In a trying year when Covid-19 dominated our lives, it is no surprise that Covid-19 articles also dominated Indonesia at Melbourne in 2020. Here we present the most popular articles on Indonesia at Melbourne and the most popular Talking Indonesia episodes this year. Thanks for your support during this difficult year, and we will see you again in early 2021.

Indonesia at Melbourne

Investment at all costs: Jokowi fails the coronavirus test

Less than a month after Indonesia recorded its first official cases of Covid-19, Ahmad Syarif Syechbubakr tapped into widespread public frustration with the government’s response to the pandemic, which he noted was marked by denial, complacency, and a lack of transparency.


When religion meets Covid-19 in Indonesia: more than a matter of conservatives and moderates

Dr Nadirsyah Hosen looked at the dilemma religious communities face during the Covid-19 pandemic – worship at home or defy social distancing requirements to participate in the public rituals that are an important part of worship for many believers.


A hand-washing station in Yogyakarta. Photo by Hendra Nurdiyansyah for Antara.


Too much reporting on Covid-19 in Indonesia is missing context

While criticism of the Indonesian government’s slow initial response to Covid-19 is warranted, wrote Dr Linda Bennett, it is also crucial to acknowledge the strengths of the community response and the fact that a huge proportion of people who can isolate, social distance or support the Covid-19 response, are choosing to do so.


The false promise of ‘millennials’ and the digital economy

One of the few issues that cut through the Covid-19 noise was the trouble faced by the “millennials” in President Joko Widodo’s inner circle. Ibnu Nadzir wrote that the problem with these millennial special staff was the expectation that millennials (and their association with the digital economy) were inherently transformative.


A number of the president’s millennial special staff got into trouble in 2020. Photo by Desca Natalia for Antara.


Covid-19, inequality and Jakarta’s urban poor: resilient, but at great risk

Early on in the pandemic, Dr Ian Wilson examined the challenges faced by Indonesia’s urban poor, who in the face of government inaction were being forced to rely on themselves and each other to survive.


Learning (or failing to learn) from the lessons of the 1918 Spanish Flu

Ravando Lie presented fascinating historical detail on the Dutch colonial government’s poor handling of the 1918 Spanish Flu, looking at what lessons it could provide for Indonesia as it struggled to get on top of Covid-19.


Indonesia’s omnibus bill: typo or ‘mistaken instruction’?

One of the other major events of 2020 in Indonesia was the passage of the widely criticised omnibus Law on Job Creation. In June, Dr Nadirsyah Hosen, Dr Jeremy Kingsley and Professor Tim Lindsey wrote that the bill was not really about job creation at all – about 80% of its provisions regulate investment.


The passage of the highly contentious omnibus Law on Job Creation sparked mass demonstrations across Indonesia. Photo by Sigid Kurniawan for Antara.


Omnibus law shows how democratic process has been corrupted

When the bill was passed in October, and protests sprung up in several cities across the country, Dr Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir and Rafiqa Qurrata A’yun wrote that legal avenues to overturn the controversial law may no longer be the answer.


Major procedural flaws mar the omnibus law

The omnibus law was widely criticised for its problematic content, but Rizky Argama wrote that the process by which the bill became law was also deeply flawed procedurally.


Dynastic politics: Indonesia’s new normal

Yoes Kenawas looked at the huge surge in dynastic politicians competing in the 2020 regional head elections, exploring the origins of the problem and strategies to prevent it from getting worse.


Gibran Rakabuming Raka was one of more than 100 dynastic politicians competing in the 2020 regional head elections. Photo by Mohammad Ayudha for Antara.


Indonesia’s lockdown dilemma: mudik is a safety net for some, but may worsen the Covid-19 public health disaster

Dr Belinda Spagnoletti looked that the challenge posed by the annual mudik exodus to policy makers – banning travel would have been better for preventing coronavirus spread, but it would also have meant that many poor Indonesians would be worse off.


What we talk about when we talk about Papua

Racist abuse of Papuan students in Java sparked widespread protests in 2019. On the anniversary of the racist incident that triggered the protests, Usman Hamid wrote that the government needed to be prepared to have a more open conversation about Papua.

Talking Indonesia

Emirza Adi Syailendra: China’s rise

In the first and most popular episode of 2020, Dr Dave McRae spoke to Emirza Adi Syailendra about recent tensions between China and Indonesia north of the Natuna Islands, and what these tensions tell us about the implications of China’s rise for Indonesia.


Dr Roanne van Voorst: Jakarta’s floods

In the wake of devastating floods in Jakarta, Dr Jemma Purdey spoke to Roanne von Voorst about informal riverbank communities, how they live with the dual threats of flooding and eviction, and the role they can play in tackling flooding.


Jakarta was struck by major flooding in early 2020. Photo by Hendra A Setyawan.


Diatyka Widya Permata Yasih: the gig economy

Before the coronavirus pandemic had begun to hit, Dr Dave McRae spoke to Diatyka Widya Permata Yasih about the gig economy and its implications for workers’ rights.


Professor Julian Millie: Regulating Islamic preachers

Growing religious conservatism in Indonesia has turned some Islamic preachers into minor celebrities and influential political power-brokers. Dr Dirk Tomsa spoke to Professor Julian Millie about the development and proposals to regulate Islamic preaching.


Ignatius Praptoraharjo: LGBT inclusion and access

Dr Jemma Purdey spoke to Ignatius Praptoraharjo about the barriers for LGBT Indonesians to access basic services, including health care, and the implications if they are left behind.


Dr Puspa Delima Amri: Covid-19 and the Indonesian economy

What can Indonesia do to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 while also minimising the damage to the economy? Dr Charlotte Setijadi discussed this and more with Dr Puspa Delima Amri.


The government was criticised for its slow initial response to the pandemic. Photo by Hafidz Mubarak A for Antara.


Dr Yanuar Nugroho: Indonesia’s Covid-19 response

Dr Dave McRae chatted to President Joko Widodo’s former deputy chief of staff, Dr Yanuar Nugroho, about the factors influencing the Indonesian government’s slow initial response to Covid-19.


Athia Yumna: Covid-19, the poor and vulnerable

As the economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic began to take their toll on Indonesia’s poor and vulnerable, Dr Jemma Purdey chatted to Athia Yumna about what more could be done by the government to assist them.


Dr Lis Kramer and Ele Williams: Indonesia-Australia public diplomacy

At a time of increasing international detachment and the defunding of public diplomacy programs, Dr Charlotte Setijadi spoke to Dr Elisabeth Kramer and Elena Williams about the state of Indonesia-Australia relations.


The #BlackLivesMatter protests prompted reflection on racism toward ethnic Papuans in Indonesia. Photo by Raisan Al Farisi for Antara.


Ligia Giay: racism

In June and July, the #BlackLivesMatter protests threw a spotlight on racism towards Papuans in Indonesia, prompting Indonesians to use the hashtag #PapuanLivesMatter. Dr Dave McRae spoke to Ligia Giay about the drivers and impacts of racism against Papuans.


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