Wed, 14 Jun 2000

Impression from Australia

Images of Indonesia being a country in turmoil remain vivid among Indonesians in Australia. The main reason is that Australia's SBS TV station relays news every day from Indonesia's TVRI in the Indonesian language.

The devastating effects of the earthquake in Bengkulu province can be seen, in addition to complaints of the local population that aid and rescue are coming in inconceivable slow, and too little and too late to prevent more suffering.

Some Indonesians have criticized the head of state for not waiting a little longer to embark on his foreign trip, which would have allowed him time to inspect the quake-stricken areas. Of course, prospective foreign investors are more important to the country's economic recovery. Besides, there is still a Vice President who can do the job.

In 1976 when, as a visiting Antara news agency journalist, I was received at Parliament House by prime minister John Fraser for an interview.

Indonesia was pressing hard for de jure recognition of its occupation of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which the Fraser government had refused to even discuss. The interview broke the diplomatic impasse. John Fraser for the first time said that Australia would be willing to take up the East Timor issue, after talks between Indonesia and Australia on their sea boundaries, believed to contain crude oil, had been resumed.

It was one of those rare occasions that a reporter of Antara broke news of international significance that was seemingly worth quoting by the Australian press and the Singaporean media.

A big surprise awaited me the other day when I met an Australian family in a Japanese restaurant and learned for the first time that kangaroos are laying eggs instead of giving birth to their offspring (sic). Kangaroos are mammals, and yet they lay eggs. It would be ideal for human beings to follow the biological "practice" of this hopping species. Women would be spared much labor pain during delivery and men would be spared more anguish from spending more.

But to Australians today nothing matters more than the success of the 2000 Olympic Games. Understandably, they are sparing no effort to make it a great success.

Race discrimination is definitely a thing of the past, which became evident when it was announced that the athlete to light the Olympic cauldron in September will be an aboriginal woman marathon runner and champion.

It is expected that more Indonesians will visit Sydney during the Games.


Perth, Australia