Canberra and its intellectual exchange opportunities

Published in Australia Awards, ARG News, May 2013

by Fitrian Ardiansyah,

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Canberra is like a second home to me. This is a city that I not only hold close to my heart but also value highly since it is a place enriched with opportunities for intellectual exchanges, harbouring some of the best Australian academic, political and historical sites—namely the Australian National University (ANU), the Parliament House and many other known museums.

The first period I spent in this beautiful landscape was back in 1999-2001. I had spent two years of my life undertaking graduate diploma and master courses at the ANU with the support of the Australia Awards.

It was a life changing experience.

This was the time when my academic logical thinking and writing skills were harnessed and sharpened. Since then, I have managed to produce more than 70 published op-eds, book chapters, journal articles and reports—the majority in English. I cannot be grateful enough to my lecturers and academic supervisors at the ANU as well as my peers.

This was also the time I experienced the dynamics of Indonesia, internally and as part of the Asian-Australian geopolitical realm. The year 1999 was a historical one marked with the first Indonesian election after the reform and, of course, the referendum of East Timor.

People in Australia followed the news in Indonesia eagerly. At one point, the administration of the Embassy of Indonesia needed to be relocated to another place since there were frequent demonstrations on issues pertaining East Timor taking place just outside the embassy.

Many Australian friends and other international students asked my opinion about the situation and whether Indonesia could be successful in overcoming this adversity.

As a nation, albeit facing various difficult challenges, we proved that we certainly could overcome our own adversity and change our future for the better.

Canberra provided me with another valuable opportunity to connect with Australian professionals, businesses and civil servants who have great interests in Indonesia. Through the Australia-Indonesia Business Education Network (AIBEN), in which I was actively involved, I had great experience serving as an intern at Environment Australia and presenting my master thesis before a number of key people at this institution.

This excellent connection has been maintained to this day.

When I went back to Indonesia, the overall knowledge, skills and experience obtained in Canberra have definitely made me a much more confident person.

Therefore, after working for quite a while on environmental, climate change and sustainability issues in Indonesia as well as at regional and global levels, the offer to apply for another scholarship to pursue a PhD in Australia was a no-brainer to me.

I did my IELTS test and was interviewed in 2009. That same year, the Australia Awards office and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta informed me that not only was I granted an Australia Awards Leadership Program that would support me in undertaking my PhD study, I was also granted the Allison Sudradjat Award—named after an AusAID leading figure who died in the airplane crash in 2007.

It was like a dream come true.

The choice of the city for me is of course Canberra again.

My second journey in Canberra commenced in June 2010. That year I was also double—if not triple—blessed because my wife received an Australia Awards Leadership Program at the end of 2010 to help her pursue her master study and it was the year our little daughter was born.

Canberra is the right city to balance one’s academic and family lives. It offers abundant green sceneries and fresh air. Since we like running and outdoor activities, the city is perfect as it offers lots of running and cycling tracks.

When it comes to advancing intellectual interaction among academics and professionals, Canberra has no shortage of platforms, activities and initiatives. In fact, I was asked to be a coordinator of one of the initiatives, Indonesia Synergy (IS).

IS is a knowledge network initiated by young Indonesian scholars from various universities in Canberra, Australia. It aims to facilitate the sharing of information and exchange of ideas as well as academic and professional networking with a strong Indonesian focus.

We managed to convene frequent discussions and speeches including those delivered by well-known leaders from Indonesia, Australia and other countries. Through IS, we also brought about a closer connection among students, professionals and key institutions such as AusAID, the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, as well as universities and research institutions in Indonesia and Australia.

If anyone is looking for a rich intellectual discourse, Canberra is the city to be in.

Also, with this year’s centenary celebration at this capital city of Australia, students are further experiencing cultural, historical, political and academic exchanges and we are definitely part of this joy and celebration.

The writer is PhD Candidate at the Australian National University and the recipient of the Australia Awards Leadership Program and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Note: For further information on Australia Awards Scholarship, please check: and


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