Why Australians Care for Indonesian Culture

A group of students and teachers from Tranby College in Western Australia will pay a reciprocal visit to their BRIDGE partner school, SMAN 5 Surabaya, from 20 to 22 September 2010 to undertake a program of language and cultural studies.

"Our students have been very enthusiastic about the visit and enjoy communicating online with their peers in Indonesia. It is very important for them to understand the culture not just the language," an Indonesian teacher at Tranby College, Vicky Richardson, said in a press statement on the official website of the Australian Embassy here, Monday.

The event follows the successful visit to Western Australia on March 2010 by 30 students and teachers from state high school SMAN 5 Surabaya, East Java. A comprehensive program has been prepared by SMAN 5 including Indonesian language activities, Reog (traditional mask dance) dancing and outbound teamwork exercises.

Abdul Latif, a BRIDGE teacher with the school, said it was critical to allow teenagers to converse together in mediums they feel comfortable with in order to break down cultural barriers and challenge stereotypes. Lili Soleh, the head of the Cooperation Bureau of the Government of East Java, said the visit would make an important contribution to the 20th anniversary of sister state relationship between Western Australia and East Java being celebrated this year.

The two schools have committed to develop an annual student-teacher exchange program which will include participation and collaborative programs between schools, community and governments from both Indonesia and Australia. The BRIDGE project commenced in 2008 and is implemented by the Australia-Indonesia Institute in partnership with the Asia Education Foundation. Funding support has been provided by the Myer Foundation and the Australian aid program.

Some 91 teachers from 47 Indonesian schools in 7 provinces (Jakarta, South Sumatra, Bali, East Java, South Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara and West Kalimantan) have visited Australia under the BRIDGE project until now, as a way of forging ongoing relationships between schools in both countries.

The Indonesian schools have included several funded through the Australia Indonesia Partnership to build 2,000 junior secondary schools across Indonesia.