Research projects and partnerships in Indonesia

Governance and Development Conference, Padang, Indonesia, 14-16 December 2010

Deakin University researchers have had close and productive working relationships with Indonesian researchers for over two decades. These productive relationships have been clearly evidenced in the activities of staff in the Faculty of Arts and Education. For example, Professor Damien Kingsbury’s research in Aceh led to his pivotal role in the brokering of the peace deal in Helsinki that ended over 30 years of hostility between the Indonesian Government and the independence movement or GAM.

In addition to his role as a renowned novelist in Indonesia, Associate Professor Ismet Fanany has worked with Professor Sue Kenny on several research projects, including an investigation of capacity-building in Islamic non-government organisations and a study of the reconstruction of post-tsunami Aceh. Dr Joost Cote’s research on colonial culture and postcolonial identities is at the leading edge of examinations of the colonial period in Indonesia.

The extensive collaborations between Deakin University and non-government and academic organisations came to fruition in the highly successful International Conference held in Padang on the 14 - 16 December 2010, jointly sponsored by Deakin University, and the State University of Padang (Universitas Negeri Padang , UNP); Andalas University (Universitas Andalas);and the Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN) Imam Bonjol.

The Conference aimed to show-case current and recent research on the themes of governance, education and development, focussing on research of relevance to Australia, Indonesia and the region. The Conference promised to provide a forum for the establishment of new government, academic and industry research networks.

The general buzz of the Conference, the warm collegiality amongst the international and local participants, and the eager discussion during and after paper presentations, demonstrated the potential for extending our collaborative research on comparative studies of our region. Papers and panels covered a range of topics around the Conference themes, including issues in development, such as climate change, post-disaster reconstruction; education; democracy and good governance; health and health policy; conflict and conflict resolution; regional autonomy; local economics and micro-finance.

In her keynote address, Professor Graciela Chichilnisky, from Colombia University in New York, presented the case for using what she identifies as ‘ecological pricing’, as the basis for achieving ‘green growth’. Professor Anthony Reid, another keynote speaker from the Australian National University, considered how historians have been largely silent on the role of natural events and disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. To illustrate the methodological implications of acknowledging natural events, Professor Reid discussed how the history of Sumatra can be re-examined by linking geographical and historical research.

Deakin researchers identified some of the new development challenges facing Indonesia. For example, Chad Foulkes considered the existing and potential role of deliberative democracy in the new forms governance in Indonesia arising from the structures of regional autonomy. Professor Sue Kenny discussed the changing nature of development and development interventions in post-Suharto Indonesia. Professor Damien Kingsbury reviewed issues of good governance, accountability and development in Aceh since the election of the first genuine democratically chosen government in that province.

Other issues requiring examination were identified at a dinner for Deakin researchers hosted by the Mayor of Padang. The urgent need for research into local governance issues, aquaculture, micro-finance and local tourism potential was discussed.

During the Conference participants commented on the need for studies of best practice in humanitarian aid and international community development and the best ways of developing the region of West Sumatra. Discussions with researchers at Andalas University identified the need for research into innovations in nutrition, nursing and public health.

The Conference also provided an occasion for the launch of two important books, Post-Disaster Reconstruction: Lesson from Aceh, edited by Matthew Clarke, Ismet Fanany and Sue Kenny, and a landmark history of Sumatra Menuju Sejarah Sumatra, by Anthony Reid, as well a the launch of a timely new journal Aksara: A Journal of Modern Indonesian Literature, which will be edited by Ismet Fanany, WS Hasanuddin and Rebecca Fanany.

Over 400 people attended the Conference. Participants included academics from universities in many parts of Indonesia and the region, Indonesian Government members, including the Minister for the Interior (Dr. Gamawan Fauzi), Indonesian government officials, senior national public administrators, including the Director General of Education (Fasli Jalal), local government officials and 60 Deakin University academic staff. 78 Abstracts were accepted for presentation at the Conference. The Conference program included 5 keynote addresses, 60 parallel paper presentation sessions, 8 panel sessions and 1 workshop. The Conference attendance numbers and the high profile keynote speakers provided an opportunity for a significant level of exposure for Deakin University, both within Indonesia and in the region generally.

In addition to discussions of existing and potential research projects, Deakin staff met with Indonesian counterparts to discuss collaboration on research training. A number of fruitful partnerships were initiated, including collaboration on research degrees concerning health, health policy and nursing. As part of capacity building for research, Professor Ruth Rentschler ran a very successful one day Doctoral Symposium, which was attended by 105 participants.

Perhaps the most exciting outcome of the Conference was the launch of the Australia Indonesia Research Institute. At a well attended meeting chaired by Professor Jennifer Radbourne, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Education, a plan of action for the establishment and structure of the research institute was agreed to. Key researchers will visit Deakin University in early 2011 to finalise a research agenda and develop cutting-edge collaborative research projects.

Professor Radbourne, Dean of the  Faculty of Arts and Education
ABC Radio Australia interview
Professor Radbourne discusses the conference (translated for English and Indonesian listeners)

group photo from the Governance and Development Conference at Padang Indonesia in Dec 2010

Group photo from the Governance and Development Conference at Padang, Indonesia.

Photo gallery - Governance and Development Conference

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