Sep 25, 2018 Last Updated 3:08 AM, Sep 19, 2018

Remembering John Barnard

Published: Feb 23, 2016

John was a devoted volunteer at Inside Indonesia for many years and an Australian who cared deeply about Indonesia and his precious friendships with Indonesians

Betty Feith and Annie Feith

My mother, Betty first met John in 1975 when she briefed an ecumenical group of young people in the Mount Waverley district who were heading off to Indonesia on a study tour.

Not long afterwards, Betty was asked to lead a group of Burwood college students to Indonesia. She agreed on the proviso that she had two young assistants; John was one of those people.

Their friendship began then and John also became a good friend of my Dad, Herb, and in more recent times with our large extended family. As we have lived with Betty for the last 11 years, we all became familiar with John’s, 'Hello Betty!' as he came up the path to visit her so regularly. I remember two years ago at Christmas, John thoroughly enjoyed a Nativity play rehearsal in our garden involving three generations of our family.

John would always bring stories of his annual trips to Indonesia and often bring messages from mutual friends there. He also brought presents for mum, often Balsem Hijau, her magic green ointment which he knew she loved.

John regularly visited Kamal, the village near Yogyakarta where Herb first stayed in 1953. At that time, very few foreigners spent time in villages. John became firm friends with Pak Dirjo (Herb’s friend since the 1950’s who is now nearly 90), as well as his children and grandchildren.

John, like Herb before him, did a great deal to break down the barriers, not only between Indonesians and foreigners but also between rural and urban communities.

John was actively involved with many networks in Melbourne including the journal Inside Indonesia, the Centre for South East Asian studies at Monash and most recently the Museum of Indonesian Arts group. He was also committed to ecumenical and peace concerns including Pax Christi and the Victorian Association for Peace Studies. In Indonesia, John was involved with the multi-faith group, Interfedei.

John was a great networker and enjoyed putting people with common interests in touch with each other. He was a generous man who was always willing to help others. He looked forward to his trips to Indonesia and was very saddened when he was no longer able to go due to ill health. John saw it as his role to bring people of diverse backgrounds together to share in their search for a common humanity.

*Annie Feith delivered this eulogy at John's funeral in Melbourne, Friday 19 February 2016.

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