chapter  4
19 Pages

Strangers without strangeness: Power and difference between Australia and Indonesia

It has become a powerful cliché among foreign policy elites that Australia and Indonesia are ‘strange neighbours’. As Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans said at a 1994 conference in Jakarta: ‘More than any other two countries in the world living alongside each other we are different in languages, cultures, religions, history, ethnicity, population size, and in political, legal and social systems. We might as well be half a world apart.’ Yet, so the argument always runs, we must find a way to live together. If both societies are to prosper and co-operate, and if the Asia-Pacific region is to remain prosperous and stable, greater sensitivity and understanding must be cultivated. This discourse has been strong for at least 30 years, both in Indonesia and as an integral part of the cultural and policy machinery with which Australia has sought to banish the memory of the White Australia policy.1