On 23 June 2003 the head of ACICIS, Professor David Hill, gave evidence before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. They were inquiring into Australia’s relationship with Indonesia. They released their report in May 2004.
The Committee reported very favourably on ACICIS, and we reproduce below pages 161 to 163 of the report (Chapter 6).
Increased opportunities for Australian students to study in Indonesia
6.78. As discussed in Chapter 4, approximately 18,000 Indonesian students study in Australian educational institutions. The Committee has already made clear its support for the existing programs that provide such opportunities for these students.
6.79. Having Indonesian students studying in Australia not only generates valuable export income. It also creates goodwill and provides the opportunity for enhancing the relationship through better understanding. As pointed out by Professor Hill, Director of the Australian Consortium for “In-Country” Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), many students return to positions of prestige and influence within their community.
6.80. Given the number of Indonesian students who already have the opportunity to study in Australia, the Committee is particularly interested in efforts to increase opportunities for Australian students to study in Indonesia. In evidence before the Committee, Professor Hill pointed out the ‘paucity of Australian students studying in Indonesia’. ‘Last semester, from universities all around Australia, we had only, to the best of my knowledge, 14 Australian students studying in Indonesia. So it was less than 0.2 per cent by comparison with the number of Indonesians studying in Australia.’
6.81. In this context, the Committee was interested to learn of the work of ACICIS. Established in 1994, ACICIS provides a means through which Australian students from member universities (numbering 19 at June 2003). Can ‘undertake a semester’s study at an Indonesian university for credit towards their Australian degree’. Since 1995, more than 500 students have taken the opportunity with 167 having spent a full year studying in Indonesia.
6.82. To date ACICIS has received only a very small amount of funding from the Federal Government, including a small project grant from the Australia-Indonesia Institute and following approaches to the Department of Education, Science and Training in 2003, some funding to enable ACICIS to operate securely for another 12 months.
6.83. Were ACICIS better funded, Professor Hill suggested, it would be much more able to ‘bring to the community’s attention the opportunity to study in Indonesia’. According to Professor Hill, ‘there is no reason why we should not have in Indonesia not just dozens but hundreds of Australian students, building up to thousands’.
6.84. Professor Hill estimated the running costs and salary costs for ACICIS to amount to approximately $100,000 to $130,000 per year and placed this figure in the context of the $400 million per annum generated for the Australian exconomy by Indonesian students coming to Australia.
6.85. In the Committee’s view, it is extremely important that Australian students are given the opportunity and encouragement to study in Indonesia. Australian students who do so ultimately enrich not only their own but also Australia’s expertise and understanding of Indonesia and the Indonesian language. As young ambassadors for Australia, they also send a strong signal of our interest in Indonesia, and through their interactions, present opportunities for Indonesians to increase their understanding about Australia and Australians.
Recommendation 20. The Committee recommends that additional funding be provided to the Department of Education, Science and Training to enable it to provide an annual grant to the Australian Consortium for “In-Country” Indonesian Studies, for running and salary costs.