The effect of acculturation on citizens’ attitudes toward Australia and Indonesia

Studies have consistently indicated that there is gap between Indonesians’ and Australians’ attitudes toward each other. Indonesians are on the whole overwhelmingly positive toward Australia while Australians are less positive toward Indonesia (Australian-Indonesia Center 2016). The details, however, are at best sketchy. Given the long-term strategic importance of the relationship between the countries, the need to investigate this discrepancy in attitudes cannot be overstated. The number of Indonesian-born migrants in Australia has been on the increase (63,160 according to the 2011 national census, nearly 25 per cent higher than the last census). Little is known, however, about the Indonesian diaspora in Australia (or Australian expatriates in Indonesia), particularly about their acculturation and adaptation strategies.

This study focused on a theme  of culture and identity, organised around three objectives:

  • To compare and contrast attitudes and perceptions toward Australia and Indonesia between migrants, expats and citizens of both countries. Through cross-cultural comparison, we examined the impact of acculturation on individuals’ attitudes and perceptions toward both their home and host countries. People who have lived in both countries will have a different perspective to citizens who rely on media.
  • To explore the role of social media in influencing citizens’ attitudes toward Australia and Indonesia. Communication is an important feature in intercultural process. A report suggests that 66 per cent of social media users used the site for news (Pew Research Center 2016). Indonesia is fourth largest users of Facebook with 77 million active users (Statista 2016) compared to 15 million in Australia.
  • To create an effective campaign to bridge the gap of attitudes between Australians and Indonesians. Portraying a clear and authentic image of each country through the lenses of individuals who have lived in both will reduce the gap of attitude and perception toward Australia and Indonesia.

The researchers undertook a series of qualitative and quantitative analysis including;

  • Netnography study (of the internet), exploring several online communities: Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia Australia (11,321 likes), Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) (3153 likes), Indonesian Community in Australia (1003 likes) and End Australian aid to Indonesia (3450 likes).
  • A combination of online and paper-based surveys distributed to respondents and focus groups in Indonesia (Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar) and Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth). Participants came from ‘migrant’, ‘expatriate’ and ‘citizen’ groups in both countries.

Findings and recommendations

From our qualitative research, the study found that Australians have a positive view of Indonesia. However, perception of some aspects are quite negative – such as corruption, environmental management, human right and health care. The Indonesian government needs to work closely with the media to improve the image of Indonesia overseas. Moreover, the Indonesian government needs to increase awareness of environmental issues in Indonesia – for instance reducing the use of plastic bags, and social marketing campaigns to keep cities and towns clean.

From our quantitative research, the study found that both Australians and Indonesians have a relatively positive view of each other.  However there is a pattern where Australians in Indonesia do not identify with Indonesia.



Presentation of research, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Airlangga, Surabaya, 10 July 2018.