UNE hosts young Indonesian ‘ambassadors’

Published 15 December 2008

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The University of New England has helped to foster friendship and understanding between Australia and Indonesia through its involvement in a youth exchange scheme.

The Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP) gives young Australians and Indonesians the chance to understand and appreciate the culture and development of each other’s countries.

As part of the exchange, 18 university students and graduates from a range of Indonesian provinces are spending two months in NSW. While based in Macksville, the young ambassadors visited and performed in schools in the surrounding area, and their visit to UNE earlier this month was a highlight.

“This is my dream – to travel abroad and experience a different culture,” said 24-year-old Lukman Nurgandi from Banten province in West Java. “Our time at UNE has been so interesting. It’s very different from my college in Indonesia. I really want to come back to Armidale and study one day.”

The visitors presented cultural performances at UNE’s Oorala Centre, including a traditional dance from the northern Sumatran region of Aceh and the singing of the Indonesian national anthem (“Indonesia Raya”).

The group was warmly greeted by Dr Zifirdaus Adnan, Lecturer and Convener for UNE’s Indonesian Studies program. “UNE is very happy to play a part in the exchange program,” Dr Adnan said. “It is very symbolic for both nations. When two countries live so close to each other, there are options – to fight or to work together. And we choose to work together.” The group was also welcomed by the Indonesia-Australia Community of Armidale (KIAA) and the Indonesian Student Association of Australia at UNE (PPIA UNE), both represented by Pryosusilo (Pak Yon).

For 23-year-old Pratiwi Utami, from South Kalimantan, being part of AIYEP is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “This gives us a chance to promote mutual understanding and show Australians another side of Indonesia,” she said.

Dr Adnan said UNE had been placed on the itinerary because of the positive language-learning environment it provides for its students of Indonesian, its strong Indonesian community, and its close link with Macksville High School. “The School of Arts and UNE are delighted to host the young ambassadors,” said Professor Jennie Shaw, Head of UNE’s School of Arts. “We’d like to see them back here as students in the near future.”

AIYEP began in 1981 and operates under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Indonesian and Australian Governments. In Australia, AIYEP is sponsored by the Australia-Indonesia Institute.

“Heightened security restrictions have prevented many young students from travelling to Indonesia,” Dr Adnan said. “AIYEP provides unique access for Australians to experience the cultural diversity of Indonesian society. This enriches learning and also helps students decide what they want to do in the future.”

Australian and Indonesian AIYEP representatives met in Sydney on Sunday 7 December. Both groups travelled to Jakarta last Friday (12 December) in preparation for taking part in a two-month joint program in East Java.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Pratiwi Utami (right) and Lukman Nurgandi displayed here expands to show them presenting a plaque commemorating UNE’s involvement in the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program for 2008-09 to Professor Jennie Shaw. Dr Zifirdaus Adnan stands at left.