by Madura McCormack
Murdoch University will offer Indonesian as a general elective for all students from next year, in a bid to boost interest in the language.
Murdoch joins the University of Western Australia as the only universities in WA to have Indonesian, or ‘Bahasa’ as it is better known, as a unit available to all students.
Professor David Hill, outgoing Chair of Southeast Asian Studies at Murdoch, hopes the move will increase enrolment in Indonesian, which he says is declining at all levels.
“Studying the language has substantial benefits, and not just for holidaying in Bali,” says Professor Hill.
“The relationship with Indonesia is really pivotal. Many many businesses in WA are likely to have interactions with Indonesia in some way.”
Rise and fall of the Indonesian language
The number of students studying Indonesian at Year 12 level remains low, with only 0.6 per cent of WACE-eligible students doing the language in 2014.
Mr Irianto Tedja, Associate Lecturer for Indonesian at Murdoch, says one big factor that affects interest in the language is media coverage of the world’s 4th largest country.
“There was the [Schapelle] Corby story… then there was also the Bali Bombing. And enrolment dropped,” says Pak Tedja.
“Some students think, ‘oh this is the language of the terrorist’.”
Matthew Satchwell, President of the Australian-Indonesian Youth Association WA chapter and a former UWA student, began studying Bahasa Indonesia in Year 12 and followed it through to university.
“If I hadn’t studied Indonesian, I wouldn’t have the knowledge that I have today. I would have missed all the interesting conversations I’ve had in Indonesia,” says Satchwell, who did his Honours thesis while living in an Indonesian village.
“It has defined my life thus far. My life revolves around the job I do and the exciting spaces Indonesia has opened for me.”