Events 2016

15 September 2016: Forest Countercultures of Upland Laos - Lessons for Sustainability?


Co-hosted by Sydney Ideas, the Department of Linguistics and Macleay Museum

What is a low impact life? Can we live sustainably? How can we keep our minds on nature? One way to answer to these questions is to ask the people who know best. Many of the world’s indigenous groups live far from development, deep inside the tropical forests that circle the equator.

The panel discussed the case of an upland indigenous group of Laos, living deep inside the protected forest watershed of one of the world’s biggest hydroelectric dam projects. Just as Sydneysiders can reel off the names of hundreds of supermarket products, upland Lao can reel off the names of hundreds of tree and plant species. Like so many minority groups, in today’s world the Kri are a counterculture, whether by choice or not. In a consumer-dominated world urgently needing help, what can we learn from them?

8 September 2016: From Now On - Eliza Vitri Handayani in Conversation with Tiffany Tsao


Co-hosted by the Department of Indonesian Studies and Sastra Now

Writers and literary translators Eliza Vitri Handayani and Tiffany Tsao discussed their latest books, the challenges of translating between Indonesian and English, and the future of Southeast Asian literature.

24 August 2016: The Philippines in the Fabric of Australia


Co-hosted by the Philippine Consulate General and the Australia Philippines Business Council, with Guest of Honour H.E. Minda Calaguian-Cruz, Philippine Ambassador to Australia

It has been 70 years since Australia and the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations. However, the Philippines and its people have been very much part of the life and times of Australia since the turn of the 20th century.

A panel of multi-disciplinary experts discussed the different ways in which unique Philippine contributions have been inextricably woven into the fabric of Australian society. These are significant and wide-ranging contributions in the area of industry, regulation on migration and women, and healthcare.

30 July 2016: Early Career Researchers Professional Development Workshop


Up-and-coming early career researchers (excluding postgraduate students) from around Australia, who are focused on Southeast Asia, came together to discuss a range of professional development topics and network with peers from across the country. The workshop was an informal setting designed to share ideas (and possibly even frustrations!) with fellow academics and ask questions of those who have gone before.

The workshop was centred around three key topics, incorporating discussion with fellow academics on how to navigate the related systems and challenges to maximise benefits. These included:

  • professional associations
  • publishing strategically
  • collaborations

28 July 2016: Land and Development in Indonesia - Searching for the People's Sovereignty

Book launch

The Indonesia Update 2015 series Land and Development in Indonesia: Searching for the People's Sovereignty, edited by John F McCarthy and Kathryn Robinson, was launched in discussion with Dr Jeff Neilson, Senior Lecturer in the School of Geosciences and author of the chapter Agrarian Transformations and Land Reform in Indonesia.

Indonesia was founded on the ideal of the 'Sovereignty of the People', which suggests the pre-eminence of people's rights to access, use and control land to support their livelihoods. Yet, many questions remain unresolved. How can the state ensure access to land for agriculture and housing while also supporting land acquisition for investment in industry and infrastructure? What is to be done about indigenous rights? Do registration and titling provide solutions? Is the land reform agenda - legislated but never implemented - still relevant? How should the land questions affecting Indonesia's disappearing forests be resolved?

28 July 2016: Postgraduate Research Workshop - Engaging with Policy in Southeast Asia


  • How are activists challenging and/or engaging with policy-makers?
  • How have changes in political leadership influenced how activists work with government?
  • What are the prospects for activism over the coming years?

Research students from Sydney and other Australian universities participated in a one-day postgraduate workshop exploring these issues and more. Students discussed their relevant research and participated in discussions on how activists interface with the government, and the challenges faced in trying to influence government, particularly (but not limited to) countries in mainland Southeast Asia. The workshop also included professional development skills and networking opportunities.

3 June 2016: Races Without Racism? Everyday Race Relations in Singapore

Seminar, presented by Selvaraj Velayutham

Co-hosted by the Comparative and International Education Research Network of the Faculty of Education and Social Work

In Singapore, race has a prominent place in the city-state’s national policies. Its political ideology of multi-racialism proclaims racial equality and protection for minority groups from racial discrimination. However, despite official rhetoric and policies aimed at managing and integrating the different ethnic groups, some scholars have argued that institutional racism does exist in Singapore. While it is public knowledge, with few exceptions, racist provocations and experiences of racism are not publicly discussed. In recent years, the advent of social media has made it possible for Singaporeans to unwittingly to express racially derogatory remarks, highlighting that racism is much more deep rooted. Yet, it still remains the white elephant in the room. The seminar examined the socio-political context that has contributed to everyday racial discrimination and calls for a public acknowledgement of racism so as to combat racist practices. It argued that targeted measures such as anti-racism education in schools and public campaigns to raise awareness against racial discrimination are long overdue.

25 May 2016: Politics, Democracy and Stability in Southeast Asia - Exploring the Implications of the 2016 Philippine Elections


Co-hosted by Sydney Ideas and the Sydney Democracy Network

The panel discussion explored the implications of the 2016 Philippine elections on the changing political and democratic landscape in the Southeast Asian region. The Philippines is the third largest economy, and has the second largest population in the region. It has played a historic role in political leadership as one of the founding countries of ASEAN, and it is also highly regarded as a leader for democracy in the region with the success of its 1986 People Power Revolution. The Philippines is set to assume the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017, at a critical time in the region's history. How will the outcome of the 2016 elections make an impact on political dynamics, the nature of democracy and overall stability both in the country and in Southeast Asia?

Chaired by Dr Sandra Seno-Alday, the University of Sydney Business School, the panellists included:

  • A/Prof Aries Arugay, University of the Philippines
  • Dr Nicole Curato, University of Canberra
  • Dr Aim Sinpeng, University of Sydney

11 May 2016: New Colombo Plan - Asia as a Space for Transformative Learning

Seminar, presented by Ly Tran

Co-hosted by the Comparative and International Education Research Network of the Faculty of Education and Social Work

Outbound student mobility has been promoted by universities worldwide as a strategic internationalisation initiative to enhance students’ intercultural skills, global outlooks, international experience and employability. The New Colombo Plan program established in 2014 is a major mobility initiative of the government, contributing to the recent remarkable growth of Australia’s outbound mobility. It is expected that by the end of 2016, the New Colombo Plan supports more than 10,000 Australian students to study and undertake work placements in the Indo Pacific region (DFAT, 2016). The New Colombo Plan plays a crucial role in shifting Asia from being a non-traditional to an emergent major destination for Australian students. The seminar, presented by Ly Tran, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Deakin University, focused on how Asia represents not only as an opportunity for Australian students to engage in response to a temporal need with regard to their program of study but importantly as a potential space for them to transform their present and future beings.

20 April 2016: Rebranding Islam - Public Diplomacy, Soft Power and the Making of 'Moderate Islam' in Indonesia

Seminar, presented by James Hoesterey

In the wake of 9/11 and the Arab Spring, Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been keen to promote Indonesia as the model for “moderate Islam.” In his 2009 speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Hasan Wirajuda touted Indonesia as evidence of the compatibility of Islam and democracy. More recently several Indonesian ministries, along with religious leaders and Islamic organisations, have worked together to promote 'moderate Islam' as part of their domestic efforts to counter domestic terrorism and ISIS ideology. A/Prof James Hoesterey from Emory University examined the development of such programs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Religion, as well as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, paying particular attention to how concepts (such as Islam Nusantara, Islam Berkemajuan, and Islam Rahmatan lil ‘Alamin) are constituted and contested through religious outreach and public diplomacy.