Kartika Sari (Indonesian recipient, 2008)
Thank you very much for giving me a chance to share my experience as one of the Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award recipients. It was a great honour to be selected to win this award. I think I was just lucky. I would like to share how the Award shaped my understanding of Australia. I got a chance to visit Australia for three weeks. I went to Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. It was an amazing experience and an unforgettable moment.
I think it was a really great experience for me as a journalist. During my visit program, I met and talked to different people from various backgrounds, like (then) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, (then) Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, (then) Trade Minister Simon Crean, (then) House Speaker Harry Jenkins, Australian businessmen, some professors like Professor Virginia Hooker from the Australian National University, Chairman of the Australia Indonesia Institute (AII) Professor Tim Lindsey, local government officials, Australian media and Indonesian university students.
From this visit, I understand more about Australian culture, politics, society, lifestyle, and local people, include the way of life and traditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait people. We had a good discussion, sharing information and ideas. This trip was effective and very useful. I wrote a series of article from the visit to Australia for our newspaper, Rakyat Merdeka Daily, so our readers and subscribers could read them too. I got a lot of positive responses and feedback from my friends and our readers.
Based on my experience from the trip, I think this program is very good and effective at improving people-to-people contact between Indonesia and Australia. Because in fact, even though geographically Australia is close to Asian countries, especially Indonesia, many Australian people still don’t know much about Indonesia, our culture, traditions and Islam here. Example: many Australians don’t know that Bali is part of Indonesia. When I asked them: Have you ever been to Indonesia? They said, “No, never. But we have been to Bali several times and we liked it.” I was very busy explaining to them that Bali is part of Indonesia.
At the same time, I also got a chance to attend a Bilateral Conference in Sydney. It was a big event, attended by 400 people. Two hundred delegates from Indonesia and 200 delegates from Australia, include myself. They came from different and various backgrounds like top government officials, members of parliament, businessmen, NGOs, Indonesians, economists and think tanks from the two countries.
Another good experience from this trip was attending Question Time at Parliament in Canberra. As a journalist, I was curious and excited to see and hear Question Time at Parliament there. I have learnt that hearing in our parliament and Question Time in the Australian Parliament is very different and it was a new experience for me.
Last but not least, I have another unforgettable experience and best moment to share: I have climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge. Wow… it was a really great and fun moment. Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge, an Australian landmark, was one of my sweet dreams and I was very happy because finally my dream came true. I told my family, friends and colleagues about how fun this adventure was. I told them that Australia is a beautiful country with multi-ethnic people and various cultures, very modern, good infrastructure, with many international universities and a good destination for tourists or university students. I also told Australian people I met that Indonesia is a very beautiful country, with friendly people, unique culture with hundreds of local ethnicities and languages. Plus yummy authentic foods of course. I told them please visit Indonesia, see and explore our beautiful country. It was fun because at same the time I was acting like an “Ambassador” for my country. Oh well, as long as I can improve people-to-people contact and relationships between our two countries, why not? Now I feel like Australia is my second home and I always want to come back there again and again.