The opening of the Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT)

Indonesia’s Minister of National Education

Launches Canberra Centre for the Study of Indonesian

Prof. Mohammad Nuh opens the Indonesian Cultural Centre and launches the Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT).

Minister for National Education (Mendiknas) of the Republic of Indonesia, Professor Mohammad Nuh officially launched the Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT), a new Canberra-based community organisation devoted to supporting the study of Indonesian language and arts, in a brief ceremony on Friday, March 11th, 2011 at the organisation’s headquarters at 19 Culgoa Circuit in Canberra. Around 40 members of the public attended to witness Professor Mohammad Nuh unveil a plaque marking the occasion.

Speaking in alternately in English and Indonesian, BBI Chair George Quinn outlined the difficulties facing Indonesian language studies in Australia and how the Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT) hopes to make a contribution to solving them.

“Minister for National Education of the Republic of Indonesia Professor Mohammad Nuh; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

In keeping with the spirit of this occasion I am going to speak partly in English and partly in Indonesian.

I would like to say first how honoured we are, sir, that you have agreed to launch this new resource Centre for the study of the Indonesian language. It is a modest beginning, but we are determined that it will assume an important role in strengthening the study of the Indonesian language, Indonesian arts and the culture of Indonesia in general here in the Australian Capital Territory and in surrounding regions.

Bapak Mendiknas yang sangat kami hormati, Bapak-Bapak, Ibu-Ibu, undangan sekalian yang terhormat. Sebagaimana kita ketahui, pembelajaran bahasa dan budaya Indonesia mengalami kemunduran di Australia sejak kurang lebih sepuluh tahun yang lalu. Bahkan, saya kira tidak berlebih-lebihan kalau saya katakan, kami dalam bidang studi Bahasa Indonesia di negara ini, mengalami suatu malapetaka. Di antara tahun 2002 dan 2009, jumlah mahasiswa yang mempelajari Bahasa Indonesia pada tingkat perguruan tinggi menyusut sebanyak kurang-lebih 30%. Pada tingkat sekolah dasar dan sekolah menengah keadaan pembelajaran Bahasa Indonesia juga cukup memprihatinkan. Anak-didik kami yang memilih mata-pelajaran Bahasa Indonesia di sekolah-sekolah tidak seberapa jumlahnya sekarang, dan dari jumlah yang semakin sedikit itu diperkirakan lebih dari 90% gugur – alias “drop out” dari Bahasa Indonesia – sebelum mencapai kelas terakhir sekolah menengah.

But it has to be said that Indonesian is not the only foreign language that has suffered a decline in schools and universities in our country over the last ten to twenty years. Other foreign languages have been badly affected as well, and not just Asian languages either, but also European languages. But Indonesian has been especially badly affected and its decline is keenly felt because Indonesia is Australia’s closest major neighbour and our very good friend. Indonesia is bound to play a crucially important role in Australia’s future. There is a tendency for teachers and academics here to blame government policy for the decline of interest in Indonesian – and I wish I could agree with them. But the fact is that there is no single reason for the steep decline of interest in the study of Indonesian and other foreign languages.

It is true that our government’s travel warnings and a reduction of financial support for Asian language teaching have had a big negative impact on interest in the subject. But government policy is actually the least of our worries. Much more devastating, and more difficult to combat, is the ever-increasing power and spread of global English, and in addition to that, the frequently negative perceptions of Indonesia – especially of the Islamic religion – that are disseminated in our society by the mass media.

Dengan meledaknya Bahasa Inggris di Indonesia maka hilanglah suatu dorongan, suatu insentif, bagi anak-didik kami di negara ini untuk mempelajari Bahasa Indonesia – untuk berupaya mengenal Indonesia melalui mata-bahasa masyarakat Indonesia sendiri. Di samping itu sejak dua puluh tahun yang lalu Indonesia sudah ditarik – diseret, boleh dikatakan – ke dalam jagat media massa di Australia, dan sejalan dengan perkembangan ini Indonesia cenderung semakin dipandang dan diolah menurut kaidah-kaidah dan pandangan batin kebudayaan populer Australia yang tidak selalu bersimpati dengan ragam-ragam kebudayaan yang – di negara ini – kerapkali dianggap “asing”. Pada saat ini, anak muda – remaja-remaja – di negara kami sedang menghadapi suatu bahaya, yaitu bahaya menyempitnya alam pemikiran mereka, bahaya pemiskinan yang sedang timbul akibat cengkeraman pemikiran bahasa-tunggal, yaitu Bahasa Inggris.

George Quinn sketches the current condition of Indonesian language studies in Australia.

What can we do to reverse this situation? The Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT) is a very small, very modest first step to try to marshall community support for the strengthening of Indonesian studies in schools, universities and among the general public. The Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT) brings together teachers, students, academics, members of the business community and the general public of the ACT and surrounding regions, to provide practical support for study of the Indonesian language and Indonesian arts. The Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT) will conduct its activities in collaboration with organs of the Indonesian Government, in particular the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Canberra, and the Language Centre (Pusat Bahasa) of your Ministry of National Education, sir.

Kami sudah menyusun suatu rencana-kerja yang sedikit-sedikit sudah mulai kami laksanakan. Kami akan melangkah dari yang kecil kepada yang lebih berambisi. Rencana kami meliputi kursus pembelajaran Bahasa Indonesia – bukan hanya yang bersifat umum, tetapi juga yang bertujuan khusus – ceramah dan kuliah umum, usaha peningkatan daya guna profesional di kalangan para guru, pencatatan diri sebagai agen untuk pelaksanaan Ujian Kemahiran Berbahasa Indonesia (UKBI) yang diselenggarakan oleh Pusat Bahasa, sebuah situs di internet, dan beberapa upaya lagi.

Pada saat ini kami masih berada dalam tahap permulaan, sehingga upaya kami masih cukup labil dan ringkih dan rentan. Kami yakin, bibit yang ditanam di sini pada pagi hari ini pasti akan tumbuh dan berkembang dengan baik. Tetapi untuk tumbuhnya bibit yang masih sangat kecil ini, kami membutuhkan siraman bantuan bukan hanya dari masyarakat Australia, pemerintah Australia, dan masyarakat Indonesia, tetapi terlebih juga dari pemerintah Indonesia.

Sir, we have already received very valuable assistance from the Government of Indonesia through the Indonesian Embassy here in Canberra, and that help includes the use of these premises. We would like to thank you, sir, and HE the Indonesian Ambassador as well as Professor Aris Junaidi for this very welcome and very valuable help. Australia’s future and Indonesia’s future are locked together.

Although our two countries are very different in so many fundamental ways, geography and history has brought us together. Our two countries are twins, not identical twins of course, but twins nevertheless – twins who cannot be separated. And for better or for worse we have a common future. Study of the Indonesian language can help open the eyes of our students to a wider, non-English speaking world. This Centre here, and the Balai Bahasa Indonesia (ACT), can play a role in doing this, but we cannot do it without your assistance and good will.

Karena itu, Bapak Mendiknas dan Saudara-Saudara sekalian, kami sangat berterima kasih dan berhati lega karena Bapak dan Saudara sekalian berkenan hadir dalam acara pembukaan ini. Perhatian Anda sekalian pada nasib studi Indonesia – khususnya studi Bahasa Indonesia – di Australia kami sambut gembira, dan kami berdoa, mudah-mudahan dengan dukungan Anda sekalian, Centre ini akan berbuah, akan membawa hikmah dan manfaat bagi kedua negara kita pada masa yang akan datang. Thank you very much.”

Guests arrive for the opening.

Prof. Mohammad Nuh cuts the tumpeng, a ceremonial cone of cooked rice surrounded by decorative foods.

All photographs by courtesy of Betsy Phillips. For more photos click on Gallery in the menu bar above.

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