Q&A with MasterChef Finalist Jess Liemantara!

Dessert queen and lover of all things sweet, Jess Liemantara was the youngest contestant on this years MasterChef Australia. This week, Jess shares about her MasterChef Journey and the power of connecting people through food!

Photo: Jess Liemantara

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

I was born in Perth Subiaco along with my older brother Jeremy, then we moved down to Melbourne. Both my parents are from Surabaya hence why I speak mostly Bahasa Jawa. My parents opened a restaurant in Perth called, “Taste of Java”, and later reopened another restaurant in Melbourne called, “Foodtopia Fusion Café Restaurant”, in Bayswater which was a fusion of Thai, Malay and Indonesian cuisine. My brother and I both helped my parents in the restaurant, I managed floor operations, till management and barista ring and my brother worked as the chef along with my dad. My mum took on the role as the Boss and inspired my bother and I to purse being entrepreneurs ourselves.

We opened the restaurant for 4 years and decided we all needed to move on to venture new opportunities and skills. I started working at Nobu as a food and beverage attendant in July 2017 and was amazed by the authentic Japanese cuisine and the way the chefs work in the kitchen. Being on the other side as a waitress is much different the level of intensity, and is not as stressful as being the kitchen. The chefs work extremely hard to make sure food is consistent and of high quality.

The opportunity to audition for MasterChef 2018 came along and friends and family pushed me to audition for the show. I didn’t feel fit enough for the opportunity just after not going further in my recent audition for the Great Australian Bake Off. After many nagging and support from family and friends I decided to give it ago. I handed in my application and after a month received an email requesting to schedule in an audition. From then on I was short listed to the top 50 contestants to cook for the three judges. To this day I still cannot believe the amazing journey that got me to that very special day.

What’s life like post-MasterChef?

Gosh I would have to say I had a couple of tough months where I felt out of place and didn’t know where to begin just after being away for so long. Having quit my previous job as a waitress, I wanted to pursue my passion as a chef. I searched for work experience and was lucky enough to do be able to undertake professional experience at the Press club and Omnom. The amount of technique, skill and precision in these two businesses are phenomenal, it was such an amazing experience.

I’m currently working at Omnom sometimes it still surprises me that I am now on the other side of the business having people say “yes Chef”, makes me feel like I’ve achieved that one step closer to a new beginning. I’ve always dreamed of being in the kitchen baking and doing what I love most. But it’s not always funs and daisies, there will be tough days in the kitchen but I am willing to learn and get back up when things don’t go to plan.

Working casually along with taking custom cake orders I’ve realised how much time and energy cooking takes out of you. There are days when I just want to sit and relax but all you can think about is what I have to do next, what needs to be prepared and what if it doesn’t work or I don’t have enough time. There are no regrets, I still love what I do and will continue to pursue my dream of one day supplying my cakes to businesses. Taking it slow and as George said, “don’t climb the mountain to high to come down crumbling”. I am hoping to finish off my cookbook by December 2018.

Photo: Caramel Porcini Mousse Balls with Fried Enoki by Jess Liemantara

Can you tell us a bit about your time on MasterChef? What was your favourite thing about the experience?

My MasterChef journey was one of the hardest things I’ve done. The audition process to get to top 50 was so much fun, scary, but so fun. Cooking for the judges for the first time was even more stressful. After not receiving an apron on the first day I was devastated and didn’t have a lot of faith that I would get in on my second chance cook. The opportunity to cook for the second time was such a blessing I got to show the judges I really do want to fight to the very end. Finally, receiving the apron on the second day was such a life changing experience, until I was in an elimination that week.

It tore me to pieces to think being the youngest in this year’s MasterChef that I was in the very first elimination. I have to fight a little harder to catch up to such amazing cooks. Day after day I’ve learnt so much about cooking and about life. The other MasterChef contestants are amazing and made the journey so fun and memorable.

My favourite thing about my MasterChef experience would be having the opportunity to be in 12 eliminations, 5 pressure tests and 7 normal eliminations. I was able to cook over 50 times, really helping me create my menu and find my style of cooking.

The friendships made with the caring and like-minded souls that love food as much as I do is so surreal. We non-stop talk about food. I can never forget the amazing mentoring from the 3 judges, Matt, Gary and George who continuously work hard to make me a better chef and a cleaner one too. I am so glad to have been in MasterChef 2018, the challenges and the professional chefs we met is just mind blowing I cannot thank the Lord enough for guiding me through this amazing journey.

Photo: Masterchef contestants Jess, Brendan and Reece

How does your/your parents Indonesian background influence or inspire your cooking?

My parents Indonesian background helped so much in times of desperate cooking situations. From marinating with simple ingredients, peanut base sauces and our love for chilli. My dad and Grandma love making Roti isih and I am so glad I was able to make Deep fried sandwich to represent my Indonesian background. As Indonesians, we cook a lot of Thai food due to our past experiences of opening up a restaurant. Watching my dad cook inside the kitchen using just simple ingredients such as mint, lime, chilli, garlic, ginger and other aromats to make beautiful salads and dressing is what got me through my MasterChef journey. My Mum always said to marinate any protein in ginger, lemon and garlic and that’s what helped to get me through.

What are your future culinary hopes/aspirations?

I hope to have my own café one day with a production kitchen and degustation lounge. I’m also hoping to publish my cookbook by December and to hopefully get my brand out there in supplying cafes with the desserts I create. There is not one day where I don’t think about cooking or owning my own café, or even getting my desserts tasted by the public. As they say, the way to success is to dream big and continuously talk your dreams to make them happen.

Photo: Cake created by Jess

What do you love most about Indonesia?

I love how fast businesses grow in Indonesia and the creativity and art put into making a restaurant or attraction so beautiful. I always wonder how fast things pop up, from big new luxurious shopping centres to the never ending beautiful restaurants and cafes that are now booming in Indonesia. Oh and it’s also the best place to shop, I love Mangga 2, Galaxy Mall, Grand Indonesia and Ciputra World.

Any hopes for the Australia-Indonesia relationship/how people can become connected through food?

With such growth in the presence of Indonesian culture here in Melbourne, I’m sure we all meet in the same places whether it is for Ayam penyet, Soto ayam or Bakso, you are bound to see another Indonesian. I think there is such a diversity here in Australia and it’s so great to see so many cuisines and different cultures uniting people food that really brings us all together and grows friendships through sitting down and eating together in your favourite restaurant.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us Jess!

See what Jess has been up to on InstagramFacebook and Twitter. Keep an eye out for more interviews in the coming weeks!

IA-CEPA negotiations conclude – ‘Ayo kita maju bersama’

It has been quite a remarkable week for the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Both governments are showing signed of strengthening their collaborations and we finally saw a big win for the future of business ties.

The Indonesia Australia Business Forum held at the Raffles Hotel, Jakarta on Saturday 1 September 2018 featured some very special guests including Vice President of Indonesia, Dr. H. Jusuf Kalla and the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP. The forum formally announced that negotiations for the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) had concluded. This announcement leaves the documents to undergo a legal process to ensure internal consistency, translation into Indonesian followed by an official signing and ratification by the end of the year.

Morrison made the trip to Jakarta just six days after being sworn in as Prime Minister which had been in the works for several months for former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. The Commonwealth Government made a decision not to cancel the trip citing that Morrison’s commitment to travel to Indonesia shows how important the bilateral relationship is and just how close both countries are.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla addressed the forum at Indonesia Australia Business Forum

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Menulis Untuk Blog AIYA!

Hallo semua anggota dan teman AIYA,

Australia-Indonesia Youth Assocation (AIYA) sedang mencari kontributor baru untuk blog AIYA. Jika kamu berminat dan tertarik dengan hubungan Australia-Indonesia, informasi/ide yang ingin kamu bagikan, inilah kesempatan kamu!

Kami sedang mencari kontributor artkile Bahasa Inggris atau Bahasa Indonesia, dengan berbagai pilihan topik yang menarik, misalnya:

  • Pendidikan
  • Politik
  • Olahraga
  • Kesenian
  • Kebudayaan
  • Bisnis
  • Media
  • Pengalamanmu di Australia

Jika kamu atau teman kamu ingin menulis artikel untuk blog AIYA, silakan menghubungi Lauren Wilkins atau Wella Andany di blog@aiya.org.au atau lauren.wilkins@aiya.org.au.

Bahkan jika kamu tidak yakin apakah artikelmu sesuai dengan blog kami, jangan malu-malu ya!

Informasi lebih lanjut di sini!

Kami tunggu tanggapanmu!

Call for AIYA Blog Contributions!

Hello AIYA members and friends,

The Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) is currently looking for new contributors for the AIYA blog. If you are passionate about the Australia-Indonesia relationship and have something that you would like to share, now is your chance!

We are looking for articles written in both English and Bahasa Indonesia on any topic you like, including:

  • Education
  • Politics
  • Sport
  • Art
  • Culture
  • Business
  • Media
  • Your experiences of Indonesia/Australia

If you or a friend are interested in writing for the blog please feel free to contact Lauren Wilkins or Wella Andany at blog@aiya.org.au or lauren.wilkins@aiya.org.au. Even if you are not sure if the article is suitable for the blog please don’t be shy!

You can find more information about contributing to the blog here!

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Event Report – Jalan Bersama 2018: Celebrating Indonesian Diasporas in Australia

Jalan Bersama 2018, a gathering of Indonesia Diaspora on Sunday, 12 August 2018 held in the Botanic Garden


            Sydney – The annual Indonesian Diaspora Network gathering this year taken place in the Royal Botanical Garden under the theme Melangkah Bersama Merajut Merah Putih. Indonesian Consul General for NSW Heru Hartanto Subolo and Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Yohanes Kristiarto Legowo have inaugurated the event alongside IDN NSW President, Hendra Wijaya. Around 150-200 people attended the event, the atmosphere was merry and rousing with Indonesia attributes such red and white domination colours and batik to be seen. The walk purposely held just a week before Indonesia Independence Day to celebrate the National Day whilst the main aim is to gather the member of IDN as a day to silaturahmi, get to know each other and ties the shared bond.

Inauguration moment of the event, an honour shared between IDN, the Ambassador, and the Consul General

            The event started at 9 AM with an opening speech from IDN NSW President, then the attendees were grouped into smaller troops before starting the 1.6 km route circling Botany Garden. The initial 20-30 minutes walk expanded into an hour walk with many pauses taken for photo sessions and courteous talk between Mr. Subolo, Mr. Legowo and attendees. The windy and chilly morning didn’t seem to affect the mood and enthusiasm of everyone. The familiar Indonesia nuance was spotted easily: a lot of smiles and introductions, jokes to be heard frequently, selfies in every few steps, and national songs sang along the walk. The walk was improvised to Opera House where it wasn’t included in the initial plan, the few first groups cheerfully took photos and waved their Indonesian flags in front of Opera House and soon, few visitors who are familiar with Indonesia cultures joined the group and asked for photos.

A glimpse of the cheerful event featured countless smiles and jokes


  Once everyone got their muscles loosened down, fun activities such as games and flash mob were carried out. Ular Naga, a game played by 20 to 30 people who divided snake children and the dragon children was an effective game to break the ice amongst the groups. Screams and laughs were shared within the short 5 minutes before the flash mob was taken place. Papuan folk song Sajojo, Ende’s original song Gemu Famire, to Indonesian Pop song Lagi Syantik were played and got everyone danced along.

A flash mob lead by Indonesian zumba instructor

            At the end of the event, fundraising for the victims of the Lombok Earthquake and prays were sent as support for the misfortunes. Before the event was ended, PPIA from the University of Sydney grabs the opportunity to share information about their event Nusantawa which hold on September 8th. Nusantawa is a creative event of Indonesian students from USYD, the event which will be presented by duo MC Darto & Danang, stand-up by Gilang Gombloh and Adjis, and performances from Glenn Fredly hoped to reach more people in order to introduce Indonesia show business. All in all, Jalan Bersama this year rekindled the spirit of semangat amongst Indonesian diasporas in Australia.            

AND.M: Socially-responsible fashion handmade in Java

Matilda Morgan grew up in rural Victoria, surrounded by the bright colours and bold patterns of Southeast Asian textiles. Her well-travelled grandmother – an expert in Cambodian ceramics – would return from her adventures laden with beautiful fabrics, which she would then sew into curtains and pillows. Said Matilda (Tillie for short), “Since I was young I’ve had a special fondness for the colours, textures and stories found in traditional fabrics from cultures across the world. So it was always at the back of my mind that I would love to do something with fashion and design, and use these bright colours which, in Australia, you don’t see very often.”

For the last year Tillie has been working non-stop to get her socially-responsible fashion label AND.M off the ground and into the wardrobes of those who favour ethical fashion, bright colours and unique prints, and particularly those with a penchant for batik. AND.M stands for ‘Antara Negara Design’ (Between Countries Design). “AND.M refers to our core mission,” explained Tillie, “which is collaboration between countries and working with people who want to do things fairly and creatively.”

Photo: Matilda Morgan

She decided to start her label after five years of studying International Politics at Melbourne Uni and then International Business and Supply Chain Management at RMIT left her feeling uninspired. At the time her parents were living and working on the island of Nias, West Sumatera, and often travelling around Indonesia. “I was at the stage where I hated uni and I had no idea what I wanted to do even if I did finish it, so I just thought, why don’t I just do this? Why not start something where I can work with the local community and source directly from artists on a collaborative basis? I was on the phone to Mum and Dad one night and I said, ‘I want to start my own company and work in Indonesia!’, and they said, ‘That’s a really good idea!’”

One month later Tillie was in Jogjakarta studying at the Indonesian language centre Wisma Bahasa for three months. She returned to Jogja the following March to find artists, develop supply chains, work with seamstresses, and, as she explained, “very slowly get my ahead around how the local industry works. In the beginning I focused specifically on finding artists making the fabric, because it’s all about the fabric.

It’s all about the fabric. Photo: Matilda Morgan

“I was trying to see what’s actually out there, and thinking about the kind of clothes that Westerners would like to wear. I was lucky – I’ve got family in Sydney who own an art gallery and they’d been exhibiting an artist from Jogja, Jumaadi, and so they put us in contact with him and he put us in contact with his friends and family. I was introduced to a lot of different batik artists, I met some of the biggest batik artists in the world who work with European fashion houses. To Westerners Jogja still remains this hidden place, or they might know a tiny little bit about it. But it’s now officially the International City of Batik! There are hundreds and hundreds of producers throughout Central Java. So that was the first step – finding the artists and getting to know them, and finding out what they would be happy to do from a logistical sense. From the get-go it was always supposed to be a very slow process – getting to know the people from the ground up and going from there.”

Photo: Matilda Morgan

The eventual goal for AND.M is to have the clothing produced in the same location as it is sourced – as Tillie wants to ensure “the local supply and production structure is as local as possible.” Currently most of the fabric is sourced from the Bantul regency of southern Jogja and from Cirebon, which is renowned for its magnificent cloud-like motif megamendung. “The grand plan is, if I source the fabric from Central Java, the items will be produced in Central Java. If I source it from Sumatera, the clothing will be sewn in Sumatera. I’ve also been looking into weaving so I want to go to Lombok and look at the weaving to be used in hats. It’s going to take a lot longer to get to that stage, but I’m determined to do it!”

As her business is still in its early stages, currently all AND.M items are produced in Jogjakarta, by two different seamstress businesses. “There’s one which is run by a teacher and works with students who are all girls, while the other owner is one of those cool old Ibus who really knows the ropes. She’s a trained lawyer, has travelled a lot, and gets items produced in Jogja and in Solo. She’s very cool.”

There are two ranges of the label, AND.M and AND.M Tulis. The former is the more affordable cap (printed batik) range, while the latter is made from the coveted hand-drawn batik. “One thing we’ve found is Westerners aren’t doing anything with this kind of fabric, and many have no idea what batik is anyway. Also, this level of production is rare. You either go in and do a multi-million dollar order with a big factory, or you get one or two things made at the local seamstresses’ around the corner. There’s nothing in-between.” Until now.

Photo: Matilda Morgan

Tillie, who will be completing a Diploma of Dressmaking in Jakarta this year, designs all the items herself. “A lot of it is a take on classic designs that I like. I’ve developed all the designs as a baseline, because a lot of them are quite different to what the seamstresses normally make – so they’re more tailored to fit Western bodies. It’s been a lot of work to get it to a standard of understanding about the sizes and the different fit. Even just the hip placements, and you know, we have shoulders! So this is my baseline that can be built on in the future. I also didn’t want to make them too busy because it’s all about the fabric anyway.”

Continued Tillie, “They’re all unique products – it’s a real sample of what kind of fabrics are out there. There’s only a very limited number of each print. You can feel really special because no one else is going to have that skirt! One thing with the supply chain is, you can’t just ask one person to make another 100 pieces of this fabric because it would take three years! Everything I’ve gone for is quality – from the fabric to developing the relationships – so I understand the product and its entire process. It’s been a very interesting journey for the last year.

Photo: Matilda Morgan

“Once I began my travels in Indonesia, Tillie enthused, “I was stunned by the beauty, complexity and depth of batik and other handmade textiles found throughout the archipelago.

“I am constantly inspired by the artists and the motifs they produce through their innate sense of creativity and views of the world around them.

“AND.M is my way of showing my appreciation of this art form and taking it to an audience that otherwise may not be introduced to it.”

Introduce yourself to AND.M and its kaleidoscopic colour, dizzying diversity and stunning fashion statements at the website, and follow on Facebook here. Instagram: @and.mdesign.

How to apply for a Work and Holiday Visa to Australia

“There was no time to play with my phone in the middle of work…” More and more Indonesian youth have been looking abroad for opportunities to work and live, and Australia is one of their most popular destinations. Oki Mustopa from Kediri, East Java, who recently completed his stay in Sydney on a work and holiday visa (WHV) has shared his tips and insights into the visa application process and how to deal with the challenges involved in living and working in Australia.

The WHV has enabled young people aged 18-30 years to travel and work in Australia for up to one year. The great news is, beginning November 2016, there is an option for holders of a WHV (subclass 462) to apply for ‘a second-year visa’. This article will be focusing on my experience as an Indonesian recipient.

First, I needed to apply for a letter of government support from the Directorate General of Immigration in Indonesia. It was the end of November 2014 when I registered myself on their webpage and three months later they invited me to Jakarta. There was an interview and they verified all documents required. Within 30 days, the Directorate emailed the support letter to me.


To give you a better idea about the process of obtaining the letter, have a look below:

List of WHV requirements. Image: Directorate General of Immigration website

After I got the letter, I lodged my WHV application at the Australian Visa Application Centre (AVAC). I paid about $460 for the visa fee which was followed by a medical check-up as part of the visa requirements. For me, it was a long process to finally get the visa. It took about five months in total! But it was a great relief that in April 2015 the Australian Embassy approved my visa application.

The WHV application process. Image: Directorate General of Immigration

Fast forward six months, I landed at Sydney airport in the chilly spring of 2015. After two years of a stable full-time job in Surabaya, it was such a big transition moving to Australia. I was filled with excitement, yet there was fear and hesitation whether I could survive for one year. I started my first few weeks in a rough situation as I had to deal with a new culture and looking for budget accommodation and a decent job.

By networking with the Indonesian community in Sydney and looking at websites like Gumtree, I began to work casually from one place to the next for several weeks in places like restaurants, warehouses, cafés and as festival staff. I also gained experience as an administrator for a while. After that, I was offered a kitchenhand job in childcare. By the end of spring, I felt more established and eventually enjoyed my life in Sydney. Below I highlight some of best bits of my WHV experiences:

Living in a metropolitan and multicultural city

As a person who was raised in a small village, living in a wonderful and exciting big city like Sydney was a privilege for me. I lived in an eastern suburb close to some of Sydney’s most famous spots like Opera House, Darling Harbour and Bondi Beach. I was also lucky to experience Sydney’s annual firework events on New Year’s Eve and Australia Day. Socially, I met and befriended locals and others from many different countries.

Gaining international work experiences

Besides earning money to make ends meet for daily living, working in Australia made me understand the working environment in a western country. For example, I was required to work effectively as my employer paid my salary on the hour. In other words, there was no time to play with my phone in the middle of work. I hope this will benefit me in my future career.

Improving my (Australian) English

I love learning languages, especially English. I believed that one of best ways to improve my English was to experience it firsthand and WHV was my answer. But Australian English is quite different from the English I had learned for many years (American English) and I found the accent difficult to understand at first. For that reason, I tried to use English in daily conversation especially at work and home.

Working in childcare

I have always been interested in working in education. So when I was offered a kitchenhand job in childcare, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Working in an open kitchen enabled me to observe the interaction between educators and wonderful young learners. There were also opportunities for cultural exchange when I worked there, including by promoting Indonesian foods and teaching some basic Indonesian.

Traveling around Australia

Australia is a really big country and I was glad to travel around for a bit. It was during the end-of-year holiday in 2015 that I took a night train to Melbourne, where I also visited Philip Island to watch the penguin parade. I flew to Queensland to see friends and sightsee around Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, and the Gold Coast. I also did a road-trip to Canberra on the Queen’s Birthday. Moreover, before flying back to Indonesia I managed to visit Perisher in the Australian Snowy Mountains to cap off my WHV journey.

Visit the Australian Department for Immigration and Border Protection website for more information about working in Australia, and check the regularly-updated AIYA Jobs Board for new opportunities.

If you would like to share your WHV experience or have insights you believe would be useful for applicants, send us an email at blog@aiya.org.au.

Australian & Indonesian teens’ quest to build a library in Bali

Teenagers Samara Welbourne of Australia and Tyas Latra of Bali are on a mission: they’re aiming to raise AUD $20,000 by April this year to build a library in Tyas’ village of Bungaya in the eastern Balinese regency of Karangasem. Despite being one of the world’s top holiday destinations, some areas of Bali – particularly in the east – remain relatively impoverished, with some villages still lacking sanitation, electricity, and health and education services. “The young people of the Bungaya village need this library to improve their English and education so they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty,” Samara said.

For the last two years Samara lived in Bali while her mother worked at Puspadi Bali, on the Australian Volunteers International (AVI) program. Puspadi, which helps over 4,000 clients with physical disabilities, runs Bali’s wheelchair program and also makes prosthetic limbs, will be managing the library project. Through its annual Direct Aid Program (DAP), the Australian Consulate-General has supported Puspadi for many years, and also through DAP has contributed $5,000 to the girls’ admirable fundraising endeavours.

Samara has a long history with libraries. When she was just 12-years-old she had her book How to Make Fairy Houses published by Boolarong Press. She gave 10% of the royalties to a children’s hospital and conducted free fairy house making classes at Sunshine Coast Libraries. Her fairy house classes became a viable small business through which she supported local charities. In 2014 Samara was named Sunshine Coast Young Citizen of the Year for her efforts, and her desire to continue her humanitarian work naturally extended to Bali.

Tyas, Sam and Freya, a member of the Sunshine Coast fundraising team. Photo: Samara Welbourne

“If we want peace and sustainability for our future, then we need to do what we can to assist less-fortunate nations, especially Indonesia as it is our closest neighbour. I feel the Australian-Indonesian relationship could be improved more effectively through the efforts of the next generation – Australian and Indonesian – coming together to make a difference,” Samara enthused.

The library was designed by Journeyman International, a platform connecting volunteer architects, designers, engineers and project managers with humanitarian project needs around the world. The library centre includes a small kitchen and bathroom, and a bale (traditional open pavilion). Said Samara of Journeyman International, “They loved our project so much the lead architect flew to Bali to meet us on the library site in the last school holidays.”

Samara is confident she and Tyas, along with Samara’s friends in the Sunshine Coast fundraising team, will have raised $14,000 by the end of March, leaving a shortfall of $6,000. If they’re able to reach their target, Samara will return to Bali with a group of teenagers from the Sunshine Coast to build the library in April. “While living in Bali I was involved in quite a few fundraising projects, such as helping to get a 13-year-old boy whose father had been paralyzed back to school, and also to support some animal refuges. I learnt that the Balinese are a wonderful group of people – gentle, resilient and grateful for what they have in life, and also fun loving!

During her time in Bali the thing that made the biggest impact on Samara was the realisation that, “it is so easy to make a difference – even for a teenager – so this is one of the things that drives me to do more.” Sam wants to spend every school holidays in Bali working on charity projects, but for now her full focus is on the Bungaya library.

For more information and to donate, head to their Go Fund: Me Bali Library page.

High-quality and impressive: the inaugural Australia Indonesia Science Symposium

The inaugural Australia Indonesia Science Symposium (AISS) was held over four days in Canberra late last year at the Shine Dome, home of the Australian Academy of Science (AAS). The symposium was a collaboration between the AAS, the Indonesian Academy of Science (AIPI), the Australian Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Forum, and the Indonesian Young Academy of Sciences (ALMI). It was supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Knowledge Sector Initiative. Members of AIYA ACT attended this exciting new event.

The first and final days of the symposium were open to the public, while the remaining two were private events held specifically for Australian and Indonesian scientists to discuss and collaborate on joint projects and funding opportunities. They comprised three parallel but connected workshops centred around the three specific scientific areas important to both Indonesia and Australia: marine science and climate change, health, and agriculture.

AISS aims

There are already a number of joint science projects between Australia and Indonesia which the symposium aimed to build upon. For example, CSIRO and its Indonesian counterparts have collaborated on research on agriculture, fisheries and forestry for over 40 years. Further, there are currently over 250 partnerships between Indonesian and Australian universities, some of which have been running for over 20 years.

The symposium was developed to enhance scientific cooperation and exchange, and strengthen people-to-people links between the two countries. While research collaboration is one aspect of the relationship, ultimately the research needs to be translated into policy in both countries. One of the aims of AISS was to influence government policy and the public of both countries.

Another aim was to enhance scientific collaboration between the countries through people-to-people links. Dr Nikola Bowden, Chair of the Australian Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Forum, noted she had learnt more about Indonesian culture and society in the past two days than she had ever before. Through these connections, one of the most unexpected things she discovered was that Australian medical research could benefit greatly from Indonesia. As research conducted in Australia is limited to its small population, conducting research in – and in collaboration with – Indonesia would be enhanced as a result of its significant population, while also benefitting communities on a much larger scale.

AISS outcomes  

On the final day, Diastika Rahwidiati, Chief Technical Adviser of Pulse Lab Jakarta, moderated a session on ‘Big data and disruptive technologies’. Through the lens of big data, outcomes of the previous two days were discussed. Most of the ideas involved adopting Australian ideas or technology to improve Indonesian systems.

  • Agriculture and Big Data

The sessions on agriculture looked at combining crowd-sourced ground data (such as data from Indonesian farmers) and data from satellites and drones to monitor disease and trade dynamics. Technology is already used for the monitoring and prediction of rice crop outcomes, so this could be extended to other Indonesian crops. One idea was to use automated image processing for image recognition and classification of hybrid varieties of rice.

Another proposed tool was to use community volunteers, with monetary incentives, to take pictures of commodity prices in local Indonesian markets. By using picture recognition technology, suppliers, farmers and consumers would be better informed about commodity prices which would encourage price stability.

  • Health and Big Data

Big data technologies can also be used for health. For example, social networking analysis of infectious diseases could be used to monitor Indonesian households with tuberculosis and who they’re in contact with.

Another proposal was to redesign the registration process to monitor infectious diseases. In Indonesia, the current registration process is unnecessarily complex and discourages people from completing the required forms. However, by embracing big data technologies, the Indonesian government could benefit from an increase in information which would translate into better policies.

Finally, technology could be used to track diseases with the use of mobility data. By notifying Indonesian provinces and other countries of relevant infectious disease risk factors, this would enable areas to better prepare for such outbreaks.

  • Marine Science, Climate Change and Big Data

Marine science and climate change research would also benefit from big data. For example, to record the health of marine ecosystems in Indonesia, a crowdsourcing idea was proposed where fishermen could take selfies with fish they’ve caught. This would record the species, size and quantity of the fish and measure the impact of fishing in that area. A Tasmanian scientist in the AISS audience noted that Redmap, or Range Extension Database and Mapping Project, is already being harnessed in Tasmania. It uses pictures from members of the public to log changes in marine habitat, which is especially useful for gauging the impacts of climate change. It is possible Indonesia could use similar strategies to monitor small-scale fishing.

Ecosystem tagging was also proposed. Instead of tagging a single species to monitor its geographical location, ecosystem tagging will measure all species within one specific marine area. This would be a more holistic and systematic approach to monitoring the effects of climate change on the entire marine environment.

One of the biggest problems voiced by the scientists at the symposium was the translation of evidence into policy. Rahwidiati noted that big data can be a useful tool in advocating for this translation as it can complement ‘ground truth data’ (for example socio-economic surveys), and is good for identifying the ‘what’ and the ‘where’ of certain community issues. However, for the use of big data to be effective, it must be used in conjunction with a deeper analytical approach to perform the ‘why’ analysis.

What’s next?

Allaster Cox, the First Assistant Secretary of the South-East Asia Maritime Division, DFAT, commented that the AISS is a valuable mechanism to identify the priorities between the two countries, establish more connections between Australia and Indonesia and the implementation of these new ideas at the next stage.

Dr Leonardo Adypurnama Alias Teguh Sambodo, Director of Industry, Tourism and Creative Economy, in the Ministry of National Development and Planning, noted the significant amount of collaboration between Australia and Indonesia, without government intervention. Thus, while both governments should continue to pursue joint projects, non-government collaboration should also be allowed to flourish.

Panellists in the Conversation Wrap-up Session. From left, Dr Nikola Bowden, Professor Jamaluddin Jompa, Dr Leonardo Adypurnama Alias Teguh Sambado, Allaster Cox, Professor Andrew Holmes and Professor Sangot Marzuki with Prodita Sabarni as moderator. Photo: Sophie Hewitt

The AISS was a fantastic and high-quality symposium, and especially impressive considering it was the first of its kind. There is interest not just to continue these symposiums in the future, but to increase their size. Of course, the most important aspect of the conference is to be able to translate scientific evidence into bilateral policy. While both Indonesian and Australian institutions are aware of these challenges, the fact that the senior ministers of both countries, including Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia, were present at the event is a good indication both governments will be proactive in implementing and encouraging the AISS outcomes in the future.

For more information about AISS, head over to the website.

‘You will forever crave more’: NAILA Tertiary Awardee Shanti Omodei-James

The National Australia Indonesia Language Awards (NAILA), now in its second year, encourages youth at a variety of stages in life to hone their Indonesian language skills with a speech competition. This year’s Awards Ceremony was held in Melbourne on 14-15 October and was attended by a number of high-profile guests, including the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia His Excellency Mr Nadjib Riphat Kesoema. We invited Tertiary Awardee Shanti Omodei-James to describe just how she came to present her speech submission at the event.

My relationship with Indonesia is a long and complex one, albeit at times somewhat temperamental. Although there were many frequent trips to Indonesia as a young child, my relationship with the country realistically only began at the age of eight when my mother decided to spend a year in Yogyakarta and bring her two young daughters along. To be quite honest, I am not sure what she was thinking! It is safe to say I had my doubts. I had never been to Java before, could not speak the language and was terrified my friends in Adelaide would somehow forget me. Keep in mind I was eight and not simply being melodramatic.

Shanti presenting at the NAILA Awards Ceremony 2016. Photo: NAILA

It was some 15-odd years later when I nervously recited my speech at the 2016 NAILA awards ceremony. My journey to that point was similar to many others. On a whim I had decided to study Indonesian at university, deciding that learning the language properly was the least I could do for a country and a people who had treated me so well as a young girl. A year and a half after studying Indonesian through Flinders University, I attempted to put my language to the test and participate in an Australian Consortium for ‘In-country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) exchange program. I can safely say this was a shock to the system. I found out very quickly that learning Indonesian in the classroom was no match for people-to-people interaction. My awkward and excessively formal Indonesian got me by for the first two months before a friend asked me to her home town. Two weeks of no English and lots of hand signalling enhanced my Indonesian skills far more than six months in the classroom ever could have.

From that point onward I made a conscious effort to engage with Indonesian people wherever possible. Whether it be on an eight hour train ride across Java, in the middle of a bustling market, or even with my very chummy ojek driver. Upon returning to Adelaide I found it understandably more difficult to interact with Indonesians. I recall spending my time on campus attempting to eavesdrop on conversations in any attempt to hear some Indonesian, often transgressing the lines of normal social interaction. In the end I was fortunate enough to find AIYA. With persistent effort I managed to find myself surrounded by a lovely cohort of Indonesians and fellow Indonesian lovers.

Shanti receiving the Tertiary Award from Ms Julie Barber, Chief Marketing Officer at Allens. Photo: NAILA

Frequent trips to Indonesia had helped to keep my language skills up to par but I craved a new challenge. This was when a friend suggested I apply for NAILA. Winner or not, I thought to myself, what a great chance to refresh my skills and challenge those public speaking skills. Luckily I was able to write about something that I feel quite passionately about, religious pluralism. Having studied this topic extensively in university, I applied for the Tertiary Category and ran with it. When I got down to writing my speech I realised that five minutes would not be enough! I had so much I wanted to say but not enough time to do so. It is amazing how quickly time flies if you feel strongly enough about something. After the last minute scramble to get the video entry submitted in time, I was left waiting, twiddling my thumbs. Then the news came that I had been hoping for.

So there I was, reciting my speech in front a room full of Indonesian language experts, Indonesianists and the Indonesian Ambassador to Austalia. The experience was both daunting and rewarding. The NAILA awards weekend was beyond my highest expectations. I was blown away by all of the other winners, especially those from the primary and high school categories. I sat there smiling and giggling like a little girl as I realised there was a whole community of like-minded Indonesianists. A group of young Australians who, despite Indonesia’s sometimes challenging demeanour, retain a deep love for the country and its people. Of course meeting the fellow awardees and wonderful NAILA volunteers was another great highlight. Over the course of the weekend I came to the realisation that everyone’s journey to Indonesia is a unique one but like an elusive drug, once you get a taste of the crazy, perplexing and outstandingly beautiful country that is Indonesia, you will forever crave more.

I would like to briefly take the chance to thank the brilliant people behind NAILA, in particular Sally Hill. Without this passionate team of volunteers, my experience would not have been possible. The importance of such a competition is vital in the current bilateral climate, with any program supporting Indonesian language learning a big step in encouraging Indonesia-Australia engagement.

2016 NAILA awardees with HE Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, his wife Mrs Nino Nadjib Riphat and Consul-General Ibu Dewi Savitri Wahab. Photo: NAILA

For any future competition participants out there, I would highly encourage you to challenge yourself and enter NAILA. Find a topic you are passionate about and share it with the world. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to create your speech and even more time for the deceptively easy task of submitting the video entry. Keep practicing your Indonesian. For those currently in Indonesia, why not chat with a taxi driver or simply do your best to engage with people on a personal level. Your skills in Indonesia are highly valued, providing you with a diverse range of career opportunities. Most importantly however, your ability to communicate with a person from a different country in their own language allows you to see the world from a different perspective. Your cultural understating will grow, as will your worldview and of course your friendships. Selamat belajar!

Shanti has spent the past four years dividing her time between Indonesia and Australia. While completing her undergraduate degree in Development Studies from the University of Adelaide, she participated in both AIYEP and ACICIS exchanges. She has spent the last year conducting her Honours research with Flinders University on religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue in Indonesia.