Experts from Murdoch University’s Indo-Pacific Research Centre made vital contributions to the annual Indonesia Update held at the Australian National University in Canberra recently.
IPRC Senior Research Fellows Dr Jacqui Baker and Dr Ian Wilson attended the 40th iteration of the largest and most significant annual conference on Indonesian society outside of Indonesia, which this year had 350 people attend in-person and more than 1000 join online.
IPRC Director Professor Jacqueline Lo said Murdoch University has deep expertise in the study of Indonesian politics and society which has been developed over many decades, recognised by the research community, and valued by policy-makers and governments in Australia and Indonesia.
“Indonesia is one of Australia’s most important bilateral relationships,” she said.
“As the Indo-Pacific becomes an ever more contested space, we need to enhance our capacity to engage with our significant neighbours and cooperate on strategic issues such as governance and security.
Dr Baker and Dr Wilson are among the leading Australian experts who are actively building our national capability.”
Dr Baker’s Political Update keynote, Jokowi End Game: Cooptation, coercion and the narrowing field of political contestation, addressed the lack of attention paid to the political impact of Indonesia’s economic structural transformation in the push to reach high-income status by 2045, a major government goal.
To make the case, she examined political events in the concluding year of the Joko Widodo government including the narrowing field of political contestation, the regime’s disorganisation of oppositional movements, weaponisation of law enforcement against political opponents, growing political centralisation, and coalition formation in the lead up to the 2024 elections.
Her address was a critical intervention to understanding Jokowi’s democratic regression and highlighted the importance of understanding the political implications of Indonesia’s underlying structural challenges.
“The annual Political Update at the ANU shapes the way government, business, civil society and scholars understands Indonesian politics,” Dr Baker said.
“In my talk, I focused on the socio-economic changes Indonesia has experienced over the past 20 years, in particular the lifting of millions out of poverty into a precarious ‘non-poor’ class.
“I argued that managing the aspirations of this dominant socio-group is driving government decision-making and in turn, democratic regression.”
Dr Wilson presented to the conference on the policing of Jakarta’s low income kampung neighbourhoods alongside the securitisation of space produced by socio-economic segregation as seen in the growth of superblocks and exclusive gated estates for Jakarta’s growing upper middle class.
He provided important insights into the changing political economy of urban security actors (private-public security arrangements involving paramilitary groups in particular), the consolidation of transnational private security companies, and the implications of new security technologies - for example facial recognition - for equity and mobility within the city.
“The invitation to two Murdoch academics to contribute to the 2023 Indonesia Update - the most high-profile platform on Indonesia studies - is a significant recognition of the University’s South-East Asian, and especially Indonesian, expertise,” Professor Lo said.
Learn more about Murdoch's Indo-Pacific Research Centre.
Established to foster collaboration across the Indo-Pacific, the Centre consolidates the research strengths within Murdoch’s Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines as well more broadly across the University to address significant challenges in the region.
It builds upon the formative Asia Research Centre’s international reputation for high impact research and training, and draws on research expertise from the Africa Research Group and the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability.