In her third year at The University of Sydney, Bridget Harilaou is currently on exchange at Universitas Gadjah Mada, in Yogyakarta. Whilst studying politics and Bahasa Indonesia, Bridget hopes to pursue a future in development and contribute to the progression of education, health, women’s rights and cross-cultural exchange.
Being of half-Indonesian background, Bridget’s choice of study destination was to further her reconnection with a culture she had previously dismissed. ‘Growing up in Australia, I rejected my heritage for a long time because it made me different,’ she says. Bridget believes however that informal social acceptance in Indonesia is much more pronounced than Australia’s. ‘Living in Indonesia now, I feel like I finally know more about my culture and identity. I’m definitely more connected to the country, language and culture and it really validates my identity as an Indonesian person. I don’t feel different in Indonesia much, I feel more different in Australia.’
With the fourth largest population in the world, Indonesia’s 250 million people expand across over 17000 islands, with an estimate of over 300 different ethnic groups and over 700 languages spoken – statistics alone prove Indonesia’s cultural diversity is unparalleled by any other nation. From a first hand comparative view however, Bridget says ‘I still have to explain my heritage here, but it’s different to in Australia because you really do ask everyone here where they are from, because Indonesia is so diverse, so it’s not just for minorities like in Australia.’
Indonesia’s great population however poses immediate concern upon the issue of sustainability. Mass deforestation, waterway pollution and palm oil plantation affects rural environments, whilst cities try to maintain waste and sewage management. Bridget reports that ‘there is barely any education or money in sustainability. No waste management other than burning rubbish, people littering and dumping in the ricer, mining and polluting water sources and ground without thinking of implications.’ The lack of government initiatives and support results also in a lack of motivation and interest at a public level as Bridget says there is ‘not much of a focus on sustainability in my community or University.’
Bridget’s interview provides a relatable recount of her circumstance as a university student who similarly expresses awareness of familiar concerns through a continuous comparison of Indonesian and Australian societies. Well-established values of tolerance and acceptance are to be envied by many other nations who strive for multiculturalism, including Australia. On the other hand, greater government support and more ‘formal’ input as Bridget puts, is needed to counter issues of sustainability, health and equality. It is therefore apparent that political influences upon social and environmental sectors result in both beneficial and detrimental consequences.
Harilaou, B. (2015) Interviewed by Paula Thomson, 1 May 2015.
‘Why Indonesia’S Cultural Diversity Deserves A Compliment | Embassy Of Indonesia, Athens’. Indonesia.gr. N.p., 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.
Inside Indonesia,. ‘An Ongoing Environmental Challenge – Inside Indonesia’. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 May 2015.
Nytimes.com,. ‘Indonesia Walks A ‘Tricky’ Path Toward Growth And Sustainability – Nytimes.Com’. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 May 2015.
Kartapranata, Gunawan. Indonesia Ethnic Groups Map. 2010. Web. 3 May 2015.
R.O.L.E. Foundation,. Waste Dumped In Ocean Waters Around Bali. 2012. Web. 5 May 2015.