Over the last decade, there has been a decline in the quality of Indonesian democracy. This has been accompanied by rising Muslim conservatism, within and beyond Indonesia. Whether Indonesia's democratic model is consolidated or reversed will have enormous ramifications for Australia.
Indonesia is the world's fourth largest country by population and the largest Muslim society. Its location means it plays a vital role in Australia’s regional security. It is also a growing market for Australian goods and services exporters. Although investment and trade between Australia and Indonesia is under-utilised, an ambitious new free-trade agreement has now been signed that aims to change this.
Maintaining relations with Indonesia is therefore critical for Australia's economic and regional stability. And this will become increasingly challenging if the checks and balances in their democracy remain incomplete or deteriorate further. So, a thorough understanding of Indonesian governance is an urgent need for policymakers, law enforcement agencies and aid agencies.
The Indonesia Democracy Hallmark Research Initiative has been created to develop deeper understandings of these challenges across disciplines. Research through the initiative will assess Indonesia's democratic system and how Islam interacts with liberal democracy. It will strengthen and expand interdisciplinary partnerships. It will also build recognition internationally for the University’s work on democracy and religion in Indonesia.
The initiative’s activities include:
- offering funding for joint research projects with external Indonesian collaborators
- bringing leading Indonesian public or scholarly figures to Melbourne every year to work with researchers at the University and present to the public
- hosting annual research workshops (one for each research cluster)
- co-hosting an annual series of seminars in partnership with centres and schools in Arts, Law and other faculties
- supporting the Indonesia at Melbourne blog.
The initiative is focusing on three research clusters in Indonesian democracy: politics, rights, and Islam and democracy. Funding is available for interdisciplinary research projects that explore these clusters.
The quality of democracy within the political system has emerged as a major theme in the study of Indonesian politics. This cluster aims to establish the political drivers of this decline, including:
- Indonesia’s political party system and its electoral design
- the role of entrenched social interests and path dependency
- the influence of global trends such as waning support for democracy and growing populism.
This cluster is exploring the extent to which human rights have been adopted in post-Soeharto Indonesia. This includes political, civil, economic and social rights.
A key focus is the failure of Indonesia’s criminal justice system to respect and defend civil and political rights. The initiative is well placed to lead in this area as researchers from across Melbourne Law School and the Faculty of Arts have already received global recognition for their work on past human rights abuses and high-profile prosecutions in Indonesia.
The exploration of social and economic rights includes:
- Indonesia’s new large universal healthcare and pension schemes – and their implications for the establishment of a welfare state
- how political discourses around Islam and morality affect the provision of health, education and other social services.
An interdisciplinary approach involving STEM fields, law and other humanities is crucial to cover all aspects of policy relevant to the observance of social and economic rights.
Islam and democracy
Indonesia has claimed to be an example of the successful democratisation of a majority Muslim society. But the post-Soeharto rise of Islamist influence has challenged this.
This cluster is exploring how recent developments in Indonesia relate to wider tensions between liberal democratic values and Islamism in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.
Focusing on political Islam in Indonesia, it will also include comparative studies of other Muslim communities, for example in Malaysia, Western Europe and the Middle East.
The initiative will continue to fund interdisciplinary research projects in 2020.
2019 Seed Funding recipients
An evaluation of drug rehabilitation services in Indonesia
Lisa Cameron, with Jenny Williams (Faculty of Business and Economics)
A critical discourse study of Indonesian media reporting on LGBT issues
Michael Ewing (Asia Institute)
LGBT Rights and Public Health in Indonesia: View from the regions
Benjamin Hegarty (Asia Institute)
Shrinking civic space in Indonesia? A survey approach
Dave McRae (Asia Institute)
Teaching religious tolerance and democratic attitudes in Indonesia
Anne Suryani, with John Polesel (Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy, Melbourne Graduate School of Education)
Forced evictions and the family: Case studies from Rawa Bebek, Jakarta
Ariane Utomo, with Brian Cook (Demography and Population Geography, Faculty of Science)
Professor Tim Lindsey, Melbourne Law School
Initiative Deputy Chair
Dr Dave McRae, Asia Institute
Dr Helen Pausacker, Melbourne Law School
Associate Professor Linda Bennett, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
Professor Vedi Hadiz, Asia Institute
Associate Professor Kate McGregor, School of History and Philosophical Studies
Professor Andrew Rosser, Asia Institute
Professor Adullah Saeed, Asia Institute
Dr Ken Setiawan, Asia Institute
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The initiative will continue to fund interdisciplinary research projects this year. The 2020 round is now open and the deadline has been extended until Friday 29 May 2020.
Grants are offered for joint research projects with external Indonesian collaborators that deal with the key research themes:
- Islam and democracy.
Send completed applications to Academic Convenor Dr. Helen Pausacker at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you’re a researcher, external organisation or member of the public, you can engage with the initiative through workshops and public events.
For more information about the initiative, contact Academic Convenor Dr Helen Pausacker on +61 3 8344 1082 (Mon–Thu) or email email@example.com
If you have questions or comments in relation to Hallmark Research Initiatives, email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are proud to support the Indonesia at Melbourne blog. The blog offers analysis, research and commentary on contemporary Indonesia. It aims to stimulate debate and provide a forum for exchange of information and opinion on current events in Indonesia.
It includes articles from academics, graduate researchers, University alumni and external experts in Australia and Indonesia.
The blog reflects the University’s diversity of expertise on contemporary Indonesia, covering:
- architecture and public health.
It is generously supported by Melbourne Law School, the Faculty of Arts, External Relations, and the Indonesia Democracy Hallmark Research Initiative. If you're interested in contributing, email email@example.com
Image: M Risyal Hidayat / Antara
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