Indonesian language weak link in Australia’s role in Asia

February 23, 2012

A detailed research report into Indonesian language study indicates that Australia’s capacity to benefit from the century’s dynamic growth in Asia is being hindered by our lack of language skills.

The Federal Government funded review by Murdoch University Professor of Southeast Asian Studies David Hill, reveals there were fewer Year 12 students studying Indonesian in 2009 than there were in 1972. University enrolments in Indonesian studies also fell nationally by 40 per cent between 2001 and 2010.

Professor Hill’s report, Indonesian Language in Australian Universities: Strategies for a stronger future will be officially launched by the Australia-Indonesia Business Council at Parliament House, in Canberra on 27 February.

With a population of 240 million, Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy, fourth most populous nation, and home to a rapidly expanding middle-class. Its economy is growing by more than 6 per cent per annum, with the International Monetary Fund projecting its nominal GDP growth rate (2009-15) to be 15.1 per cent. This figure is higher than Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea, Japan and the rest of Southeast Asia.

Federal Trade Minister Craig Emerson told business leaders last November Indonesia’s economy will double in size over the next decade. It will match Australia's by around 2025 and be one of the world’s top 10 by 2030.

The Government is preparing for closer economic integration with Indonesia via a series of recent trade and economic partnership agreements, such as the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

“Opportunities exist for Australian graduates in all sectors of the Indonesian economy but to maximise these opportunities, Australia needs Indonesia-literate graduates who can communicate effectively in Indonesian,” Professor Hill said.

The Hill Report recommends 20 strategies to build Australia’s Indonesian language capability to meet the government’s goals for the bilateral relationship.

The report will be part of a submission to the Henry Review on Australia in the Asian Century. Full details of the report with its submission recommendations will be released at the Australia-India Business Council launch function in Canberra on Monday.

For further media information contact Professor David T. Hill or visit

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