AusAID Alumni Conference and Dinner: An Epilogue

You are currently reading a personal subjective opinion of mine. Anything expressed here are of my own and therefore are not aimed at representing the AusAID alumni’s. This is merely my personal impression concerning the conference and dinner we had on 6 September 2007.

Dinner is a tradition, which I do not know when was initiated. Dinner, in my personal opinion, is an interesting annual program, with the most important part: reunion. Reunion is with IALF classmates, with colleagues from the same university in Australia, or with friends from other Australian universities, who have kindly provided cheap (if not free of charge) accommodation for summer brake. Visiting different states in Australia during study was always an exciting experience, especially because there were always AusAID students with cheap or even free accommodation for the ‘poor’ travellers. But wait there is another interesting part of dinner: vote of thanks from a new alumnus. This is always able to come up with surprises, something fun or even touching. I usually could not wait to hear a vote of thanks.

Unlike the other dinners, the one on 6 September 2007 at Gran Melia Hotel, Jakarta was a bit different. To me, the conference made it special. If I am not mistaken, this kind of conference is a newly-established program. To me, this is a real breakthrough. However, this might be considered as a ‘business as usual’ conference and was merely a formality. If one comes up with that scepticism and ignorance, it is inevitable that the conference would be merely a formality. A conference, no matter how serious the preparation is, will be meaningless when it is ignored and is not listened to.

Considering that, I tried to put my attention quite seriously to the conference. Thank God, I was jobless so that I had more that enough time to sit and listen to conference speakers from 9 am to 4.30 pm. The fact that there are now around 10 thousands AusAID alumni in Indonesia indicates that the power of AusAID Alumni cannot be ignored. If Anand Krishna is convinced that 300 conscious people can ignite and develop consciousness all over the archipelago, then the figure of 10 thousands is more than enough for a good hope. This AusAID alumni conference, with around 10 thousands top-notch generation of Indonesia, undoubtedly offered something better that just ritual.

A warm welcome speech from Dr. Bob Mosse as an MC resulted in friendly situation in a family environment, but still with professional impression. HE Mr. Bill Falmer, the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, then delivered a calming but impressive speech to the audiences. A peaceful, advanced, and prosperous Indonesia is the one Australia is also aiming for. This was one of the important points he mentioned in his speech. This might seem to be cliché and could be judged as merely a ‘lip service’. Once again, this article is a subjective one, and coincidently, I am not in the mood for a negative judgment. At the day, I was trying to believe what I heard, not what lies beneath. It seems to me that Indonesian people have been spending too much energy for suspicions. I do not want to waste my energy.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Carunia MH Firdausyi, a PhD holder in economics from the University of Queensland, who is currently a deputy for State Minister for Research and Technology (Ristek). He informed Ristek’s activities, particularly, those concerning research focuses and collaboration with Australia. He noted an important point that even though Indonesia-Australia political relationship is currently up and down, scientific collaboration is pretty much unaffected.

Mr. Falmer and Dr Firdausyi were enthusiastically responded by audiences with questions. Audiences were critical and could never accept something without questioning. The moderator had to refuse few other questions from being discussed openly in the forum due to lack of time. Interestingly, an AusAID alumnus suggested AusAID provide free journal and other electronic resource access for alumni. This is, responsively answered by AusAID people in the room indicating their good intention. However, we might need to put the dream aside as nothing will fall from the sky easily. Everything takes time and serious consideration.

The most interesting part to me is the fact that we discussed in English. I though only very few people in the room who could not speak Bahasa Indonesia well and almost all of them (ideally) understand it. It may be because most of the people in the room are Australian Alumni with minimal IELTS score of 6.5, so the discussion was in English. I could only guess.

The two speakers in Session I were Prof Sri Moertiningsih and Dr. Darni Daud (Rector of Syah Kuala University). Prof Moertiningsih delivered a topic of demography in a casual, interesting yet smart manner. She, with no hesitation, perfectly combined Bahasa Indonesia and English that often sparked laughter. Her funny and casual style of presentation brought a friendly and warm situation. Meanwhile, Dr. Daud asserted the need for investing in people. He neatly quoted a Chinese proverb “If you want months of prosperity, grow grain. If you want years of prosperity, grow coconut. If you want an ever lasting prosperity, grow people.” Both speakers were also bombarded by questions from the audiences. Few questions were stopped by the moderator for time reason.

Personally, the speaker of Session II was the one I waited for. I am a big fan of Mohammad Sobary. I never met him in person previously but enjoyed his works very much. He is one of my favourite writers. Should I be granted talent and chance for writing, I do not mind to be ‘just’ like Pak Sobary. I intentionally write this statement here without smile icon or other emoticon indicating that I am kidding because I AM not kidding, really. At least I am in the position to convince myself that to be like or to be more than Sobary is NOT impossible. [Honestly, I smile this time but only in my hearth].

Pak Sobary was the first speaker, who without hesitation delivered his presentation in Bahasa Indonesia. With personal capacity, which everybody in the room recognizes, using Bahasa Indonesia did not make him look bad. His decision to use Bahasa Indonesia positively drew admiration and I personally saw this as a representation of his character, which is very Indonesian. One important point Sobary marked in his presentation was that knowledge, to some extents, has nothing to do with behaviour. One might be knowledgeable, but she/he could be an evil and do corruption at the same time because the problem is in his/her hearth. Having knowledge only surely is not enough. To some extents, I do agree with this. This reminded me of a philosophical quote that I could not remember from where. Data should be processed to be information and then formulated into knowledge. Knowledge will be meaningless if it stops its journey in the stage of knowledge where it is ‘only’ taught and told. It has to be shifted into a higher stage called wisdom and ultimately completed the metamorphosis in the stage of enlightenment.

Sobary’s presentation in Bahasa Indonesia was followed by Dr. Amir Imbaruddin, a lecturer of STIA LAN Makassar. He too presented in Bahasa Indonesia delivering a very interesting topic. He highlighted the issue of human resource in local government. He stated the amount of money one should illegally spend to be a civil servant, for instance. This was not that surprising, but was really interesting when it was openly declared in an AusAID alumni forum.

These two speakers, just like the other speakers, were also bombarded with questions. It was quite obvious that enthusiasm of the audiences was maintained until late in the afternoon. This indicated their seriousness. The organizers, whoever they are, deserve positive appreciation for this. I can give my two thumbs up for a conference with such enthusiastic audiences.

Before lunch break, I took the chance to see Pak Sobary for a small chat. I too gave him my newly released book: “International Maritime Boundaries – A Technical and Legal Perspective” (in Bahasa Indonesia). For Pak Sobary, I am sure the book is not directly useful, considering that he has nothing to do with maritime boundaries. However, I did not really care about usefulness. I wanted to present my work to Sobary, that’s all. A photo of us was taken with Pak Sobary holding my book. I believe it should be an excellent endorsement.

During the exciting conference, I met some fellow alumni of the same batch and we shared a lot. We talked about many things ranging from something funny and unnecessary to something seriously philosophical that causing tears. But this is another story.

The next speakers are the Mayor of Banda Aceh, Mawardi Nurdin, and Agus Sumule, PhD, senior adviser of Papua Governor. An interesting issue that I got to record from the mayor’s speech was the serious effort of the mayor to listen to women’s opinion in Banda Aceh. This, undoubtedly, brought positive attention from the audiences.

Meanwhile, the presentation by Pak Agus, to me, was amazing. Data and facts he presented showed how rich our Papua is but it is now known as one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia. It is unbelievable seeing how primitive the way our brothers and sisters live their life in some villages in Papua, while Papua has with it great amount of natural resources. Pak Agus ended his presentation with conclusion that was worth noting. He presented to the audiences current condition of Papua, followed by efforts that have been done and about to be done to achieve an ideally more prosperous Papua. However, should the efforts be failed, something unpleasant might happen. The claim for independence and other forms of separatism will remain in the history of the nation called Indonesia, he asserted.

The three last speakers were from WWF (Fitrian Ardiansyah), from Andalas University (Prof. Dachriyanus) and from the National Committee for Transportation Safety, KNKT (Ruth Hanna Simatupang). Bapak Fitrian presented such a popular and interesting topic of climate change and global warming and their impacts to man kind. The impact would be borderless and it applies to every single place on Planet Earth. The danger is coming to mankind as a group of civilization, which therefore requires unity of people on Earth to fight. Fitrian asserted that Earth is the only place where human can live; therefore we, together, need to save the planet.

After Fitrian’s presentation, Professor Dachriyanus from Andalas University presented his idea concerning the possibility to obtain natural medicine from Indonesian rain forest. Unlike Pak Agus from Papua who emphasized the utilisation of wood from forest, Prof Dachriyanus offered a different perspective to get as much advantages as possible from the forest by discovering natural medicine. Apart from his excellent presentation, the way he spoke, which sounded like Kuala Lumpur Malay brought different yet funny and casual situation.

Ibu Ruth, presenting after Prof. Dachriyanus, delivered something actual and hot: air transportation safety. The issue has been one of the most famous concerns in Indonesia lately. As you might guess, the topic drew enthusiastic response from the audiences. Some questions were addressed and some other delivered comments and suggestions only. It can be concluded from the discussion how important it is to enhance our concerns toward better air transportation.

As highlighted by Pak Sobary, it is not the time to ask ”do you know it?” but ”have you done something?”. ”Know” and “do” are two completely different things.

Dinner started at 7 pm. Dinner participants seemed to be more than those who came for conference. This is not uncommon, I guess. Something worth noting was the touching speech by Mr. Falmer, especially when he talked about Ibu Alison Sudrajat, one of the casualties in Garuda accident, in Yogyakarta, early this year. It is unquestionable how great her contribution to Indonesia and Australia is. This motivates an idea for the Australian Government to establish an award in her name. The best four Australian Leadership Award (ALA) grantees of this year will automatically be granted Alison Sudrajat Awards. These four grantees will receive additional facilities that the other grantees do not, such as being involved in Australian government activities, Australian research centre, etc.

A touching speech was also delivered by Prof Roem, a cancer warrior of Indonesia. She is an alumnus of Colombo Plan in 1975 and has been devoting her live and energy to fight cancer in Indonesia. She is surely in her late age, but her toughness and achievements are amazing. These inspire me personally to achieve better in life. This is to me an ideal profile of an AusAID scholar: tough, persistent and wise at the same time.

The one I waited for with impatience was the vote of thanks by Novi, an alumnus of Flinders University. Coincidently, we are from the same institution Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta and had a chance to meet up in Adelaide back in 2005 for a conference. The speech was touching and funny at the same time. It was touching since it reminded us of difficult struggle in Australia but also funny as the speech accurately described small unimportant yet impressive facts and phenomena during our study in Australia. Those small things, frankly speaking, were those that developed image and impression about Australia, making it unforgettable.

I do not want to be a flatterer, but I must say that the organizer deserve my appreciation. The conference went well and it seems to me that it met its objective. However we are waiting for relevant follow ups. On the other hand, the dinner was really impressive. If you think there are people who devote so much energy and time for all of the success, they must be those from IDP and all other institutions that I do not know. No matter whom the great people are, their hard work and dedication deserve our appreciation.

See you in a better conference and dinner next year.


Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

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