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Shame Australia, shame

By Duncan Graham - posted Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Many weird stories come out of Indonesia: A smoking orang-utan hooked on nicotine, the public servant jailed for confessing his atheism on Facebook.

Some yarns are funny like moralising politicians caught surfing porn during parliamentary debate. Others are sad: A 15-year-old faced five years in jail for hoofing it with a cop's sandals.

But few can be as strange as the linking of the Australian Graduate School of Leadership with the Jenderal Soedirman Center. The joint venturers intend to set up a leadership and ethics education institution to rid Indonesia of corruption.


JSC head Bugiaks was reported saying: "Leadership and ethics education should be an effective way to create new leaders who bring prosperity to the populace.

"Corruption is like a chronic cancer, and has to be cured by preparing upcoming leaders with a good ethics."

Some might consider the proposal a joke, the money better spent on seeking the Philosopher's Stone. Wrong; it's a golden goal. Even though corruption is to the public service and business what rice is to the cuisine, at least someone is trying and that's to be applauded.

The problem is that Australia has been chosen to teach Indonesia leadership as though we have a reputation in this area.

That used to be the situation. When others straddled the fence after Indonesia declared independence we were in the forefront, recognizing a new nation. The government shilly-shallied for a while but the unions were resolute, custodians of our conscience

When emergency assistance was needed after the 2002 Bali bombs, we responded with alacrity and unqualified generosity. Fundamentalists had killed 202 innocents, including 88 Australians, and injured 240 - but we didn't let the bombers' hate poison relationships with our neighbours who had also suffered terribly.


We were leaders in compassion. We gave $7 million for an eye centre and $2.5 million for local victims, with many flown south for treatment.

Apart from the $1 billion government aid following the 2004 Aceh tsunami, ordinary folk across the continent gave money and goods without question. It was the same with the 2006 Yogya earthquake, the Mount Merapi explosion and every other major natural disaster to hit the catastrophe-prone Archipelago.

Even when the need has been less urgent Australia has been there with health and education programs, offering scholarships, building schools, training and advising. We give almost half a billion dollars a year. We are Indonesia's top aid donor.

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About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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