Australia’s past, present and future is inextricably tied with that of Indonesia. As two culturally different societies sharing borders, history, interconnected peoples and common current challenges that demand close collaboration to resolve, Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is both unique and complex.
Among most Australians, however, there is a general lack of knowledge about Indonesia. Tourist areas of Bali aside, Indonesia remains mostly misunderstood, misrepresented, unvisited and ‘unstudied’. The number of Australian students at school and university level studying Indonesian has diminished to an extremely low level. In order to strengthen perhaps Australia’s most important country-to-country relationship (Lindsey, 2007), it is imperative to build a broad base of knowledge about Indonesia across communities and educate Australians to achieve high levels of Indonesian language competency. This report argues that a strong cohort of school-aged children learning Indonesian is an indispensable, non- negotiable part of this relationship.
Despite the efforts of many gifted and committed teachers of Indonesian, as well as education bureaucrats, academics and members of the community, it seems that the effective provision of the teaching and learning of Indonesian in Australian schools is declining. The Australian Government’s National Asian Language and Studies in Schools Program (NALSSP) is a timely and welcome opportunity to make some immediate to medium term interventions to support Indonesian in schools. The national leadership the NALSSP offers, and the resources it provides states and territories, are invaluable.
The focus of this report is to provide information and analysis of current issues that need to be addressed in order to redress the existing decline. While the broader context of the languages landscape in Australian schooling has not been ignored, the primary focus of this report is issues of particular importance to the future of Indonesian language programs. It provides baseline data, set of findings, case studies and recommendations from which stakeholders and policy-makers can draw as they work towards developing programs to achieve the NALSSP 2020 target of 12 per cent of all Year 12 students exiting with fluency in one of the NALSSP languages.