Nov 17, 2017 Last Updated 3:54 AM, Nov 13, 2017

Review: Footsteps of Indonesians in Victoria

Published: Mar 07, 2017

Anita Dewi

Footsteps of Indonesians in Victoria (Jejak Langkah Orang Indonesia di Victoria) was launched in 2016 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of IKAWIRIA. A bilingual Indonesian-English book, it includes many accounts from Indonesians living in Victoria and friends of Indonesia from Victoria. These real life stories are told in a way that is not simply entertaining and nostalgic but also reinforces the spirit of friendship.

The book opens with stories about the early years of Indonesians living in Victoria and their Australian friends getting to know them and Indonesia. The subsequent sections include recollections of experiences from 36 Indonesians who started new lives in Australia and Australians who began their associations with Indonesia during the three decades of 1971 to 2000. Meanwhile, the final part is written by three Indonesians relatively new to Victoria, who talk about their life experiences in Indonesia between 2000 and 2015. While some chapters clearly show a well-polished writing style, others are more natural story-telling. This is one of the many aspects that make this book interesting.

Not unsurprisingly for a book with so many contributors, a variety of perspectives are offered. Each chapter is unique. The topics span from living amongst and associating with Indonesian politics in three separate eras, to becoming a lifetime ambassador for Indonesia; from the challenge of being creative in cooking Indonesian food when Vegemite was almost the only ingredient available, to operating Indonesian media outlets in Australia. What I found similar across chapters, though, is that in each, the author reveals personal feelings and an emotional bond between the people of the two countries. 

A major theme is the way in which the Australian friends have learned about the people and the country of Indonesia, and how the Indonesians have learned about Australia and Australians. 

Meanwhile, there are also chapters describing how Australian friends have inspired some Indonesians to learn more about their own country, and how the Australian way of life has reached some of the most remote points of Indonesia. Indonesian authors also reveal different motives for why they have made Victoria their home across these fifty years. Regardless of their reasons for migrating, they reveal a strong commitment and connection with their homeland and a desire to make those back home understand the value of friendship with Australia. 

There is a consensus among Indonesian contributors that residing in Australia does not make them less Indonesian. Likewise, the Australian authors reveal that a curiosity about Indonesia and the courage to be friends with Indonesia convey a warm gesture of welcome. 

Another important contribution the book makes is helping readers to better understand how Indonesians in Victoria and friends of Indonesia from Victoria have weathered the ups and downs of the relationship between the two countries. As Rhyll Rivett suggests in the book, ‘Don’t worry about the political relations between our two countries, just try to make friends with the people, learn from them and help them in any way you can. By doing this, your lives and theirs will be greatly enriched.’

IKAWIRIA may be half a century old, a ‘middle-aged’ association, but as this book shows, it is still growing. Congratulations to Ibu Tuti, Pak Iip and Mas Iman Santosa who have successfully gathered these real-life stories together to reveal the historical and emotional depth of the people to people relationships between Indonesians and Australians. 

Tuti Gunawan and Iip Yahya, Footsteps of Indonesians in Victoria (Jejak Langkah Orang Indonesia di Victoria), Indonesian Community Association of Victoria Inc., Melbourne, 2016.

Anita Dewi (anita.dewi@monash.edu) is a learning skills adviser at Monash University, Melbourne.

 

Inside Indonesia 127: Jan-Mar 2017

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