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July 2015

Written by Sarah MacDonald

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to participate in the United States Studies Centre’s Inaugural G’Day USA program where I had the opportunity to spend some time in Washington DC and visit some famous monuments.

My favourite monument was the Lincoln memorial.  I distinctly remember reading off the wall of the monument, the famous final words of the Gettysburg address where Lincoln said:

“This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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There are some things you will never learn inside the classroom.

Firstly, when speaking your native language you never realise how language acts as a limit on self-expression. Not only can you express any feeling or thought you like, you can express each in multiple ways to suit context. Speaking a language you’re learning in-country however brings the power of language into sharp focus. Suddenly, you can’t freely express your thoughts or desires and have to moderate them to fit what you can and cannot say. It forces you to change your opinions, change your tone of voice and even some behaviours. In a way, you feel like a completely different person. A bit like a child, struggling to be understood. Nothing is as motivating as this. The desire to be free from the constraints of your language spurs you on to learn with more determination than ever. You just want free reign over your identity again.

Additionally, in the classroom you never really learn how to engage in conversation with a total stranger from a completely different culture to yourself. No amount of learning about culture or politics or religion can ever prepare you for talking to a real local fluent speaker. Your mannerisms are wrong, your turn of phrase is awkward and you can’t help but be acutely aware of it the whole time. You notice people have to pause to decode you, and it embarrasses you. You try to change your habits but decades of repetition is hard to shake. Slowly things start to change a little, and that feels great. You notice you’re no longer putting your hands on your hips or maybe using the correct pronouns, and despite it being a small change it feels like a big victory. Despite all the difficulties, in-country study is rewarding like nothing else.

Moreover, pronunciation seems like a pretty minor thing at first but in-country that changes. Specifically, you realise that a slight change in sound can entirely change the meaning. Any one word of a modern language with a large lexicon is likely to have several phonetically similar cousins, which you could easily pronounce instead. As such, imperfect pronunciation causes some hassles. For instance, “Kentang” (Potato) and “Kenyang” (full) can lead to you enthusiastically informing a family dinner that you are a potato. However, like most aspects of language it only gets better in-country, through constant exposure to Indonesian in an Indonesian accent.

These struggles are amplified by the expectations of your in-country peers. Working in groups of four, we had to conduct sectoral analyses on manufacture, retail, construction, shipbuilding and tourism in Batam. The other group members (who were from different faculties) rely on you (the Indonesian speaker) to become a cultural and linguistic bridge, in a country that you’ve only heard about in writing. Batam really does push you, to step out of your comfort zone and fill those expectations. It forces you to be creative, courageous and confident. Somehow, you have to find a way to apply the things you’ve learnt in class, with a group you hardly know, in a place that you wouldn’t have necessarily been aware of.

We would like to express our appreciation to the Australian government and SSEAC for providing this opportunity. We have been able to apply the theory that we have learnt in class in practice, which has further allowed us to be certain that we made the right decision to learn Indonesian at a tertiary level.

Written by Owen James and Carol Kim.

In 1981, the Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’ Orchid became the national flower of Singapore. Known for its resilience and year-round blooming quality, the flower was said to encapsulate the uniqueness and hybrid culture of the island (National Parks 2015). Despite being a relatively young nation and lacking a distinct Indigenous population, Singapore has woven a rich and diverse range of ethnic petals together to form the golden centre that is modern-day Singapore. orchid 2.JPG

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For me, Batam was a luxury food paradise. There were fruits we couldn’t dream of available at the local hypermart, which was a novelty in itself (durian-flavoured milk, anyone?). Beyond the typical tropical fruits we were accustomed to like papaya, pineapple and guava, we were blessed with an abundance of lychee-type fruits like longan, rambutan and salak, and durian-type fruits, a misnomer category that included jackfruit and, well, durian. Love of the thorny delicacy durian is quite a phenomenon in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. There are certain species of durian that are more ‘enak’ (delicious) than others, like D24 which is prized for its strong taste and very yellow flesh.

It should be noted that one person’s romance with durian is not representative of another’s - it’s a polarising fruit that is foul-smelling to some and pungent and enticing to others. As someone who enjoys its smell, I could liken it to the smell of salmon for a fish-lover, or that brine-egg combination scent of the sea to nostalgic coastal-dwellers. We discovered durian in a food market in Singapore days before our study tour in Batam began for roughly AU$5 for a quarter of a durian fruit. It’s like a bitter, sweet and creamy cheese and like garlic, you’ll be tasting it for hours after you’ve eaten it.

Upon arriving in Batam, and much to our dismay, we found that durian was not available at our local hypermart, and we had to be satisfied with durian-creme chocolates. Our second encounter occurred later that week when we were treated to a delicious dinner at a local contractor’s palatial home. As the family was celebrating Ramadan, the dinner meal was served after sundown and was part of the ritual of breaking fast. To the surprise of durian-lovers in the group, durian was featured in the Cendol, a popular dessert drink in Indonesia usually made with coconut milk, jelly and ice. However, that did not satiate our desire for fresh durian fruit.

On one of our last days in Batam, Vivian, Mul and our driver were able to find some cheap, delicious durian sold by a street vendor for the equivalent of AU$3 a kilo. Of course, when word got out we had a picnic on our hands. We had to eat the fruit outside because the smell would be too offensive if we were to open it inside the hotel lobby. In fact, it is customary not to eat durian in public spaces because of the smell is off-putting to many.

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For some students, the durian picnic represented their first time trying the king of fruits, and there were mixed opinions on its taste. For me, it was not my first and certainly not my last. To my utter pleasure, at Changi Airport in Singapore there was a giant, illuminated durian installation with a durian-shaped love seat. The airport also had a durian cafe, where they sold durian-flavoured puddings, cakes and ice-creams. It was pure heaven.

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“If Singapore is a nanny state, then I am proud to have fostered one”
Lee Kuan Yew has been recognised as the “father figure of modern Singapore”, with his political philosophies and ideologies shaping Singapore’s cultural, social and economic landscape. The most interesting aspect of the field school has been recognising the interlinked and multi-faceted nature of Singaporean society, and how government policy as a form of social engineering has been instrumental in influencing individual and societal views.

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Having spent half a week in Singapore prior to the field school, the contrast in environmental conditions and regulation was evident from the moment we stepped off the ferry in Batam. Rubbish in the form of food packets, construction materials, lids, cigarettes, the occasional gumboot and – most dire of all – plastic bottles and bags could be found in every nook and cranny of the island. On a day trip to neighbouring islands of Penyengat and Bintan we witnessed piles of rubbish being burned as a form of waste management.

The effects of this rubbish are evident across the city. It wasn’t until a few days into the field school when we realised we were also contributing to Batam’s waste management issue. Pictured below is an accumulation of the number of plastic bottles used by two people over the course of two weeks.

Upon meeting a group of young and engaging geography students at Sekolah Maitreyawira, it is clear that there is an emerging environmental movement. The students had taken time out of their holidays to meet with us and discuss the issues that most matter to them at a time of rapid industrial development. Nina, one of the students we met, explained how Batam lacked a recycling facility, and how there was no effort made to reduce the amount of rubbish that was left relentlessly around the city.

Yet Nina was optimistic about the future of Batam to become a more sustainable place, where environmental regulation was placed higher on the government’s agenda. This might take some time to materialise, though: upon speaking to local government officials, we were told that the heterogenous population made it hard to educate people who were constantly moving in and out of Batam.
Speaking with young individuals with worldly ideologies and an awareness for the importance of environmental protection was uplifting. It gave us hope not just for the future of Batam but to its future generation’s and the kinds of people that will be leading this amazing city. Batam has already scaled the development ladder in only a few decades. With young leaders like Nina, it has the potential to become a global competitor with efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. We cannot wait to see how the cultural identity of this future generaetion will shape its landscape.

Written by Chelsey Blondel and Samantha Lim

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Imagine a bustling, outdoor food court during the lunchtime rush. Now replace McDonald’s and the dodgy “all-you-can-eat” Chinese takeaway with quaint, authentic food stalls operated by people from a diverse range of backgrounds. The heat and humidity is somewhat oppressive, but you soon acclimatise and realise that the food here is authentic, delicious, and, best of all, cheap. Grandfathers gather around large, circular tables discussing the latest achievements of their children over beef noodle soup while ‘aunties’ gossip about newcomers to the neighbourhood with their kopi-o’s. Welcome to one of Singapore’s many hawker centres, where purveyors of Chinese, Malay and Indian street food cluster to form a communal food complex providing locals with convenient, inexpensive food as well as a place for family bonding and social interaction.

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As a part of the Singapore Housing Fieldschool, University of Sydney students were invited to visit the SkyVille@Dawson estate. The Housing Development Board (HDB) commissioned WOHA to design this estate, which was a part of its ‘Remake our Heartland’ (ROH) programme. The ROH program includes a series of initiative to improve and transform the living environment of mature estates, while enticing younger families to move into these estates (Housing Development Board 2014). They also aim to provide more opportunities for the younger generation to live closer to their parents, and maintain the ideologies of a ‘nucleus family’ which is remains as the bedrock of the Singaporean society (Hoon 2004).

As we walked through the complex, it was apparent that the architectural structure of the SkyVille@Dawson estate was much more innovative in comparison to the standardised, traditional HDB flats. Each home in the SkyVille@Dawson estate is designed to be a part of a Sky Village comprising of 80 homes that share a naturally ventilated community space and sky garden. This was very intriguing idea because it never occurred to me that public housing could have the luxury to a sky garden…Every tower is composed of 4 vertically stacked Sky Villages across 3 interconnected blocks. The communal space on the ground level is decorated with engraved artworks, forming the Heritage Gallery. It is hard to believe that such finely designed property which in many aspects is highly comparable to private properties of many countries is actually a HDB flat in Singapore. To me, it is a ‘cultural shock’.

Through observation of the SkyVille@Dawson estate and multiple visits of HDB flats, it is apparent to me that the modern Singaporean public housing policy does not just aim to provide a roof over people’s head. It government is also dedicated to address higher level of needs of the residents such as their social and physiological needs. The unprecedented incorporation of multiple sky-gardens in SkyVille@Dawson is aimed to create a better sense of community and intimacy amongst residents, which is important in creating one’s sense of belonging to the country. Public housing in Singapore is successful in the sense that there seems to be very minimal social prejudice towards people who live in social housing. This is a problem which some states such as Hong Kong fails to address (Wong and Yan 2012). This success can be largely attributed to the HDB’s continual effort to minimize the difference in living standards between people living in public housing and private housing. Most HDB estates are highly accessible to MRT stations, shopping malls, schools, and other facilities and this is important in reducing the gaps of social inequality. Indeed, Singapore is not a welfare-state, however, it is apparent that its government does attempt to address social inequality issues through other fundamental aspects of society, such as housing.

My original perception of public housing has been dismantled after learning about Singapore’s housing policy. During the past two weeks, it made me realise that public housing is not just for the most vulnerable groups of society. Most importantly, it made me realise that definition and perspectives towards a certain issue can change due to the change of context.

References
Hoon, C. 2004, ‘Revisiting the Asian value argument used by Asian political leaders and its validity’, Indonesian Quarterly, vol. 32. no. 2, pp. 154-174, viewed 8 July 2015,
Housing Development Board 2014, Housing Development Board, Singapore, viewed 10 July 2015, < http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10296p.nsf/PressReleases/9D3A3E2768F96C9448257D04001A810B?OpenDocument>
Wong, T. and Yan, Y. 2012, ‘Perception of neighbourhood environment and self-rated health in Hong Kong’, The Internet Journal of Public Health, vol. 2, no. 1, viewed 11 July 2015,

Wan Ying Anna Zhou
Bachelor of Commerce and Arts
Participant in the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre Singapore Field School in conjunction with the University of Sydney Business School

“I wanted to build a home-owning society. I wanted every citizen to have a stake in the country.”
Lee Kuan Yew, First Prime Minister of Singapore

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Sitting in Room 603 writing my second blog post, I feel sad knowing that we are now at the end of our Field School to Singapore. We have learnt so much about the ins and outs of this country’s unique public housing system and have had plenty of fun along the way. I feel as though we know more about housing issues than some of the local residents do, let alone what non-Singaporeans do, and I don’t think that I will be able to get the abbreviation “HDB” out of my head for a while! What I found particularly interesting though was the plight of the ‘sandwich class’ – that is, the group of middle-income earners who do not qualify for the purchase of public housing flats, but who also have difficulty affording equivalent private property.

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Singapore’s unique safaris are renowned for their beautiful settings in which animals roam freely in their “natural habitats” (Singapore Zoo 2015). But travel to north east Singapore and it is here that perhaps their most unusual safari lies… the concrete safari of one of Singapore’s newest housing developments, Punggol.

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“Some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end… life is about… taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next” - Gilda Radner

Singapore’s public housing has always been used as a mechanism to achieve policy objectives, with the government being responsive and adaptable to changing circumstances. One of Singapore’s greatest ambiguities has been the issue of land scarcity, which necessarily involves a delicate balance between maximising the value of land and space utilisation through the notion of ‘vertical living’ while attempting to preserve a sense of community and authenticity (ESC 2012). Learning about Singapore’s public housing policy has reinforced that dealing with ambiguity is inevitable and an important area for my own personal development.

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During my time in Singapore, one issue that struck me is the extent to which the broader socio-cultural sphere is ‘constructed’ by the government, particularly with regards to ethnic groups. The presentation given to us last week by the Housing Development Board touched briefly on the concept of ethnic quotas for public housing (HDB 2015). However, their full extent only became clear over the course of the field school, through not only additional seminars but also our observational research.

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Upon arriving in Batam, we were prepared to experience many new things. But one thing we were not prepared for was a rave, Buddhist-style.

After sampling delicious vegetarian beef, vegetarian fish tempura, and pineapple satay, we embarked on an adventure tourists would never be able to experience.

Our gracious hosts at the Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya led us white seats set aside for their honoured guests from Australia. As we sat down, the MC announced our presence and the camera zoomed onto us. A huge round of applause was followed by a communal cheer. Soon after, a stream of children appeared in a kaleidoscope of colours, grass green, high-viz yellow and sunset red. They worked their extravagant costumes and dramatic makeup, eyeliner and lipstick with pride as they walked to their designated seats, preparing to perform. It was a living forest of lotus children, smiling butterflies and swaying trees.

The Buddhist Festival was a celebration of loving nature. Many of the songs and dances performed were about their devotion and respectful relationship to the environment. Hundreds of children of all age groups came together from various islands (some even travelled 12 hours!) for this day.

A teacher informed us that this festival, run by the International Nature Loving Association Indonesia-Batam, was not a dance competition rivalling programs like “Australia’s got Talent”. Students were encouraged to scream “Jiāyóu” (加油), which literally means, “add oil”, after each schools performance to symbolise the ignition of each other’s success. Peace, harmony and love towards each other and nature supplanted all the negativity and greed clouding their lives.

The non-stop synchronised clapping and general support for each other was palpable.
We experienced a rush of excitement as we watched the students dance in military precision, as if in a trance, to loud music accompanied by lyrics of nature and love. The audience was not passive, either. We all joined in at several intervals engaging in arm-moving, hip-turning actions with enthusiasm. Although some of the dance moves required a bit of coordination, we made up for our clumsiness with enthusiasm, especially when the camera was on us!

The fluent ease with which students switched from Mandarin to Bahasa Indonesia was a surprise for some of us. On further reflection, we realised that it reflected the cultural diversity and heterogeneity of the islands and of the respect afforded to its different cultures.

After a couple of hours, we sadly departed, having given our thanks for the hospitality and opportunity to witness an exciting insight into the cultural diversity of the islands. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, which we will never see elsewhere or again. In that moment of time, we truly understood the essence of Batam.

For its people, it is more than just a Special Economic Zone – it’s home.

When travelling in a foreign country, there are things a person wishes they experience – and things they hope they never have to relive again. Funnily enough, all it took was one bite of an otak-otak and some street market food to make our first field school trip one that we will never forget.

Since arriving Batam, we have wanted to visit one of the hospitals to get a sense of the state of health services. Finally, on the 4th of July, after almost a week in Indonesia, our chance finally came.

Chris: My diagnosis was chronic stomach cramps due to … you guessed it, seafood. The culprit: a prawn. My only recollection of eating a prawn was in some soup I had for dinner one night at the local markets. Once shelled and deveined it mustn’t have been any bigger than half the size of my little finger. Prawn 1 Chris 0. I was given some medicine and we were on our way.

Veiongo: My allergic reaction was triggered by a traditional Indonesian seafood dish known as otak-otak. My lip began swelling and four hours later I was a red marshmallow. It took two hours to get back to our hotel from the small island where the allergic reaction had been triggered where I contacted clinicians back in Australia to seek advice. An hour later, Chris and I were sitting on hospital beds in one of Batam’s private hospitals. I was given medication, an injection and then paid a total of $22 AUD for hospital treatment (What a bargain!!!).

Chris: The following three days were mostly a blur. What I do remember however is being too scared to leave the vicinity of a clean and reliable toilet, I slept for most of the day and I was in a much worse condition. This was due to what Indonesians call mencret. Essentially, I had taken too much of the prescribed medication and I ended up dehydrated. Prawn 2 Chris 0. Back to the hospital! I was there for one hour in total with new medicine and another hospital experience.

A few things we noticed about the hospital: It was clean, the staff were friendly and could speak some English. As we wanted to be more cultured, we both tried our best to make use of our limited Indonesian vocabulary. Although it would have been easier if we spoken English, according to Mul (one of the leaders of the trip and native Indonesian speaker), the nurses and doctor were very happy to see the bules practising their Indonesian. This was a confidence builder and reinforced the benefits and importance of learning a language. Anyone who has tried to learn a second language understands that although it is challenging, time consuming and at times embarrassing, it is incredibly rewarding.

We are now (almost) back to full health. But there are a few things future travellers should learn from the Work and Organisational studies (WOS) students:

- Take an allergy test before leaving Sydney
- Just because the locals and other travellers can eat roadside delights doesn’t mean you can
- Don’t be that guy or girl that ate seafood and then got sick…. Twice
- Trying to speak the host country’s language puts you one step ahead of the person who only speaks English
- Even though it was one scary experience, at least we got to try out medical treatment in Indonesia

We would like to thank Mul and Gulnaz for accompanying us to the hospital, the awesome Harris Hotel staff, the hospital staff and our supportive field school team for being there when we needed them. A special shout out too to Dr Jacob Opio, Jacky Ayo-Opio and Lavinia in Australia for being on call 24/7. We really appreciate it!

Batam, you have been an incredible experience. It will definitely be a trip we will never forget!

Written by: Christopher Donovan and Veiongo Lamipeti

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Christopher Donovan- Hospital visit no.1

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Veiongo Lamipeti- waiting for an injection.

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Batam is a synecdoche of hope and prosperity for many people and has become a place where individuals and family migrate to from other areas of Indonesia in hope of finding a better life. Since arriving in Batam, my colleagues and I have experienced something that has changed all of us for the better.

The purpose of this trip was to conduct interdisciplinary fieldwork on rural-urban migration to Batam. But, as this trip draws to a close and as everyone is furiously typing away to complete our final assessment for the trip, there are very many things that we will walk away with when we depart on Saturday.

Here are some things that I believe most of us experienced whilst travelling abroad on the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan:

Interdisciplinary fieldwork is not only challenging but it is one of the best learning opportunities that I have personally ever experienced. The diverse culture, religion, food and the people on this trip makes all the fieldwork we have to do worth it. Whether it is travelling to Nagoya, ‘de bottle’ or the little night markets, each day brings with it new experiences and the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of this ‘Industrial Zone’.

The disciplines on this trip involved individuals from economics, geography, work and organisational studies, and Indonesian studies. Each discipline brings a different perspective, attitude and approach to our fieldwork. This group is the epitome of the idea that diversity enhances productivity, creativity and as a result, enhances everyone’s understanding of the area of research. At the beginning of this trip, very few of us had much in common, but we have come to understand and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the people in our group. For example, what one lacks in writing, they are able to make up for with their strong interpersonal skills, which is useful for when conducting interviews.

And, finally, the last lesson of the trip: as Mul, one of our leaders, said, “you need to build a strong foundation before you build an empire”. Not only is this applicable to Batam, but also a motto we should build into our everyday lives in order to leave our mark in this world.

Special thanks to SSEAC, Michele, Mul, Sydney University and the Australian Government for making this all happen. The experiences from this trip have shaped our understanding Batam’s place in the world and reiterate the importance of developing stronger relations with Southeast Asia. It was a learning opportunity like none other!

Written by: Veiongo Lamipeti- Bachelor of Health Sciences (majoring in management).

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Pictured (Left to right): James MacDonald, Veiongo Lamipeti and Laura Van Den Honert

Arriving in Batam via Singapore, we were met with an unfamiliar landscape of malls, vacant shop houses, industrial estates and government buildings. Those of us who have had previous experiences of Indonesia or spent years studying the language and culture, were initially disorientated by the concrete jungle shrouded in the facade of a Hollywood-esque ‘Welcome to Batam’ sign and gaudy architecture. We missed the becak (A three-wheel mode of transport in Indonesia) and pasar (markets) of Jogja streets. The vibrancy and diversity of Jakarta’s kampung (villages/suburbs) were nowhere to be found.

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It gradually became evident that our past experiences of Indonesia had in fact limited our perception of what the nation represents. Our experiences in Batam have forced us to expand our understanding to make sense of what we are seeing in the context of what we understand to be ‘authentic’ Indonesia. Is the landscape of Indonesian modernity really less legitimate than the romanticised images we have been clinging to?

To answer such a complex question, it’s important to first consider the complexity of Indonesia itself. Indonesia is an nation comprising of more than 17,000 islands, each holding an enigma of culture, history and tradition. Although some communities may be located adjacent to each other, natural divides such as mountains can create generations of difference and diversity. Batam Island, situated just on the border of Indonesia and Singapore, is a unique case, seen as a golden city of opportunity (by foreign investors and Indonesians alike) through its exponential economic growth within the manufacturing sector over the last 20 years. With the pursuit merantau (the voyage of an individual to seek opportunity away from their home village) by thousands across Indonesia, an intriguing fusion has been established.

We believed that a city constructed as an industrial centre according to a Master Plan could not possibly be taken as an accurate representation of Indonesia. But we have learnt that those who designed it are Indonesian, and those who live and work here are Indonesian. We have spoken and shared stories with them, of the way they miss their homelands but also the hope for a new life that brought them to Batam’s shores. We have eaten more mie goreng and manggis than is healthy. Just when you think you have Indonesia all figured out, Indonesia throws something right back at you to change your entire perspective. Thank you to the Australian government for providing us the opportunity to challenge our expectations of Batam, and Indonesia as a whole.

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Anastasia Pavlovic - Bachelor of Arts (Indonesian Studies) / Bachelor of Social Work II
Maire Playford - Bachelor of Arts (Indonesian Studies) / Masters in Nursing I

After spending the morning on an island called Galang, where there was a refugee camp in the 1970s, we visited YMKK, an NGO that focuses on reproductive health. We’d learned in the pre-departure sessions that there are two female-dominated industries in Batam. There’s the ‘Batam of the day’ that is made up of females working in electronics factories. Then there’s the ‘Batam of the night’, which refers to the thriving sex tourism industry. It was interesting to explore the side of Batam that hadn’t yet been very visible to us during the field school.

The first thing we saw when we walked into the YMKK office was their computer room, where the organisation gives free English classes, and teaches basic computer skills. Next we all sat in a big circle on the floor, which set a refreshingly informal tone and felt very different to the sleek government offices we’d visited earlier in the week.

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Our host Tarmizi talked to us about the history and evolution of YMKK, and how the organisation deals with issues facing sex workers. When YMKK was founded in 1994 they were first focused on HIV-related sexual health services and educational programs about safe sex, especially directed at female sex workers and sex tourists from Singapore. Tarmizi estimated that in the 1990s there were tens of thousands of sex workers in Batam, and that number has grown.

The demographic make-up of the sex work industry has also changed. Now most sex workers are locals, while in the 1990s the majority of workers were migrants from other parts of Indonesia. When you compare the amount that a sex worker makes per session (up to AU$50), to the relatively low monthly minimum wage in Batam (AU$250), it seems less surprising that some women choose sex work over lower paid factory and retail work.

These days, one of YMKK’s focuses is helping victims of sex trafficking. We really liked YMKK’s people-centred approach, which prioritises the wishes of the people it is helping when deciding on a course of action. We found it interesting that fewer male sex workers approach the organisation, in part because they don’t want to admit that they engage in male-to-male sexual activities.

The government seems to be realistic about the role of sex tourism on the island. When we visited the Planning Authority of Batam (BIFZA), we got the impression that they weren’t really opposed to sex tourism, because of its contribution to revenue from tourism fits with their aim of promoting economic growth. However, there has been some effort to control the industry by containing brothel areas to an area on the more industrial, western side of the island called Tanjung Uncang.

We left the office of YMKK appreciating the surprisingly frank and open discussion we were able to have about the sex industry, a topic which is often considered taboo in Australia. As an added bonus, the next day we found out that an article had been written about our visit, humorously titled ‘Australian Students visit Batam to learn about the Sex Business’.

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For the past eight days the group has primarily been exploring Batam’s industrial heart, visiting places such as Batamindo Industrial park, Batam Industrial Free Zone Authority (BIFZA) and various unions. On Tuesday morning, the Tourism Sector group distanced themselves from heavy industry and visited Turi Beach, a luxurious resort in Nongsa on the north-east coast of the island that has attracted the likes of our own Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

On arrival we were greeted with cold honey ginger beverages in champagne glasses - we certainly weren’t in Batam Centre anymore! We were given a short presentation by senior management on how Turi Beach offers not ‘just a place to sleep’ but a lifestyle - as a place for relaxation or for outdoor activities. The general manager, Sumantri Endang impressed us with his knowledge on the potential for tourism growth. He was concerned about the inconsistency in visa regulations across the five international ferry terminals in Batam. While Batam Centre has free visa on arrival for over 35 nationalities, Nongsapura International Ferry Terminal does not. While this doesn’t affect Singapore, their main source of visitors, who don't need to pay for Visas for entry into Batam, it affects their second largest source of tourists, South Korea.

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Our tour of the facilities lasted 45 minutes, exploring the two different styles of accommodation, the swimming pools, restaurants and bars, rock climbing wall and marine activities on the waterfront. We found ourselves looking at approximately ten cargo ships on the horizon, reminding us of the industrial presence on the island. We were told that guests were cautioned not to swim at the beach at certain times of the year, at risk of tar-stained clothes!

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We finished up the day with a lesson from housekeeping staff on making towel animals, including bulldogs, elephants, monkeys (for children) and swans (in the honeymoon suites) - a valuable new skill we will practise on our friends and family! While we would have loved to stay the night, it was great to return back to Batam Centre, the pulsing cultural heart of the city.

Kimberley Hade and James Macdonald

Driving into the 320 hectare estate that is Batamindo Industrial Park, it was hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of the operation and the presence of well-known global companies like Schneider, Rapala, CIBA Vision and Shimano.

First stop was the operational headquarters, where the presence of multinational banks such as HSBC hinted towards the diversity of the services this all-encompassing industrial park offers. We enjoyed a presentation by an employee from the marketing division of Gallant Venture, the investment holding company that runs the industrial park. Following this presentation and some questions from the fellow students, we were provided with a tour of many of the facilities and services within Batamindo.

The industrial park is a haven for employers, with its custom built factories, human resource recruitment services, all-inclusive facilities and capacity to house employees on-site. This strips away many of the operational costs and sometimes challenging logistical management required with sourcing workers, facility security and maintenance and transport.

Before we crammed back on to the bus for the grand tour, we were invited to peruse the pride and joy of the operation headquarters, Round Room 1. The room is the trophy cabinet of Batamindo – displaying many of the products recently manufactured within the industrial estate walls. The centrepiece of the room was a well-lit, colourful Lego playset. In a scary way, gazing upon the giant plastic scale model made us feel like wealthy foreign investors, casually picking out a location for a factory within the industrial park grounds.

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Considering there are living facilities, malls and food halls located within the park, production line workers rarely need to leave the park. But, unfortunately, many of them find their employment to be extremely monotonous and repetitive. Later in the week, we had a chance to talk to some of these workers to discuss their origins and opinions. Workers had travelled from other places in Indonesia, including Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi looking for work. Many of the workers within the Industrial Park were young females, who worked on the production lines of the electronics factories. They said that Batam was not their final destination, sharing with us their hopes to work for a number of years here before moving on. All of the workers that we interviewed were very friendly and willing to share their stories and experiences.

In retrospect, our visit to Batamindo was an incredible place to start our experience in Batam. Our first impressions here contextualised the enduring battle between employer and employee in the face of pressure to minimize costs and increase efficiency. It left us with many questions regarding the role of labour unions, employer associations, governmental responsibilities and the implications of their interactions. Time has flown since this initial visit as we have continued our adventures searching for these answers.

By Harry Agnew and Brendan Dobb

Batam is a carefully planned city with a grand vision. It is young but has loads of potential and the more we explore the greater appreciation we gain for its eclectic mix of cultures and people. After a short, leisurely stroll on Tuesday morning, the group entered the Batam Indonesia Free Zone Authority (BIFZA) building. The Authority is in charge of the masterplan for Batam, including designating land use, planning developments and facilitating long-term investment opportunities.

The meeting began with a short movie, featuring a majestic eagle soaring to The Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. What is Batam known for? “SSS - sun, seafood and sex” said the Director for Investment and Marketing, before laughing and adding “and gambling”. As coincidence would have it, Bapak Purnomo Andiantono was a student at Randwick Boys during the 1980s - he used to catch the 378 bus from his home in Chippendale near Victoria Park to Bondi Junction. He and two colleagues told us about their grand plans for Batam, including Batam’s first toll road and a monorail, proposed expansions to two ports and the airport, and a bridge connecting Batam and the southern islands of Rempang and Galang. Thus began our two hour discussion, with the USYD students asking over 30 questions about issues from marine preservation to high-rise construction and illegal housing to plans for a 5 star resort. The BIFZA staff’s vision for Batam is limitless and we truly can sense their energy and optimism for its future.

A sincere thanks from the Batam Study Group, USYD and Australia to BIFZA for their participation. As the token Bald Eagle flies over once more, Bapak Andiantono asked us to promote Batam back home while he “hope this will not be your last time here”. We would be thrilled to tour the city once more on, to quote The Simpsons, its “genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail”.

By Sarah Smith and Brian Roman

We rose early on Saturday morning, excited that our impending daytrip to Bintan would allow us to explore other islands of the Riau Archipelago. Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits; instead we were glad for the cooler weather it brought.

We caught a 45-minute ferry and we were blown away by both the wind and the scenery. On arrival in Bintan we exchanged our ferry for two pompong and were taken to the quirky and intriguing island of Penyengat, a strange mix of abandoned colonial-style houses and colourful homes. Here we visited the Grand Mosque of Riau Sultanate, explored the graves of the royal Malay family and wandered through the surrounding farm areas. We were able to gauge an understanding of what life was like for locals as we observed people collecting water from stone wells.

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Our first destination on the main island of Bintan was a large Buddhist temple, outside of which we were able to satisfy our tropical cravings with enormous young coconuts. We then gained first-hand experience of bargaining in Indonesian as we negotiated prices with motorcycle taxi drivers who were to take us to our trip organiser’s family home on the island where we were to eat lunch. The Batam team cruised through the streets together in style.

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We were treated to a beautiful and abundant spread of food which was enjoyed immensely by all, apart from those who were caught unawares by the chilli hidden throughout the dishes. Burning red faces and eyes streaming with tears made those who fell victim incredibly easy to spot across the room.
We had time to explore the surrounding area after our feast, but didn’t make it past the sweets store on the corner. We were overwhelmed with multi-coloured jelly cakes, coconut rice balls and pandan treats but couldn’t go past the sugar-coated donuts. These donuts weren’t like regular donuts, they were melt-in-your-mouth donuts glazed in eternal happiness. It was undoubtedly the food pinnacle of the trip and our stomachs will spend their lives searching for this same enjoyment.

donuts.jpg

We’d like to thank Sydney University and the Australian Government for giving us the opportunity to visit and study Batam, it is a truly unique place and certainly full of experiences we won’t forget. Thanks also to Michele and Vivian, our fearless leaders!

Laura Van Den Honert and Shannon Hood

We rose early on Saturday morning, excited that our impending daytrip to Bintan would allow us to explore other islands of the Riau Archipelago. Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits; instead we were glad for the cooler weather it brought.

We caught a 45-minute ferry and we were blown away by both the wind and the scenery. On arrival in Bintan we exchanged our ferry for two pompong and were taken to the quirky and intriguing island of Penyengat, a strange mix of abandoned colonial-style houses and colourful homes. Here we visited the Grand Mosque of Riau Sultanate, explored the graves of the royal Malay family and wandered through the surrounding farm areas. We were able to gauge an understanding of what life was like for locals as we observed people collecting water from stone wells.

boat.jpg

Our first destination on the main island of Bintan was a large Buddhist temple, outside of which we were able to satisfy our tropical cravings with enormous young coconuts. We then gained first-hand experience of bargaining in Indonesian as we negotiated prices with motorcycle taxi drivers who were to take us to our trip organiser’s family home on the island where we were to eat lunch. The Batam team cruised through the streets together in style.

bikes.jpg

We were treated to a beautiful and abundant spread of food which was enjoyed immensely by all, apart from those who were caught unawares by the chilli hidden throughout the dishes. Burning red faces and eyes streaming with tears made those who fell victim incredibly easy to spot across the room.

We had time to explore the surrounding area after our feast, but didn’t make it past the sweets store on the corner. We were overwhelmed with multi-coloured jelly cakes, coconut rice balls and pandan treats but couldn’t go past the sugar-coated donuts. These donuts weren’t like regular donuts, they were melt-in-your-mouth donuts glazed in eternal happiness. It was undoubtedly the food pinnacle of the trip and our stomachs will spend their lives searching for this same enjoyment.

donuts.jpg

We’d like to thank Sydney University and the Australian Government for giving us the opportunity to visit and study Batam, it is a truly unique place and certainly full of experiences we won’t forget. Thanks also to Michele and Vivian, our fearless leaders!

Laura Van Den Honert and Shannon Hood

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