It has been a few days now since I got back to Sydney, after joining a group of amazingly passionate people on the 50th anniversary Freedom Ride through regional NSW from 18-22 February 2015, but I can tell you that I am still buzzing from the experience. It is certainly a challenge to detail five days' worth of insights, thoughts, feelings, emotions, expectations, conversations, observations into one neat little blog. What I can say straight up, to kick-off the post-Ride reflections, is that it has been an absolute privilege to meet some of the people connected with the 1965 Freedom Ride, other Sydney Uni students and staff, two amazing Aussie music legends, and the many Kooris and Murris from the Aboriginal communities we visited.

Smoking ceremony at Walgett, to cleanse people of negative energy.
Copyright Mariko Smith 2015.


For one of my draft PhD chapters, I referred to a famous phrase coined by Canadian communication theorist, Marshall McLuhan, in his influential work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), which is "the medium is the message". It can be interpreted to mean that in choosing a particular channel to communicate information, that medium effectively influences how the message is perceived by and how it impacts on its audience.


50th Anniversary cake for the Freedom Ride, courtesy of the lovely mob in Dubbo.
Copyright: Mariko Smith, 2015.


David Plouffe was the man who spent a lot of time trying to convince people that Barack Obama was going to be president. “And I had a lot of people laugh at me,” he admits.

It’s hard to believe that the architect of President Obama’s two successful political campaigns was so easily dismissed. In both of Obama’s campaign runs, he won the highest percentage of the popular vote of any Democrat since Lyndol Johnson in 1964. And in both campaign runs, David Plouffe was integral to molding Obama’s campaign strategy.



Last Friday marked the end of a busy week, and the end of the Field School. The Engineering and Business groups split up to do our own faculty-related activities, with us in Engineering spending the week looking for problems or areas where the University may be able to look further into, with the theme being transport or humanitarian related.

To approach this, we visited a variety of companies and organisations that are doing work related to transport and humanitarian aid, including the Asian Development Bank, Ford, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the UN, UNICEF, the Jakartan Ministry of Transportation, and the Jakartan Traffic Control Center. All of these organisations were kind enough to invite us into their offices so that we could inundate them with questions related to our areas of interest, and to talk to us about the work they were doing to try and improve the condition of transport or water and sanitation in Indonesia. We also conducted other activities to try and gauge the potential of our projects, with several of us creating and conducting surveys (with the indispensable aid of our Indonesian counterparts from Universitas Indonesia).


In 2002 Dove attempted to redefine the notion of beauty in their ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. Dove claimed society’s concept of beauty was informed by highly unrealistic images of supermodel size zero’s who showcased the world’s leading beauty brands. They featured high cheekbones, toothpick legs and chins so sharp they could cut through steal. They’d fit in better on mars than earth. Recognising this, Dove’s campaign aimed at widening the definition to include life forms from the planet earth. Subsequently, Dove released a series of campaigns featuring more realistic representations of the womanly figure, communicating that beauty was natural and accessible.

Most importantly, Dove recognised powerful brands were symbolic resources of meaning which individuals use to construct or extend the self. Thus consumers who agreed in the morality of Dove’s attempt to liberalise society’s perception of beauty would express or confirm their morality by purchasing Dove products, empowering the consumer. The consumer was engaged in a social movement where Dove formed the connective tissue.

Yet this unitive outcome did not emerge when Unilever brought the US campaign to Jakarta.


Students from the USYD Business School had an opportunity visit Sinar Mas, one of the largest conglomerates in Indonesia, which has subsidiaries in pulp and paper, agriculture, financial services, property, telecommunications, energy and infrastructure. Interestingly, the visit came about through a chance meeting a USYD transport academic had with an employee at a bus station. The company is the largest producer of palm oil in Indonesia (accounting for roughly 10% of total production) and the second largest globally (Sinar Mas, 2015)

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So why is this an issue?


In the second week of the field trip, it was more centered towards our faculty. The business students had the opportunity to visit several companies in Jakarta. These companies included; Lowe Indonesia, Sinar Mas, Unilever Indonesia, Garuda Indonesia, MarkPlus institute and Nielsen Indonesia. During these visits, students had the opportunity to learn about how each respective company uses marketing tools and strategies. We were also exposed to how consumers behave in Indonesia.

However, there was one company that intrigued me instantly. This was Garuda Indonesia. Garuda Indonesia is a service airline that values being efficient and effective, loyalty, customer centricity, honesty and integrity. Moreover, Garuda seeks to promote national economic development by delivering professional airline service to the world.

Given their past, this company visit gave me great insights about their present market position in both the domestic and global market. Despite this, it is important to appreciate that Garuda experienced many obstacles in its past. During the 1996-97, Garuda suffered two major accidents- one of them being Indonesia’s worst aviation disaster. Moreover, the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 also hit Garuda very hard, resulting in them reducing flights and suspending certain flight routes.

Subsequently, in 2009 Garuda announced a major five-year expansion plan called the ‘Quantum leap’. This expansion involved image overhaul, including a change in the airline’s staff uniform and logo. Reflecting now, it is evident that their expansion plan was successful.

The success of the ‘Quantum leap’ has given Garuda a solid platform now. For instance, Garuda is currently the market leader in its domestic market for middle-high income earners. This market stance has also been supported by Garuda’s reputation of promoting safe flights, loyalty to its customers and great customer service. Moreover, Garuda has also successfully addressed its present challenges in its domestic market. Their major challenge is to be able to compete with budget airlines such as Sriwijaya Air, Batavia Air etc. This has been primarily addressed in its focus of Citilink. Citilink is a low-cost airline subsidiary of Garuda and seeks to cater for the lower-middle income earners.

In spite of this, one aspect of the company visit that I found interesting was when they told us how Garuda differentiates itself from its international competitors. Garuda attempts to differentiate from its competitors through “Garuda experiences”, meaning that they develop products in relation to Indonesia’s culture. For example, in their entertainment, Garuda has a section dedicated to only Indonesian movies and music. Reflecting now on our company visit to Garuda, I feel extremely grateful and blessed to have been given the opportunity to learn more about Indonesia’s leading aviation airline.

But more importantly, I feel extremely blessed to be able to visit Jakarta for the past fortnight. I have learnt to not just compare Jakarta with Sydney, but to appreciate the beauty of Jakarta and distance myself from comparing the two together. I already miss Jakarta. I miss the people, their smiles of happiness. I miss the company of my peers every night. For sure, the two weeks here in Jakarta will be in my memory forever.

Juan Tjiong
New Colombo Plan 2015 (Jakarta)

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