What does the future hold for the special Australia-Indonesia relationship
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What does the future hold for the special Australia-Indonesia relationship

IN his first trip overseas, new Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison chose to visit Indonesia, where he met with President Joko Widodo and declared the two countries will be “strong partners in a changing world.”

The trip proved fruitful with the pair signing a “win-win” free trade deal and an agreement to upgrade their diplomatic relationship. The IA-CEPA (Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) was signed and the delegations talked trade, security and all-round cooperation.

“We will seize this opportunity to energise our trade, investment and business relations, to advance our strategic cooperation, to forge deeper ­engagement between our communities and cultures and to build greater links between the young people of our countries,” a statement from the two leaders said after the summit.

Nothing sums up this mentality better than the annual Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth (Causindy).

SEE ALSO: A closer look at Scott Morrison, Australia’s new prime minister

Each year delegates from both countries meet with the aim of creating a stronger bilateral relationship between Australia and Indonesia. Attendees are comprised of people from across the political and business spectrum, including sitting members of parliament, leaders in business, academia, and social enterprise. And this year was no different.

This year, 31 participants met in Makassar, Indonesia, from Sept 5 – 8th, and tried to unpack exactly what the new deal means for the Australia-Indonesia special relationship.


With the Indonesian elections fast approaching in April, discussions with Ima Abdulrahim, Executive Director of The Habibie Centre, and Ian Wilson, lecturer at Murdoch University focused on the crucial elements of a functioning democracy.

As over 187 million people are set to vote in the upcoming election, the importance of awareness throughout the community was highlighted. It needs to be done in such a way as to promote inclusive, trustworthy, and positive political participation.

The involvement of women in politics should also be central to the election debate. Leaders need to acknowledge the role of women as “peace builders” and share ideas on how both countries can encourage female participation in politics; a starting point being making men understand the vital importance of always having a woman in the room.

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As well as political commentators, Causindy also includes leaders of business to provide valuable insight into the opportunities and challenges facing the bilateral ties.

While optimistic about the future, saying this is “just the start of the journey,” director at PwC Indonesia Advisory, Julian Smith, said both Australian and Indonesian governments will need to actively manage the process if benefits are to be achieved. He pointed out the risk that many businesses will be unaware of the reductions in tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

Leader of ERP Oracle on Cloud project implementation under Kalla Group, Vonnie Opier, also highlighted the need for Indonesians to recognise the importance of improving product quality if they want to expand their business.

SEE ALSO: Jokowi, Prabowo to battle for Indonesia’s 187.1mil voters


As the theme of this year’s Causindy was “Connected by Sea,” the coastal and environmental protection was high up on the agenda.

Both Australia and Indonesia understand the importance of healthy oceans as the majority of each population live on the coastline. They also sustain millions of livelihoods as major tourist attractions and a source of business.

Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change in the developed world, and deaths from global warming-related deaths are expected to rise in the coming years.

Likewise, Indonesia’s 81,000 kilometres of coastline and 42 million people living on low-lying land make it among the world’s most vulnerable countries to sea level rise.

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According to USAID, rising seas are projected to submerge 2,000 of the country’s smaller islands by mid-century, and 5.9 million people annually are estimated to be affected by coastal flooding by 2100.

Cooperation and sustainable practices were suggested as potential remedies by the expert speakers at Causindy.

Simon Baldwin, director of SecondMuse in Indonesia, explained the need for organisations and hotels to get involved in local waste management and make use of innovations that enable plastic to be repurposed. This way they can “close the loop” of plastic production and allow so-called waste to re-enter the supply chain.


As China attempts to increase its influence and presence in the Pacific and South China Sea, maritime space has become of increasing concern for both countries.

Cooperation on national security threats, such as terrorism, are also imperative in keeping each nation safe.

SEE ALSO: Indonesia’s big plastic cleanup involved 20,000 people in 76 locales

Indonesia has steadily become an important partner country to Australia’s security team. This isn’t to say the security relationship is perfect, but the two have arrived at a point where there is a strong foundation with positive future potential.

Putting the ‘Y’ in Causindy

Of course, you can’t have a Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth without the youth playing a big part.

Through discussion and mentorship programmes, the young delegates produced their own strategies for how to build on the relationship between the two countries. It will be these people who will be the leaders of the future and, hopefully, continue Morrison’s plan “to ensure that Australia and Indonesia do the heavy lifting that’s needed to realise the real economic opportunity that exists.”