Strained national relations between Australia and Indonesia over border protection issues make the importance of people-to-people relationships, including those based around education, even more crucial, according to Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber.
Professor Barber, who is visiting Jakarta and Yogyakarta, will sign Memorandums of Understanding with the Department of National Planning Development and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
“It is at times such as this that soft diplomacy through educational collaboration and the University’s long-standing relationship with Indonesia come into play, and that is why I am currently visiting Indonesia,” Professor Barber said.
“The collaborations outlined in the MOUs add to Flinders’ involvement in facilitating Indonesia’s national strategy of building human resources and skills capacity, in these instances specifically in the areas of education and social work policy and practice.”
Professor Barber will also meet with Professor Pratikno, Rektor of Gadjah Mada University, to sign an agreement establishing a new dual degree in Health Management/Public Administration. Professor Barber and Professor Pratikno will discuss ways to further intensify the partnership between the two institutions across research, teaching and exchanges. Professor Pratikno is an alumnus of Flinders and the University recently awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Professor Barber said the University’s partnerships with eight Indonesian universities are encouraging Flinders students to undertake study and practicums in Indonesia.
A study tour to Indonesia in February by 19 Flinders students from various disciplines visited the University of Indonesia and the University of Surabaya for a program of academic and other activities that introduced them to Indonesian culture, politics, law economics and language. The activities included a session at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Educational exchanges not only bring benefits in terms of knowledge and skills, but improve mutual understanding and respect,” Professor Barber said.
He said Flinders’ engagement with senior levels of Indonesia’s government and its elite educational institutions will be reflected domestically by an increase in the University’s support for Indonesian language teaching.
Flinders is the only institution in South Australia to teach Indonesian language at tertiary level and to offer majors specialising in Indonesian society, politics and culture, and is also a presenting partner of INDOfest, South Australia’s annual celebration of Indonesian culture, which is the largest of its kind in Australia.
Professor Barber said that almost 40 years of association with Indonesia has produced nearly 900 Indonesian graduates from Flinders, many of whom work in academia, the professions and positions in government.
“It is one of the University’s most valued international relationships, and one that will continue to grow.”