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EM Southeast Asia Tours Down Under: Screen, Chat, Plane, Train, Bus and Friends

by Enrico Aditjondro

The medium is nothing without the message. That was the tagline of EngageMedia Southeast Asia’s Australia Tour which was voiced around in Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and Canberra last March. It was a combination of screening, discussions, chats, interviews, video shooting, networking and simply meeting old friends and making new friends.

Southeast Asia Editor Enrico Aditjondro (me) and Indonesian Content and Outreach Coordinator Yerry Borang travelled down to Melbourne in late February to join the whole EngageMedia team and board members to do a mishmash strategising of the media and organization. The meetings were held in a nice little town called Warburton. Little internet and plenty of wildlife was surprisingly good for discussions and planing … for a little while at least. After three nights, the team returned to Melbourne and we did our first screen and chat for the EM Southeast Asia in OZ Tour at the Gertrude’s Brown Couch, Fitzroy.

EM Southeast Asia Tours Down Under

On the dawn of Monday, 7/3, Yerry and I flew to Sydney, and on Wednesday, 9/3, screened and chatted with students at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). The event was co-organised by the Sydney based Indonesian Solidarity Forum. The talks ranged from Papua, licensing, security and journalism. The class featured quite a number of Japanese foreign exchange students, along with Southeast Asian studies and human rights activists. Aside from Yerry and I, EngageMedia’s Communications Coordinator Alexandra Crosby also joined the chat. Ali is also one of the writers of Videochronic.

On the next day, the duo took the train up to Newcastle. This time the screen and chat was organized at the Renew Newcastle Headquarters. The host of the event was the group Kanuguba ( though its artist Fern York, and long time Timor and women’s activist and author Jude Conway was at hand getting people to come and engage. The audience was a mix of Newcastle Uni students, artists, activists from the climate action group Rising Tide, and Newie’s film and documentary fans. The chat was intimate but inspiring. The coal town film ‘A Step Back in Time’ was particularly well-received as it was a comparison to Newcastle’s coal history.

Activists from the Rising Tide were also preparing for that weekend’s coal ship blockade, while the Newies were bracing for the various debates over the town’s development and rise of artists movement.

EM Southeast Asia Tours Down Under
EM Southeast Asia Tours Down Under

And oh, by the way, Newcastle was voted one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities for 2011.

After the evening’s event, Yerry and I were back on the train to Sydney to catch the morning’s train to Canberra. To our surprise, the train only went halfway to Gosford, so from midnight to 3 am, we enjoyed the Gosford’s breeze while I caught up with Jude’s new book on Timorese women. Finally, the train arrived and we hopped from one train to another to a taxi to the Australian National University.

The screen and chat at the ANU were organized by the School of Island Southeast Asia, and some heavyweight academics and Indonesianists like Ariel HeryantoAmrih WidodoMargot Lyon, and other academics. The seminar type space was very inviting for questions as we tried as much to discuss issues in the limited time.

The big question from Ariel was, “Are you still confident that you can make a change in this day and age?” Well, with your help, Oom Ariel, we sure are.

EM Southeast Asia Tours Down Under
St Kilda Sunset

The films screened throughout the trip were ‘A Step Back in Time’ by Indrani Kopal, ‘A Short Portrait Of Mamdouh Habib’ by Serge Stanley, ‘Gaharu: Save the People and Forests of Papua’ by SKP-Kam, and ‘Adidas: Stop Wearing Us Out’ by Sarah Rennie.

Aside from doing screenings and chats, we also managed to touch base with old friends and make new ones. We were inspired by the determination of people like Marni Cordell of New Matilda, intrigued by Sarah Hunt of Hidden Documentary, enjoyed the brief encounter with the Bill & George, and many many more. Of course, the Melbourne greens, Newcastle beach, Bondi and Canberra’s National Archive helped completed the tour.

Oh yeah, we also bumped into some naked bike riders along the way.

Stay tuned for the videos!