The Australia-Indonesia relationship is often portrayed as rocky, fragile or on tenterhooks, which shifts attention from the positive and genuine connection between neighbours to more controversial points of conversation. This year’s Information Seminar from AIYA QLD set about trying to change that.
For the past three years in October, the AIYA QLD team has aimed to facilitate an informative yet celebratory discussion of the grassroots links that exist between our two countries, attempting to draw attention to the ways Australians and Indonesians are similar – we are neighbours, with Shared Spaces and Shared Stories.
The recent AIYA QLD Information Seminar at QUT featured engaging speech contributions from three academic and business experts as well as a discussion of pre-seminar survey responses from chapter members regarding their views on the Australia-Indonesia relationship as it stands today. Seminar attendees were treated to a series of well-grounded and inspiring propositions from Dr Andre Pekerti, Mr David Widjaja and Dr Richard Curtis, each examining the cross-country connection from a different angle.
After introducing the evening’s agenda, Edward Goddard, Vice President of AIYA QLD, explained the survey responses from a number of AIYA QLD members on how they, as students, young professionals and representatives of organisations, perceive the affiliation between Australia and Indonesia. Responses stressed, among other things, the importance of maintaining grassroots connections between individuals and the need for awareness about how one individual, perhaps through a student group at university or in the community, can be mightily influential in building a better local ‘neighbourhood’.
The tenets of servant leadership were then on the cards as Dr Andre Pekerti took us through his particular leadership style and what it might take to be a leader, but also a servant, among other Indonesian and Australia enthusiasts. Personally, I took away valuable pieces of advice in terms of identifying the many leaders who already exist within AIYA QLD and beyond, and of becoming better equipped to implement the principles myself. We all have the potential to lead in our own way, and contribute towards a more dynamic and open intercultural dialogue.
Mr David Widjaja proceeded to explain his perspective on the significance of knowing one’s business partner in the context of person-to-person relationships. As the director of DWC International and with extensive business experience across 30 years, Mr Widjaja was well prepared to contribute his personal experiences in working effectively with others in business to achieve goals and make progress as a collective group. Here, he promoted the significance of strong and genuinely respectful relationships between business partners in fashioning greater mutual appreciation at an international level.
To highlight the strong institutional and educational links that exist between universities and student bodies in both countries, the microphone was passed to Dr Richard Curtis of the University of the Sunshine Coast. Dr Curtis has been instrumental in the creation and development of the online resource UniBRIDGE, which facilitates an online exchange of language skills and cultural information via web conferencing.
This section of the seminar focused on youth-to-youth friendships and cooperation between universities like the University of the Sunshine Coast and Charles Darwin University in Australia, and institutions in Indonesia such as Universitas Nusa Cendana in West Timor. Student exchanges and online group portal capabilities are the results of programs such as UniBRIDGE – the point here being that it’s the connection created between students that encourages positive change.
An extremely in-depth question and answer session followed the presentations, featuring many informed queries from the floor (kudos to AIYA QLD members for the reasoned and multi-faceted inquiries!). Everyone was also treated to a unique combination of bakwan, teh botol and (ahem) donuts for refreshments.
Overall, the response from seminar attendees, speakers and survey respondents was one of greater awareness and renewed enthusiasm for promoting the similarities and shared successes of two neighbours. The information like that from Dr Pekerti, Mr Widjaja and Dr Curtis can be instrumental in opening the door to a more informed and positive outlook on how Australians and Indonesians are similar, have common goals and can work together to achieve these mutual aspirations.
Dr Andre Pekerti is a Senior Lecturer in the Strategy Cluster at UQ’s Business School. A naturalized New Zealander and Australian, he is also of Indonesian-Chinese heritage, and grew up in Jakarta, Southern California and Christchurch. Dr Pekerti’s multiculturalism complements his research in international management, and his primary research topics are attributions, cultural intelligence, ethics, family business networks, international careers, n-cultural individuals, and servant leadership.
Mr David Widjaja has almost 30 years’ experience as an international business and management professional with valuable expertise in business development, education, finance, agriculture, IT and property development. Mr Widjaja has well-established business networks in Australia and Asia within both government and private sectors. He has provided strategic advice to Australian private companies and government in the international marketplace.
Dr Richard Curtis lectures in Indonesian language studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Dr Curtis also helps coordinate the annual Intensive In-country Indonesian Language and Cultural Program in Lombok, run by the Regional Universities Indonesian Language Initiative (RUILI) consortium. He also conducts research on contemporary popular culture in Indonesia, and is currently working on lifewriting and poetry translations of disappeared people’s poet Wiji Thukul.