Talking Indonesia: transnational human rights activism

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Indonesia was estimated to have between 55,000 and 100,000 political prisoners as a result of the army-led anti-communist violence of the mid-1960s. Some of these prisoners maintained long-lasting friendships with supporters and human rights activists overseas, largely through the writing of letters. Who initiated these friendships and how did they evolve over time? What kind of broader support networks for political prisoners emerged out of this letter writing? And what legacy did this activism leave for contemporary human rights campaigners?


In this week’s Talking Indonesia podcast, we take a closer look at one of these friendships. Joining host Dirk Tomsa is historian Dr Vannessa Hearman, a senior lecturer in Indonesian Studies at Charles Darwin University in Darwin, and the author of Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia, which was recently awarded the 2020 Early Career Book Prize by the Asian Studies Association of Australia.


In 2020, the Talking Indonesia podcast is co-hosted by Dr Dirk Tomsa from La Trobe 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 Charlotte Setijadi from Singapore Management 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.


Photo by Vanessa Hearman.


Dirk Tomsa is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University.