PPIA welcomes the release of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper because it recognises the value of people to people contacts and acknowledges that building social harmony and the need for contributions not only from government but also from business sectors and civil society, are central to strengthen the region’s future prosperity. PPIA is also delighted to be acknowledged as one of the youth-led organisations working to improve people-to-people contacts between Australia and Asia.
We understand that as we, Indonesian youths studying in the down under, we all have an important job to promote the better understanding between the two countries. Indonesia and Australia relations span over 65 years, filled with many ups and downs, many generational changes, many political eras, and many crises. However Indonesia-Australia relationship has endured and we are confident to say that in the future, it will continue to flourish.
PPIA is pleased at the White Paper’s approach that recognise the growing opportunities from Indonesia, be it economic opportunities, political, or socio-cultural opportunities. The White Paper recognises that Indonesia is likely to be one of the top 10 global economies by 2025 and thus create the initiatives to encourage greater Indonesia literacy through providing every Australian school children access to bahasa Indonesia, as one of the four priority Asian languages.
PPIA also saw new developments that will be vital to the future of our countries’ relationship. PPIA acknowleges that our President and Australian Prime Minister have agreed to establish the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, a new education partnership, and the Indonesia-Australia Leadership Dialogue. These encouraging developments signal the willingness of both our countries to enhance and maintain the relationship based on trust, understanding, and shared values of democracy, equality and shared prosperity. Moreover, PPIA also acknowledges that people-people contact is an important asset, to ensure the success and sustainability of our relationship.
To that extent, we have a saying in Indonesia, “tak kenal maka tak sayang”. This means that if we do not know each other then we would not care for each other. Taking this further, knowing more of each other’s needs, views and thoughts is an important building block in our relationship. This is why we very much welcome the establishment of the new education partnership and the Australia Indonesia Leadership Dialogue.
The new education partnership would provide more opportunities for both Indonesian students and Australian students to interact with each other. We are hoping that the Australian government will continue to foster this approach and enlarge the opportunities for every Indonesians from Sabang to Merauke and Miangas to Rote, to study in Australia, be it through high-school exchanges program or under the Australia Awards Scheme.
However, we also saw at least two important issues that need to be addressed in the new education partnership. First is, as the cost of living in Australia is very high, the new education partnership should provide concrete solutions to help international students to study in Australia. It can be done for instance, by providing concessions for international students. ACT and NSW may have provided that kind of concession, but international students in Victoria, have yet to get travel concessions. The second issue is related to travel advisory to Indonesia. We are concerned that the implementation of the scheme to substantially encourage more Asians, in particular Indonesian people to travel, study, and work in Australia is still yet to be materialized. Obtaining Australian visa is still seen really difficult for Indonesians people because Australia reissued its travel advice for Indonesia in 2012 to reconsider the need to travel and exercising a high degree of caution. We hope that this kind of issue will be resolved to foster people-to-people contacts between our countries.
As a graduate student at at the Australian National University, I myself have seen that by interacting with each other in an environment that encourages open and frank discussion, students are able to enrich each others’ understanding and perspective on the two countries, cultures, and peoples. These students would then go on to be the next generation of leaders and would play a vital role in maintaining and improving relations between our two countries.
PPIA also acknowledges that in the spirit of people-to-people contact, both countries established the Indonesia Australia Leadership Dialogue. We see that this forum would bring together public figures, business leaders, academics, and others for wide-ranging discussion and exchange of ideas that would occur annually. These types of regular interactions will undoubtedly promote discussions, foster working relationships, and bring us closer to one another. PPIA hopes that in the next dialogue PPIA would be invited to participate in the forum.
PPIA views Australia as a close friend, a good neighbor, and a constructive partner for Indonesia. The two countries share the common future of our own region, along with its stability and its prosperity. All of us here are important stakeholders in this engagement, and thus, we are certain that by working closely together we will be able to tackle these tasks confidently and vigorously.
Thank you so very much.
On behalf of the PPI Australia,
Pandu Utama Manggala
President of the Indonesian Students’ Association
Australian Capital Territory-Chapter