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August 2008

As my regular readers are aware, this year we are celebrating 50 years of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney. We have already held a series of events in Jakarta, and on Friday evening, to coincide with Indonesian Independence Day celebrations, we held an alumni reception.

Indonesian staff.jpg
Assembled staff of the Department

It was gratifying to see the strong expressions of support at all levels. The Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor International both spoke of the University's continuing support, the Indonesian Consul General, Pak Sudaryomo, gave a very warm and heartfelt appreciation of our links, and most importantly our alumni described how the study of Indonesia had changed their lives, and expressed the importance of maintaining the Department.

And it is quite an illustrious list of alumni: the late Glenda Adams, one of Australia's leading novelists; Les A. Murray, Australia's foremost poet; media magnate Kerry Stokes; the leading landscape architect Made Wijaya; Professor Toru Aoyama, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies; A/Prof. Husein Mutalib of NUS; Dr Lono Simatupang of Gadjah Mada University; Prof Mike Laffan of Princeton; former staff from Leiden such as A/Prof Stuart Robson; academics from most of Australia's universities (such as Prof Harry Aveling, Prof Barbara Hatley, Dr Angus MacIntyre, A/Prof Richard Chauvel, Dr George Quinn...); Terry Rolfe from the UN; Dr Helen Jarvis who is now a state secretary in Cambodia; federal civil servants in Immigration, Education, Defence, Foreign Affairs and other areas; missionaries; journalists in SBS, the Sydney Morning Herald and elsewhere; and importantly teachers who have in turn had a major impact of the lives of generations of Australians.

My fellow committee members, Keith Foulcher, Trina Supit and Leonie Wittman, did a great job, and thanks too to the Alumni Office, the Dean of Arts and the School of Languages and Cultures for their subsidies and other forms of support.

PM Kevin Rudd recently said in Singapore: "I am committed to making Australia the most Asia-literate country in the collective West. My vision is for the next generation of Australian businessmen and women, economists, accountants, lawyers, architects, artists, filmmakers and performers to develop language skills which open their region to them" (quoted in the Sun Herald 17 August 2008). As yet this vision has yet to link up with the strong commitment shown by our alumni, and it is worrying that the Rudd Government's good intentions are undermined by lack of real funding to universities.