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.