Siapa OzIndo ?In early November 1999, I had the pleasure of meeting the members of the famous OzIndo Project during their visit to Byron Bay. I managed to grab a few moments of time with each member of the Team for a brief interview. The OzIndo Team were nearing the end of their epic journey around Australia to raise money for Food Relief in Indonesia and East Timor. Fiona Collins, a founding member of the project had ridden her bicycle over 16,000 km assisted by support team Jan Lingard and Timor Nugroho.
Fiona Collins - OzIndo Cyclist Extraordinaire
Judy: Fiona, Do you think you’ll ever ride a bike again after you get back home?
Fiona: I think I’d like to join a bike club and go riding for pleasure.
Judy: How far have you been riding each day?
Fiona: I have been averaging 120kms per day?
Judy: How have you managed to keep going?
Fiona: Sheer force of will - and because we believe in what we are doing. I think without a really deep commitment we couldn’t keep going.
Judy: How did you come up with the idea for the project?
Fiona: I originally went to Indonesia on the ACICIS Program. I was studying Indonesian and Malaysian Studies at Sydney University.
When I lived in Indonesia I spent most of my time with Indonesian students, I lived with 15 Indonesian girls. I experienced such wonderful generosity from Indonesian people who by our standards have such little to share. Then in August 1977 the economic crisis hit Indonesia. The way the crisis affected children was a big issue. Many children had to leave school, there were many more kids on the street and doing menial work. Even middle class students could not afford to continue their studies. I was so concerned about the plight of average Indonesian people and how drastically their lives were affected, we decided to take action and came up with the idea of the OzIndo Project.
Timor Nugroho – OzIndo Support Team
Judy: Where do you originally come from in Indonesia?
Timor: I was born in Kalimantan, after that I lived in Yogya and graduated at Universitas Islam Indonesia in Economics. I met Fiona at that time, she had an idea about creating the OzIndo project to raise money for Indonesian food relief. We started to organise the project by contacting NGOs - non-government-organisations in Indonesia and in Australia. Then we started to look for sponsors for the project, we sent out about 1,500 letters requesting support. It was cheaper to mail letters from Indonesia, especially at that time. We were successful in attracting about 40 sponsors in Australia and Indonesia. I arrived in Sydney on 22 December 1998 and started to organise the journey from Sydney. We sent out letters to organisations all over Australia such as Local Councils, Churches, Rotary Clubs and Soroptimist Societies.
Judy: How much money has the OzIndo Project raised so far?
Timor: We set out with the aim of raising A$50,000 to set up Pasar Murah through NGOs throughout Indonesia. We have now established our third food subsidisation program which is in East Java.The first program was in Yogya and the second program was in East Java.
Judy: What are your plans after you arrive back in Sydney? Will the OzIndo Project continue to raise money for Indonesia and East Timor?
Timor : We will be doing some more fundraising when we arrive back in Sydney, but basically the OzIndo Project has been seen as a one year program. My plan is to continue my studies in Sydney. I hope to study Information Technology.
Judy : And you now have this amazing network of people round the country who have been involved with the OzIndo Project
Timor : Yes! For example, we had an interview with the Townsville Bulletin. We sent a copy to Margaret River in Western Australia and they decided to donate $1,000 to the project.
Judy: What’s your favourite place in Australia out of all the places you have visited?
Timor : I really like Darwin and the Kimberley’s Region including Darwin. I liked the atmosphere, the outback, the great open spaces with not many people.
Judy : You must have met and talked with an incredible number of people on your journey.
Timor: Yes, Every day we have been talking with groups like Rotary Clubs, school groups etc answering lots of questions about Indonesia and especially about East Timor.
Judy : I think its amazing that an Indonesian person called Timor has been travelling around Australia, sharing and raising awareness about Indonesia and East Timor, exactly during the time of the East Timor crisis!
Jan Lingard - OzIndo Support Team
Judy: Have you spent a lot of time in Indonesia?
Jan: I 've been there about 15 or 16 times, but wasn’t able to live there because I was bringing up my four children.
Judy: How did you first become involved with Indonesia?
Jan: I started out as a High School teacher. When I had time off work to have my children I was looking for ways to keep active and ended up doing an Adult Education course in Indonesian, I later went to ANU as a mature age student.
Judy: And ended up as Head of the Indonesian Department at Sydney University!
Jan: I’m writing a book about Indonesians in Australia during World War II. I’ve done a lot of interviews with people who had friendships between Indonesia and Australia in those days. One correspondent was a man from Bandung called George Warong. I went to Bandung and met him with all his family around him. He had become blind and his family told me he had been quite down-hearted and unhappy. At one stage he asked me - do you know this song from the war years - I found he remembered quite a few songs, so we sang some old songs together Then he asked me if I knew a song where you put the right hand in, the right hand out etc –
Oh yes- I said - The Hokey-Pokey! So I helped him to stand up and we did the Hokey Pokey. It was a wonderful visit and really cheered him up. His family were amazed to see him brighten up so much.
Judy: That’s great!
Jan: When Japan occupied Indonesia, the Dutch administration came to Australia and set up a government in exile. They brought with them a number of Indonesian people who had been working for the Dutch administration in Indonesia including merchant seamen, members of the army, clerks and civil servants. There were about 5 - 6,000 Indonesians living here. An interesting group were the 300 political prisoners that they also brought with them from where they had been imprisoned in Irian Jaya. They were interned in Cowra quite an inappropriate climate in Southern NSW and started to die from pneumonia and other diseases.
As part of my research I went to Cowra and went to the cemetery to find the head stones of the Indonesian people who had died there. The graves were unmarked and neglected. I spoke to the grave digger, who showed me a headstone of a woman had who died at that time.Her son had come over from Indonesia and renovated the grave with a proper head stone. By using this headstone as a starting point I was able to utilise information from the town records to identify all the other graves.
Judy: How wonderful!
Jan: After that I wrote to the Indonesian Embassy to let them know about the cemetery. All the graves have now been restored. A few years ago we had a ceremony on Hari Pahlawan – Hero’s Day on 10 November to commemorate the Indonesian people who died in Cowra.They now have a big exhibition about it in the Cowra Tourist Information Centre and the Cowra Council have undertaken to maintain the graves. Another way I found to make contact with people was through the ABC Radio Show called Australia All Over with Macca, where people call in from all over Australia. One day I went in and had a talk with Macca on the radio about my research and got a lot of contacts that way.
One man was called Jim. He was in the airforce and was attached to the Dutch forces in 1942-43. He had had a very close friendship with an Indonesian soldier for 2 years back then and had not heard from him since. He asked me to help him find his friend - after 30 years! He had an old photo and on the back was a faded address. So we wrote a letter and sent it to the Indonesian newspapers. 6-8 weeks later we had received about 30 replies and one of the letters was from a relative of the man we were seeking.
From then on contact was established, some time later Jim rang me to say - "I’m going to see Jadi" - he was on his way to Malangto see his 75 year old friend. When he got back he sent me some photos of the two friends together, standing with their arms around each other’s shoulders in the same position as they were in the original photo and said “I was so happy to meet my old friend again after all these years.”
The book will also include stories of war brides- Australian women who married Indonesian soldiers and went back to live in Indonesia. Also there were about 500 Indonesian people who were given permission to live in Australia between 1901-1942, for example “kupangers”– people who came to work in the pearling industry and cane fields.
No-one has yet researched the history of Indonesian settlement in Australia on a national basis, mine is more of a social history which links up with political history. During the OzIndo Trip around Australia I have been able to visit every place where Indonesian people have been and have found little snippets of information to aid my research.
Judy: Your book sounds absolutely fascinating and wonderful. I am sure it will be of great interest and importance in the development of understanding between Australia and Indonesia. Best wishes and good luck with finding an appropriate publisher.
The OzIndo Project has now arrived back in Sydney where they were welcomed by a wonderful event at Circular Quay including performances of East Timorese and Indonesian groups organised by Sue Piper of Wot Cross Cultural Synergy (and AIAA member.)
Report by Judith Shelley