Australia as a student – when sometimes all you have is your determination to succeed and friends to support you along the way.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn’t have changed a thing as each experience, whether positive or negative, has played a major role in my personal and professional development and understanding of Australian-Indonesian relations.

Follow Ken’s Youth Group on Instagram, or take a read of other Career Champion interviews with AIA finalists.

Career Champion Snapshot: AIA Awards Food Winner Robert Chong

Robert Chong is an expert in food exports and trade, and is the winner of the Australia Indonesia Awards 2018 under the category of Food. He features this week in another AIYA Career Champion profile. (Catch up on previous Career Champion interviews here.)

Robert was born in Indonesia and was educated in Australia, studying accountancy and economics at University of Queensland, before marrying and moving to Sydney for work. In the 1960s he worked in a meat exporting company as Export Manager & Cost Accountant, before deciding to gain further experience in exporting by working in partnership with a meat broker, Jack Fruitman & Co, to source and export Australian frozen beef cuts and offal, veal and lamb to USA, UK and European markets. Finally in 1967, Robert and his brother John formed Commodore Trading Co.

Robert Chong (left) giving a speech at the ComTrad Anniversary Luncheon.

What do you do?

Because I am an Indonesian born, educated in Australia, the products we specialise and sell are important for Indonesia.

We are still very active in dealing with Indonesia. We have to follow Indonesian government regulations and policy, along with being flexible and understanding.

Why do you think you have found success?

My current job is my life. I believe in what I am doing with full passion.

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

To be able to relate to the two cultures, I was born Indonesian but educated and worked in Australia.

Thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the food industry?

I think the future of the field in which I work is very much in need of Indonesia in the form of perishable goods, meat (beef, lamb, goat), dairy products and special kinds of fruit and vegetables, as well as wines for the hospitality market.

What advice would you offer youth?

Prepare to learn the culture and the way the two sides do business, and to be patient, understanding and tolerant.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

I would do nothing differently.

Find Robert on LinkedIn, and keep an eye out for more Career Champion interviews with AIA finalists in the coming weeks.

Interview with My Kitchen Rules winners and AIA finalists Tasia and Gracia Seger

A few years ago, Melbourne’s Tasia and Gracia Seger won My Kitchen Rules. Now, they answer some quick-fire questions for us after being nominated for the Australia Indonesia Association Awards 2018 (in the Food category of course!).

Photo: Tasia and Gracia Seger

Tell us a little about your background. How did you come to apply for MKR?

We both were born in Jakarta before moving to Darwin, India and now Melbourne. Our grandma and our relatives are still living in Indonesia and we often return to Indonesia to visit them – and of course for the amazing food!

I (Tasia) completed my degree in Psychology before we entered My Kitchen Rules (MKR), while Gracia completed her Master in Biomedical Health Science. While we both took different career paths, we always had a passion for food. When we finished our studies, it was the perfect time for both of us to apply for the show. Our time being on the show and winning the competition allowed us to be even more confident that we both wanted to pursue our careers in the food industry.

What’s life like post-MKR?

Since the winning the show, we have been focusing on and pursuing opportunities in the food industry. We travel around Australia and Asia doing food demonstrations, working with food brands on recipe development and food contents, private catering, pop-up restaurants and have launched our own brand of satay sauce. We are also opening our first restaurant in Melbourne called Makan in April or May, serving Indonesian food to all.

Photo: Tasia and Gracia Seger

Why do you think you have found success in your current culinary ventures?

It has been two years since we started running our own venture and working on our brand to experience the food business. We think we are successful in our business venture due to the fact that we are sisters, hence we understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. And also our same passion, goals and dream for food.

What do you love most about Indonesia?

Indonesia is where we are from, hence it will always be a part of us. We love its food, people and its diverse and rich culture.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship (and food)?

We think that it will be stronger in the near future and will continue to be so. This is merely due to the fact that there is more awareness of and exposure to Indonesian food in Australia – with Indonesian festivals and the Satay Festival to name a few.

Photo: Tasia and Gracia Seger

What advice would you offer youth?

Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, take risks and most of all enjoy both positive and negative experiences, as they will always lead towards more learning and self-development.

What would you do differently?

Apply for My Kitchen Rules sooner!

See what the MKR sisters been cooking on Instagram, Facebook and their website. Keep an eye out for more Career Champion interviews with AIA finalists in the coming weeks!

Champion of Indonesian ethnomusicology Professor Margaret Kartomi (Feature)

Margaret Kartomi is an ethnomusicologist, researcher and Professor of Music at Monash University. She is also a finalist in the Research category at the Australia Indonesia Awards 2018, organised by the Australia Indonesia Association (AIA) in NSW. An expert on the music of Sumatra, Margaret has received an Order from the Government of Lampung for her Sumatra research, was given the title Ratu Berlian Sangun Anggun (Beautiful Queen Jewel), and kindly has offered to share her journey as a Career Champion.

Where did you begin your career?

Source: Monash University

I first became interested in Indonesia at age nine in Adelaide, where my Quaker parents invited Adelaide’s first Indonesian Colombo Plan students to our home for lunch on Sundays. I fell in love with Javanese gamelan music when, as a music student aged 18 at the University of Adelaide, I wrote a thesis for my BA on that wonderful musical tradition.

After obtaining my doctorate of philosophy in ethnomusicology at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1968, I was employed in the Department of Music at Monash from 1969, first as a Research Fellow, then as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, and from 1989-1999 and 2001- 2003 as Professor and Head of the Department of Music.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

I connected with Indonesia due to my family’s interest and my meeting with Indonesian Colombo Plan students in Adelaide, one of whom – Hidris Kartomi of Banyumas – I married. My interest deepened as I wrote my doctoral thesis at Humboldt University in Berlin and I accepted an Indonesian-oriented teaching and research job at Monash from 1969.

My husband and I carried out Australian Research Council-funded fieldwork almost every year from 1971 in different parts of Indonesia, and over the decades I published five books and hundreds of academic articles on aspects of Indonesian music and dance. With Javanese gamelan lecturer Poedijono we presented annual concerts attended by the general public and thousands of primary and secondary students throughout Victoria. I realised that I and my students and colleagues needed an archive in which to house all the field recordings, musical instruments, and other artefacts that we collected on our field research trips.

So in 1975 I established the Music Archive of Monash University (MAMU), which contains many musical instruments, puppets, masks, textiles and other artefacts. Many of my students as well as other collectors donated their Indonesian music and dance recordings and videos and other collected items to MAMU, which became a substantial archive of Indonesian and other cultural artefacts.

How do you use your Indonesia experience in your current work?

I am still a Professor of Music at Monash (now in my 48th year) where I supervise graduate students’ theses and interns. Each intern spends a semester in our Archive learning archival and museological skills which are useful to them in the workplace later on. I also remain Founding Director of MAMU, which is located in a suite of eight rooms on the fourth floor of the Menzies Building (68) at Monash Clayton, where we welcome visitors, including AIYA readers, if interested.

Why do you think you were successful in getting the position?

I likely succeeded in obtaining my job at Monash because I have always been enthusiastic about the marvellously varied music culture of Indonesia, and because my husband and I enjoyed travelling around the islands of Indonesia photographing, videoing, recording and researching the music, dance and theatre and collecting the musical instruments and textiles. I have also always enjoyed teaching and supervising students’ research.

What do you enjoy most about Indonesia?

I love the warmth, politeness and generosity of the Indonesian people of all ages, especially in the villages, and talking to them about their fascinating arts and life achievements and problems. I also love durian and all the other fantastic fruits of Indonesia, the tremendous variety of lauk pauk, the tropical weather, and the beautiful scenery of the islands.

Thoughts on the future of the bilateral relationship?

Monash is planning at this moment to convert the Music Archive of Monash University into Australia’s first Gallery of Musical Instruments and Artefacts, most of which are from Indonesia and other parts of Asia. It will comprise special displays of musical artefacts from Lampung, Aceh, Riau Islands, Java, Bali and many other parts of Indonesia, serve as a gateway to Monash Clayton, and welcome Indonesian and other Asian students to Monash.

From 2018, the Monash Faculty of Arts will fully fund annual trips to Indonesia for thousands of Australian students as part of the GIG – Global Immersion Program – in order to introduce them to Indonesian culture and boost their interest in learning Indonesian language and culture. This mass program will not only impact university students and their families but will boost the relationship between Australians and Indonesians at a national level.

What advice would you offer youth?

Young Australian students should feel free to study the HASS/arts subjects related to Indonesia as well as the STEM subjects when they come to university, for there are bound to be jobs in the future for committed students as they graduate and enter the job market. Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours and both governments and peoples are increasingly realising how necessary we are to each other, how we can benefit from collaborating in many fields of endeavour, and how Indonesia’s economy is predicted to be one of the five top world economies by 2030.

Indonesian students who want to study in Australia should study the English language well in order to gain a place in an Australian university. You may wish to study Australian society and promote better relations between our two countries, or study the other HASS or STEM subjects and work to improve Indonesia’s economy and cultural opportunities in future.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

Nothing! I have enjoyed and expect to continue to enjoy a wonderful life, enriched by my involvement with the people and the arts of Indonesia and Australia.

Discover more about music at Monash here, and keep an eye out for more Career Champion interviews with AIA finalists in the coming weeks.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Balinese dancer, teacher and arts enthusiast Jane Ahlstrand

AIYA member Jane Ahlstrand has a prolific record of Indonesia engagement. From performing and teaching Balinese dance to appearing on Indonesian television, she has been an avid advocate of cultural engagement and shows no signs of stopping. (She’s even authored a few articles for us at the Blog!) Jane spoke to AIYA about her fascinating experiences in the Australia-Indonesia space.

What brought you to engage with Indonesia? What do you enjoy most about the country?

Jane at the IndOz Festival in Brisbane.

Although my primary school offered me my first exposure to Indonesia through weekly Indonesian classes, only through actual direct contact with Indonesia did I come to recognise its true appeal. That moment of realisation happened when I was 16 back in 1998. My family saved up for our first trip overseas to Bali. It was definitely a big deal for us back then.

When we arrived in Bali and breathed in the balmy, tropical night air, I was just blown away by how different and beautiful Bali was. Coming from a tiny country town meant that I had very limited exposure to other cultures so a trip to Bali really opened my eyes. I also realised that the bits and pieces of Indonesian I had learned in primary school were in fact useful and worth cultivating.

Oh, and I had the chance to see Balinese dance for the first time. I was just riveted by the dancers’ wonderful expressions, movements and costumes. At the time, I only saw myself as a foreign tourist but did have a small hope that I would step out of that box one day and truly get to know Bali.

After that, I was motivated to study Indonesian at university. At uni, I made lots of Indonesian friends, most of whom happened to be Chinese Indonesians at the time because they fled the violence of 1998. For me, it was really interesting but also saddening to hear their stories of life in Indonesia as a minority. I also made a trip back to Indonesia in 2001 and travelled across Java by bus, train, taxi, motorbike, becak and bajaj. I felt so alive! I have a clear memory sitting on the back of a motorbike riding through the electric green rice fields outside of Jogja and being overwhelmed by happiness. By then, my Indonesian was much better and I was able to interact freely with the locals.

After graduating, sadly, work took me in a different direction. I ended up living in Korea and studying Korean for a while. I also worked with the Queensland Government developing the International Student Program and my Korean language skills were put to the test there. After a while, Indonesia called my name. Especially Bali. I investigated some options for returning to Indonesia.

Since 2011, my life has been Indonesia-focused.

How did you come to perform Balinese dance? What’s the best part?

In 2011 I enrolled in the Darmasiswa culture and arts scholarship program offered by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture. I studied Balinese dance at the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Denpasar, Bali. My Indonesian language skills really helped me in making friends and understanding the dance.

Even though my stiff bule body did not want to cooperate much at first. Since then, I was determined to master this ridiculously difficult art form. Learning it as a foreigner and an adult certainly made it a challenge. Most Balinese learn it from when they are very young and their bodies move naturally into the right position. For me, I had to force it until it also became natural.


The best part is actually the build up to the performance. All the hard work and practice along with the big expectations for the event. The event itself is always a challenge because I have to do the makeup and costuming, usually not only for myself but for my students. I love teaching and sharing the love of dance but it takes many years to master its various aspects of the dance, including the intricacies of the costume and makeup. I feel a lot of pressure to get things done on time. It takes over an hour to do the costume and makeup for one person. Some nights before a big performance, I can’t sleep because I worry about all the things I have to do the next day.

Tell us about your NAILA experience in 2015?

I was so thrilled to win the Wildcard category for NAILA. I think because I picked Balinese dance as my topic, I just had to do a good job. My speech was almost like a performance and I was very passionate about sharing my knowledge of Balinese dance with the audience. Thankfully, other people appreciated it. I memorised the speech and when I delivered it on the night of the event, it was almost like an out of body experience for me. That night, I was too excited to go to sleep afterwards. What a rush! I am so thankful to the team at NAILA for putting together such a fantastic event and giving us the chance to put our language skills to the test.

How about CAUSINDY 2016?

CAUSINDY was great. It was held in Bali so that was a real bonus! I suppose I was selected because of my identity as a budayawan. Many of the other participants came from professional backgrounds and I must admit, I felt a bit odd and lacked self-confidence. Nevertheless, at the conference we were given the task of developing a potential project that would help strengthen the bilateral relationship and that’s when I felt I could offer something useful.

I was placed in a group of others who also recognised the value of cultural engagement. We came up with the idea of a website that showcases engagement between our two nations through the arts while also giving artists a voice and the recognition they deserve. We all agreed that the arts sometimes gets overlooked and undervalued when in fact it is a fantastic resource for building friendship and communicating ideas.


What is JembARTan?

So, JembARTan is the name of the blog that was launched following the conference. My friend John Cheong Holdaway (NAILA winner and CAUSINDY delegate) came up with the beautiful name. He is really clever. He also set up a basic WordPress blog. Then I just started writing. I have quite a few friends who are active in the arts, so it wasn’t too hard to find some interesting subjects for the blog. After a while, I had written quite a few posts and then JembARTan sort of just ended up becoming my pet project. I started writing mainly in Indonesian, and the articles were then published by ABC Australia Plus Indonesia as well as several leading Indonesian news media outlets. I was quite satisfied to know that my Indonesian writing skills were good enough to make it into the local Indonesian media.

Then, the team at CAUSINDY showed their interest in developing JembARTan further. We now have funding from telkomtelstra (a joint Indonesian-Australian telecommunications company) to create a spiffy new website and also engage in more interviews with cool artists. I also have a new member, Freya Gaunt, who is helping me to write new articles and expand JembARTan.

Where do you see the Australia-Indonesia relationship heading in the future?

I’m really depressed about the low level of enrolment in Indonesian language subjects at the high school and tertiary level. It’s honestly shocking and worrying. I really wish that universities would do more to encourage student interest in the program rather than just letting it die off. I know that universities are profit-driven but they also have a broader duty as educational institutions to contribute to Australia’s role in the Asia-Pacific region.

What’s your next move?

I have to finish my PhD! I am actually getting really close to my deadline and things are looking very precarious for me at the moment. It was my dream to become an academic, but I feel that I might be more interested in a more exciting life, particularly in the media. I have done a bit of television work with NET.TV Indonesia, and it really gives me a rush to participate in news production. I am also trying to learn to sing so I can pursue a career as a dangdut singer and tour around Indonesia. Hahaha. Just kidding (?).

A big thanks to Jane for her time and her support of the Australia-Indonesia cultural canvas. Read all of her submissions for the AIYA Blog here.

Foster your passion for Indonesia with language skills, says career champion Jeffrey Neilson

“When a local Dayak leader started negotiations by laying his sword on the table between us, I decided it was time to leave.”

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. Today we hear from Dr Jeffrey Neilson, researcher and senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.

Tell us a little about your early career. What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

Jeffrey at the Ubud Food Festival in 2016.

I started studying Indonesian at high school in Australia, and first got excited about Indonesia during a field school that my school organised to Bali in 1989. After a few backpacking trips across Sumatra, I then picked up Indonesian language again at university, where I was studying Environmental Science as my main degree.

I participated in semester-long program at Universitas Indonesia in 1994, where we sat in on Indonesian literature classes and did an internship with a World Bank Land Administration project. My first exposure to research was a study on how land administration and titling might affect Dayak communities in the Meratus Mountains of South Kalimantan, who were practicing swidden agriculture.

I decided to stay on in Indonesia after the semester program once I found a job with an environmental consulting firm in Jakarta. It was my language skills that got me this job. I would translate reports and Indonesian laws for the company while developing skills in environmental and social impact assessment. For the next few years, while I completed my degrees in Australia, the company would fly me up to Jakarta to work during university breaks.

Like so many other people I know, I got my first professional job because of my Indonesian language skills.

Tell us about your current occupation.

After graduating, I worked from 1999-2001 on a gold mine in Central Kalimantan. This was a very tense work environment as both the Australian company, who held a Contract of Work with the government, and a community of some 5000 small-scale miners were equally intent to access the ore. It was my role to mediate. When a local Dayak leader started a negotiation meeting by laying his Mandau sword on the table between us, I decided it was time to leave the mine.

I enrolled in a PhD program in geography at the University of Sydney, where I studied livelihoods and the coffee trade in the Toraja region of Sulawesi. This led to an Australian Research Council postdoc and then a lecturing position at the University of Sydney. Again, I believe that my Indonesian experience was a key factor in my employment. I continue to do research on rural development, natural resources and global markets in Indonesia.

In addition to research activities, I also design and develop opportunities for undergraduate students to experience Indonesia through short-term field schools and semester-long learning programs that combine language learning with geography. I am a big believer that language learning should ideally be combined with other disciplinary specific or technical knowledge and skills.

What do you enjoy the most about working in Indonesia?

I love the natural beauty and cultural diversity of Indonesia – in short, the geography of the country. The mountainous regions of Sumatra, Sulawesi and Papua are particularly favourite places. Australia has great beaches (like Indonesia), but we don’t have the same mountainous beauty that Indonesia has, and the mountain peaks are themselves so different from the sweltering coastal plains where most Indonesians live. Fortunately, my work on the Indonesian coffee sector takes me to these same mountainous regions.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of resources?

There are some interesting complementarities between Australia and Indonesia in the food and agricultural sectors. We generally produce food items that the other country doesn’t produce, allowing a robust trade. Indonesia is developing a sophisticated food processing sector, and Australia is benefiting from the supply of raw materials – just think of the Australia wheat used to make Indomie, which is then exported all around the world.

And Australia has one of the most dynamic and innovative specialty coffee sectors in the world. Australian coffee styles are now being adopted in the US, Europe and across Asia (including in Indonesia). Some interesting relationships are now developing between Australian roasters and the many regions of Indonesia that produce high quality Arabica. I’d love to see these complementarities further developed, and to see more Indonesian culinary influence in Australia.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in working in resources?

The only bit of advice I would give is to follow whatever it is you are passionate about. Indonesia offers so many opportunities for young Australians who have language skills, who are willing to learn about the society and culture, and who have a particular passion they would like to follow.

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

Career Champion: language lover Ochie Chandra DeMeulenaere

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. Ochie Chandra DeMeulenaere, a finalist in the tourism/travel category, is this week’s interviewee.

Tell us a little about your career.

I was born and raised in Padang, West Sumatra. I studied English Literature at Andalas University, Padang. At that time, my dream was to work equally to men. My professor, Ibu Diah, taught me lots about feminism and women’s empowerment. I left my hometown after I graduated and started to work in advertising companies in Jakarta.

After a few years of working to deadlines, I applied to become a lecturer at the Bina Nusantara University (BINUS), to teach advertising and English. This was my chance to learn about writing for curriculum, syllabus and teaching plans. I learned about organizing classes and and learned what was effective.

After six years living in Jakarta, I left for Bali and started working at Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in 2010. The next year, my husband Stephen and I founded Cinta Bahasa, an Indonesian language school. Stephen taught me lots about business and my experience working at advertising agencies and university helped a lot in preparing learning materials for the school and organizing almost 200 hundred volunteers for the UWRF.

What brought you to connect with Australia?

We had Australian Studies and Australian events in my university, but that was all. After I moved to Bali, I met more Australians who visited or lived in Bali. They loved Indonesia and they wanted to learn more about Indonesia. They helped me to understand Australia better. Most of our students in the first year Cinta Bahasa was opened were Australians. Some of them started learning from zero and some of them already spoke some Indonesian!

Tell us about your current occupation.

I’m the Co-Founder of Cinta Bahasa Indonesian Language School and from 2010, the Volunteer Coordinator at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and the Ubud Food Festival.

How did you find your current job?

I created my current job. When I first moved to Bali, I was expecting a more integrated community of expats and Indonesians like I have seen in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bandung. My husband and I realized that expats needed a place where they can learn Indonesian language and to communicate and interact better with the locals. We started with just one teacher in an occasionally-rented room in a local college to test our teaching methodologies and our unusual concept of a formal school starting by teaching informal language, and grew from there.

I think we’re successful because most people learn Indonesian language with the goal that they will need to be able to use it. It wasn’t too hard for us to come up with the name for our school, Cinta Bahasa, because we knew that a method that taught people to love (cinta) speaking Indonesian language first was the right method.

We were afraid that institutions would avoid learning with us because they probably only want to be able to speak formal Indonesian with each other, but we were wrong, they also want to be able to speak to people’s hearts and not just their minds, and so we’ve had clients like the US Army and Marines Indonesian language specialists, Australian Consulate in Bali and many other government, embassy and corporate clients.

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

When I visited Australia, I was moved by students and teachers who were learning Indonesian at their school or taking private tuition. Some of them speak some Indonesian and have visited Indonesia at least once. When Cinta Bahasa opened in Ubud, we received many Australian students and some of them have become my good friends. They are kind and generous people, they’ve showed me how important Indonesian culture and language are to them. I really like that Australians, like my Canadian husband, are very practical-minded, down-to-earth and ready to lend a hand and cooperate.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of tourism/travel?

The Indonesian government is trying to attract more and more Australian tourists every year. Many Indonesians are also traveling to Australia just to visit or to study to expand their experience and perception, and improve their skills. There are more and more friendships built between Australians and Indonesian both in here and in Australia. To support this grassroots effort, the Australian Government should make it easier and cheaper for Indonesians to get a visa to enter Australia.

Also, I think Indonesia, or Bali in particular, needs to educate people who work in the tourism sector to make sure that tourists respect the local culture and people, in how they dress in public and their behaviour. Indonesians also need more training on how to deliver a high-quality experience.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in tourism/travel?

For Australians I would recommend they make the effort to learn the language and culture and adjust themselves to living as Indonesians do. Make friends with locals because this is very valuable. Learn to ride a motorcycle in Australia and get licenced before you come to Indonesia. If you ever need to drive or ride on the back of a motorbike, be sure you wear helmet at all times.

For Indonesians I would recommend they also make the effort to learn English and educate and adjust themselves to living as Australians do. I think it’s important to experience living as other people do, rather than to make judgments about it. A lot of Indonesians think that every thing in Australia is expensive, but actually if you pay attention, you will find many ways to reduce the cost of living to the point that it can be affordable for young Indonesians to visit Australia.

What does the future hold?

I’m in this for the long-term, and I will keep trying different things until I’ve found a formula for success. I have visited different parts of Australia and I’m looking for more opportunities to visit the parts I haven’t been to yet, such as Melbourne and Brisbane to meet with students and teachers at schools and universities there. It’s not only about business, I also want to see the area and make friends, so we make time to meet with clubs and catch up with acquaintances and friends.

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

Career Champion: cricket enthusiast Bruce Christie

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. Bruce Christie, a proponent of cricket in Eastern Indonesia, is this week’s interviewee.

Photo: Bruce Christie

Tell us a little about your early career.

I studied Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland, living at International House in St Lucia. I worked in private veterinary practices in Gympie and Caboolture before beginning work with the NSW government in 1982.

I was appointed to the position of Australian Animal Health Advisor with the Eastern Islands Veterinary Services Project, an AusAID/GOI project from 1989 to 1992, and returned as the Project Leader for the second phase from 1995 to 1998. I was based in Kupang, NTT.

I was appointed the NSW Chief Veterinary Officer in 2002 and now hold the position of Deputy Director General Biosecurity and Food Safety within the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

In 1989 I applied for a position with the Eastern Islands Veterinary Services Project (EIVSP). I was successful and moved to Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, for three years. I then returned frequently to Indonesia on short-term assignments for the same project before returning again as team leader in 1995. Following my return to Australia in 1998 I continued to work in Indonesia through projects with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

It was during our second term in Indonesia that I started to teach young Indonesians to play cricket. Working with the Nusa Tenggara Timur Cricket Club, we picked five of the best players to participate in a cricket tour to Bali to challenge the Bali International Cricket Club. To cut a long story short, we lost but were competitive. The group (consisting of Soni Hawoe, Melvin Ndoen, Yeri Rosongna, Bernadus Bena and Zack Awang) went on to become the founding members of Indonesian cricket. Soni, for example, is now General Manager for Persatuan Cricket Indonesia (PCI) and the others are still employed by PCI and the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Since 2014 we’ve had some great success in reinvigorating cricket in NTT. We’ve taught cricket to many children at primary and secondary schools and at universities as well as other young adults. The NTT men’s team recently came third at the Indonesian national games, PON 2016. This was the first time that cricket had been included in PON and the first time an NTT team has won a medal at PON. So unusual was this that the Governor of NTT gave each of the cricketers a house!

I believe that sport provides many opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and socio-economic development and we have already demonstrated proof of this. Our original group are good examples. They all have jobs and families, and they have been to many different countries as a result of playing in or managing cricket teams. They have also passed their knowledge on to another generation of Indonesians who are now paid to play and participate in the management of cricket, all of whom believe in the importance of Australia and Indonesia being friends.

Read more about our plan for cricket in the region on the NTTCC website.

Tell us about your current occupation.

I am the Deputy Director General Biosecurity and Food Safety with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Biosecurity is all about protecting our economy, environment and community from pests, diseases and weeds and food safety is about protecting people from food related illnesses, both of which and are extremely important in both Australia and Indonesia.

I was very lucky to live and work in Indonesia, particularly eastern Indonesia, for over 10 years. During that time I made many friends and hope I was able to help some of the people of Indonesia, by working in my professional capacity with Indonesian government officials and farmers to help develop their livestock production systems and in my private capacity to develop cricket.

I am also very grateful to Indonesia for what I learned while I was there as it has helped me in both my career and life in general. The skills I learned are many and include: learning a new language, learning to see life from different perspectives, to understand what it’s like to be a minority, and to manage projects and to deliver outcomes, sometimes in difficult situations.

Photo: NTTCC website

What do you enjoy the most about working in Indonesia?

My Indonesian friends, the variety of cultures that exist in Indonesia in relative harmony, singing Indonesian love songs at karaoke, Indonesian food, the variety of different environments that exist across Indonesia, the surf, fishing and snorkelling.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in sport?

Sport offers a great way to improve cross cultural awareness between our countries and within each country as well as providing socio-economic benefits to those who participate.

Cricket is an international game, played across the world. This opens up opportunities for players to travel the world and to see how others live. It teaches individuals physical skills that can help to keep both children and adults healthy. It teaches skills that are applicable to life in general, such as living and working within a set of rules that apply to everyone. It teaches respect for the law and the umpire. It teaches teamwork as well as praising individual effort. It teaches respect within a team and between teams. It teaches religious tolerance and it offers the opportunity for raising socio-economic levels within communities.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in working in sport?

If you get the opportunity to travel or live and work in another country, grab it with both hands and make the most of it.

Go with an open mind and heart. Learn what makes us similar but also recognise and learn to understand the differences that exist. Being different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. No one has the answer for everything and there are usually a number of different ways of doing things.

Travel! See as much as you can while you are there and make sure you keep in touch with the friends that you make when you return. Be generous. You are in a very privileged position being able to spend some time in a foreign country. Be respectful of the cultures you visit. Try new things and have fun.

We would like to thank both Bruce and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. You can email Bruce at, and find out more about the Nusa Tenggara Timur Cricket Club at

Career Champion: professional footballer Robbie Gaspar

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. This week’s second interview is with professional footballer Robbie Gaspar.

Tell us a little about your career.

I played professional football for about 14 years throughout Australia, Europe and Asia. Most of my time was spent playing in Indonesia for about seven years. I retired from professional football in early 2013 and decided to head back to university, where I am currently completing a Bachelor of Business majoring in accounting and Indonesian. I also work for the Professional Footballers Australia as a Player Development Manager and as an advisor to FIFPro

Photo: Robbie Gaspar

Asia, which is the World Players Union for professional footballers. My work for FIFPro Asia is mostly Indonesia-, Malaysia- and Singapore-focused.

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

Prior to moving to Indonesia in 2005 to play football, I had never been to Indonesia and never really had much experience with Indonesia. I had a few Indonesian friends but did not know too much about Indonesia in general. Back in 2004 I finished my contract in Malaysia and I was looking for a new club when my coach contacted me and said that a club in Indonesia was keen to sign me. I thought, “Why not? I will give it go,” as I had nothing to lose. I enjoyed my time so much in Indonesia that I left at the end of 2012. I had many offers to leave Indonesia to play elsewhere but I enjoyed my time so much living and playing in Indonesia that I decided to stay put.

Tell us about your current occupation.

I am currently a Player Development Manager with the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and also an Advisor to FIFPro Asia. My experiences and relationships built over the seven years have helped me tremendously with my work with both the PFA and FIFPro Asia. An example is that during my time in Indonesia I learnt how to speak Bahasa Indonesia and this is invaluable when I travel to Indonesia and Malaysia for FIFPro Asia.

How did you find your current job?

The opportunity to work with FIFPro came up in 2013 when the former Chairman of the PFA and FIFPro Asia and current UNI World Athletes Executive Director Brendan Schwab asked whether I would like to help with the restart of the Malaysian Players Union, which had been dormant for the past two years. I jumped at the chance, as I am extremely passionate about and advocating for player’s rights. Within six months the union was back up and running and continuing to go from strength to strength. The reasons why I was successful in getting the position was first and foremost because I am extremely passionate about protecting and advocating for rights of players, and secondly because my experiences in Malaysia and Indonesia and relationships with the players there help me to achieve this.

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

What did I enjoy the most about Indonesia? I enjoyed being able to do something I love in front of massive crowds day in, day out. Indonesians live, eat and breathe football and until you experience it you can’t believe it. What I didn’t enjoy and do not miss is the long travel by either planes or buses. Travelling from one end of Indonesia to

Photo: Robbie Gaspar

another and then having to play and then travel again, and back up three days later in the heat and humidity for another game is not easy.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of sport?

Being a former professional sportsman I am a big advocator of sports diplomacy and it is great to see that the Australian Government released a sports diplomacy strategy in 2015. There is so much potential to build on the bilateral relationship through sport. Australians and Indonesians are so similar that we are both so passionate about our sports. I feel through sports, especially football or soccer, we can build those people-to-people links and maintain and strengthen cultural relations which are so important to the relationship.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in sport?

For Australians, do you research first before you head to Indonesia. Importantly, be humble and respectful and make a conscious effort to try learning the language as soon as you can.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

I loved my time in Indonesia and I am the person I am today due to my experiences there, so I wouldn’t want to change anything.

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

Career Champion: resources specialist Mark Pillsworth

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. This week’s first interviewee is resources specialist Mark Pillsworth.

Tell us a little about your early career.

I left high school early to pursue a small business career, but was not always successful. After my second major failure as a business owner over an eight year period, I decided that I wasn’t very good at business and returned to night school to attain my adult matriculation to gain access to the University of Queensland. I had always had an ambition to be a zoologist or marine biologist and at 22 this was the time to give it a go.

Mark in the Segara Anakan villages meeting with government and village representatives. Photo: Mark Pillsworth

What brought you to connect with Indonesia?

Indonesia was a largely unknown quantity in the 1970s, and stories of journalists being murdered by militia were included in the big stories at that time in Australia. Some talk of holidaying on Bali was emerging, but there was no talk of working there. Having said that, from a marine science perspective, the species associations of the Indo-West Pacific were well known, and when working with CSIRO in Torres Strait, it was a case of “Indo is over there…” My dive buddy and fellow research scientist at CSIRO then went to Ambon to map marine habitat and I visited him in 1991… my first travel to Indonesia.

Tell us about your current occupation.

I have my own consulting company and am registered as a Specialist – Impact Assessment with the EIANZ. My first post-doctoral position was Environmental Manager for the Port of Brisbane (1990 – 1993) and I then performed the Baseline Studies for the relocation of the port from the river wharves to the Fisherman Islands. These studies for a seaport were a first Australia-wide and gave me knowledge and skills which were readily applicable in major coastal infrastructure development and mitigation of impact on an international scale.

With further input to the Segara Anakan Conservation and Development Project in Java (1998–2005), and then working on land reclamation in Segara Anakan with the NGO YSBS, and marrying a girl from Yogyakarta in 2005, my life is between Indonesia and Australia and I call them both my home.

I currently act as environmental advisor to YSBS chairman Father Charlie Burrows as we transform the waterlogged areas in the Segara Anakan Lagoon to productive agricultural land and given food security and wealth to around 16,000 previously very poor villagers. Previous extensive fisheries studies now underpin fisheries conservation in the wetlands that will remain after the final reclamation configuration has been achieved.

Father Charlie, Mark and his wife Lusi meeting with the dusun kepala of Pelindukan. Photo: Mark Pillsworth

Working with such a dynamic personality as Fr Charlie has been a highlight of my professional career, and his close relationship with all people of Segara Anakan and Cilicap in Central Java has proven what can be achieved when the community takes ownership of a project.

How did you find your current job?

I made my own position in a small but highly specialised consultancy where I contracted my past professors who were nearing retirement. The results of combining my commercial and industrial experience with their specialisations led to some spectacular success.

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

I think that the overwhelming aspect is the cultural difference, which are sometimes a lot of fun, and at other times the cause of frustration. But this is always highly rewarding in a professional sense.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of resources?

At this juncture, it is very much an export of Australian science and management systems in near coastal environments to Indonesia – but that situation is rapidly changing. As I have said, we are part of the Indo-West Pacific bioregion and Australia must be thought of as an integral part of the Indonesian archipelago with specific reference to conservation and fisheries management.

What advice would you offer to youth interested in working in resources?

Take any opportunity that comes your way! Do your own research, don’t take unnecessary risks, and make some key affiliations – including with universities. You will be well rewarded for life.

Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?

There is a popular song called “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”, and when coupled with hard work and a thirst for knowledge (and some adventure), such advice can most surely can lead to a very satisfying life. I am at the stage where I am becoming retrospective… and I have few regrets of consequence. Life is a journey that starts with the first step. I doubt if I would do anything differently. What would it achieve?

We would like to thank both Mark and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. If you wish to email Mark, you can do so here: