Celebrating everyday life in the Australia-Indonesia neighbourhood

The project addressed key issues under the Australia-Indonesia Centre themes of culture and identity, youth, and generations. Building on previous studies, it aimed to investigate and imagine possible scenarios where more Australians and Indonesians enjoy significant intimate and productive engagements.

This small project sought to uncover Australia-Indonesia people-to-people links that were not primarily private, and yet were not widely known in public and were deserving of greater recognition and appreciation. Findings may indicate ways to forge friendships between the two neighbours.

Much has been done in Australia to boost public interest in Indonesian affairs and cultural heritage. Many of these events are extravagant and costly. Unfortunately, most events are one-off, or ad-hoc initiatives with no systematic documentation or follow-up. Being future-oriented, this project aimed to explore how we might sustain a series of activities, no matter how simple or small, that will endure and expand over a longer term. This project collected materials and stories for their potential to inspire future Australia-Indonesia links. These materials demonstrated grounded, everyday moments of Australia-Indonesia friendship that, for various reasons, have been little known.

The research team conducted 30 in-depth interviews with Indonesians and Australians living and working in Jakarta (10 interviewees), Denpasar (10), and Yogyakarta (10). The interviewees were selected based on age, and the experience of having spent at least a year in Australia (for Indonesian citizens) and Indonesia (for Australian citizens).

It was found that the strongest driver to live in and understand the other country came from higher education. It was through scholarships for higher degrees and language exchanges that the interviewees had started to become more familiar and deeply engaged with the other country.

It was with this in mind that follow-up focus group discussions in these three cities mostly engaged Indonesians who were alumni of Australian universities. Group participants ranged from NGO workers to artists, government officers, homemakers and social activists.

It was found that the most significant non-private relationships between young Indonesians and Australians lie in arts and culture. Insight regarding coffee and independent film culture was gained from the discussions in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. As such, the final workshop in Jakarta focused on the link between these two aspects when selected participants for the closing activity.

Findings and Recommendations

Building on existing knowledge, this project explored the domains that ‘ordinary’ citizens in both countries participated in every day, as well as the social relationships they had built over time. The project aimed to be inclusive, focusing on people with average levels of economic, political or cultural capital.

A number of Australians and Indonesians enjoy intimate or productive Australian-Indonesian links, and have made great achievements in their fields. Most do so quietly. Their stories may act as examples to inspire others. This project examined their cases, and sought ways to recognise their achievements, services and potential impacts on the future of Australia-Indonesia friendship.

The research team found ‘coffee culture’ to be a significant but relatively little-known area of Australia-Indonesia people-to-people engagement that has the potential for deeper impacts in both countries. As it develops, links through ‘coffee culture’ may connect with other areas of engagement, including independent filmmaking and film screenings, as well as inclusive development in coffee-producing rural areas.

Other areas of people-to-people engagements we examined were sports and youth associations.

Coffee Culture: While Indonesia is home to one of richest varieties of coffee in the world, Australia is reportedly one of the world’s new leading ‘coffee specialists’. Instead of focusing on coffee as a commodity, researchers collected stories of Indonesians and Australians who have been quietly but deeply involved in the pioneering work of bringing ‘coffee culture’ to the next level of partnership between peoples and communities in both countries. The research team was inspired by the experiences of Siti Maryam Rodja (Baraka Nusantara, Nusa Tenggara-Brisbane) and Jeffrey Neilson (University of Sydney, Sydney-Toraja). Both have pioneered grass-roots collaborations between Indonesian coffee farmers and coffee roasters in Australia. Their stories indicate the great potential of a new area for people-to-people engagement with impacts beyond the two nations.

Independent Film: In Indonesia, coffee culture is a new urban phenomenon, particularly prominent among young people and independent film communities. Several existing film-related activities involve Indonesia and Australia, such as ReelOzInd!, EngageMedia, and Festival Sinema Indonesia-Australia. Coffee is almost always present in small social gatherings in cafes to talk about arts, films and social concerns.

Youth Communities and Associations: Young people in Indonesia organise themselves around the types of relationships they have with their Australian friends. Some form communities around hobbies and others form more formal organisations. They voice different kinds of aspirations for future relationships. Both the Conference of  Australian and Indonesian Youth and the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association received positive mentions, but multiple fluid networks have developed outside those two well-known organisations.


  • More in-depth research and grants for the study of Australia-Indonesia coffee culture and support for rural coffee farmers in Indonesia. Coffee farmers and local actors in Indonesia can be better trained through multiple media platforms.
  • Further support for independent and non-commercial filmmaking and other cultural events, highlighting and celebrating non-private aspects of Australia-Indonesia engagements outside the usual paths of state-led strategic diplomacy and large industry and finance corporations.
  • Festivals that celebrate coffee culture and the stories of community social activists are potential sites for strengthening Australia-Indonesia people-to-people engagements in intimate and meaningful ways. Coffee/film festivals under our mini study highlight the importance of human stories shared in short documentary films.




Celebrating Everyday Life in Australia-Indonesia Neighbourhood


Public Seminar, ‘Celebrating the everydayness of the Australia-Indonesia relationship’, St Ali Jakarta, 15 November 2018