By Jeremy Stringer, Rural Unit Manager, AusAID/Australian Embassy, Jakarta
An Australian public servant doesn’t often get much recognition or reward for skills outside of their nine-to-five job, or at least so I thought before being posted to Jakarta, Indonesia.
For those unfamiliar with the city, Jakarta is a sprawling, traffic-bound metropolis where the wealthy and those in poverty live side-by-side. The infrastructure here is overstretched, roads are congested and sometimes the power supply is unreliable. Finding an address can be difficult as Jakarta has grown so fast that street numbers don’t seem to follow any sequence or logic and straight roads change their names for no apparent reason. So, in addition to knowing the language, navigational skills are essential.
Prior to being posted here I undertook intensive language training, which built on and
re-energised Indonesian language skills I developed during my university days through the ACICIS program. Local language skills have added so much to my life and experience here in Indonesia. I’ve built networks and relationships that are critical to my career as an Australian public servant. I work closely with my Indonesian counterparts to ensure the Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationship – and partnership – remains strong. I work closely with Indonesian government partners to ensure Australian aid is targeted to those who need it. Specifically, my work has a focus on rural development and helping local farmers – an area of particular interest to me.
Over the last two years, drought and then floods destroyed the corn crops (a local staple) in the District of North Central Timor, so seed for this year’s crop was scarce. AusAID, in collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Agriculture, helped to distribute 200 tonnes of maize seed to provide some relief. With reasonable rains and assistance from 300 local experts trained by AusAID, the 200 tonnes of seed will help feed up to 160,000 local people next year. This outcome is a direct result of relationships built by AusAID with local and national level partners, and is just one of the many successes AusAID has had in delivering aid to Indonesia.