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“The inside view on Australian-Indonesian relations” with Wimar Witoelar and Greg Moriarty


06 June 2013

by: Jessica Dublet

 

 “The inside view on Australian-Indonesian relations” with Wimar Witoelar and Greg Moriarty

Australia’s ABC radio show, on 30th May 2013

If you pay attention to the current relationship between Australia and Indonesia, you will see that those two are now very good mates. While Australia is Indonesia’s most important development partner, the two of them work together to tackle people-smuggling and terrorism. However, if you ask people on the ground, the reality might be different, mostly due to a lack of cultural understanding from both sides about the other.

 

This was the issue addressed during the last Australian ABC’s radio show on 30th May where Wimar Witoelar and Greg Moriarty, the Australian Ambassador in Indonesia were invited.  

Even though a vast number of Indonesians can be found in Australia, for a majority of Australians it seems that there’s still a lot of suspicion about the other, possibly related to the fear of an Indonesian invasion and a lack of knowledge about their neighbor. For Greg Moriarty this suspicion comes from the fact that most Australians are stuck in the past and haven’t yet grasped the changes that have been occurring in Indonesia for the last 15 years. Indeed, since the resignation of President Soeharto in 1998, Indonesia has been witnessing an enormous amount of changes:  the democratic transition, the growth of a vibrant democracy and civil society and has become a very significant contributor to regional and global affairs. Therefore time prospective is really important to understand a complex country like Indonesia. Likewise, there are still a lot of Indonesians with an outdated impression of Australia. For Wimar Witoelar it is a fact that a lot of Indonesians are still living with only stereotypes of Australia (like the famous Crocodile Dundee).  Therefore even though elite people who fully understand Australia and Indonesia can be found on both sides, both countries need to push the refresh button in terms of their perception of each other.

Sometimes people might think that the Australian government is giving a bad image of Indonesia by only talking about hot issues like cattle, sailor problems or terrorism. However for Greg Moriarty, Australian leaders, intellectuals or commentators shouldn’t only talk about the issues of the day, which is a challenge, but look at a broader range of Australia’s interests and the range of development that’s going on in Indonesia. He added that the Australian government is really serious about establishing a lasting strategic partnership with Indonesia so it’s not in its interest to present its neighbor negatively. Nevertheless, like Wimar Witoelar has stated, criticism from the Australian government might be good for Indonesia to hear in order to improve itself. Moreover people seem to forget all the good that Australia has done until now, by upgrading the Indonesian police for example.

Indonesia is a developing country which is very complex due to its enormous amount of disparities. However this is a country that Australia can’t ignore. Therefore it is important for average Australians to understand this neighbor. Furthermore, for Australia’s prosperity and Australia’s capacity to engage within this region successfully, changes are required. Australian people need to think about how they can succeed with Indonesia, a neighbor who is changing very significantly. 

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