Australia-Indonesia Perceptions Report (2016)

EY Sweeney was commissioned to conduct a comprehensive study on the attitudes of Indonesians to Australia and the attitudes of Australians towards Indonesia. The study involved both qualitative and quantitative research in Indonesia and Australia. The Australian phase of the study was conducted from October to November, 2015. The Indonesian phase of the study was conducted from February to June, 2016. This report presents key findings from the research. While there were two distinct studies across both nations, the research from each of the countries has been presented side by side in this summary to allow the reader to easily absorb and contrast the key findings.

The aims of the study were twofold

  • To understand the awareness, perceptions and knowledge of the citizens of each country towards the other nation
  • To identify the influences and drivers of attitudes and perceptions

The research involved 24 focus groups and more than 4000 surveys across both countries. The design of the methodology and the sample structure was set in place after careful consideration and through a consultation process involving the Australia-Indonesia Centre, EY Sweeney, academics and research experts in Indonesia. The aim was to confirm the research approach was robust and the sample structure as comprehensive as feasible across each country.

It is important to note that specific parameters were set in place for the Indonesian research to reflect the focus of the AIC and to take into account some of the challenges of conducting research in Indonesia. This saw the quantitative surveys conducted face to face (as opposed to online) to maximise reach, and some specific screening criteria included. This needs to be taken into account when interpreting the survey results. The areas of coverage in the focus groups and in the surveys were mirrored in Indonesia and Australia.

In August 2016, the Australia-Indonesia Centre released the findings of the project. The aim of the research was to identify and benchmark the attitudes, perceptions and drivers that exist in each country. It produced some deep insights and a powerful ‘fact base’ to generate discussion and promote thinking about how the countries can be brought closer together. The research certainly emphasised the importance of the opportunity and the scale of the challenge. It also showed that what is required is a medium- to long-term approach that is holistic in nature; an approach that focuses as much on the ‘people’ side and building emotional engagement as on economic benefits.

At an overarching level, three key points emerge when reflecting on the project and thinking about engagement.

Think local, not international

International relations are not top-of-mind for most. Whilst this sounds obvious, it is an important consideration when thinking through engagement strategies. It is important for nations to engage with each other’s citizens on topics of interest or in areas where the personal benefit is clear.

Rapport requires understanding and empathy

At the start of the report, the point was made that the differences between the two countries are profound and there are significant domestic complexities. However, when you sit down and listen to people talk about their lives, their aspirations and ‘what’s important’, many similarities emerge. It underlines that building greater connection and trust will only occur by demystifying and building the levels of understanding. There can only be rapport if there is respect and an appreciation of the shared values.

Think beyond economic benefit

There is no simple solution to bringing the people of Indonesia and Australia closer together for the benefit of both nations. It requires a strategy that needs to be underpinned by a number of pillars – economic, political, social, cultural, and so on. It also requires a different focus in each country as the mindset, challenges and opportunities are different. Through all of this, there was support for the countries to be brought closer together – although the terrain is more challenging in Australia.

As engagement and intervention strategies are developed, they should be multi-layered and focused on the medium to long term. At the heart of any strategy needs to be a focus on building a much greater ‘emotional connection’ between the two countries. It is about elevating the level of understanding and empathy to create true rapport. Over time, that will build trust. Improved trust will also deliver the right environment to strengthen the economic ties that are important for the future prosperity of both nations and the aspirations of the people.

Full results of the research can be viewed at the Australia Indonesia Perceptions Report microsite.