AUT’s Pacific Media Centre director Dr David Robie jetted into Yogyakarta earlier this month on a hectic Indonesian World Class Professor (WCP) programme that swept him across three cities and many hundreds of kilometres.
The two-week whirlwind research and publication collaboration had him giving public lectures and guest seminars, discussions with young emerging scholars, and talks with communication students considering a journalism career.
“The hospitality of our hosts, director Dr Hermin Indah Wahyuni and her Center of Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS) team was out of this world,” he says. “And the organisation and logistics for a complex itinerary were also exemplary.”
At one stage, the visit to Universitas Gadjah Mada, one of Indonesia’s largest universities with some 56,000 students, had seemed doubtful after Professor Robie suffered a serious accident at the end of July, breaking his right leg in multiple places and requiring surgery.
“But thanks to UGM’s patience and my rapid recovery, I was able to go to Yogyakarta at the end of October after PMC and AUT had earlier hosted 6 Indonesian researchers for two weeks,” he says.
He praised Dr Wahyuni for her vision, and Apriline Widani and colleagues for their organisational skills.
Dr Robie was accompanied by his wife, Del Abcede, who is a volunteer and publication designer at the PMC.
“It was a godsend for me to have Del there as well – hugely helpful, and she also contributed to a number of the workshops.”
One of the highlights was driving 130km across Central Java to the northern and historical city of Semarang, where climate change and a sinking coastline is threatening the lives of a third of the population of almost 2 million.
Two of the professors on the programme — scientists Dr Magaly Koch, from the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University, US, and Dr David Menier, associate professor HDR at Université de Bretage-Sud, France — are based at the partner Diponegoro University, and are developing a research programme in an effort to seek some solutions for the problems.
“This is a massive environmental problem and it was great to see the impact first hand in a field trip to Timbulsloko village on the outskirts of the city,” Dr Robie says.
“It was also interesting to see the use of a drone in this project.”
Dr Robie, Dr Wahyuni, Fitri Handayani and Andi Fitrah are collaborating on a joint research study into the media and the “social impact” of the Aceh tsunami, Semarang coastal flooding and Fiji tropical cyclones.
The WCP collaboration also included a visit to the city of Solo, where two of the last ancient sultanates continue today, alongside the sultanate of Yogyakarta, which is a special administrative region.
After arriving in Indonesia, Dr Robie and Abcede were welcomed at CESASS and delivered the first of the seminars, about research strategies for climate change and maritime disasters, to a lively audience.
Borobodur sunrise The following day involved a dawn hike to the top of the massive 9th century Buddhist temple Borobodur to see the sunrise and then visits to a spiritual retreat and weddings centre, and a Javanese museum in honour of the “first feminists” in traditional times.
A public seminar held jointly by Professor Robie and Pak Muhadi Sugiono in UGM’s huge library about ICAN, the Nobel Peace Prize and a world “without nuclear weapons”.
This proved popular and Del spoke about the role of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), funded in 1916 during the First World War and one of the original global peace advocacy groups.
Following the weekend-long field trip to Semarang, Dr Robie delivered a public address on academic publishing strategies and journal publishing jointly with the university’s publishing house.
Later, Dr Robie gave an inspirational talk to first year UGM communication studies journalists about being a journalist.
One of the final workshops involved talking to communication students and journalists about investigative journalism in the “post-truth era” in a session chaired by Associate Professor Budi Irawanto.
A local journalist and advocate for the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Bambang Muryanto, also offered some revealing experience on the state of journalism in Indonesia.
Although the two weeks finally came to an end, both CESASS are actively planning ongoing collaboration projects.
Research journals collaboration
Already, the PMC’s Pacific Journalism Review and UGM’s IKAT journal of Southeast Asian research have launched a joint collaboration on climate change and maritime disaster.
The other three professors involved in the WCP programme are Dr Thomas Hanitzsch, chair and professor of Communication Studies at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen, Germany; Dr Judith Schlehe, professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Freiburg, Germany; and Professor Hermann M. Fritz from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, US.
Report by Pacific Media Centre