May 27, 2024 Last Updated 6:09 AM, May 21, 2024

Bringing up Inside Indonesia

Bringing up Inside Indonesia
Published: Jun 01, 2013

Co-founder Pat Walsh reveals how the magazine grew and thrived in the 1980s and 1990s

Pat Walsh

Back row: Max Lane, David Hill, David Bourchier, Tony Finch Middle row: Pat Walsh, Krishna Sen, Annie Keogh, Kirsty Sword, Chris Dureau Front: Neva Finch - Pat Walsh

My veteran colleague John Waddingham compared the birth of the magazine to fatherhood. As one of its parents, it was my job to work out, by trial and error, how to rear and care for our progeny through its adolescent years before it matured into the striking young adult which, at 30, it has now become. I had some experience as an editor but setting up the small business that Inside quickly became was a new challenge. To administer the project, I relied heavily on a network of people, the sort who are the heart and soul of any ticking civil society. What follows recounts our labour-intensive heroics during the years following the launch of the magazine in 1983.

Three bread and butter challenges had to be addressed. First, where to base the magazine; second, its production; and third, setting up the administration needed to sustain the magazine organisationally and financially.  

Finding a home

We called the magazine Inside Indonesia but, apart from its focus and some of its readers, everything else about it was decidedly outside Indonesia. Our first address was 183 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (now a bookshop), courtesy of the Timor Information Service and Action for World Development (AWD). This arrangement ended after two years when, in December 1985, AWD shifted to the Uniting Church premises at 124 Napier St, Fitzroy (recently sold). Instead of following suit, however, we relocated the magazine to my home at 110 Gladstone Ave, Northcote so that it would not be confused with my other work. At the time I was setting up a human rights office for the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA, now ACFID) whose sensitive brief included both East Timor and Indonesia. At 110 Gladstone Ave, the magazine operated out of what is now my study (where I am writing this 30 years later) for roughly the next seven years. Towards the end of that period we became the proud owners of a 286 IBM computer, purchased with Ron Keogh’s help. John Paterson, our computer guru, couldn’t believe how fast it was! During those years, many of the people mentioned below, not least my wife Annie Keogh, devoted many hours to raising awareness of Indonesia, (though they may not have always thought of it in those terms), from this most unlikely platform. About 1994, the pressures of a growing family forced us to move the office of the magazine again, this time to 124 Napier St, Fitzroy, where discreet space had become available. 

Producing the goods

Max Lane edited the first five issues of the magazine, however, the content that Max wrote or commissioned had to then be sub-edited. This was fun but taxing work, especially because in the early days it pre-dated computers and internet and because John moved to Perth at the end of 1984 to work for Senator Gordon McIntosh, taking his excellent technical skills with him. 

The process involved copy-editing word-by-word, text mailed by Max from Canberra where he worked, then coming up with crisp titles, introductions, sub-headings, captions, credits and, later, pull-quotes. Sometimes articles had to be trimmed to fit the page length, a delicate task that required sensitivity to both content and author, or where an article fell short, fillers such as a graphic or advertisement had to be found. Articles were then marked up so that the typesetter knew column width and what fonts and sizes to use. Ultimately much of this was determined by the page length of the magazine. This in turn was dictated by the cost of printing, the weight of stock and related postal costs. In our enthusiasm, we allowed our second issue to run to 41 pages. But the shock of the bill for postal, printing and layout for that edition forced us to trim our sails. All subsequent issues were a standard 33 pages in keeping with photo-offset printing processes. The contents were then laid-out according to a set design and the bromides of graphics prepared. These were all separate activities that often required more than one visit to separate companies and then, of course, separate payments. 

The hunt for photos and other images was a constant headache. We locked ourselves into being a photogenic magazine by making photos a prominent spread in our first issue. But no self-respecting journal could get away with using the same photo of President Suharto in subsequent editions. It was also embarrassing to be told (correctly) by a perceptive reader that a graphic in our first issue depicted Africans not Indonesians! In time we built up a portfolio of images, drawing heavily (without much regard for copyright though we did credit our source) on Indonesian magazines like Gatra, Editor, Jakarta Jakarta and other glossies, but the hunt for graphics still took a lot of time each edition. Learning the ropes also took time especially considering the work was voluntary and after-hours. In our first issue we boldly announced that Inside was a quarterly but we only managed two issues in 1984 and three in 1985. 

Settling on the look

124 Napier Street, Fitzroy - Lyle French

As John has explained, we took the plunge and contracted a professional to design and lay out the magazine so that Inside would look distinctive and hold its own alongside other quality magazines. Rus Littleson, whose business was in North Fitzroy, a short tram trip from Northcote and later my work place at the other end of Fitzroy, can take the credit for the bold presentation of the first 23 issues. Our first full colour cover in 1986 was also due to Rus. Like a dose of Krating Daeng energy drink, seeing his work on display in a bookshop did wonders for one’s confidence. 

Rus was succeeded by Andrew Pecze, affectionately known to me as Grumps (probably because I regularly bothered him with late changes just when he was putting an edition to bed). His Band-Aid Productions (later Figment) was close enough for me to walk there with copy and save the expense of a courier. An Austrian migrant and war refugee, Andrew produced a number of other quality journals including The Emu (he was a skilled bird-watcher), The Australian Rationalist (I think he was one) and Business Review Weekly (he ran a small business). Photo-Offset Productions in Fitzroy printed the magazine, followed later by Arena Printing. Arena, a left political, social and cultural collective, established itself in Fitzroy in the 1980s and, thanks to Alison Caddick and John Hinkson, became a natural fit for Inside. It was always a thrill to have neat boxes of fresh smelling magazines delivered by Arena as the countdown for a quarterly mailout began. 


The quarterly mailout of the magazine was both a complex piece of organisation and a social event that brought friends of the magazine and ‘staff’ together in one place. Annie made sure it succeeded on both levels, particularly after we moved to 124 Napier Street Fitzroy. Courtesy of Coralie Ling, the Minister and our landlady, Annie arranged that we could spread out in the ‘blue room’ at the back of the Uniting Church. Mailouts typically included academics like David Hill, Krishna Sen, Barbara Schiller, David Bourchier, Aline Scott-Maxwell, and Ron Hatley; friends of the magazine like Hilary da Costa,  John Barnard, Graham Hapgood, Helen Moriarty, Helen Vaughan, Chris Dureau, Neva and Tony Finch, Wendy Miller (who also helped in other ways including translation), Peter Crean, Sophie Miller, Isabel Guterres (now a Minister in the Timor-Leste Government),  other generous souls including those involved in administration, and my daughters. Ann Ng was in awe of the expertise in the room but recalls that ‘it was always satisfying to see a new edition and feel part of this wonderful project in international relations. I was just a cog in the wheel but it was a privilege to be part of it. It helped me settle in too’. Bella Kusumah and Anton Alimin pitched in but most local Indonesians, wary of the long arm of the Suharto regime, kept a careful distance. 

Light refreshments were provided and Ann Ng remembers mailouts being fun. My daughter Mayra recalls that the Arnott’s cream biscuits disappeared first and that, as the night progressed, ‘Ten green bottles hanging on the wall’ was sometimes sung to keep up morale.  She also recalls being chuffed when she got to stick a famous name like Noam Chomsky’s on an envelope and later, when she had an article published in 2002, realising that Chomsky might have read it because he was a subscriber. 

Mailouts usually ran like clockwork. Hundreds of magazines were folded and wrapped according to precise instructions or, later, put into flat envelopes and stapled with our clunky electric stapler. To outwit intelligence agents, sheets of white paper were inserted back and front of copies going to Indonesia. Sitting at long tables or on the floor, the volunteers then sorted the magazines into piles according to postcodes and overseas destinations before stuffing them into Australia Post canvas bags. The following morning the bags were delivered to the Post Office for weighing and costing as a bulk mailout. I might be wrong but I suspect that local PO staff, sensitive to our work, sometimes helped reduce costs by weighing us in a tad lighter.

Spreading the word

It made no sense, of course, to create an attractive magazine then keep it a secret, especially when we depended on maximising subscriptions to survive. Having no funds to advertise we again turned to volunteers to promote the magazine. Helen Vaughan, Christine Wheeler, Kevin Sullivan, Chris Beale, Mathew Eddy, Aline Scott-Maxwell and Maree Keating took on the role for varying periods during these years. Low-cost promotional strategies included swapping inserts with like-minded organisations like Community Aid Abroad (CAA), Australia East Timor Association (AETA) and New Internationalist. An Indonesian language supplement, stapled into the centre of the magazine on different coloured paper, was intended to increase our circulation amongst schools and students of Bahasa. Promotional leaflets were produced and circulated. 

Using our Indonesia Resources and Information Programme (IRIP) label, we also ventured into book publishing to add to resources on topical Indonesian issues and to lift our profile. In 1984 we published Are Sweet Dreams Made of This? Tourism in Bali and Eastern Indonesia. John McCarthy researched and wrote the book supported by grants from the Reichstein Foundation and an Australian tourist concerned by the pace and impact of tourism in Eastern Indonesia. Glenda Lasslett, a good friend of Inside, produced a companion discussion guide. A few years on, in 1991, IRIP published East Timor, the Impact of Integration: An Indonesian Socio-Anthropological Study. Led by Dr Mubyarto of UGM in Yogyakarta and cautiously written, this study showed that the situation in East Timor 15 years after integration was far from settled. Chris Dureau and David Bourchier helped IRIP with the translation. Apart from a couple of IRIP news bulletins, however, these titles were the limit of our supplementary publishing.

To mark our tenth anniversary in 1993, we produced a special edition 41 pages long with colour plates throughout and held a photo exhibition at the Panorama Centre for Contemporary Arts in Brunswick St, Fitzroy. The exhibition ran for two weeks and featured photos of Indonesia by Sandy Scheltema whose parents once lived in Sumatra and were imprisoned during the Japanese occupation. Chris Wheeler organised a dinner in Sydney and we made a human rights award, in honour of Marsinah, the 25 year old factory worker and labour activist murdered in East Java that year.   

A more quirky strategy was to display on the back cover photos of people in unlikely places around the world reading the magazine. Dutch skaters, latte aficionados in France, visitors to Geneva, Indonesian women labourers (holding the magazine upside down!), even Frankenstein, joined the Balinese monkey and London bobbies mentioned above to pose browsing the journal in mock concentration. An ambition to capture President Suharto reading Inside sadly came to nought. Later, universities and book sellers were induced to place paid advertisements in the magazine. 

Handing over

In 1996 Inside began a new and exciting phase when Gerry van Klinken took over from me as editor. Gerry brought new ideas, energy and his crisp writing style to the project. He revamped the supplement, engaged Helena Spyrou to makeover the magazine’s masthead and design and commissioned articles on a wide range of subjects including punks and tattoos in Indonesia and, in one memorable edition,  a painting of a naked woman on the front cover.

This phase also saw the establishment of a board on which I served until 2000 when I left to work full time in East Timor. For most of its life to that point Inside had enjoyed the active and public commitment of a generally younger generation of Australian Indonesianists whose number included people like Ron Witton, Anton Lucas, David Hill, Krishna Sen, David Bourchier, Ian Chalmers, Keith Foulcher, and Ed Aspinall, some of them former students of Herb Feith. But to have one of their number serve as editor was the icing on the cake. Gerry van Klinken’s standing in Indonesia and amongst his academic peers brought new status and credibility to the magazine and laid the basis for its ongoing success. For me and all those who had pioneered the project, this was just the right note to end on. 

Pat Walsh ( co-founded Inside Indonesia in 1983 with John Waddingham. His talk at the online launch of the magazine, 24 September 2007, was called 'An Audacious Project' and published in Inside Indonesia no 90 (Oct/Dec 2007). For Pat’s current activities visit


Inside Indonesia 112: Apr-Jun 2013

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