Australia-Indonesia relations under spotlight

Professor Russell Trood is the new Director of the Griffith Asia Institute.
Professor Russell Trood, Director of the Griffith Asia Institute.

Strained, tense, low and at risk. These are but some of the terms attributed to Australia’s relationship with Indonesia in recent times, from the phone tapping revelations of 2013 to the recent executions of the Bali Nine ringleaders.

But it is an international relationship that continues to be nurtured and nursed, and clearly one of significance to both parties.

The latest instalment in the Perspectives: Asia seminar series, both timely and topical, will take a measured look at the situation and ask why the relationship is so difficult.

The event is jointly hosted by theGriffith Asia Instituteand theAustralian Centre of Asia-Pacific Art/ Queensland Art Gallery at the Gallery of Modern Art at South Bank on Tuesday (May 19, 6pm).

The seminar will be presented by Professor Tim Lindsey, Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the Melbourne Law School. It is subtitled ‘Preposterous Caricatures’, a reference to a comment by former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about Australians’ perceptions of Indonesians and vice versa.

“Most Australians and most Indonesians know very little about one another,” Professor Russell Trood, Director, Griffith Asia Institute, said.

“Australia and Indonesia may be neighbouring countries, but what keeps the countries apart is often more evident than what draws them closer. There are significant and numerous differences of language, culture, history, ethnicity and religion.

“Now, with the Indonesian economy on the rise and the potential emergence of Indonesian influence in Southeast Asia, there is a greater impetus on Australians to connect with and learn more about their nearest neighbours.

“Tuesday’s seminar will discuss where and how this should happen and explore why it is so difficult.

“This is one of the core objectives of the Griffith Asia Institute, to promote knowledge of Australia’s changing region, and we are delighted to have Professor Lindsey here to lead the discussion.”

Tim Lindsey is Chair of the Australia Indonesia Institute and member of the Victorian Bar. His publications include Indonesia: Law and Society and The Indonesian Constitution: A contextual analysis.