Diversity is resilience: perspectives on tourism and the economy with PPIA Victoria

PPIA Victoria’s special lecture with The Honourable Mr Edwin Hidayat Abdullah, Indonesian Deputy of Energy, Logistics, Metro and Tourism from the Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises, emphasised that diversity is resilience on Friday night.

The mostly Indonesian crowd attentively listened to the 45-minute English language lecture on the range of tourism operations that exist in Indonesia.

Post-event photo opportunities with Mr. Edwin Hidayat Abdullah. Photo credit: PPIA Victoria

The ‘10 new Balis’ project has already been discussed from many perspectives. This time, it was a focus on economics, specifically its role in one in ten world jobs; its projected 14% share of Indonesian GDP; its function in motivating the Indonesian infrastructure boom; and much more. A focus beyond Bali aims to shift 40% of all Indonesia tourist arrivals across Indonesia. This supports Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s Nawacita (‘National Vision’) and develops a robust economy.

Mr Abdullah cogently explained how easy it is to capitalise on the natural beauty of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands through experience tourism. He discussed the diverse work being done to spread word of the wonderful times that can be had on beaches, in resorts, with locals and without cost.

In response to the role of technology to supercharge these efforts, the Ministry has launched an app called Xplorin that creates connections between all the different opportunities already available.

While natural beauty is the draw, it can also be a danger. Recent volcanic eruptions emphasise how Indonesia is at risk of billions of rupiah lost through travel cancelations and empty hotels if this project fails. Strength in diversity is emphasised by the long list of tourism modes being implemented across the archipelago by the Ministry. There will be environmental, luxury, cultural and homestay options, with many more besides.

This is drawing major chains like Paramount to establish themselves in new frontiers like Mandalika. This success champions the Ministry’s track record in clearing road blocks to benefit everyone.

All the projects emphasise the importance of addressing ‘government, business and local interest’. That order seems to suggest the way things have been done in Indonesia for a long time, but there is also the feeling of innovation. The homestay programs and cultural tourism involve the local population without creating over-dependence. My own experience in remote communities makes it clear that this is integral to Indonesia’s long-term success.

Question time focused primarily on two aspects – environment and community. Abdullah Mansoer, President Director of Indonesia Tourism Development Centre, Edi Setiono, Director of Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur and Prambanan, and Haryo Yunianto, Director of Patra Jasa, joined Mr Abdullah onstage. The four individuals answered a variety of questions from the enthusiastic student crowd.

Evelynd from Monash University asked about the intersection between reducing floating plastic and tourism. She suggested that environmental issue is one block to increased tourism. Mr Mansoer responded with a focus on the work being done to involve Bali locals in beach clean-up work. In response to a push to go beyond, there was acknowledgment that these strategies could be more broadly implemented with the right support.

Diski Naim from the Indonesia Diaspora Network asked about the role his members can have to promote Indonesian tourism. He made the point that they uniquely understand both why Indonesia is amazing and how Australians would best understand that. I added the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association would be able to support such an effort even further due to their position in the bilateral relationship.

All the officials present agreed that something must be organised and officially supported to make the most of this impressive people power. This notion provided in-principle support to Mr Naim’s idea that community goes beyond experience branding when getting Indonesia into local minds.

All questions emphasised the importance of a diverse and decentralised system. On the night, Bhineka Ika Tunggul (‘Strength in Diversity’, Indonesia’s national motto) was indeed linked to a robust and capable Indonesia for the future of tourism.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: NCP Scholar and nasi padang enthusiast James Ritchie

Welcome back to Spotlight on an AIYA Member! In this regular series, we talk to a different AIYA Member from either Indonesia or Australia to hear their story. This week, New Colombo Plan Scholar and nasi padang enthusiast James Ritchie answers some questions.

What is your day job?

I am currently a political adviser to a Member of Parliament. I graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Business, as well as studying International Relations and Islamic Finance in Indonesia.

What is your favourite place to visit in Indonesia?

There is no shortage of amazing places but Solo is definitely one of my favourites. The city has an incredible buzz with rich history, strong Javanese culture and it still seems to be relatively unknown compared to its next-door neighbour, Yogyakarta. Nothing struck me more than how polite and friendly the people were.

What is your favourite meal in Indonesia?

Nasi padang – rendang, vegetables and kuah. I love it. It doesn’t count if you don’t use your hands either!

What is your favourite word in Indonesian?

Selow – a word which basically means ‘relax’ but seems to defuse any situation of anxiety or hostility.

What is your favourite film?

Indonesian films are great and increasingly getting better. Initially I started watching films to improve my language skills. The first one I ever watched was Ada Apa Dengan Cinta as it was the only film I found with English subtitles at the time. Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed watching various films which gave me a better understanding about significant historical figures and events in Indonesian history. I think my favourite would be Rudy Habibie about the life of former President Habibie focusing on his time studying in Germany.

How did you first become interested in Indonesia?

I volunteered teaching English at a school during a gap year. Didn’t know a word of Indonesian but I quickly developed a love for the people and country. Since then I have kept coming back to study, intern and holiday.

How did you first get involved with AIYA?

After returning from a stint in Indonesia, a few guys in Tasmania came together to start a small AIYA chapter. When I later returned to Indonesia, I always endeavoured to get involved with the closest chapter to where I was staying.

Any hopes for the bilateral relationship?

Being from Tasmania, I am hopeful and confident that Tasmania can engage more with Indonesia. With less Indonesians than any other state or territory, there is definitely scope to attract more Indonesian students to the state as well as developing business and tourism ties.

What do you like most about AIYA?

It’s a casual way to meet like-minded people and therefore accelerates knowledge transfer about both Australia and Indonesia.

Sum up your experience as an AIYA member in three words.

Fun, engaging, opportunities.

Read more AIYA Member Spotlight interviews here.

How can Indonesia increase the number of women legislators?

By Ella S Prihatini, University of Western Australia

As we enter 2018, the Indonesian public is starting to discuss the country’s next year’s general election. Aside from the predictions on presidential candidates, it is also important to talk about legislative candidates who will represent the people in parliament, as well as women’s representation in the assembly.

Women’s representation in the legislative body is important, not only to balance out the number of males and females in parliament. It is hoped the presence of women legislators will drive women’s interest issues, such as poverty eradication, education parity, and health care, as policy priorities.

Women’s representation in Indonesian state parliament has continuously increased from year to year. When the first election was held in 1955, women only secured 5.06% of the seats. The figure has gradually increased to 11.4% in 1997.

After the end of Suharto’s regime, a number of legal reforms introduced the gender quota system that aimed to increase the electability of women.

Gender quota not effective

However, looking at the experience of three election cycles in 2004, 2009, and 2014, the gender quota that obliges political parties to place at least 30% of women in their candidates list has yet to significantly increase women’s electability.

In 2004, women only managed to secure 11.24% of the seats in parliament. While in the next election, the rate increased into 18.21%. Meanwhile in 2014, women’s representation dropped slightly to 17%.

In general, the number of women legislative candidates from seven competing parties continues to increase. But then why hasn’t this translated to maximum electability for women?

Number 1 on the list

In their book discussing political recruitment Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart offered three levels of analysis: systematic factors, party factors, and individuals.

The Election Law, the political party system, and the country’s legal system are all under the systematic factors. Meanwhile, party factors include ideology and internal party rules regarding nominating women as legislative candidates.

The last factor, the individuals, includes motivation and the candidate’s resources.

I will focus my analysis on how political parties nominate female legislative candidates. We can measure the trend of placing women candidates at the top of the list of parties legislative candidates and the electability of women as the top candidate.

Statistical analysis from election results data shows the majority of elected legislative candidates are those who were at the top of the party’s legislative candidates list.

The graph below displays that list position greatly influenced a candidate’s electability. However, we should note that in the 2014 election candidates listed as number four and so on had a tenfold increase in terms of electability, from 1.6% in 2004 to 16.4%.

Meanwhile, the electability of candidate number one decreases from 73.6% in 2004 to 62.1% in 2014. This happened due to the “open list” system, enacted in 2014. Here, the candidate’s victory is determined only by the number of votes. This system increased the chance for candidates that were nominated under big numbers in the list; a trend that has continued to go up.

How parties nominate female legislative candidates

Analysis on seven political parties that competed in three general elections shows that each party has a different pattern in nominating female candidates.

The graph below shows two Islam-based parties, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), placed women candidates on number one with a contrasting trend.

PPP continuously increased the number of female candidates nominated as number one in the candidate’s list. Out of all parties, they have the highest ratio of women candidates nominated as number one. On the other hand, PKS continuously reduced the number of women candidates under number one.

In the 2014 general election, PPP placed women as number one nominees in 22 electoral districts (out of 77 electoral district coutrywide), meanwhile PKS only had one electoral district with a female nominee as the number one candidate.

Other parties, except for Golkar, have increased their allocation of women candidates nominated under number one. The Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the party of the current president Joko Widodo, had the sharpest increase of nearly 600% in 2014, compared to the 2009 election.

In the 2014 election, it was clear that 90% of the female candidates elected from PPP were those nominated as number one. In other words, a lot of PPP voters supported women candidates placed in the top numbers. Meanwhile in other parties such as Golkar and Democrat, the majority of the female winners are not those nominated as number one, some of them went into the race under number seven, eight, and nine.

This graph maps the success rate of women candidates nominated as number one on candidate lists in the 2009 and 2014 elections. In the 2009 election, the Democrat Party, PDI-P and PKS managed to send 100% of the women candidates listed as number one to parliament.

However, in the next election, the “success rate” dropped for all parties, except the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Awakening Party (PKB). This was caused partly by the open list system that enables all candidates to win regardless of their position on the candidate list.

Another aspect was that there were less women on the top of the list, such as in PKS where a woman was nominated as number one in only one electoral district.

What next?

Learning from the three election cycles, what can parties do to increase the number of women in Indonesia’s parliament? One thing is to continue to place women on the top of the candidate list, although with the open system, candidates placed anywhere on the list can win.

Additionally, some politicians and women’s rights activists have urged political parties to play a bigger role in preparing new women party cadres by providing serious political training for female legislative election candidates.

A survey by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in 2010 indicate that voters would like female candidates to have a number of traits. The qualities that voters look mostly look for are intelligence (35%), not corrupt (26%), and political experience (20%). This shows that to ensure they gain votes, women candidates must increase their value propositions for each of those factors.

The ConversationIn the end, increasing the number of women candidates is important to increase women’s electability in the election. It’s also important for political parties to place women at the top of their candidates list. But more importantly, parties should increase the quality of candidates so voters will be sure to vote for women candidates.


By Ella S Prihatini, PhD student, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wonderful Indonesia: 2018 Snapshot (Tourism Indonesia Press Release)

Indonesia is aiming for 20 million visitors by the end of 2019, with some 2 million expected to come from Australia.

Short-term growth will come from:

1) Ongoing promotion of Bali to repeaters.

2) Introducing new locations in Bali to new and current customers, for example: buzzy Canggu just north of Seminyak; quiet Sanur and Candidasa in the East; and peaceful West Bali National Park.

3) Introducing popular destinations to new customers, for example Yogyakarta, the City of Festivals, in Central Java.

4) Introducing new destinations to both current and new customers, for example Lombok for stunning beaches and a 5-star villa or hotel experience, and Flores and Komodo National Park for those seeking soft adventure, raw nature and panoramic views.

What is in store for 2018?

The Wonderful Indonesia brand will highlight the wonders of Indonesia across 5 themes: Cultural, Natural, Adventure, Sensory and Modern.

The Ministry of Tourism is promoting 10 destinations ready right now: Bali; Lombok in Nusa Tenggara Barat; Yogyakarta, Solo and Semarang in Central Java; Banyuwangi Region, East Java; Jakarta and Bandung City in West Java; the Riau Islands including Batam and Bintan Islands off East Sumatra; the Coral Triangle comprising Wakatobi (South East Sulawesi), Bunaken (North Sulawesi) and Raja Ampat (West Papua); Medan in North Sumatra; and Makassar in Sulawesi.

Trade is invited to explore these destinations at the the Bali & Beyond Travel Fair (BBTF), 26-30 June 2018. BBTF is Indonesia’s major tourism event promoting destinations across the archipelago.

Consumer marketing activity is expected to include digital, electronic, print and out-of-home advertising. PR on national travel programs will highlight next-gen destinations.

Trade marketing will include a mix of sales missions, familiarisation trips and cooperative campaigns.

Enhancing accessibility by air and by sea is the infrastructure priority. Fifteen new airports are being planned, 13 passenger terminals are being renovated and 27 runways are being extended. Port dredging and hydrographic mapping are occurring at key ports to accelerate Indonesia’s participation in the cruise boom.

What’s next?

1) Use the Wonderful Indonesia website (indonesia.travel) as a destination reference.

2) Keep an eye out for the 2018 calendar of events.

3) Familiarise yourself with next-gen Indonesian destinations so you can introduce travellers to the Wonders next door.

This is a press release from Tourism Indonesia.

Australia tries to unlock the benefits of proximity with Indonesia

By Kyle Springer, University of Western Australia

Indonesia is one of Australia’s closest neighbours. But surprisingly the two G20 countries trade and invest very little between each other. In fact, it is difficult to find two G20 neighbours that trade and invest in each other as little as Australia and Indonesia do.

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It is difficult to find two G20 neighbours which trade and invest in each other as little as Australia and Indonesia do. Source: Shutterstock.com

If you look at the numbers, Indonesia ranks as Australia’s 14th largest trade partner and Australia takes 10th place in Indonesia. The value of two-way trade stands at US$8.6 billion.

Compare these numbers to a couple other G20 neighbours in the table below.

Examples of bilateral trade among G20 economies. Source: World Bank World Integrated Trade Solution Analytical Data (2017)

The investment numbers are even more disappointing. The total Australian investment in Indonesia is less than 1% of Australia’s total outbound investment.

These numbers certainly do not reflect Indonesia’s rising economic importance and that it is predicted to become the fourth largest economy by 2050. Even if this prediction, based on a forward-looking report by PwC turns out to be too optimistic, Indonesia’s demographic dividend will still propel Indonesia’s economic growth over the next 25 years.

This narrative justifies a renewed effort on behalf of Australia to try and fix limping economic relations.

More than Indonesia’s investment risk

In July 2017 a group of Australian and Indonesian experts gathered in Perth, organised by the Perth USAsia Centre, to examine the causes behind weak economic relations and what can be done to improve them. In a report outlining their findings, the Perth USAsia Centre’s Working Group on Australia – Indonesia relations observed that both economies might not be complementary. Because of their reliance on natural resource exports Indonesia and Australia are actually competitors rather than collaborators.

In the report, the Working Group recognised Australian companies find it difficult to navigate Indonesia’s business climate. Foreign ownership rules and other regulations render attractive investments unappealing. Unable to withstand higher risk, Australian businesses move on to other opportunities.

But low risk tolerance cannot explain everything. Australian businesses have worked and thrived in complicated business environments elsewhere. Take China for example. With its lack of government transparency, shaky property rights, and bureaucratic corruption, it actually falls rather close to Indonesia on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.

What Australia does have is a narrative China’s economic rise and how it has benefited directly from it. Driven by demand from China, Australia’s mining exports more than tripled within 10 years. This gave Australia’s per capita disposable income a prosperous boost.

Indo-Pacific shared narrative

Rather than perception of risk and uncertainty, the working group explained that Australia simply has yet to see Indonesia as an opportunity.

There is yet a narrative of Indonesia’s rise and what it could mean for Australian businesses. The working group recommended Australia and Indonesia to craft a shared “Indo-Pacific” narrative. Instead of perceiving each other as a threat, they should choose to see each other as an opportunity.

There are signs of change in the way Australia thinks about Indonesia. Australia opened a new consulate in Surabaya in September to focus on commercial engagement and expanding Australia’s diplomatic footprint in the country. Four Australian states have trade and investment representatives based in Jakarta.

The state of Western Australia this year appointed its first minister for Asian Engagement, Bill Johnston. With his portfolio comes a mandate to promote trade, investment, cultural links, and government-to-government ties. Minister Johnston is making his first visit to Indonesia in September.

On the business side, there are plenty of success stories. Interflour Group, an Australian joint venture with Indonesia’s Salim Group built flour mills in South Sulawesi and West Java and supplied them with Australian wheat.

To underscore the proximity advantage that Australia and Indonesia have, it takes a grain ship only nine days to travel from the grain terminal in Western Australia to sail to Makassar and back. A comparable trip to ports in southern China would take about 10 days one way.

IA-CEPA: substantive starting point

Currently under negotiation, the Indonesia – Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), might be a substantive starting point to revive Australia and Indonesia economic relations.

If finalised, the IA-CEPA would be Indonesia’s second substantive bilateral trade and investment deal, after its agreement with Japan went into force in 2008.

Now the IA-CEPA has completed its sixth round of negotiations. Both governments have committed to conclude the agreement before the end of 2017. The working group sees this goal critical to solving the tepid trade and investment climate.

The ConversationIndonesia and Australia find themselves locked together by geography in the midst of the most economically dynamic regions in the world. The choice is simple: work together and prosper or ignore one another and miss out on the benefits their proximity offers. With IA-CEPA and an earnest Australian strategy to engage with Indonesia, it looks like both countries are on the right track.


By Kyle Springer, Program Manager at the Perth USAsia Centre, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

AIYA QLD networking event showcases opportunities for youth and industry professionals

Indonesia’s rapid economic growth is an open opportunity for Australia but this opportunity is often being missed. AIYA QLD’s recent Indonesian Opportunities Networking Event, organised in partnership with the Australia Indonesia Business Council (AIBC) Queensland, showcased the many opportunities available in Indonesia and how Australia and Australians can benefit.

With a population of over 258 million, almost half of which is under 30 years of age, rapidly increasing domestic consumption and increasing investment in economic and social infrastructure, Indonesia is full of opportunities for Australia. With its proximity, specialization in key industries and strong government-to-government relations, Australia is positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities that Indonesia represents.

Members of the AIYA QLD committee. Photo contributed

AIYA QLD’s Indonesian Opportunities Networking Event, showcased this opportunity, featuring talks from experts in their fields, an opportunity to network with Indonesian and Australian young professionals, business people and experts. The occasion was a great success, with over 38 people attended the event at the scenic Bar Pacino in Brisbane CBD. The event was attended by special guests David Widjaja from AIBC Queensland and Ruly Fitrah from the Indonesia Investment Promotion Centre (BKPM) in Sydney.

The speakers for this informative event were: Rebecca Hall (Executive Director, International Education & Training at Trade & Investment Queensland), Dr Emma Baulch (Senior Research Fellow, Digital Media Research Centre at QUT) and Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller (Manager for Indonesian Programs, International Development Unit at UQ).

Members of the AIYA QLD committee with the three speakers and AIBC vice-chairman David Widjaja. Photo contributed

Rebecca opened the talks by emphasising the close relationship between Queensland and Indonesia, and how the increasing number of Indonesians studying in Queensland was an opportunity not just for international education but also for tourism and other industries.

Greta followed on the theme of strong government-to-government relations, speaking on the Indonesian Government’s enduring priority of increasing capacity building and technical expertise, which is a great opportunity for the Australian Government and the private sector to bring Australian technical expertise and knowledge industries to improve Indonesia.

Attendees at the event. Photo contributed

Emma finished the talks by discussing the importance of connecting with Indonesia and Indonesians. She notied the importance of studying the Indonesian language and of connecting with Indonesia through the many programs such as the New Colombo Plan, Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program and other in-country programs.

The dynamic atmosphere of Bar Pacino, Brisbane CBD. Photo contributed

Emma’s message of making connections was taken to heart during the networking time with students, young professionals, business people and experts, who indeed connected and shared ideas. It was great to see such a wide variety of people come together, connect and discuss the opportunities that Indonesia represents.

Inequality harms the health of all Indonesians, not just the poor

By Sudirman Nasir, Universitas Hasanuddin

When we talk about inequality, the victims that commonly come to mind are the poor. But in fact, inequality harms all parts of the society, including the middle and upper class.

Oxfam and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) released early this year a report on inequality, revealing that the gap between the rich and the rest of the population in Indonesia has widened over the last two decades compared to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia. “The four richest men in Indonesia now have more wealth than the poorest 100 million people”, the report stated.

Indonesia’s inequality, measured by the Gini index, increased from 0.30 in 2000 to 0.41 in 2015. The Gini, developed by Italian Corrado Gini in 1912, measures income distribution with a scale of zero to one. Zero means perfect equality and one means all the country’s income is earned by a single person.

The widening inequality in Indonesia will create or worsen public health problems, such as physical and mental illness, as well as increasing acts of violence that impact the whole society.

Injustice is toxic, makes us all unhappy

Inequality is divisive and corrosive for the whole society. Studies have shown various forms of health and social problems are much worse in societies with bigger income differences between rich and poor.

Worse health and social problems means we have more people with physical and mental illness, more people engaging in violence, and a lower level of trust in the community. The situation can lead to drug abuse, more people in jail, and teen pregnancies. It affects children’s well-being, with a higher likelihood of those children scoring lower in maths and literacy, thus reducing their chances of having a better life than their parents.

Recent studies have advocated reducing the gap between rich and poor to reduce such problems. They conclude inequality and injustice are toxic to our health and well-being.

According to Indonesian Health Ministry data from 2013, 6% of Indonesia’s population older than 15 years old, or about 14 million people, suffered anxiety and depression. An estimated 400,000 people have severe mental disorders and 57,000 of them are shackled or have been a victim of shackling. Fortunately, the 2014 Mental Health Law outlaws shackling, but Indonesia needs to make greater efforts beyond the law on paper.

Unfair conditions promote risky behaviour

High levels of inequality can affect how people view themselves in the society. Public health researchers Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, in their seminal 2009 book on inequality, “The Spirit Level”, say greater inequality prompts “status competition” and “status insecurity” among adults and children and across all income groups.

Competition and insecurity breed individual alienation and vulnerabilities like worsening stress and frustration. They promote risk-taking behaviour such as heavy smoking, alcohol dependence and involvement in violence or even suicide.

This man lived shackled in stocks for nine years in a back room in his family’s home in Cianjur in West Java. When he was released, his legs had atrophied from disuse. Andrea Star Reese for Human Rights Watch, CC BY-NC-ND

Evidence shows surprising differences in countries’ well-being with different level of equality. The intentional homicide rate in 2011 in the United States, which has low equality, was 47 people for every million population. Compare the figure with those in more equal countries: 15 in Canada and three in Japan.

The cost of defending ourselves from such social problems is high. We need more money for police, jails and specific public services to tackle the problems, sometimes with high cost but low impact.

The middle and upper classes also suffer in situations of high inequality because of fear, threat and cost related to such problems. Take as an example the fear and anxiety related to the real threats of crimes, from petty ones to violent robbery on our streets. The economic, social and psychological impacts of these crimes are enormous because they can lead to injury, trauma, disability or even death.

Equality is good and possible

A large majority of the whole population — between 90% and 95% – benefits from greater equality, studies show. We, especially the government and the private sector, have to take the recommendations from the Oxfam-INFID report seriously.

A more equal society will benefit us all; we will have a better chance to improve our lives and have more capacity to live and work together. We will have less violence, crime, drug use and suicide in a more equal society.

Newer studies on mental health prescribe equality as part of the cure, and criticise the undue focus on individual solutions to mental illness. Individual treatments like therapies and drugs work well for many individuals, but the studies propose “social solutions” as well. We need to reduce inequality, based on the strong evidence that our mental health is highly sensitive to inequality.

Achieving equality is possible. Healthy public policies can help overcome the intergenerational cycle of inequality, by addressing its various drivers.

The Indonesian government has several options to combat inequality. One option is improving local service delivery in nutrition, sanitation, health, family planning and education, which then provides a better start for the next generation. Others are improving social protection programs such as conditional cash transfers, education subsidies and job training for young people.

We will need more funds to do this, but we can find the money if we tackle corruption and implement a fairer taxation system that forces more taxpayers to pay. The combination of these structural and individual programs can reduce inequality and promote better health and well-being.

The ConversationThe future of Indonesia’s development as a nation depends not merely on superficial economic indicators like economic growth but also on the more meaningful social measures of a more equal and just society.


By Sudirman Nasir, Lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Public Health, Universitas Hasanuddin.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Are Indonesians really not interested in reading?

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School children read books at Palipis beach in Mandar, West Sulawesi. Urwa/Pustaka Bergerak, CC BY-NC-SA

By Lukman Solihin, Research and Development Agency of Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry

It was a sunny day at a public elementary school in a rural area near Yogyakarta. Students lined up to return the books borrowed from Helobook, a non-profit organisation that regularly lends books for free to schools in the province’s outskirts.

The kids looked happy and laughed a lot because this was their opportunity to access new, interesting books and movies.

Their school’s own library collection was mostly made up of books from government aid in 1990s, published by state-owned publisher Balai Pustaka. The books were out of date and there weren’t enough of them.

These students were also disadvantaged by the fact that their nearest book store is 15 kilometres away and the nearest public library is about 20 kilometres away. This is a problem because these students are from low-income families who can’t afford to travel to borrow books.

Are Indonesians interested in reading?

Low rates of interest in reading among Indonesians is something frequently referenced in news reports from media like Kompas, The Jakarta Post and Antara, which quote data supposedly sourced from UNESCO. These stories quote that one in every 1,000 Indonesians has a high interest in reading. But an exploration of UNESCO’s database and a request for this data have both failed to confirm these statistics.

This perception has also been reinforced by officials and public figures, who have raised the same concerns.

Students of public elementary school in Sleman regency, Yogyakarta, look at books brought by literacy community Helobook. Image: Lukman Solihin, author provided

Last year, a Central Connecticut State University study put Indonesia’s literacy rate at 60th out of 61 countries, one above Botswana. Officials and public figures also quote this but the ranking is not about reading interest. It’s about computer access, newspaper circulation, and reading comprehension, among other things.

A National Socio-Economic Survey by Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency showed the country’s TV audience reached 91.5% in 2015 while newspaper readers sat at 13.1%, the lowest point since 1984.

This low rate of reading might not be due to a lack of interest but rather a lack of opportunity to read.

Book access and library condition

Let’s take a look at the data that could serve as a parameter to understand reading interest. First, school library data.

In 147,503 primary schools we only have 90,642 libraries, that’s 61.45%. The percentage shrinks more when we look at the condition. From the total 90,642 libraries, only 28,137 are in good condition (19% of schools, 31% of total libraries). Junior high and high schools have similar situation.

The quantity of village or subdistrict libraries is the same. From 77,095 villages, Indonesia has only 23,281 libraries or about 30%.

The number of book stores is also much lower compared to the vastness of the archipelago. The biggest book store network, Gramedia, has only 100 stores in only a handful of big cities, out of the 514 cities and regencies of Indonesia.

The number of book stores, school and public libraries show how limited the access to books is for many Indonesians. How would people develop some reading interest if access to books is limited?

Library quality and communities of readers

Nurturing reading interest begins with making books available. Unfortunately, the number and condition of school and public libraries are far from adequate. Some school libraries might have a decent building, but the collection is an entirely different matter.

Libraries often serve a dual purpose, such as a storage room or sports hall. One library in Sleman in Yogyakarta, for example, is complete with a ping pong table to indicate its “flexible” function.

The government has instructed schools to allocate budget – increased to 20% of the government school funds in July from previously 5% – for library development and buying textbooks. But most of the funds are spent to buy school textbooks. The result is underdeveloped reading interests among students because of the inadequate book collection; students are bored with outdated books.

Amid this inadequacy, communities of readers in these have proven valuable. These communities open mini libraries in neighbourhoods. One example is the moving library network, Pustaka Bergerak. The growth of these communities is massive and sporadic, as readers reaching out to underrepresented and remote areas.

The government estimated there were over 6,000 mini libraries across the country. Meanwhile, as of August 2017, the Pustaka Bergerak network recorded reaching 312 communities, and counting.

This network has library ponies, libraries on rickshaw, libraries on bicycles, libraries on boats, and even a mobile herbal drinks seller that brings books to lend for free.

Villagers, mostly children, welcome a library pony in Rangkasbitung, Banten province. The volunteer spirit of literacy communities helps develop reading interests in off-the-beaten-track places in Indonesia. Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani/Pustaka Bergerak, CC BY-NC-SA

This movement has had a positive response from the government. After a meeting between literacy activists and President Joko Widodo on May 2 this year, the government, through state postal company PT Pos Indonesia, allowed citizens to send books free of charge to the communities registered in this list on the 17th day every month.

Small in scale but big in spirit

Communities of readers are usually built on the members’ love of books and their aspiration to share. Enthusiasm, idealism and capacity to build network are key to the growth of literacy communities and have less to do with the existence or the absence of government funds.

The network has been facilitated by Community Libraries Forum, initiated by the government. Pustaka Bergerak network has also shown great passion in their social media account, enabled by initiator Nirwan Ahmad Arsuka.

The number of these communities of readers, compared to the geographical and population size of the country, is perhaps minuscule. Nevertheless, this movement deserves an appreciation for its impact: nurture reading interest.

An example of the success of these communities is Pustakaloka Rumah Dunia in Serang, Banten. This community enabled a scavenger’s son to finish higher education, a fried snack seller to become a journalist, and a farmer’s son to become a poet. Their stories are compiled in a book Relawan Dunia (World Volunteers).

Discovering books also changed Muhidin Dahlan’s life. He was a kampung boy in Sulawesi’s remote area, who was curious about books, before he moved to Yogyakarta to become a writer and an activist in Indonesia Boekoe, a community known for its dedication in archive management, book publishing and establishing Radio Buku. His story is written in a book, Aku, Buku, dan Sepotong Sajak Cinta.

Unlike formal education institutions like schools, the success of reader communities is not measured quantitatively, like how many people have their access to books improved, or how large their book collection is. But the lack of impact in this area is dwarfed by their spirit, their effort to share the importance of books and the efforts to help others access books. Literacy, in this case, is not merely about reading materials and knowledge, but also about volunteer spirit.


The ConversationThe author is doing a research on literacy movement by communities in Yogyakarta, in Anthropology Department in Gadjah Mada University.

By Lukman Solihin, Researcher, Research and Development Agency of Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Messages of youth empowerment and inspiration at AIYA Victoria ‘Basa Basi’ event

For today’s youth, the challenges connected to the Australia-Indonesia relationship are plenty. How best to confront these obstacles imposed by sometimes rocky governmental relations?

Luckily, AIYA Victoria recieved valuable input at their recent Basa Basi event from two experts in bilateral relations on the theme Strengths, challenges and opportunities for young people in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Kurniastuti Lestari shares a rundown of these messages of youth empowerment.

Speakers Dr Howard Manns and Dr Made Utari Rimayanti with AIYA Victoria President Sam Shlansky. Photo: Evelynd

Late last month, Basa Basi, as organised by AIYA Victoria, endeavoured to make a strong impression on the attending youth that every young person CAN make a difference to be the solution for their country and to have a significant role in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The speakers for this exciting event included Dr. Howard Manns, a course coordinator and lecturer for the Masters of Applied Linguistics program at Monash University, and Dr Made Utari Rimayanti, a medical professional who is now studying a Masters of Public Health at the University of Melbourne. Attended by university students from both Australia and Indonesia, the three-hour discussion managed to be a helpful and engaging eye opener for the lucky attendees.

Photo: Evelynd

In the discussion, Made encouraged youth to change common habits of complaining to the government and blaming them for slow progress in dealing with problems faced by the country today. He urged them instead to come up with solutions to these problems, as even the smallest actions they make can have an impact. Indonesia in particular has a significant youth population, meaning that if every young person managed to make the most of their potential to be part of the solution, the Indonesian Government’s target to foster a golden generation for Indonesia, and thus make a significant difference to the nation by the year 2045 or beforehand, would be achieved.

Howard stated that young people face many challenges, especially in reaction to social media. Social media on the one hand puts people into contact with a plethora of wonderful and diverse views, but on the other hand can also expose them to phenomena with a more negative influence, indicating a number of drawbacks more evident than ever. In dealing with this, Howard encouraged youth to maintain a positive attitude about the critical issues between the two countries. By maintaining this energy about such topics, they can more effectively take action rather than wasting their time and energy on negative habits, which will not get them any closer to possible solutions.

Photo: Evelynd

The fact is, youth can indeed have a influential role in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia. As one Australian student who had never been to Indonesia and had never learned the language explained, she nevertheless has been introduced to Indonesian cultures by her Indonesian friends undertaking study in Australia. This has made her interested about knowing more about Indonesia, even attracting her to attend the Basa Basi event.

There was an intriguing question from an Indonesian student about whether education (in this case, the study of Indonesian as a subject) can have an important role in the bilateral relationship. Sadly, the number of Australian students studying Bahasa Indonesia at school and university has been decreasing. Howard suggested that this is triggered by the fact that education institutions need to make sure that such programs will at least break even, as it would otherwise be difficult for them to be convinced such programs should continue.

Photo: Evelynd

Howard further explained that one possible solution is to make Indonesia a hot and popular topic in Australia. Yacinta, a lecturer in Indonesian studies at Monash University who also attended the discussion, added that Australia has become one of the most favoured countries chosen by Indonesian students in which to undertake postgraduate study. Therefore, it is expected that Indonesian youth will be able to contribute toward making Indonesia more popular and appealing in the eyes of Australian students, thereby making the latter interested in learning more, especially Indonesia’s languages and cultures.

This will, consequently, help enhance and maintain a good and positive relationship between the two countries.

Read about another recent Victoria-based event about the Aus-Indo relationship here.

Cabang AIYA baru diluncurkan di Indonesia!

Dengar yuk! Sudah ditambah satu cabang lagi dari AIYA, namanya AIYA Eastern Indonesia. Sekarang cabang AIYA di Nusa Tenggara Timor (AIYA NTT) sudah diganti nama menjadi AIYA Eastern Indonesia, dan ada pusat AIYA baru yang dibentuk di kota Makassar, provinsi Sulawesi Selatan. Bagus, kan?

Hari ini kita dengar dari Mentari Rahman, Presiden dari Komite Sulawesi Selatan di Cabang AIYA Indonesia Timor, tentang acara pembentukkan AIYA Eastern Indonesia yang resmi.

Sebagian dari tim AIYA yang berada di Indonesia.

Sebagai lanjutan dari gagasan pembentukan AIYA Eastern Indonesia, pada hari selasa tanggal 25 Juli 2017 di Pusat Bahasa Universitas Hasanuddin, Makassar, AIYA Eastern Indonesia akhirnya terbentuk secara resmi. Organisasi non-pemerintah yang bertujuan untuk menjadi wadah pemuda Australia dan Indonesia ini adalah chapter baru setelah AIYA Jakarta, AIYA Jawa Barat dan AIYA Yogyakarta yang telah terbentuk sebelumnya.

Sedikit spesial dibandingkan dengan chapter yang lain, AIYA Eastern Indonesia chapter Indonesia timur ini memiliki dua komite: komite Sulawesi Selatan yang berpusat di kota Makassar, dan komite Nusa Tenggara Timur yang berpusat di kota Kupang. Uniknya, kedua chapter dikomandoi oleh perempuan: Mentari Rahman sebagai Presiden untuk komite Sulawesi Selatan, dan Claudia Dhaja sebagai Presiden untuk komite Nusa Tenggara Timur.

Mentari Rahman, Claudia Dhaja dan Clarice Campbell (kiri-kanan).

Acara peresmian AIYA Eastern Indonesia ini dihadiri oleh Richard Matthews dari Konsulat Jenderal Australia di Makassar, Prof. Budu dari pihak Universitas Hasanuddin dan Clarice Campbell sebagai Operations Officer (Indonesia) di AIYA National.

Dalam sambutannya, Clarice mengatakan bahwa AIYA menyelenggarakan berbagai acara untuk menghubungkan, menginformasikan dan menginspirasi pemuda Australia dan Indonesia. Organisasi ini juga memfasilitasi berbagai pengalaman budaya dan bahasa melalui networking, language exchange dan kegiatan edukasi lainnya.

Acara peresmian AIYA Eastern Indonesia ini dirangkaikan dengan pembukaan Australia Corner – yang memiliki sebutan lain AussieBanget Corner – yang berada di lantai satu, Pusat Bahasa Universitas Hasanuddin, serta acara workshop IELTS yang dilaksanakan di lantai dua.