Ratih Hardjono (BA ’84)
Owner, Mirah Sakethi Consultancy
After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney, Ratih Hardjono became an international correspondent for Kompas, Indonesia’s leading daily newspaper. Over 16 years, she reported on countries transitioning from military rule to democratisation, national elections and countries at war, including the break-up of the Soviet Union and the transition process in South Africa. Hardjono published her first book, White Tribe of Asia, in 1993, and is the only Indonesian woman to have received Harvard University’s Nieman Fellowship for mid-career journalists.
“The most important education I received at the University of Sydney was my BA course. It prepared me to be able to work in many different jobs in the last 30 years of my working life, by giving me a valuable skill set” says Hardjono. “It was crucial in me starting my career as an international correspondent, as it gave me the fundamental knowledge I needed to start writing about the many different issues for the Indonesian daily [[i|Kompas]]. It prepared me for globalisation, especially in the Asia Pacific region. Before globalisation begun I was just a young reporter and I witnessed its rise and I was able to part of it because of the skills I gained at University. This ultimately then led me to my other career path."
In 1999, Hardjono became the Presidential Secretary under President Abdurrahman Wahid, managing presidential staff and seven presidential palaces. She set up the first civilian Indonesian Presidential Office since 1965, and introduced freedom of the press at the presidential palace. The following year, Hardjono was a Programme Coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme in Indonesia and co-edited The Poor Speak Up, 17 Stories of Corruption, a book commissioned by the World Bank.
Hardjono has also been instrumental in the establishment of 13 Sekolah Demokrasi (Schools of Democracy) in Indonesia. She now owns a public affairs consultancy in Indonesia called Mirah Sakethi Consultancy.
In regards to Australia’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific region, Hardjono says we need to be more decisive. “When I went to the University of Sydney, Asian languages were offered, and there was a clear understanding that this was crucial as a part of Australia’s engagement in the region. Then, all the funding … was taken away by the government and there are murmurs of how important Asian languages are, not enough action still only murmurs” she says. “This is reflected in Australia doing business in the region. Australia needs to make up its mind where it wants to go: Asia or the U.S.”