Padang conference highlights new research relationships with Indonesia

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

Deakin University researchers have had close and productive working relationships with Indonesian researchers for over two decades.

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.

Last December, the extensive collaborations between Deakin University and Indonesian non-government and academic organisations reached another milestone with the  highly successful international conference held in Padang.

The conference, which attracted more than 400 delegates, was jointly sponsored by Deakin,  the State University of  Padang (Universitas Negeri Padang, UNP); Andalas University (Universitas Andalas);and the Imam BonjoI State Institute of Islamic Studies (Institut Agama Islam Negeri - (IAIN).    

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 and Dr Fasli Jalal, Vice Minister of National Education;   Indonesian government officials; senior national public administrators, including the Director General of Higher Education, Professor Djoko Santoso; local government officials and 40  Deakin University staff.

These included Deakin’s DVC (Research), Professor Lee Astheimer.

“Our academics have many research partnerships in Asia, especially in India and China and now, we are developing very strong ties with Indonesia,” Professor Astheimer said.

“These ties enrich the connections between people and countries as well as resulting in interesting and meaningful research outcomes.”

The Conference showcased 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 provided 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,” said Professor Kenny.

Papers and panels covered a range of topics around the Conference themes, including issues in development like:

  • 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 the 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 highlighted 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,” said Professor Kenny, who also  discussed the changing nature of development and development interventions in post-Suharto Indonesia.

Professor 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,” Professor Kenny said.

“There is an urgent need for research into local governance issues, aquaculture, micro-finance and local tourism potential.

“During the Conference participants spoke about 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, the first academic analysis of the reconstruction; and    
  • Menuju SejarahSumatra,  a landmark history of Sumatraby Anthony Reid

There was also the launch of  a timely new journal Aksara: A Journal of Modern Indonesian Literature, which will be published in both Indonesian and English,  and edited by Ismet Fanany, Hasanuddin WS and Rebecca Fanany.

Overall, 78 Abstracts were accepted for presentation at the Conference. The Conference program included five keynote addresses, 60 parallel paper presentation sessions, eight panel sessions and one workshop. 

As part of capacity building for research,  Professor Ruth Rentschler ran a very successful one day Doctoral Symposium, which was attended by 105 participants.

More on Professor Sue Kenny

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