Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Historical, Pictorial Accounts of the Development of Jakarta: Book Reviews by Ron Witton

Jakarta, Mon Amour

Scott Merrillees, BATAVIA in Nineteenth Century Photographs (Archipelago Press, 2000); 282 pp: A$ 85 plus postage from

Scott Merrillees, Greetings from JAKARTA: Postcards of a Capital 1900-1950 (Equinox Publishing, 2012); 248 pp; A$ 50 plus postage from; or Rp 495,000 plus postage from

Scott Merrillees, JAKARTA: Portraits of a Capital 1950-1980 (Equinox Publishing, 2015); 159 pp; A$ 50 plus postage from; or Rp 495,000 plus postage from

 “I recently came across three books that trace, pictorially, the history of the development of Jakarta, from the earliest days of photography in the mid-nineteenth century through to 1980:

Browsing through the books brought back a kaleidoscope of memories.

It all began in early 1962 when, as a newly arrived 18-year-old, first year student at Sydney University, I sat down in Fisher Library next to an Asian student. We got talking and about what we were studying and I told him I was studying French and German. He told me his name was Albert Kwee and that he came from Indonesia. He said that although he was of Chinese descent, he did not speak Chinese as his family had lived in Indonesia for many generations and only spoke Indonesian, the national language. Curious, I asked him about the language. He wrote down a few sentences, showing me that it was written perfectly phonetically in Latin script, had a very simple, straightforward grammar in that its verbs did not conjugate and its nouns and adjectives did not decline. For someone who had struggled through high school with the grammatical idiosyncrasies of Latin, German and French, and the intimidating nature of French pronunciation, Indonesian seemed like a breath of fresh air. Soon after, I found that Sydney University had a Department of Indonesian and Malayan Studies. I quickly enrolled, and in so doing determined the course of the rest of my life. Albert became a life-long friend, both of us being best men at our respective weddings. I ended up completing my bachelor, master and doctoral degrees in Indonesian studies, have often lectured on Indonesia, and still work as an Indonesian interpreter and translator.

Half way through my first year studies, I was so taken by Indonesian studies that I decided to buy a ticket on a Lloyd Triestino passenger liner to see the country for myself. This is how, in December 1962, I caught my first glimpse of Indonesia from the deck of a ship as it sailed into Tanjung Priok, Jakarta’s harbour. I still have the letters I wrote home to my family and upon reading them now, I am transported back. In the distance behind the city, there were mountains and on the wharf below, I could see Albert’s family holding up a sign saying “Kwee” so that I could recognise them. As they drove me to their home, I was overwhelmed by the stifling heat and humidity, the kaleidoscopic impression of becaks (trishaws), cars, army lorries, buses, street vendors, people, people and people. They drove me to their suburban house on Jalan Mangga Besar Raya in Kota, the north district of the city.

In 1962 in the front yard of the Kwee family home on Jalan Mangga Besar Raya

Jalan Mangga Besar Raya was a wonderful introduction to Indonesian urban life. There was the constant “tok-tok” of bamboo sticks and “clang-clang” of metal bells coming from the street as a steady stream of vendors walked, peddled and rode past the front gate selling a multitude of products, ranging from every conceivable type of food delicacy to every household good one might possibly want. Up the street was Prinsen Park to which families thronged to enjoy the rides, performances and recreational facilities that had existed since colonial times. At the other end of the street were the major thoroughfares of Jalan Hayam Wuruk and Jalan Gajah Mada, which were then still rather grand tree-lined boulevards.

I soon became immersed in the Jakarta of the early sixties. The Kwee family drove me around the city to see the newly built monuments to Sukarno’s vision of a modern Indonesia: Sarinah, Jakarta’s first department store (still under construction), the new Japanese-built Hotel Indonesia, and the new Russian-built Senayan sports complex for the Asian Games with the Gelora Bung Karno stadium.
En route to the south of the city to see the newly established satellite residential district of Kebayoran Baru they drove me over the new Swedish-built Semanggi (meaning “Cloverleaf”) Bridge:

As Scott Merrillees comments: “In this post card we are looking across a recently completed and still very dusty Semanggi with the new Senayan stadium in the distance.”

I recall that driving south to Kebayoran Baru I could still see rice fields on either side of the road south from the city.

It is only now that I realise I had a very privileged experience of a world that was soon to change for ever. The city has grown from around 3 million when I arrived in 1962 to the current largely unmanageable population of over 10 million, and continues to grow inexorably. The Kwee’s house on Jalan Mangga Besar Raya is now long gone and the suburban atmosphere I experienced there has been replaced by hotels, nightclubs, brothels and shopping malls. Becaks and many other aspects of 1962 life have disappeared from Jakarta’s streets. I was still able to see many beautiful buildings from the colonial era, such as the charming Hotel des Indes, which had already been renamed Hotel Duta.

However, the hotel, like many other such historic buildings, was soon to be demolished to make way for a mall. There is much that has changed. One no longer sees mountains to the south of Jakarta as the pollution has drastically restricted visibility. One can no longer swim on the beach at Cilincing, near Tanjung Priok:

...and the rice fields I saw en route to Kebayoran Baru are long gone.

I made two more visits to Jakarta in the 1960s, the second in late 1964 when I landed at Kemayoran, Jakarta’s former airport in the city’s east.

Over the decades since then, I have made many more visits. Each time I have seen profound changes to the city, though underneath it all there is the old Jakarta I first experienced in 1962.

The three volumes by Scott Merrillees document, with a multitude of striking photos and postcards, lucidly discussed and contextualised, the way this city has changed from its earliest days as Batavia, Holland’s grand colonial outpost, to Jakarta, the modern city of today. The images accompanying this review are but a small taste of the fascinating sights captured in his three volumes. His commentary on each of the photos and postcards often draws one’s attention to details and features that would otherwise remain unnoticed. He also often links the image to his maps and to other images so that they become in effect a mosaic reflecting the city as a whole.

I am sure that for many who have ever lived in the city, one’s first inclination is to use the excellent indexes and maps in each volume to locate familiar places, relive the experience of having been there at a particular period, and to learn how they have changed over time. For example, I quickly found images of Mangga Besar, in colonial days named Prinsenlaan, and was amazed that the busy, crowded street of my memories had in former times been a quiet, grand tree-lined road:

I could even find an image of Prinsen Park, the amusement park down the road from the Kwee family home, whose name of course commemorates Mangga Besar’s colonial name of Prinsenlaan:

Prinsen Park was then re-named to become “Lokasari” before finally succumbing to Mangga Besar’s less than family-friendly atmosphere of today. As has been the fate of many a Jakarta landmark, Lokasari was demolished to make way for yet another of Jakarta’s many malls.

The books have allowed me, through its images and maps, to explore where I have lived in later years, including Jalan Raya Radio Dalam in Kebayoran Baru and Jalan Yusuf Adiwinata in Menteng. There is also the enjoyment of looking at the changes in the locations of familiar institutions, such as the Australian Embassy’s former location on Jalan Thamrin before it was moved to Kuningan. I still recall that the embassy, located on the west side of Jalan Thamrin, also had offices on the east side. Due to the heavy, and for those on foot, life-threatening traffic of Jalan Thamrin, embassy regulations required diplomats and staff, if they wanted to go from the main building to the offices across the road, to take an embassy car north on Jalan Thamrin to a roundabout located some distance and then back south so as to enter the building on the east side. To return to the embassy, required a lengthy and often time-consuming trip south to the nearest roundabout. However, it became a badge of courage for some (Australian males, of course) to defy regulations and to cross Thamrin on foot and at speed. Particular honours were accorded those who managed to do it without stopping en route.

I might mention that on a recent visit to Cuba I met some Indonesians, now in their eighties, who had been studying in communist countries in 1965 when Indonesia’s military took over Indonesia. The Suharto government forthwith cancelled the citizenship of such students abroad under the generally wrong assumption they were all communist. Some of the students gravitated to Cuba where they began new lives. One of them told me that in 2000 President Abdurrahman Wahid restored their citizenship and apologised to them for their enforced exile. One of the exiled students I met in Cuba said that in 2008 he returned to Jakarta for the first time since 1964. He said the Jakarta he encountered was thoroughly bewildering and he could not deal with the large, noisy and overwhelming metropolis he encountered. He said he was happy to return to Havana with its old cars, its quiet streets, its clean air and, in his words, its “liveability”. He said that he believed that his life in Havana had allowed him to live in a kind of Jakarta frozen in time.

I defy anyone who has ever lived or even visited Jakarta not to lose themselves in memories as they gaze at this treasure of post cards, photographs, maps and images. Indeed, it is the sort of treatment many other major cities of the world deserve.

Ron Witton

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Easier visas for Indonesians will help save our budget; and regional security.

As the resources boom continues to deteriorate, our Federal Government is looking for other sources to boost the struggling Australian economy. At the same time, our government is struggling to ensure our region remains safe at a time of increased threats of terrorism.

Although these issues may not be directly related, a long overdue announcement by our Border Force Minister Peter Dutton, from Jakarta during the PM’s visit recently, may help both these challenges faced by our state and federal governments.

As from 2017 Indonesian nationals wanting to visit Australia will have the visa application process simplified with a view to attracting more tourists from this emerging giant and home to 255 million people. There is enormous potential when we consider the tourist arrival figures into Australia for the year ending May 2014 from three neighbouring South East Asian nations:

· Singapore: 175,000

· Malaysia:   137,000

· Indonesia:    55,180

The above figures are disturbing. Our nearest neighbour, with a booming middle-class and 95 million young people, all located only a few hours away, and we can only attract less than 60,000 to come and see our wonderful country. And we wonder why most airlines battle to maintain direct flights services between Jakarta and Australian cities?

So why have we failed so badly to access the Indonesian market given that they do travel a lot; with 2.5 million Indonesians going to Malaysia last year and over two million flying into Singapore?

Apart from our lack of commitment to seriously promote Australia within Indonesia, another major deterrent is the process Indonesians face when considering a holiday here: No online visa applications allowed (yet we allow other South-East Asian nations to apply electronically), over 15 pages of forms and a $520.00 non-refundable fee just to obtain a visa for a family of four.

Why bother, when Indonesians can simply fly north without any of this red tape?

The Indonesia Institute has lobbied extensively to have the inbound tourist visa process made simpler and easier, but often we are told that an ‘easier’ visa system may encourage Indonesians to overstay once here. Yet Indonesian nationals who do come to Australia, including tourists, students and business people, have amongst the best record of any country in the world for visa compliance in Australia. So what mindset makes us actively discourage the growth of this market at such a critical time for our economy?

Fortunately with the ascension of Malcolm Turnbull as PM, relations with Indonesia have taken a sudden turn for the better. And Mr Dutton’s Jakarta announcement last month will now see Indonesians at least have access to online visas as from next year and the option of a multiple-entry visa. This is a good start, but the fees and the amount of paperwork should also be halved.

In the face of calls for tighter border controls, an announcement such as this was kept relatively low key. But the impact of this decision, combined with the recent decision to increase tourism promotion and staff in Indonesia, could see this market treble within the next two years and become a tsunami of free-spending middle-class Indonesians over the next ten years; all pumping much needed dollars into Australia’s services and hospitality sector.

The likelihood of Indonesia now removing the Visa-on-Arrival for our holidaymakers heading off to Bali will now be much higher, saving Australians $50 million every year.

But this quiet announcement of easier visa requirements for Indonesian tourists, achieves another important goal; bringing the people of our two nations closer.

At a national level, more Indonesians visiting us, means a better understanding of each other’s culture. With Australians still viewing Indonesia with great suspicion and alongside Egypt and Russia in terms of trust, there is much to be done to correct these warped perceptions.

More importantly for Australia though, is the threat of terrorism from Islamic Jihadists within our region. Indonesia may be the home to the largest population of Muslims in world, but it is also home to ‘real’ Muslims who overwhelmingly embrace the true meaning of Islam and who detest Islamic State who seek to inflict terror on not only Australia, but Indonesia itself.

Indonesia must play a critical role if Australia is to thwart the menace of IS. Our Federal Police have already developed close relations with their Indonesian counterparts since the 2002 Bali bombings, and our anti-terrorist agencies work closely in sharing information concerning terrorist cells and centres that have established themselves throughout the archipelago.

Only last month Bapak A. Mustufa Bisri, the Indonesian spiritual leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) – who has 50 million Muslim members – rejected the whole basis of IS adding, “..every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion..and foster the perfection of human nature..”

If we are to be successful in keeping our respective nations safe, Indonesia and Australia must not only work closely together, but also rebuild the trust that has been lost during the difficulties of the past few years. Indonesia can be a strong voice in our campaign to discredit ISIS amongst our own Muslim communities.

Opening-up opportunities for our respective citizens – including our young people – to travel more freely and easily around our two great countries, will go a long way to correcting the outdated dogma that currently exists.

Indonesia can therefore help our nation in building a strong inbound tourist market that can provide jobs - and the need for Asian language skills - and it can also contribute significantly to making our region a safer place.

Ross Taylor AM is the President of the WA-based Indonesia Institute Inc
December 2015
This article was originally published in The West Australian newspaper on 21st December 2015.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Migration - Australia vs Indonesia by Mary Hutchins

A good friend of mine recently complained about how much money she spent on sponsoring her Australian husband to live in Indonesia. However regardless the money she said, the time and energy she put on meeting the right people in the Immigration department, preparing all the documents and waiting for the decision were overwhelming. I also remembered my time 12 years ago, going through that sponsorship situation with my husband with the Australian Immigration. It was a tedious situation, where you had to fight to prove that your foreign partner has the right to live in your country so that you can be together. 

Australia recognises different ways for foreigners to live in Australia and enjoy the Australian soil and benefits. Most common ways I believe, apart from Refugee Visa; 
Spouse and Family Sponsored Visa – this visa is obviously for those whose partner is an Australian Permanent Residence (PR) or Australian citizen wishing to sponsor their foreign partner to live in Australia. A Family Sponsored Visa is for Australian PR or citizen wishing to sponsor their immediate family member like their child(ren) or their mum and dad to live in Australia.

Work Visa – this visa is for those wishing to live in Australia using their skill or expertise. This is either through an employer sponsored visa, where you find an eligible Australian business or company that is willing to employ and sponsor you to live in Australia (popular with 457 Visa or a foreign student studying in Australia employed by an Australian company), or a Skilled Migration Visa where you possess certain skills listed in the Australian Skill Select List issued by Immigration.

Business Visa – this visa allows foreign investors that invest in Australia to apply for their permanent residency, e.g opening a restaurant or establishing a business in Australia. Apparently Australia was ranked no. 3 for the easiest country for investing a business.  

All terms and conditions for these visas and all other opportunities to live in Australia are very well written in Australian immigration website, I found the website is very informative. Based on my experience applying for a Student Visa and then changing it to a Spouse Sponsored Visa, I found the Australian bureaucratic process pretty straight forward. As long as you tick all boxes and supply all requested paperwork, your application will most likely be approved. In my opinion, Australia is quite open and very reasonable with foreigners wanting to live here.   

Indonesia, on the other hand, has always been well known as an “exclusive” country. The old Law No 62/1958 clearly stipulates that Indonesian citizenship follows parental blood line and in this regards, paternal (father) line. A baby from a foreign citizen will not automatically become Indonesian, just because he/she were born in Indonesia. Indonesia is not as open as Australia and they’re extremely strict about living and working in Indonesia. However the good news is, Indonesia has come a long way since that old 1958 law. For a start, in 2006 through Law 12/2006 regarding Indonesian Nationality (which replaced UU 2/1958), child(ren) below 18 years old that come from mixed marriages will automatically be granted Indonesian citizenship. They are allowed to hold dual citizenship until they are 18 years of age, then they must choose. Even so, that law gives lots of privileges and concessions for those adult children who choose to give up their Indonesian citizenship. They can easily apply for ITAS (Semi Permanent Resident Visa) and ITAP (Permanent Resident Visa) and, they are allowed to work in Indonesia (without a company sponsorship) however, I would receive consultation regarding this clause with Indonesian Immigration.

In regards to applying for Indonesian citizenship, both UU 62/1958 and UU 12/2006 ask the foreign applicant to live in Indonesia 5 years continuously or 10 years not continually, which I believe is a long time. So how about foreign partners from mixed marriages? Considering Indonesia respects the paternal side of the blood line, must a foreign man that married an Indonesian woman live in Indonesia for 5 years or 10 years? Rest assured, the answer is No.  Law No. 6/2011 re. Immigration states that your Indonesian wife or husband can sponsor you to live in Indonesia by applying for ITAS for 2 years which can then be extended. If you have been married for 2 years or more or if you have been living in Indonesia for at least 3 years, you can then apply for ITAP which is valid for 5 years and can be extended for an unidentified time. More good news is, Law 6/2011 also states that the foreign spouse that holds ITAS or ITAP sponsored by their Indonesian spa use is allowed to work in Indonesia. However, I would be very careful with that clause, as Indonesia is well known to be extremely strict about foreigners wanting to work there. If you are a ITAS or ITAP holder sponsored by your Indonesian spouse and you intend to work in Indonesia, I would personally be seeking consultation with the Department of Manpower and Immigration.

As you can see Indonesia has come a long way to support foreigners wanting to live in Indonesia, either temporary as an expatriate worker or to support their business/investment in Indonesia or permanently due to a family or marriage relationship. Government Regulation No 31/2013 regarding the stipulation of UU 6/2011 regarding Immigration Law states that a Visitor Visa now also allows you to conduct a short business trip or activities such as attending business meetings, attending conferences or training or conducting feasibility studies for your future investment in Indonesia, or even for prospective foreign workers conducting a field test before commencing their contract work. This Visitor Visa can be the Visitor Visa on Arrival (30 days and can be extended for another 30 days) or a Short Visit Visa (30 days non extendable) or Multiple Visit Visa (valid for a year non extendable and cannot be more than 60 days). This is a milestone from what a visitor visa was intended to be used for previously: strictly no business could be conducted.  

Last but not least on 24th June 2015, in the Business Indonesia newspaper front page, President Joko Widodo blesses Foreign Ownership on Property in Indonesia. The regulation is still under revision in the House of Representatives but is expected to be legalised by next year. Rumours suggest that Foreigners will be able to own property in Indonesia. The title might still be called Right of Use (Hak Pakai, or now they called it Hak Guna Pakai) but instead will have 25 years of rights. Under this new draft, this Right of Use can be for an unidentified time (seumur hidup) and can be inherited. However, rumour also suggests that the government will set a minimum price of Rp. 5 billion on the property. Still, there is another door opened.

Well I must say that I am very proud of Indonesia for coming a long way and its willingness to change to open more doors to foreign investment.  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Remembering your why: Let's keep the conversation rolling.

"Kangen...Everyday he cries...Mummy I miss you, kangen!" Sri tells me as I ask if she has spoken to her son.  Mother-to-mother, my heart sinks and feels for this woman not much younger than myself who has left her two-year-old child in the care of her own mother in Sulawesi, while she travelled to another island in the vast archipelago for work that would provide enough for herself, family and small child.  Even as I think about it as I write, my heart feels for her and tears well.  I think about her beautiful smile and the heart ache I could see as she told me about the 'bad husband' that left her with a small child to support, as she told me about the back-breaking work that rice planting is, with such little pay.  As we mix English, Indonesian and often a few charades, I listen to her story, I am struck yet again with the opportunities that I, as an Australian woman have compared to Sri born in a poorer part of our neighbouring country Indonesia.

Sadly, Sri's is not the first story that I, like many of you I am sure have heard like this but it is in the meeting with and listening to the stories of men and women while I have been on holiday that sparked my interest in the country, it's people, the language and my desire to make a difference.

It was second time that I travelled to this mystical holiday island of Bali to which I had related to as a place where my rich friends went, enjoyed sitting by the pool and haggling for cheap goods that I started to realise that there was so much more to this country of Indonesia than the holiday isle.  My children were about the ages of seven and three and I sat in the foyer of my hotel chatting with one of the staff.  As we chatted I asked her about if she lived close, if she had family... she was from East Java, and she had a child, the same age as my youngest, she also had had a 'bad husband' and her child was in the care of her mother in East Java.

Ignorant to expense of travelling and the typicalness of this situation, I asked "Do you get to see him often?"  She looked at the floor, "No, maybe every three months, sometimes not, it depends if I have enough money."  I was shocked, I couldn't imagine not seeing my children for such a long period of time.  She and I sat there and where language had failed us, the tears in both of our eyes said more than words ever could.

Fast forward a few years, I had learned a bit of language and at my Balinese friend's suggestion I found myself wandering a village teaching English in a little school and having daily long-winded chats with an older gentleman on the concrete platform that was the local bemo stop - the phrase "O begitu!" served me very well.   The little school is one of but a few which also takes in children with disabilities.  I remember a couple coming one day with their child who had club feet, and watching them explain the the principal with great desperation and hope in their eyes for a chance for their child to attend the school.  I remember learning that they had come very far.

But nothing had prepared me for the day a young girl maybe about the age of eleven or twelve came aided by her mother, she had polio.  One of my friend's mothers had had polio in Australia whilst I was growing up, she constantly had to wear a brace and I knew quite alot about the disease and am ever so grateful for vaccinations which makes the disease effectively non-existent in my generation. To now see a child with this completely preventable disease was heart-breaking. I found myself asking 'How can this be happening in my neighbouring country, where so many of us come to holiday?'  Her mother one day had stopped me to tell me about her daughter and her prospects - another moment that urged me on to continue to connect our neighbouring countries above and beyond  the relationship Australia has with Bali as a holiday destination.

So why bring this up? Well, because from time to time I get busy, and bogged down in all of the work to be done, all of the emails, documents and politics that so often go along with getting things done that I become disillusioned and forget why I started this 'Let's connect our countries and work together' business and I have to stop and remind myself of these among other moments, of the people. I wonder if others get like me and forget why and for whom they started.  Everyone's story is different, do you have a moment?  If you'd like to share please do in the comments, what spurs you on?  And if you've got a little bogged-down like I have lately, I hope this has helped you remember your why.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the blog with a varied selection of readings and opinion for your viewing and thought.  We thank those of you who have submitted or recommended articles for publication.  Keep them coming, let's keep the conversation rolling... on that note, we encourage you to comment with your thoughts and opinions, the bigger the conversation, the bigger the difference we can make.

Sampai kali depan,


Something important to note:

There's been some talk in the media lately about having a limited number of Visa on Arrivals into Indonesia.  Our president Ross Taylor has spoken to the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, Pak Nadjib who has confirmed that there is no change to the VOA for Australians at present and that the standard USD$35.00 will continue to apply and Australians can travel to Bali, using VOA as many times as they like.

We are continuing to lobby hard to have the visas for Indonesians touring to Australia changed, which is currently set at AUD $130.00 per person, with no online application process.  Hardly seems fair does it?


Setting the Scene: The Japanese Occupation Excerpt from the newly published Revolution City of Heroes: A Memoir of the Battle that Sparked Indonesia's National Revolution by Suhario Padmodiwiryo translated by Francis Palmos.

Connection Opportunity

Can a Kangaroo make Friends with a Komodo? by Lauren Gumbs.  Check out the Australia Awards CAFE program!  Life-time Aus-Indo friendships and connections... if you are reading this, it could very well be a fit for you!

Panel Discussion (Video 45min)

A Man and a Myth: Jokowi's First Year in Power Liam Gammon leads a panel discussion on the highs and lows of Joko Widodos first 12 months via New Mandela (November 2015).

In the News and Opinion

These 'people smugglers' need an apology from all of us by Ross Taylor (October 2015).

Public Ignorance key to Indo-Aus Tensions by Rebecca Le May.  Rebecca writes from the recent visit of Professor Tim Lindsey in Perth (October 2015).

Indonesian Human Rights: Greater Protections since Reformasi? by Jack Buckley (October 2015).

Indonesia is burning.  So why is the world looking away?  by George Monbiot via The Guardian (October 2015).

Is Jokowi Nostalgic for the Good Ol' Days of Suharto? by Johannes Nugruho via The Jakarta Globe (October 2015).

Diagnosing Asia's Australian Problem by Melissa Conley Tyler via The Interpreter (October 2015).

Are vested interests always lurking behind Indonesian policymaking? by Matthew Busch via Indonesia at Melbourne (October 2015).

Can a Kangaroo make Friends with a Komodo?

By Lauren Gumbs

It’s a question as old as time and one that Australia is continually asking itself.

Ok maybe we don’t all think in dramatic metaphors, but Australia and Indonesia do have a longstanding tradition of questioning where they stand with one another, each new ‘issue’ manifesting in the media as an existential threat to a forced relationship made necessary by geographical proximity and critical sovereignty.

Yet, Indonesia has been touted as Australia’s most important regional neighbour, despite polls suggesting Australians rate Indonesians pretty low.

It’s not one-sided though, Aussies often get a bad rap in Indonesian polls too.

Yet, for those of us who have been on the ground and engaged with each other’s countries and culture, we know the story is a different one – Indonesians and Australians do make good friends and there is vast potential to help get our countries on better terms.

If you have an interest in Indonesia or just want to break down some barriers, the Australia Awards CAFÉ Program presents a clever way to reach out and do your bit for Aus-Indo relations.

A coffee today, lasting ties and advancement of economic and social interests tomorrow.
But we’re not saving the world; it’s easy and fun – participants are matched with an Indonesian postgrad or PHD studying in Australia.

Your only obligations are to meet up informally at least four or five times in the year – for coffee, dinner at your place with the family, the cricket or a show, and a visit to your workplace.
You just might strike up a lifelong friendship; or at least get an invitation to venture out of Bali next time you plan a trip to the archipelago.

Imagine if you had an Indonesian counterpart that provided an equivalent window into their culture, a bit of kopi and nasi goreng at an ankringan, makan malam with a large and smothersome Indonesian family and a local buffer who would accompany you to a pertandingan sepak bola to be enveloped in a 40,000 strong crowd of roaring football fans in 40 degree heat.

Trust me it’s quite unlike anything you have ever or will ever experience but it’s one of those things you need an ‘in’ for.

The local experience is everything and it changes everything when it comes to perspective. A good cultural experience will sit with you for life, shaping and informing your world view.

On a macro level this peer to peer investment in social capital translates into a less bi-polar alignment of mutual and reciprocal interests.

The idea is not only for Indonesian participants to get as much out of their scholarship as they can, academically and culturally, but for both participants to benefit equally from access enhanced leadership, knowledge, networking, and technical skills between people and organisations.

The CAFÉ Program is targeted when setting you up with a mate, a platonic Tinder if you will.
Participants are Australia Awards scholarship recipients who might work in the civil service in ministries and agencies in the Indonesian government or in identified priority sectors and industries.

Matches are have a high rate of success, pairing ladies with ladies, men with men, and matching people with similar educational qualifications, industry, interests, age, and family status.
In other words it’s not a friendship lucky dip – you will have plenty in common.

Scholarship recipients are talented and driven people who are creators, thinkers and innovators in their home country – possibly a lot like you.

If you want to connect with an Indonesian professional, make friends and get to know our neighbours, visit or email

Revolution in the City of Heroes: Book Excerpt



The Japanese Occupation of the Netherlands Indies (1941–45) began with a welcome from many Indonesians keen to rid themselves of the Dutch colonial administration. The Japanese Imperial Army had overpowered the Dutch, who had held the territory for two centuries. By 1943, however, the Japanese had revealed their contempt for the Indonesian people under their control, enslaving hundreds of thousands of villagers, confiscating agricultural produce and sending unpaid laborers to the Japanese Army in Thailand and Burma. They controlled all media, executed anyone caught listening to war news, and dismantled scores of steel bridges to send to Japan to be melted down for the war needs. Thousands of innocent people were summarily executed for minor infringements and beatings, including of women, were common.  By the end of 1943 the people were wishing the Japanese had never come, seeing them as far worse than the Dutch colonial rulers.  Both foreign rules had given rise to a strong nationalist movement led by Sukarno and Dr Hatta, who fought for self-rule as the better future path for the Indonesian people.

The Japanese landed in Surabaya on the First of March 1942, raising their flag over the Wonokromo Bridge. They began immediately to ‘Nipponize’ Surabaya, removing signs in Dutch or English, destroying Western films and books, and demanding Indonesians learn the Japanese national anthem and bow towards Japan to honor the Japanese Emperor. Suhario ‘Kecik’ was a medical student and early victim of the Japanese anti-Western hysteria that closed educational institutions in cities and brought misery to the entire population. In August 1945 the Surabayans turned on the Japanese, armed themselves, and prepared for a fight to determine their independence against the British-Indian Army attempting to reinstate the Dutch. Kecik was in the middle of the fray, first as a student planning underground moves, then as Deputy Commander of a 500-strong youth force that took on the British in the crucial Battle for Surabaya, 10–24 November 1945.

The Anatomy Department…was by 1943 flooded with bodies of the homeless and those unfortunates who later became known as romusha, men recruited on rosy promises to help ‘Brother Japan’ in their war. They were in fact slave labourers used by the army.  So many had died of … exhaustion, hunger and beatings that the bodies soon piled high … we had to stop taking delivery.  

The Japanese Imperial Army marched into Surabaya on Friday 6 March 1942, announcing what would be a torrid, repressive three year occupation by flying the Japanese flag over the Wonokromo Bridge. They closed the Medical School I had been enrolled in and other institutes of Western learning, so my parents suggested I go to the Veterinary School in Bogor, West Java, to continue my studies. They had also closed the Jakarta medical school; I had nowhere to turn, and Veterinary Science seemed the closest I could get to my desired profession.

I said goodbye to Hartadi, my childhood friend, without realising he would later play a major role in the Battle of Surabaya alongside me four years later. He had been offered a job in the Railway Workshop in Surabaya, so would ‘guard’ Surabaya for us while I went to Bogor, and of course we promised to keep in touch, neither of us guessing that his railway connections would soon become vital to the anti-Japanese independence fighters’ network.

When I arrived at Bogor I discovered I was not the only Surabayan student there. Basuki and Bahar Razak, old friends from the Faculty of Medicine in Surabaya, were also there, so I stayed in a group in unfamiliar surroundings.

There was still a little pocket money secretly available to me from Hartadi who had what he called the ‘Robin Hood funds’ from a Dutch government office the Japanese had seized in the first days of Occupation. The senior Dutch and other office workers had fled as the Japanese soldiers blustered in, leaving behind a full cash box used for fees and taxes and the like. None of those fleeing wanted the cash box, so Hartadi, not wishing the Japanese to get it, carried it away, renaming it the ‘Robin Hood funds’ for him and his close friends. Used quietly, the funds lasted for many months and helped our circle of friends get through some nasty scrapes. When the Japanese were entrenched they printed their own paper money, which was soon useless and fell apart. Dutch money was illegal, but still the best guard against inflation.

The Robin Hood fund was not entirely used for altruistic ends. After especially enervating days, several of us would splurge on a memorable meal down at the main market. Alas, those meals became memorable for the wrong reason. It would be many years before we could again live in safety, or have adequate food or clothing.

We were in the Bogor Veterinary School for just a few months. The Japanese soon realised they would need to reopen at least one Faculty of Medicine because the Imperial Army would need a lot of trained medical and paramedical staff. Along with the Faculty of Medicine in Jalan Salemba which reopened in Jakarta in April 1943 as Ika Daigaku, (a name which nobody used), they also opened a Faculty of Pharmacy.

In Surabaya, where they had closed my medical school, they chose instead to open a Faculty of Dentistry, a decision which would come to haunt them in mid-1945 because Dr Moestopo, the chief lecturer, turned it into a school for amateur spies, whose intelligence gathering while posing as menials and waiters to the enemy was very effective. It became a “public secret” that we were eavesdropping on both Japanese, and later, Dutch conversations.

In the first months, our student dormitory or asrama was in a Christian middle high school opposite what is today Jakarta’s biggest public hospital, the RSCM Cipto Mangunkusumo. The dorm wasn’t big enough to hold all the students, most of whom were from outside Jakarta, so we crowded together while the new rooms were built.

The lecturers wore Japanese military uniforms, and, although we didn’t then know all the ranks, we knew that one young surgeon, who spoke German, was a major. Major General Dr Itangaki, head of the Faculty, seemed sympathetic to Indonesian students, in contrast to most unsmiling Japanese. Suwadi, an older student who lived on the edge of town in Jatinegara with his wife and two children, seemed to organise everything, employing a middle-aged woman who prepared three meals a day for us. The food wasn’t too bad, and the Japanese left the asrama management to Suwadi, which allowed us to concentrate on studies. Were we wrong about the Japanese? We had little cause for concern.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 1: Planning Our Revolution pp 1-4 from Revolution City of Heroes: A Memoir of the Battle that Sparked Indonesia's National Revolution by Suhario Padmodiwiryo translated by Francis Palmos.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Public Ignorance Key to Indo-Aus Tensions

By Rebecca Le May

PERTH, Oct 13 AAP - Tensions are inevitable between neighbours, but a lot more work needs to be done to manage the volatile and fragile relationship between Australia and Indonesia.  That's the view of Australia-Indonesia Institute chairman Tim Lindsey.

Professor Lindsey told a function in Perth on Tuesday that he hadn't met an Indonesian who didn't think the 40 per cent aid reduction was payback for the state killings.  "It doesn't matter whether that was intended or not - that's what it has become," he said.
Prof Lindsey said polls showed most Australians didn't realise Indonesia was a democracy, believed it sympathised with Islamic extremism and rated it more negatively than any other country with the exception of North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
The shortcomings were on both sides, with the Indonesian public also ill-informed about Australia, but with much less hostility, he said.  "This is an appalling state of affairs. It is a catastrophically bad and that's why it's so difficult for the relationship to be managed," Prof Lindsey said.  "The key to the problem is this yawning gap between government-to-government enthusiasm for the bilateral relationship and this depth of public ignorance and hostility."
Another big problem was Australia not handling well the vast difference between Indonesia's highly diplomatic former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his successor Joko Widodo.  Prof Lindsey said Mr Widodo led an inward-looking....divided and (currently) dysfunctional administration that was generally uninterested in the country to its south.  

"The Coalition government in Canberra has not done well in dealing with the changed circumstances.  "If there was ever a time megaphone diplomacy and sending messages via the media or in parliamentary debate to Indonesia would be effective in the bilateral relationship, it is not under Jokowi.
"Rightly or wrongly, Canberra needs to be a lot more subtle, nuanced and smart if it wants Indonesia to look south."

 AAP rlm 

Indonesian Human Rights: Greater Protections since Reformasi?

By Jack Buckley

Abundant commentary exists on the impacts felt throughout the Indonesian archipelago since the resignation of former authoritarian ruler Suharto and the beginning of reformasi in 1998. In the field of human rights, however, there has been little effort to explain the processes facilitating increased human rights protections for Indonesian citizens today.

These human rights protections in Indonesia are not, however, experienced equally across the country. Various formal institutions have been established to promote human rights protections such as the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, and the freedom to choose a religion. These institutions include amendments to the Constitution and a national commission for human rights.

Except these formal institutions are regularly trumped by informal institutions in different regions of Indonesia, most notably in the outer islands dominated by centralised Jakarta policy-making and inter-regional rivalry. One such example in the earlier stages of reformasi is then President Megawati Sukarnoputri attempting to divide the Indonesian controlled territory in Papua into three separate provinces in an effort to engineer the electoral status of the restless region. This move backfired when the Indonesian Supreme Court struck down the legislation in 2003 and controversy continued as violent local protests over the freedoms of expression and association persist.

In today’s Indonesia, captivated by monitoring the successes and failures of the reform-minded Joko Widodo administration, many of the freedoms and rights experienced by everyday Indonesians are determined by the increasing democratisation of formal government institutions. Once formal government institutions operate with transparency and accountability, the ability for corrupt officials to exploit existing shortcomings will disappear and informal institutions which perpetuate human rights abuses will most likely follow suit.

Broad efforts to achieve the democratisation goal are seen globally and in the efforts of the Australian aid program to assist bureaucratic reform in Indonesia. A 2013 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights addressed the centrality of good institutional governance in achieving human rights protections with recommendations pertinent to Indonesia’s human rights development such as “centrally formulated policy should take into account the needs of citizens throughout the country.” What’s more, Australia’s aid investment plan to Indonesia highlights the need to improve public sector governance. Evidence of this is seen in the cooperation of Indonesian and Australian government ministries in the Bureaucratic Reform Initiative funded for AUD$11.8 million over the past five years.

The quality of human rights protections throughout Indonesia, including the outer islands, can only be assessed once the necessary conditions for formal institutions to protect these rights are in place. The improved delivery of public services may be the linchpin for success in this space and look set to improve under the Widodo administration’s commitment to bureaucratic reform and reform more broadly. However, reformasi period reforms to human rights remain incomplete and are still disappointingly applied in the outer islands where violations persist and some of Indonesia’s previous ethnic and religious issues may yet again be revived.

*Jack Buckley is a Masters candidate at the Australian National University and can be contacted at

These 'people smugglers' need an apology from all of us

By Ross Taylor

It hardly made any news.

An Indonesian ‘people smuggler’ last week successfully appealed to the full bench of the Australian Federal Court to have his conviction eventually quashed.

This particular people smuggler served two years in a maximum security prison in Perth (Hakea Prison) and Albany for smuggling asylum seekers from Indonesia to Christmas Island in 2010.

He has told stories of how he was denied the services of an interpreter, how he was stripped naked on numerous occasions, being chained by his hands and feet and being locked-down from 7am until 7pm on most nights.

This prisoner, at the time the offence occurred, was 13 years of age.

Ali Yasmin, now 19 years of age, was one of some 50 children recruited by people smuggling syndicates in Indonesia to work on boats as deck and kitchen hands at the peak of the asylum seeker debacle.

These children, many of whom were pre-pubescent, were from remote and very poor villages in the east of the sprawling archipelago to our north, with their families being offered up to $200.00 for the services of their sons for ostensibly two weeks work on board a fishing boat.

In an area where many people live on $70.00 per month, the offer was highly attractive, given that many of these kids worked on boats routinely.

The then Labor Government, desperate to be tough on people smugglers, had introduced mandatory sentencing for anyone carrying or assisting in the transport of asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. They did not intend to catch young children in this net, but that’s what can happen when poorly thought-out legislation is enacted by a government under enormous political pressure.

Ali Yasmin, like a number of his friends, was convicted and sentenced to jail in an adult maximum security prison here in WA. This was despite a doctor certifying that he was pre-pubescent and documents being provided to confirm the age of this young boy.

To think that a country such as Australia could have incarcerated children in this way – alongside drug dealers, paedophiles and bank robbers – and subject them to strip searches, lock downs and no access to their families back in Indonesia, is almost unthinkable for a nation that prides itself as being decent,  caring and respectful of human rights.

It was only through the Indonesia Institute, several leading media groups (including The West Australian) and human rights advocates, was the then Gillard Government forced to release these children and send them back to where they rightfully belonged: with their parents.

Ali Yasmin, being represented by human rights lawyers, last week won a ruling that now forces the Australian Attorney-General, George Brandos, to exercise his ‘legal duty’ to refer the boys appeal to the WA Court of Appeal where the team is hopeful the conviction will be quashed.

That a nation such as Australia knowingly allowed foreign children to be locked-up for years with hardened adult criminals leaves a stain on all of us. But to now force children like Yasmin to ‘fight’ in the courts to have his conviction overturned is appalling.

Our new PM, Malcolm Turnbull, should move immediately to have all the convictions of these children quashed, and to also make a formal apology on behalf of Australia to their families for the inhuman treatment of children who should never have been placed in our maximum security prisons in the first place.

Ross Taylor AM is the President of the WA-based Indonesia Institute (Inc)
October 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Haze Masks at the Ready, Could a New PM Loosen Strained Ties?

I had my N95 mask at the ready, which my Australian trained occupational health and safety expert of a husband had insisted on but I had doubted that I would need it.  We were in Singapore for the Formula One Grand Prix and the haze from Indonesia's forest fires created debate about the safety and viability of the race.  

I hadn't anticipated that the air would be difficult to breathe, surely I had been in Singapore before when the smoke from the perennial Indonesian burn had drifted over the home of the merlion with little problem, but there did come a time on the Saturday night that the air was indeed difficult to breathe at a PSI (Pollutant Standard Index) reading of around 200.  My thoughts turned to the people of Indonesia where the proximity to this smoke was much greater and surely mere day-to-day existence within this thick blanket of haze would be encompassing.

As the papers ran many a discussion about who was to blame, illegal operations by companies outside their concessions, where the fires had started, corruption (add to that the 'revolving door' of Australian politics - completely off topic but we do look like a bit of a lark), some Singaporean academics argued that the only way to mitigate the haze problem was to link policy with, and educate Indonesians of the associated health problems. They argued that the middle-man Indonesian farmer challenged by poverty and in a developing world was unlikely to stop the practice of clearing land by burning as they lack an attractive alternative and education about the long-term impacts to both neighbours and their fellow countrymen.

Their argument that Indonesia is unaware of the health impacts of the haze because there is no published study that estimates the health costs holds little credibility, for surely one does not need a scientific study to know that when there is haze your mother or child becomes sick, or the people in your village dare only to go outside for necessities and then only (if you have one) wearing a mask. States of emergency have been declared in at least two provinces in Indonesia including Central Kalimantan where residents recently took to the streets of Pangkalan Raya to protest government inaction on a day when the PSI reading hit 1,400 - (seven times what I experienced in Singapore) "...people are suffering from respiratory illnesses.  We want disaster management teams to be prepared... to safeguard people's health," urged one of the protesters.

In Riau province it has been reported that close to 26,000 people have become ill because of the haze, some developing pneumonia from secondary infection, asthma, and eye and skin irritation.  Health posts have been set up in the area each manned by a doctor and two nurses providing first aid to those affected by the haze, masks and advice on how to best manage the circumstances.

As Indonesia grapples with how to extinguish the fires and look after the health of its citizens with peat that can sometimes smoulder for months, the drier weather conditions brought on by this year's El Nino only threaten to prolong the haze and make it easier for new hot spots to ignite.  The expected length of this year's El Nino hasn't bypassed the markets either with palm oil futures on the rise.  Visibility and dangerous working conditions for workers reduce the harvest as does the reduction in yield of fruit (and consequently oil) from reduced photosynthesis and pollination by insects.

Palm oil is arguably one of Indonesia's 'economic pillars' and whilst efforts are being made to counter the negative impacts of the haze (also from pulp and paper plantations), palm oil production cannot simply be abandoned overnight, it's very much a 'Catch 22' situation. I wonder if at all the world at large would be discussing it if it wasn't causing such an inconvenience to its neighbours.

With thoughts of the Indonesian people heavy in my heart and haze aside, I was happy to finish out watching the race with Sebastian Vettel to take the win at the Singapore Grand Prix and Perth's own Daniel Riccardo coming in for second.... breathing easy is not something to be taken for granted.

A reminder that Indonesian Law Expert and Chairman of the Australia-Indonesia Institute Professor Tim Lindsey will be in Perth for a one-off breakfast talk and Q and A session on Tuesday 13th of October, for more information click here and spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.  Great opportunity not to be missed! (Indonesia Institute members, you will have a discount code in your inbox).

Please enjoy this edition of the blog, with a range of readings, articles and items of interest in the Aus-Indo arena.

Sampai kali depan, 


SBYs Perth Visit

WA to Benefit from Indonesian Middle Class, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says by Kathryn Diss via The ABC.  Discussion from SBY's public lecture in Perth (September 2015).

History and the Arts

'Maju' The Cry of the Student Soldiers by Duncan Graham via The Jakarta Post.  Duncan discusses Suhario Padmodiwiryo's book Revolution in the City of Heroes: A Memoir of the Battle that Sparked Indonesia's National Revolution translated by historian and journalist Frank Palmos.

History and Theatre - Black Armada Exhibition Opens in Indonesia by Dr Stephen Gapps via Australian National Maritime Museum (September 2015).

Australian Designers Launch Muslim Collections in Indonesia via (September 2015).

Inside Indonesia has collaborated with the National Library of Australia to make their archive copies from 1983 - 2007 of the magazine available digitally.  The editions are available as an e-book and searchable by keyword.  Fantastic effort to make this available.

In the News and Opinion

PM Could Loosen Strained Ties by Ross Taylor via The West Australian (September 2015).

Jokowi's Risky Anti-Foreign Rhetoric by Dr Robertus Robet via Indonesia at Melbourne (September 2015).

Indonesia-Australia security cooperation: defining common interests by Bob Lowry via The Strategist (September 2015).

Indonesia Declares Emergency as Sumatra Fires Spread Haze over Singapore and Malaysia by Samantha Hawley via The World Today (ABC).

Indonesia Again Backflips on Promise to Scrap Visa Fees for Australian Travellers to Bali by Robyn Ironside via citing Indonesia Institute Inc President Ross Taylor (September 2015).

Indonesia at Risk from Huge Fires because of El Nino by Allan Spessa and Robert Field via The Conversation (June 2015).

Useful Website

Development Assistance in Indonesia - Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website giving an overview of programs and funds to Indonesia.  A great place to start if you are interested in some of the Australian Government's Aus-Indo initiatives.