The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Saturday, December 16, 2017


Indonesian churches will be full this Christmas.  Many will run back-to-back services and erect marquees in car parks to handle the overflow.  This suggests a pious society, but Christians in this country - where almost 90 per cent are Muslim - tend to be exclusive, often evangelical and rarely progressive.

Back in Australia the secular Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has just made 409 recommendations to stop this evil recurring though  some churches are already resisting change.  Details of the villainy here:

The coupling of these events has prompted this personal reflection:

Kill the message, promote the messenger        

When my teenage younger brother died from a brain tumour our mother threw a fit outside the London cemetery chapel.  She erupted when the officiating minister told her Neil ‘had gone to a better place.’

‘How do you know?’ she screamed, and then shouted with the unchallengeable  certainty he lacked: ‘You don’t know!’ Wisely he didn’t respond aware that no answer would satisfy. He walked on to his next funeral while my father tried to placate Mum’s anger and steer her away from the gaping mourners.

I disagreed with my mother on almost everything so still kept going to church hoping one day I’d find the answers. That never happened.  

The last church I quit mid-service was on Easter Sunday about ten years ago.  The denomination was Anglican, what Americans call Episcopal and the British Church of England.

The supreme governor of this undemocratic institution with 85 million adherents is a  nonagenarian with a dysfunctional family and no university degrees or theological training.  She has the job only because a lusty distant relative called Harry wanted a divorce.  So much for divine direction.

The vicar was a robust guy, not one of the wimps who retreat into the ministry because they can’t handle the world then tell others how to live.

The upper middle-class congregation had been reasonably welcome though some Tory elders had difficulties masking their disapproval of a newcomer with an Asian wife.  

The church’s Italianate style fits well into the comfortably established 19th century inner Wellington suburb, so overall a pleasant environment.  But on this particular morning a Damascus Road moment arrived when we stood to recite the Nicene Creed.

As a schoolboy in Britain forced to kneel in St Albans Cathedral twice a week because holiness had to be enforced, the Profession of Faith was easily recitable; but for some curious reason a half-century later it suddenly became unacceptable.

The seeds of disillusion had been germinating for decades before they bloomed into clarity: Every time I chanted the Creed I was lying.


I did not believe in the one God, Father Almighty or the immaculate conception. My teen questions had always been flicked aside as in bad taste, sinful even.  

Why was the Deity male? Did his son have the same reproductive gear I had under his drapes and been through the same pangs of puberty? How could the educated citizens of an enlightened age parrot pre-scientific nonsense on Sundays and then use reason in their lives for the rest of the week?

Like the vicar at my little brother’s funeral they had no answers.

‘Virgin births’ were a standard myth in many cultures to explain the teenage daughter’s bump to the neighbours. Nothing new here. Parthenogenesis is confined to a few plants, some fish and various bugs including water fleas.  But not humans.

Disassociating Mary’s pregnancy from the passion of the carnal act which precedes the entry of everyone else to the world seemed more about prudery; it made sex unclean and not the overwhelming delight most of us experience.

Joseph meekly accepting his bride’s claim that she’d been bonked by an angel doesn’t pass the sniff test.  ‘Look, Joe, you wouldn’t or couldn’t do it so I got Gabriel to come around.  It’ll take a few more centuries but eventually you logheads will learn that women also have sexual needs.’

‘No worries Mary, these things happen,’ says the cuckolded hubby proving himself the most forgiving Christian. ‘Better head to Bethlehem - no-one knows us there. I’ve got the donkey fueled; we’ll pay our tax to Caesar and fill in the census at the same time’.

Divorcing nature

This shrinking from nature and turning love to abhorrence created the prohibitions on married clergy. These led to extreme agonies, evil deeds and betrayals exposed by 21st century inquiries into priestly pederasty. That explanation isn’t watertight as many perverts have been Protestants and sometimes wedded. Who screened these men when they applied to be God’s reps?

The Fathers who have sinned most egregiously have soiled the faith they taught and damned its credibility as a force for good. The threat to the church they feared was not from the pagans without but the dog-collared villains within.

Jesus would have put millstones around their necks and cast them in the sea.  Fortunately for them the law had learned Christian compassion.

Despite sitting though many explanations the idea of the Holy Ghost proved unreachable. Acceptance required jumping too many chasms unbridgeable by logic.

The 17th  century Italian scientist and philosopher Galileo Galilei wrote: ‘I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowleedge which we can attain by them.
BTW, he was the geek who said the world went around the sun.  The holy whitebeards claiming greater knowledge bequeathed to them by God forced him to recant or be tortured to death.

The Catholic Church maintained that condemnation till last century.  And we are supposed to respect these frauds and believe their ‘wisdoms’? Any resemblance to richly-attired men performing archaic rituals in splendid cathedrals and a manger-born woodworker from a poor family offering a few universal truths is purely coincidental.

The Trinity idea had been conjured up by male theologians centuries after the death of Christ and who had then turned prayer into profit. This wall between Muslims and Christians has caused huge trouble over the ages so long overdue for demolition.

So farewell Father and Holy Ghost - how about the Son? First question for a sceptic - did he ever exist? Second question: Does it matter?

To date we know of only three written references - one false, another probably made up - leaving just one impartial account by the Roman historian Tacitus.

His original manuscript is missing, which is a worry as much might have been added or subtracted to the surviving copies. The Senator was reporting almost a century later; likewise with the Gospel Four and the misogynist apostle Paul.

Writers, not reporters

Like so many men in the Bible he seems to have been emasculated by the mystery and power of women so retreated to spurn and hate. He should have stayed a tax collector instead of focusing on Jesus rather than his wisdoms.

Paul and the other writers smothered Christ’s basic message about love it with warped histories, lies, dogma, their own sexual hang-ups and egos plus heaven knows how much superstition and revisionism.  But somehow the principles survived; applying them was another matter.

None of these men had ever met Jesus; all relied on hand-me-down tales. As journalists covering courts know well, even honest and neutral onlookers to recent events can be mistaken in their recall and interpretation.

How much more so when decades had passed, written records were few and the stories embellished and censored in the recounting. It seems Jesus never put pen to papyrus which suggests he might have been illiterate. The gospels are four different accounts of the life of one man - they can’t even agree on his birth.

Then there was the problem of translation through several languages; it’s unlikely all scribes were bias-free.  It’s not just authoritarian governments that re-write history.

Portrait of a stirrer

The pictures usually show Christ as a handsome, often bearded, well-assembled Caucasian who liked the company of lambs and little kids.  A man like that seen near a kindergarten  today would soon find Child Welfare and the Police asking questions.

All the portraits come from artists’ imagination coloured by their culture and beliefs. There are no eye-witness accounts. He could have been a swarthy Kim Jong-un lookalike with a hooked nose who would certainly get pulled aside from an LA immigration queue.  

If he did return he’d need to wear a sober business suit and tie, be clean shaven, short haired and have polished shoes to be accepted among the evangelicals.  But there’s going to be no second coming, no supernatural solution; the problems we have are for us to fix

Having a knockabout tradie challenging the elite who had built careers and fortunes around claiming exclusive knowledge of God’s will was not on.  Prophets don’t dovetail chairs, they mount thrones.  The job requires lineage, divinity and mystic skills. As these weren’t in the original version they had to be invented and the story retrofitted to match the Messiah as reported in the Old Testament.

And who’d want to hear an upstart Jew without letters after his name trying to say profound things unless he had a swag of loaves-and-fishes party tricks to draw the crowds?

Had motorbikes been invented the Gang of Twelve would be wearing big boots not sandals for these lads were outsiders and trouble-makers for sure.

They would have unsettled the colonial power and spurred complaints from Concerned Citizens of Capernaum.  No wonder they called out the armed anti-terror squad which brought the boss in for questioning.

Today we don’t need to recite ancient yarns about a shunned woman with menorrhagia getting embraced, or a Samaritan giving a hit and run victim first aid to know there are moral forks in everyone’s daily road.

Like former President Jimmy Carter quitting his church because ‘women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.  Pity he waited 60 years to find his conscience.

That leaves the last biggie in the Creed: ‘And the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of the Father’.

Learning but not applying

Two millennia ago the natural universe was little understood. Republics had yet to be invented so rulers were kings. Women were just the soil for a man’s seed. The masses were uneducated and the administration brutal and feudal.

This was the age of prophecies drawn from the Hebrew Bible and full of yarns of a coming Messiah, the promised land, Armageddon and God knows what.  

Shooting stars weren’t meteorites burning up in the atmosphere but portents of evil.  Sickness was the penalty for sin - not infection from pathogens.  What couldn’t be explained was labeled a curse or miracle, terms now almost extinct outside literary use.

The prophets were con artists exploiting ignorance with tales of devils and battles in heaven. Forecasters of the Second Coming with Christ on a white horse would have got claps and shekels, no matter that nothing came to pass.

Predicting the discovery of space, electricity, radio waves, smartphones, McDonald’s burgers and driverless cars would have led to being ostracised like the lepers or condemned to death.  

If these sages were so smart why didn’t they foretell the industrial revolution, or if that was too secular, Martin Luther and the birth of Protestantism?

Christ’s world was small and flat and knowledge narrow; heaven was just beyond the clouds, so Jesus defying gravity would have made sense 1,700 years before Sir Isaac Newton worked out the science and the impossibility.

Not now.  New Zealand theologian Sir Lloyd Geering’s comments that the bones of Jesus still lie in Palestine crazed conservatives last century.  

Tomorrow we might click on a YouTube news clip of an archaeological dig uncovering a headstone marked JESVS KRISTVS RIP.

What happens next?  The Nicene Creed then collapses like a jerry-built house of worship in an earthquake.

Those who’d erected their faith on fantasy tales and adulation of authority will be homeless in the rubble, calling for spiritual CPR and whispering: ‘What remains?’

Just the story of a charismatic stirrer who had the courage to confront the establishment’s chicanery, offer a code of living, got cruelly killed for his trouble yet forgave his persecutors.  Now that’s a model to admire.

The problem is that JC’s simple prescriptions for peaceful living are almost indigestible: Never hate. Be tolerant, show compassion. Treat others as you’d want them to treat you.  And here’s the real frightener - love thy neighbour.

Now that’s a step too far. They might be gay. There’s been a translation hiccup here, as the anti-Semitic Billy Graham (no known relative, thank God) might say:

‘Check the New International Version against the King James and you’ll see why ‘take no thought for the morrow’ doesn’t prohibit buying life insurance.’  Heaven forbid!

Let’s give this a bit of thought for, say, 20 centuries?  No harm in that - rushing leads to mistakes. In the meantime better convert him into a king with feudal authority demanding to be venerated, and hire televangelists to dust away doubts.  

Wear crucifixes, the bigger the better. Although the Bible is on the smartphone, prominently tout an oxblood natural grain leather-bound volume to show we’re holy and superior. Give money for the steeple-rebuild but tell the poor and needy they’ll get our prayers.

Subscribe to slick talkers explaining things differently - just don’t forget to renew. Otherwise they’ll go elsewhere and sell sub-prime mortgage bonds.  Anticipate the rapture and pray that it’s exclusive to good decent law-abiding God fearing folks with licensed firearms living in gated communities.

Now that yanks us out of trouble. We can retain our membership. It’s so much easier to glorify the man and ignore what he was saying - to kill the message and promote the messenger. That is Christianity’s most grievous sin.

My mother was right: Like all in his trade, the man who buried Neil didn’t know. And neither do we.



Thursday, December 14, 2017


Indonesian tourism needs more than slogans

The Indonesian government has set about boosting tourism with the tagline Ten New Balis.
About 12 million visitors entered the country last year; the target is 20 million by 2019.  The hope is that these sightseers will provide 20 per cent of the nation’s GDP - last year USD 932 billion according to the World Bank.
But they won’t come without a rethink of the industry.  That means integrating attractions with public facilities and transport to benefit customers and suppliers.

Task One - define ‘foreign tourist’.  Government officials who seldom travel overseas imagine hedonistic Westerners flopped around swim-up bars, but there are other segments – like backpackers searching for the ultimate bombora.  They use dorms, eat street food, open wallets reluctantly but tick ‘unlike’ freely on social media.
That can be a problem. Charging overseas hikers park entry fees ten times above those for locals in chauffeured Mercedes doesn’t look good on smartphones overseas. Nor are shared photos of trash-choked creeks.
Then come families exposing pre-teens to the archipelago’s mysteries before the kids turn surly and favor Facebook above face time.  These explorers go for homestays, their love is nature and culture.
Likewise the semi-retired heritage-seekers unashamed to show knobbly knees as they wander far to avoid theme parks. They’re modest spenders but gracious givers and friendship makers.
Finally the superannuants looking for luxury and avoiding challenges. They buy packaged tours in their homeland and tend to be fussy.  Fortunately they find Indonesian hospitality overwhelmingly positive.  Social media comments about cheery and considerate staff abound.
So which guests does Indonesia want? One approach won’t fit all.
This nation’s allures are ‘wonderful’ as the campaign cliche claims. There are eight sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, but some - like the Lortentz National Park in West Papua are difficult to access; Others are  poorly presented, like the Sangiran Early Humans site in Central Java.
Australia is helping with a US $2.75 million research grant. With consultants at AUD $100 (Rp 1 million) an hour plus, plus, don’t expect fat reports.

Pilgrims to Borobudur, the magnificent 9th century Buddhist temple complex in Central Java might assume that other world-famous sites are equally well run.  If only.
Mount Bromo in East Java is one of the President’s Top Ten.  At weekends this is chaos central as hundreds arrive to witness dawn as the vast caldera and its four cones loom out of the gloom, a panorama of awe, not a Lord of the Rings make believe.
Also rising as the sun strikes is the stench of urine.  Toilets are being built but not with the same urgency that climbers have for relief.  Then there’s the graffiti and trash.
Many visitors arrive in prototype Toyota FJs notorious for helping direct drivers to chiropractors. Rental companies call these rattletraps ‘jeeps’ and argue they are necessary to handle hazards.
True – but there are later, safer models built for passenger comfort, though upgrade costs might cripple small operators.
The Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park is a volcanic zone prone to reshaping by the next eruption, but the major problems are man-made.  The narrow twisting tracks can’t take big buses so villagers miss out on grey nomads from afar.  On a weekend trip last month oldies were rare and foreigners even rarer.
The dominants were leather-clad lads come to test their big bikes’ endurance rather than enjoy the majesty; controlling hoons is another must-fix issue.
There are 18 sites Indonesia wants added to the UNESCO list which could be vastly improved with small expenditure.  Trowulan, the former capital of the 13th Century Majapahit Kingdom has the marvels - but not the packaging.
Not all are waiting for the government.  Smart villagers are discovering that visitors don’t like plastic. Some around Borobudur have opened ‘art guesthouses’ with hot showers, toasters and the chance to stroll or bike and see local life without feeling like voyeurs.
 In the East Java village of Tumpang entrepreneur Malang entrepreneur Dwi Cahyono is developing his Panji Museum and performance centre to promote Indonesian culture.
Also using private money is his friend Daniel Haryono whose highly-rated Ullen Sentalu culture centre is 25 kilometres outside central Yogyakarta.  Both sites are difficult to access without private transport.  The hire car business is growing but tourists can encounter drivers ignorant of overseas clients’ needs.
The President’s wish list includes Lake Toba in North Sumatra, and Mandalika in Lombok east of Bali, where projects worth US $3 billion are being touted.  
The island’s 3.5 million people are mainly Muslims disinclined to party hard so may not welcome a spillover of Kuta’s culture.  Some groups have been agitating for even tougher liquor restrictions.
A dry vacation may draw Middle East folk but not from the current top four tourist suppliers -  China, Malaysia, Singapore and Australasia (around 1.5 million each). The migration of greenbacks into Indonesia (an estimated $1,200 per person per visit) will benefit the economy but could widen the social gap unless distributed fairly.
Unhappy globetrotters will just take their dollars elsewhere. Like ‘amazing Thailand’ (32 million visitors last year)  which also has temples, jungles, surf – and booze. 

First published in Asian Currents 14 December 2017.  See:

Friday, December 08, 2017


I wrote this after the White Paper had been published and sent a draft to Indonesia Institute President Ross Taylor on 24 November.  While it was being rejected or ignored by  the AFR, New Mandala, Inside Story and The Interpreter Professor Tim Lindsey came out with his excellent analysis which I first saw on 4 December.

In many ways it's curiously similar to mine below, but this is coincidence, not plagiarism.

No white space for Indonesia                     

It's the great Australian foreign policy quandary:  Should the vast Southern Hemisphere continent continue to rely on Trump’s America for help - or seek closer relationships with neighbour nations?

Asking this question in the past would have been heretical but world alliances are fluid.  National interests trump international deals whatever else is said or written.

Australia’s newly-released Foreign Policy White Paper doesn’t demolish the old Anglosphere foundations though some words point to fractures. Like Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s foreword: ‘We must be sovereign, not reliant’.

Rousing stuff - but catch breath for hard facts: Australia has 25 million people, Indonesia ten times more; China has 1.38 billion and India 1.32 billion.  In this ring of might roaring like a mouse without a nuclear arsenal cheers nationalists but does nothing practical. Australia has always been reliant; first on the UK, then the US.

But that was BT (Before Trump).
Despite this seismic shift there’s no wobble in Australia’s bi-partisan approach.  Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Penny Wong said Australia had to work with the US as it is now, not as it might once have been, or as some of its naysayers claim it’s going to become.
The ANZUS pact which binds Australia, New Zealand and the US was written 66 years ago as the Cold War was sizzling and the Korean war seeding today’s Kim Jong-un crisis.  

Mao Zedong’s People’s Republic was then only two years old - now it’s a well-muscled adult.

Contrary to popular belief ANZUS does not lock America into launching F-35 Lightnings to the defence of its distant buddy (Canberra is 16,000 kilometres from Washington).

Clauses Three and Four say the Parties will consult together should there be a threat and the signatories would ‘act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes’ and report to the UN.

The White Paper’s worthy objectives cover regional prosperity, respect for states’ rights and human rights, more business and less protectionism, security, freedom and resilience.

Overall the compilation by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) with input from 60 experts and 9,200 public submissions has drawn few major quibbles. Some claim this overview shows reality is biting:

‘Navigating the decade ahead will be hard, because as China’s power grows, our region is changing in ways without precedent in Australia’s modern history.’  

Worryingly down-played is Indonesia which gets only 38 mentions, way behind China (112) India (70) and Japan (52).  Many references are bundled with countries like South Korea, India - even Nigeria - or are in data lists.

The usual mantra is recited: ‘Indonesia is a dynamic, democratic, diverse and growing G20 member with the world’s largest Muslim population. Indonesia’s success is of fundamental importance to Australia.’  

Mr Turnbull’s foreword says: ‘We are stronger when sharing the burden of leadership with trusted partners and friends. Is our neighbour in this category?  

Indonesia is also deeply concerned about the rise of China and not just because of its economic clout and strategic influence. Some fear that along with capital to build the archipelago’s infrastructure comes Communism; the bogeyman is a virile force in Indonesian politics. Where would we fit should strife erupt?

There are pluses.  Anti-terrorism police co-operation seems to be going well. Aid projects, scholarships, exchange programmes and soft-power culture shows are fine but few.  The big money and political energy is going into border protection.

Australia’s ‘largest maritime operation in peacetime history’ is underway not in the disputed South China Sea, but in the narrow Arafura Sea between us and them.  

This steel boom is to contain the migration ambitions of 14,000 asylum seekers squatting in Indonesia. A $3.5 billion contract for 12 more patrol boats has just been announced.

This military response to a social problem involving unarmed civilians marks a failure to engage with Indonesia and ASEAN to develop a more humane policy.

The White Paper canvasses refugee and Islamic terrorism in a global context.  The decade-old ‘Quad Alliance’ idea recently revived by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson isn’t mentioned.

Japan, India, the US and Australia are in the Quad as democracies.  Indonesia has been one this century - though not a ‘developed democracy’ as defined by the World Bank. But nor is India on the list.

The Jakarta Embassy says it’s ‘the largest ever constructed by an Australian Government and reflects the depth of the relationship. If the White Paper is a guide the mateship is shallow.   

The ginormous importance of Indonesia in economic and security terms are standards in the lexicon of business boosters.  Rarely raised is why few Australian companies invest; they fear corruption and rules not fairly applied.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA) discussions should wrap-up this year. If a ‘high quality’ (Mr Turnbull’s words) deal is done this will be a breakthrough as protectionist Indonesia is pursuing food sovereignity. Observers are not hopeful.

Where are the policies to put wheels under the words should the FTA stall as it has in the past? Unfortunately not in the ‘first comprehensive review of Australia’s international engagement for 14 years.’

If Indonesia is really so important the next White Paper needs to put the people next door front and centre of foreign policy.  Unwise to wait to 2031; by then the neighbours might have found friends we don’t like.



Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Publish - then perish

It’s a pain: You research a topic on the Internet, find a promising resource, then hit a paywall. Now some angry users are opening access and chasing out profiteers. Duncan Graham reports:

The academic world is supposed to be a bright-lit landscape of independent research pushing back the frontiers of knowledge to benefit humanity.

Years of fingernail-flicking test tubes have paid off by finding the elixir of life. Now comes the hard stuff: Telling the world through a respected international journal staffed by sceptics.

After drafting and deleting, adding and revising, the precious discovery has to undergo the ritual of peer-reviews.  Only then may your wisdoms arouse gasps of envy and nods of respect in the world’s labs and lecture theatres.

The goal is to score hits on the international SCOPUS database (69 million records, 36,000 titles - and rising as you read) of peer-reviewed journals. If the paper is much cited, the author’s CV and job prospects should glow.  SCOPUS is run by Dutch publisher Elsevier for profit.

It’s a tough track up the academic mountain; surely there are easier paths paved by publishers keen to help?

Indeed - but beware. The 148-year old British multidisciplinary weekly Nature calls them ‘predatory journals’ luring naive young graduates desperate for recognition.

“These journals say: ‘Give us your money and we’ll publish your paper’,” said Professor David Robie (left)  of New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology.  “They’ve eroded the trust and credibility of the established journals.  Although easily picked by careful checking, new academics should still be wary.”

Shams have been exposed by getting journals to print gobbledygook papers by fictitious authors. One famous sting reported by Nature had a Dr Anna O Szust being offered journal space if she paid.  ‘Oszust’ is Polish for ‘a fraud’.

Robie heads AUT’s Pacific Media Centre which publishes the Pacific Journalism Review, now in its 23rd year.  During November he was at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, Central Java helping his Indonesian colleagues boost their skills and lift their uni’s reputation.

The quality of Indonesian learning at all levels is embarrassingly poor for a nation of 260 million spending 20 per cent of its budget on education.

The international ranking systems are a dog’s breakfast but only UGM, the University of Indonesia and the Bandung Institute of Technology just make the tail end of the Times Higher Education world’s top one thousand. There are around 3,500 ‘universities’ in Indonesia; most are private.  UGM is public.

UGM has been trying to better itself by sending staff to Auckland to look at vocational education and master new teaching strategies. Robie was invited to Yogyakarta through the World Class Professor programme, an Indonesian Government initiative to raise standards by learning from the best.

Robie lectured on ‘developing investigative journalism in the post-truth era’, researching marine disasters and climate change.  He also ran workshops on managing international journals.

During a break at UGM he told Strategic Review that open access - meaning no charges made to authors and readers - was the tool to break the user-pays model.

AUT is one of several universities to start bucking the international trend to corral knowledge and muster millions. The big publishers reportedly make up to 40 per cent profit - much of it from library subscriptions.

According to a report by AUT librarians Luqman Hayes and Shari Hearne there are now more than 100,000 scholarly journals in the world put out by 3,000 publishers; the number is rocketing so fast library budgets have been swept away in the slipstream.

In 2016 Robie and his colleagues established Tuwhera (Maori for ‘be open’) to help graduates liberate their work by hosting accredited and refereed journals at no cost.
The service includes training on editing, presentation and creating websites which look modern and appealing. Tuwhera is now being offered to UGM - but Indonesian  universities have to lift their game.

The issue is language and it’s a problem, according to Dr Vissia Ita Yulianto (right), researcher at UGM’s Southeast Asian Social Studies Centre.  Educated in Germany she’s been working with Robie to develop journals and ensure they’re top quality.
“We have very intelligent scholars in Indonesia but they may not be able to always meet the presentation levels required,” she said.  
“In the future I hope we’ll be able to publish in Indonesian; I wish it wasn’t so, but right now we ask for papers in English.”
Bahasa Indonesia, originally trade Malay, is the official language. It was introduced to unify the archipelagic nation with more than 300 indigenous tongues.  Outside Indonesia and Malaysia it’s rarely heard.
English is widely taught though not always well.  Adrian Vickers, Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at Sydney University, has written that ‘the low standard of English remains one of the biggest barriers against Indonesia being internationally competitive.
‘... in academia, few lecturers, let alone students, can communicate effectively in English, meaning that writing of books and journal articles for international audiences is almost impossible.
Though the commercial publishers still dominate there are now almost 10,000 open-access peer-reviewed journals on the Web. Said Robie:
Tuwhera has enhanced global access to specialist research in ways that could not previously have happened.  We can also learn much from Indonesia and one of the best ways is through exchange programmes.”

First published in Strategic Review 6 December 2017

Post-publication comments by David Robie: The tagline about “angry” academics is a bit over the top. I think it is more of an issue of “sceptical” academics …. Certainly  that is how I would describe my position.

Some minor details – I didn’t start Tuwhera (or my colleagues). That was an AUT Library digital initiative and the Pacific Media Centre was invited to be part of this project – a very far-sighted one and one that we are pleased to be a part of.

Also, Luqman Hayes is not a librarian, he is a scholarly digital communications officer – and he has been steering the project umbrella. I have specific role as editor of one of the publications on the platform, Pacific Journalism Review