APSS - Past Seminars

Monday, November 8, 2010

Power Shift: Changing Patterns of Security Cooperation in Southeast Asia and their Implications for Australia

Professor Carl Thayer

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


Australia will face a more complex strategic environment over the next five years as China’s rise challenges United States primacy and as key Southeast Asian states – Indonesia and Vietnam – play more significant roles. These changes in Southeast Asia’s security environment will pull Australian strategic policy in different and possibly contradictory directions. This presentation will review contemporary security developments in five parts: the major strategic trends that are shaping the security environment in Southeast Asia; the impact of these trends on present patterns of security cooperation; emerging regional security tensions; how the United States and China seek to shape the regional security environment; and challenges and opportunities for Australian defence and security strategy.

This seminar presentation is based on the author’s recently released ASPI Strategy Report, Southeast Asia: Patterns of Security Cooperation (Canberra: Australian Strategic Policy Institute, September 2010).

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Development of Social Enterprises in Indonesia: Failures and Successes of Islamic Credit and Savings Cooperatives (BMT)

Dr Minako Sakai

Senior Lecturer, HASS, UNSW at ADFA campus, Canberra

Chair: Dr Denise Faifua


Islamic Credit and Savings Cooperatives known as Baitul Maal wat Tamwil (BMT) have developed strongly in various parts of Indonesia since the 1990s. BMT usually have two business sectors: 1) productive savings and credit services using Islamic jurisprudence, 2) non-profit-oriented social welfare programs funded by Islamic alms (ZIS). Many BMTs were started as non-government organisation by Muslim university graduates who intended to fight against poverty and high interest-charging money-lenders. In order to establish social justice, these activities have turned their attention to Islamic financing, especially in small-scale credit and savings for traders in traditional markets. The majority of the BMTs use a strong mission to achieve social justice and combat poverty in communication. Although their success may not be simply valued by asset size, some successful BMTs have grown to own a significant size of the assets (above Rp.50 billion rupiah). Furthermore, contrary to the popular perception of Islamic syncretism in Java, the BMT sector is growing strongly in Java compared with the outer islands of Indonesia. This paper analyses strategic issues relevant to the growth and failures of the BMT sector in Indonesia.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Australia-Indonesia: The Future of Environmental Relations

Professor James J. Fox

Professor Fox, who was previously Director of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, is now an Emeritus Professor based in the Resource Management in Asia Pacific Program at the ANU. He has been doing research on the environment in Indonesia since 1965 and, over the past 45 years, has worked and published on a wide-range of environmental issues from forestry to fisheries and from food security to groundwater pollution. In his presentation, Professor Fox will draw on his extensive experience to look at critical issues that will impact on the future of Indonesian-Australian environmental relations.


Australia and Indonesia share a regional environment. As such, critical environmental problems in Indonesia are likely to have an impact – and in some cases, a considerable impact – on relations with Australia. Climate change, deforestation, the depletion of marine resources, and a host of threats to food security are all part of an interconnected set of continuing developmental problems.

This presentation will look at some of the principal environment problems that Indonesia faces and will discuss their consequences for the future.Professor Fox, who was previously Director of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, is now an Emeritus Professor based in the Resource Management in Asia Pacific Program at the ANU. He has been doing research on the environment in Indonesia since 1965 and, over the past 45 years, has worked and published on a wide-range of environmental issues from forestry to fisheries and from food security to groundwater pollution. In his presentation, Professor Fox will draw on his extensive experience to look at critical issues that will impact on the future of Indonesian-Australian environmental relations.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Myanmar Quandary: Fluctuating Approaches absent Domestic Change?

Dr Chris Roberts

UC, HASS Visiting Fellow

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


International responses to the crisis of governance in Myanmar can be broadly categorised as falling into one of two camps: either pro-engagement or pro-sanction. Traditionally, most of the Asian states have been in favour of what the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has termed ‘constructive engagement’. Aside from the promotion of greater interaction, constructive engagement effectively adheres to the ASEAN Way where the ASEAN members will abstain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs. Some advocates of constructive engagement have argued that the process of socialization associated with it, together with increased economic interdependence, will eventually improve the behaviour of the Myanmar government – the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).[1]

While the policy may have contributed to improved relations with Myanmar, it has not resolved the crisis of governance and human rights in the country. Meanwhile, many Western countries, including the European Union and the United States, embarked on a twenty-year process of increasingly tighter sanctions. In recent years, the failure of both approaches has resulted in policy reassessments from both sides of the debate.

This presentation outlines the evolution of these approaches and assesses the prospects for positive change – whether internally or externally driven.

[1] Leszek Buszynski, 'Thailand and Myanmar: The Perils of Constructive Engagement,' Pacific Review 11, no. 2 (1998): pp.290-91.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Maintaining National and [or] Religious Identities: Indonesian Students in Egypt

Mr Faried F. Saenong

Endeavour Int. PhD Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS), Australian National University

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai


The development of Islam in Indonesia cannot be exclusively separated from such development in the Muslim world. Anthropologists who always stress locality still even have to link at least two different sites when they deal with issues of a cosmopolitan religion. Linking periphery and centre in this sense results in making a broader understanding of what is going on. Some segments of Indonesian Islam have direct influence of Egyptian Islam. Most actors of currently celebrated Islamic novels in Indonesia, for example, are Indonesian who did their study in Egypt. Political and religious important actors such as Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), Quraish Shihab, or Habiburrahman El-Syrazy, to name some, are those who spent years in Egypt.

This paper will have a look at the current development of Islam in Indonesia by presenting ethnographic accounts of Indonesian students in Egypt. Based on long-term observation on them (fieldwork 1999-2002 and literature study), this paper will see how Indonesian students maintain their Indonesia-ness and religious-ness during their long-term study in Egypt. In more particular, this paper will continue what Veth (1868), Roff (1920), Abaza (1994; 2003), and Laffan (2004) have described Indonesian community and students in Egypt in certain period. I will present mine by looking at lives of Indonesian students in Egypt during 90s and their impact on current Indonesian Islam.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Post Tsunami Recovery in Samoa

Honourable Lemalu Tate Simi

Samoan High Commissioner

Chair: Dr Alec Thornton


This will be primarily an account of the post tsunami recovery to date in terms of what has been carried out under the Government’s Recovery Plan. But to put that into perspective I will be talking a little bit about pre-tsunami Samoa in general mainly for the benefit of those who have never been there. Additionally when we discuss recovery to mean a return to normalcy this usually implies a return to that pre-tsunami state.

It will be largely an empirical account based on information I have been able to obtain from official sources, except for concluding remarks which will be include some personal observations and opinions and lessons learnt as a result of this experience.

The Honourable Lemalu Tate Simi, High Commissioner of Samoa, has a rich background and a wealth of experience. His professional working life began in the architectural field in New Zealand and Samoa. His experiences in the private sector invoked an interest in the public sector, starting with employment with the labour administration in Samoa.

The Honourable Lemalu has served on several boards of directors of government ministries and corporations over the years, recently with Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (2003-2009) before his appointment as High Commissioner of Samoa to Australia June 2009. He will provide an overview of his country, its people and culture and the impact of the 2009 tsunami on Samoan life. He will also discuss the post-tsunami recovery efforts to date.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lessons from living dangerously: Indonesia’s fight out of fragility

Professor Satish Chand

School of Business, UNSW at ADFA

Chair: Dr Denise Faifua


Indonesia under President Suharto is a rare case of a nation that found its way out of state fragility. In less than half a century, Indonesia transited from ‘living dangerously’ at the edge of civil war to being a robust democracy. This paper presents an analytical narrative to caricature the mechanisms underscoring this transition and the policy lessons emanating from the experience. Among the main lessons are: (i) an initial strengthening of the coercive capacities of the state elevated the regime in office to a secure position; (ii) the regime’s confidence in its authority within a contestable environment provided an incentive for fostering investment and income growth; and, (iii) the regime legitimized its rule by improving access to basic services. The robustness of these conclusions is tested with a counter narrative of the Philippines under President Marcos. Despite the many similarities between Indonesia and the Philippines, the dynamics of state fragility between the two were very different. This difference in outcomes both confirms the analytical narrative of the political and economic dynamics achieved by Suharto, and provides insights on state building mechanisms in general.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blasphemy, Persecution and Law in Indonesia: How Muslim conservatives use the Criminal Code against religious minorities

Professor Tim Lindsay

The University of Melbourne

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai


The post-Soeharto period has seen a significant increase in attacks by Muslim 'hardliners' (garis keras) on religious minorities and, in particular, so called 'deviant sects'. Violent attacks often result in media attention, but the use of legal mechanisms are usually more effective. A clear pattern has emerged in Indonesia by which Muslim conservatives combine targeted violence with communal protest to trigger criminal prosecutions that effectively close down religious groups they consider unorthodox. At the heart of this pattern is the Indonesian Ulama Council, a quasi-governmental organisation established by Soeharto that became increasingly supportive of religious intolerance as it sought new legitimacy after the New Order ended. This presentation looks at how tiny hardline groups have become the tail wagging the dog of state, effectively using the law enforcement system to persecute religious minorities.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Challenges Facing Refugees and Migrants

Prof Paul Smyth and Jo Knight

Brotherhood of St Laurence

Chair: Dr Minako Sakai


Refugees and migrants can face multiple challenges as they settle into Australia. The Brotherhood supports this vulnerable group through services for children and families, programs for youth, employment and training opportunities for job-seekers and capacity-building resources for communities. This work is led at the Brotherhood by the Ecumenical Migration Centre, which provides responsive services and influences public opinion, public policy and program development.

In this seminar we will discuss the religious origins of the Ecumenical Migration Centre, which grew out of the post second world war work of the Australian Council of Churches and the European Australian Christian Fellowship. The Centre will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary as the first migrant rights centre in Victoria. The seminar will move to explore ways of effectively working with refugees and migrants of all religious backgrounds in modern multicultural Australia. In particular we will compare capacity building work with an Islamic Centre serving Iraqi refugees in Melbourne's northern suburbs with a church partnership working with Sudanese Christians in Melbourne's western suburbs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

War Crimes at Balibo and Australia-Indonesia Relations

Dr Clinton Fernandes

Senior Lecturer, HASS, UNSW@ADFA

Chair: Dr Jian Zhang


Clinton Fernandes was consulting historian to the film Balibo. In this seminar, he will discuss the making of the film versus the historical reality of the events it portrays. He will also explain the political dimensions of the Balibo episode, the broader issue of war crimes and crimes against humanity in East Timor, the role of the Australian Government, the solidarity movement in support of East Timor and the implications for Australia-Indonesia relations today.