By Greg Moriarty, Australian Ambassador to Indonesia
In July this year at the annual Indonesia-Australia Leaders’ Meeting in Darwin, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reaffirmed
the strategic partnership we share. It is a partnership based on a mutual commitment to each other’s progress, prosperity and stability. Australia’s aid program is playing a vital role in delivering on our commitment to this relationship. It is achieving results and is highly valued by Indonesia because it is focused on helping Indonesians address their challenges. So when President Yudhoyono called on Australia to continue to help reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development in Indonesia’s eastern provinces, I decided to take a look at the contribution that our aid program is making to address the
real poverty challenges in this area.
My visit took me to two eastern provinces, West and East Nusa Tenggara (NTB and NTT). These two provinces are two of the poorest regions of Indonesia. Within Indonesia, it has the worst indicators for maternal health and malnutrition in the country. Around one third of the children are stunted due to inadequate nutrition, around one third of children can’t study post primary school, and the maternal mortality rate is 40 times worse than Australia—on a par with Myanmar.
And so, whilst Indonesia’s economy is growing and it has made significant progress in recent years, these poor development indicators for NTT and NTB reflect the fact that not all parts of Indonesia are sharing equally in its success. AusAID’s work in eastern
Indonesia, which is long-standing, is supporting the Indonesian government’s efforts to bridge that gap.
In East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) I was deeply impressed with what AusAID is achieving. AusAID, in partnership with Indonesia, is saving the lives of women and newborns in NTT by training staff at neonatal clinics to handle normal and emergency obstetric and
neonatal services, and educating communities on family planning and nutrition. I met a woman at Kupang’s neonatal health clinic who told me that since these interventions, all the women in the village are now delivering their babies in these safer local health centres rather than at home. I also visited a hospital where the doctors and midwives told me that because of training that had been provided, the number of mothers and babies dying in hospital had been halved.
Driving out into the hinterland of West Timor, I was given a warm welcome from Oenaen villagers where AusAID’s rural program (which focuses on eastern Indonesia) is helping farmers increase yields. The program is achieving impressive results by training farmers in better growing practices, and distributing high quality maize seed to improve cultivation. Farmers have on average doubled their yield of maize per hectare
and across NTT the program has helped feed over 90,000 people. I was struck by
the level of cooperation between the Government of Indonesia (Ministry of Agriculture), local government, local NGOs, communities and farmers that has been facilitated by AusAID. I was proud to see the results.
In West Nusa Tengarra I heard similar success stories. I visited a fantastic junior secondary school (years 7, 8 and 9) built with AusAID’s assistance. It was a lot of fun to launch the first English language training assistance program for NTB (the third for the eastern provinces—NTT having just completed its second course). The program will boost applicants’ chances of receiving Australia Awards which provide study opportunities in Australia to Indonesians whose work is driving sustainable development.
In a remote village I was impressed at another farming site where AusAID, ACIAR
and CSIRO are increasing incomes of local farmers through better farming practices,
value-added activities, and better access to markets.
The final leg of my journey was to Sumbawa Island to view one of the best roads that I have driven on in Indonesia. The road was laid and finished with the assistance of Australian engineering expertise and the Government of Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works. The new road I drove on now links major cities on the island and covers more than 80 kilometres. The new road is safer, has cut journey times by 40 per cent, and will help people reach schools and health clinics and assist local produce get to local markets and the port. I was proud to see Australia’s support for this important infrastructure development which will facilitate economic and social development on the island.
It’s been a very rewarding trip around a beautiful and often rugged part of Indonesia. I think all Australians can be proud of what we are achieving with our Indonesian partners in this region.
You can also watch the video about the Australian Ambassador’s visit to East Nusa Tenggara on YouTube.
You can also watch the video about the Australian Ambassador’s visit to West Nusa Tenggara on YouTube.
About the author: Greg Moriarty
Mr Moriarty is a senior officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Prior to this appointment Mr Moriarty was First Assistant Secretary, Consular Public Diplomacy and Parliamentary Affairs Division, and Assistant Secretary, Parliamentary and Media Branch 2008-2009.
Mr Moriarty has extensive experience within DFAT and previously served overseas as Ambassador to Iran. He has served previously in Indonesia, in Papua New Guinea, and as Senior Negotiator with the Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville.
Mr Moriarty holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree with Honours from the University of Western Australia and a Masters Degree in Strategic and Defence Studies from the Australian National University. He is married with two children. Mr Moriarty has studied Indonesian and Tok Pisin.