Why Australia and Indonesia are not just linked by geography

Visiting Jakarta this week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia and Indonesia are linked not just by geography, but by choice.

Choosing to know Indonesia makes good sense for Australia. Not only is Indonesia our largest neighbour, it is a regional heavyweight and an emerging global power.

Indonesia has a fast-growing economy and a young population more than ten times that of Australia. Creativity and innovation are hot – like the bamboo bicycle our PM rode while meeting Indonesian President Jokowi.

Indonesia’s growing creativity in digital and social innovation does not just stop at bikes. There are all sorts of future opportunities for collaboration with young Australians in business, in caring for the environment and in creating popular culture.

Young Australians aren’t learning about Indonesia


Unfortunately, most young Australians may not benefit from such opportunities to work together with our largest neighbour because they have little chance to learn anything about Indonesia at school.

Only 755 students across Australia studied Indonesian language in year 12 in 2019. That’s 0.35% of year 12 students, or one in every 290. In comparison almost 4,000 students studied French that year.

2021 report, Indonesian Language Education in Australia: Patterns of Provision and Contending Ideologies, found:

“Currently, there is no national policy for language education, Asian or otherwise, no reporting requirements, and no centrally collected data. In effect, the data currently available about the teaching of languages including Indonesian is in a more parlous state than it was a decade ago. In the case of Studies of Asia, even less is currently known as there is no data collected on this aspect of education.”

Recent research on the state of Indonesian in our schools points to declining numbers as a result of xenophobia. This stems from limited understanding and negative perceptions of Indonesia among Australians.

We urgently need to rethink what we teach our young people about Indonesia.

What can the government do to build this relationship?

ABF media

Here are three choices the new federal government could make right now to make this future a reality:

  1. Expand the extraordinary possibilities of digitally connecting young Indonesians and Australians in years 8-10. They could work collaboratively on projects of mutual and global importance including democracy, sustainability, youth culture, technology, mental health and well-being. Engaging students will support studies of Indonesia and Indonesian language – especially at this point in schooling where most students drop out of studying Indonesian.
  2. Convene an urgent national summit to generate solutions to the Indonesian language crisis in Australian schools. There hasn’t been national co-operation on languages education in schools for ten years.
  3. Support school leaders to better understand the importance of Indonesia and Australia’s relationship. The commitment of school leaders is essential if studies of Indonesia and Indonesian language are to grow in our schools.

Australia and Indonesia can do and learn so much together to create a shared future. Let’s make the choice to do that now.

Source: The Conversation


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