Sydney Life

12 October 2008

Book fairs, human rights, football, recycling, health care - Indonesian AusAID students have found a surprising variety of things to enjoy in Australia. 


(Lt - Rt) Diya Ramadani, Suzy Katikana Sebayang,Winley Jurnawan,Ichsan Sahputra, Tati Denawati
(Lt - Rt) Diya Ramadani, Suzy Katikana Sebayang,Winley Jurnawan,Ichsan Sahputra, Tati Denawati

Growing up on a tiny Indonesian island has made Tati Denawati, a 28-year-old Masters of Health Services Management student, highly appreciative of the things Sydney has to offer. "When I was growing up, books were in short supply," she says. Since arriving in Sydney, she has visited around 20 book fairs, including the annual book fairs in the University's Great Hall. "I'm going to have great difficulty shipping all my new books back home," she laughs. Apart from being an avid reader, Tati is a practising Muslim and proudly wears a burkha to cover her head. "My Australian friends often ask where my hair is, but overall they are extremely tolerant of other cultures and always want to know more about my religion," she says. Tati plans to return home to help advance the Indonesian Health Care system. "I am really impressed with Medicare. The Indonesian Government only covers government workers or economically disadvantaged people, and the system needs improvement because not everyone receives the benefits they deserve". 

Ichsan Sahputra, a commerce and business student, is used to dealing with adversity, having lost his entire family in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. "Although things have not been easy, I consider myself to be a better person now because I have survived this tragedy. I am so proud to see myself here in Sydney, gaining an opportunity to study for a better future," he says. When Ichsan first arrived in Sydney he was disappointed not to find a thriving Indonesian students' association. So together with Tati Denawati, he founded "Katro" - an informal Indonesian students' group. Ichsan explains: "Katro is a Javanese word used to describe a villager who moves to a big town and experiences a huge culture shock." New Katro members are recruited through a mailing list. "It's important to ensure that it continues," he says. "It's really helpful for new students to have friends that understand things like finding accommodation in Sydney." 

Suzy Katikana Sebayang, a new Katro recruit, lives with an Indonesian family in Marrickville. "It's like being at home; we eat the same food and speak the same language," she explains. Although she enjoys being surrounded by familiar things, she insists that she is here to experience as much of Australian culture as she can. "Last month I attended a Sydney Swans football match against Geelong, organised by Unimates, an international students group at the University. And all I kept thinking was, 'Why would anyone name a football team the Swans? It sounds more like a ballet. We enjoyed it a lot," she laughs, "especially after an Australian man explained that there were really no rules - you just have to get the ball to the other side." Despite all the distractions of life in Sydney, Suzy is determined to complete her doctorate in International Public Health. "Studying in Sydney is so different to back home. As a PhD student I get a study room on campus with access to numerous journals, online publications and so much more. It makes analysing data much easier and gives me hope that my work will be used to help people back home gain access to improved health services." 

"I think it's important to learn about the other face of Australia," says Diya Ramadani, a Masters of Human Rights student. The highlight of her time in Australia so far has been an excursion to Muru Mittigar, an indigenous cultural centre near Penrith. "I wanted to learn more about the history of the Aboriginal people's struggle as they are an important part of the culture," she says. Working for the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs and studying at the University is helping Diyah achieve her goals. "I came to Sydney to broaden my knowledge of human rights and to see it from a different perspective. In Indonesia human rights is a fairly new concept and I feel we are unfairly criticised and portrayed in an unbalanced manner by the media. I am in the perfect place to help change this." 

IT student Winley Jurnawan arrived in Sydney with the aim of gaining his masters qualification so that he could return to Indonesia as a university or college lecturer. But all that has changed. "I started tutoring undergraduates but soon realised that I'm no good at it. Perhaps I'm too nice, but I often get coerced into doing all their work for them!" Instead, Winley has developed an interest in learning about the environment. "Green activities such as recycling are new to me. In Indonesia there is no system in place to separate household garbage." Working for an environment-oriented NGO has become his new ambition. He explains: "They need IT workers and now I am far more aware of issues like climate change and ways in which I can contribute."


Contact: Claudia Liu

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 314d051f1d333240373c593512424d2a17