Talking Indonesia: Australia-Indonesia public diplomacy

It seems odd to talk about bilateral relations during a pandemic, when borders are mostly closed, and the movement of people restricted. On the other hand, during these times of heightened xenophobia, perhaps it is all the more important to be optimistic and to remember the importance of people-to-people relationships that form the basis of any good diplomatic relationship.


The relationship between Indonesia and Australia has not always been smooth, but the people of the two countries have mostly supported each other during times of crises. For example, Anton and Me (published by the Australia Indonesia Association) tells the story of Anton, an Indonesian sailor and independence fighter, and Charlotte, an Australian woman who became his wife during World War II. More than just a love story, the book also revealed stories of how ordinary Australians in wartime Sydney supported the Indonesian struggle for independence.


What is the state of Indonesia-Australia relations during these times of increasing international detachment and the defunding of public diplomacy programs? What are some of the contemporary challenges faced by those trying to foster public diplomacy programs between the two countries? To speak more about the history and current state of Indonesia-Australia people-to-people relations, Dr Charlotte Setijadi speaks to Dr Elisabeth (Lis) Kramer and Elena (Ele) Williams.


Dr Elisabeth Kramer is deputy director at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre and honorary associate at the School of Languages and Culture at the University of Sydney. Ms Elena Williams is completing her PhD in the Department of Political and Social Change in the College of Asia Pacific at the Australian National University (ANU), examining the impact of DFAT-funded scholarships on the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Between 2013–2017, Ele served as the Resident Director in Indonesia for The Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS).


In 2020, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Charlotte Setijadi from Singapore Management University, Dr Dave McRae from the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, Dr Jemma Purdey from Monash University and the Australia-Indonesia Centre, and Dr Dirk Tomsa from La Trobe University.


Look out for a new Talking Indonesia podcast every fortnight. Catch up on previous episodes here, subscribe via iTunes or listen via your favourite podcasting app.



Charlotte Setijadi is Assistant Professor of Humanities in the School of Social Sciences at Singapore Management University.