Students from St John the Evangelist Catholic High School, Nowra have received a unique Indonesian cultural education that they will remember for a long time.
Indonesian Consul General Heru Subolo and wife, Madam Sinta Subolo, along with other special guests including Consul of Information, Social and Culture, Zani Murina, two assistants to the consulate, Joanne Hajjar and Pran Radika, and 15 members of an angklung (traditional Indonesian instrument) group visited the school and took part in the day’s cultural activities.
The event started with a traditional dance originating from Sumatra. The Consul General then addressed the students and staff.
He thanked the school for their support in studying Bahasa Indonesia and encouraged the students to continue their language studies. He offered his assistance in further promoting language and providing more educational opportunities for the school.
Consul General Subolo went on to speak about the various opportunities and career paths available when studying a language. He also highlighted the importance of connecting with our closest neighbour and maintaining a healthy bridge of friendship.
He expressed his gratitude and how humbled he was that the St John’s school community was passionate about studying Indonesian language, culture, religion and tradition.
The Consul general thanked Lisa Cooper, the school's Indonesian teacher, for her ongoing enthusiasm and passion for teaching Bahasa Indonesia within st John's. He also thanked principal, Sandra Hogan for her support in offering the language at both junior and senior levels, and all the way through to year 12 HSC studies.
The students watched a short film about Indonesia, which included the importance of learning the language, culture, religion and the various parts of the archipelago.
They also heard from Jay Bellwood, an ex-student from St John's who now studies at Gaja Mada University, and Joanne Hajjar, who now works as an assistant to the consulate. Both speakers had studied Indonesian at high school and university, and had gone on exchange within the country.
Following this, the angklung group took to the stage and performed a short piece. Those gathered were then invited to have a go at playing the angklung themselves, under the guidance of music teacher, Amos Kurniadi.
In closing, the school’s students thanked the guests for attending, while Year 12 student, Maya Willis - who has studied Indonesian since Year 8 and was successful in obtaining a scholarship to Yogyakarta earlier this year - delivered an impressive impromptu speech in Bahasa Indonesia, astounding the guests, students and staff with her fluency.
See here for the South Coast Register's photo gallery from the day.
Lisa Cooper’s (Indonesian teacher) reflections
“It was outstanding to immerse our students in a rare opportunity to practise their speaking skills with 20 native speakers,” Ms Cooper said.
“I am very proud of the students' ability to communicate.
“The students were very humbled, excited and eager to learn more about the guests' culture, religion and language while chatting. I was excited to bring this opportunity to a rural area.
"I would like to continue to promote Indonesian language learning within the St John's community and promote more events such as this one.
“Numbers in Indonesian classes continue to rise, becoming more popular and students are reaping the benefits of learning a second language.
“It was great to watch our students make friends with our guests and it’s exciting to see what future opportunities will be presented for them.”
What the students thought
India Richardson-Thornton (year 12)
“Conversations with past students and Indonesian students allowed us to discover more about opportunities that studying Indonesian can give us,” India said.
“Using our language skills allowed us to see the positives of learning a second language, and that it is very beneficial.
“Pak Heru said we are welcome at the consulate or to call in at any time, so the day allowed us to create relationships and opportunities while also being interesting and enjoyable.”
Maya Willis (year 12)
“Living in a rural area means we have limited opportunities for immersing ourselves in Indonesian culture, so the opportunity to converse with native speakers as well as the dance and Angklung performances, was wonderful for all students,” Maya said.
“I hope to continue studying Indonesian at university within a law and international studies degree. Hopefully to spend part of that studying in Jogjakarta, at University Gajah Mada.
“In my opinion, studying a language is extremely important, especially because of the globalised nature of the society we live in.
“Learning a language opens so many more doors for students today, and Bahasa Indonesia especially.
“As Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours, it is vital that we strengthen the friendship between Indonesia and Australia, and understanding Bahasa Indonesia is one of the ways we can do this.
“Pak Heru was very friendly and open with all students, and willing to help anyone who wanted to practice their Indonesian speaking skills.
“It was a great honour that he took the time out of his busy life to travel to Nowra and speak to us about the importance of learning Bahasa Indonesia.”
Joshua Miller (year 12)
“Speaking to Pak Heru Subolo, and many other members of the Consult office was a highlight,” Joshua said.
“Getting to practice Indonesian, and talking about the many opportunities that studying Indonesian has given us, was a positive.
“It was also remarkable to speak to exchange students from Indonesia in their own language, who are around the same age as us.
“The ability to communicate allowed us to talk about how different and similar we are, and it opens doors to meeting people you never thought you would.
“The day taught me the true value of learning another language and its ever-growing importance in today's universal society.”
Kaleisha Cowan-Roberts (year 11)
“My study intentions with Indonesian language are directed the same way as my intentions with my future - to be able to learn the most to help others around me,” Kaleisha said.
“Indonesian as a language will allow me to expand my own knowledge of cultural and ethical beliefs in a systematic understanding of the Indonesian culture.
“I hope to finish school and attend university, completing my Doctor of Medicine and then working in international health in Indonesia as well as future connecting myself to my own Aboriginal culture, hence the importance of Indonesian language.
“Languages are to be studied diligently and are a connection between a broad community of people from different backgrounds.
“In my opinion, studying a language places you in a better mindset when socialising and critiquing the broader world," she said.
“Furthermore, languages create bonds which are unobtainable when not being able to communicate.
“What I am able to take away from the session is the importance of creating relationships between strangers where you have similarities and desires to fulfil, and that these relationships are foundations for one’s future.”
“Inspired and passionate teachers ensure that students are learning - and Lisa Cooper is such a teacher,” Principal, Sandra Hogan said.
“She has nurtured relationships that change the world for our young people by enabling them to engage with The Consul General Heru Subolo and wife Sinta Subolo; Consul of Information, Social and Culture, Zani Murina; Consulate assistants, Joanne Hajjar and Pran Radika; and members of an angklung group in an authentic manner.
“To have such a rich opportunity to share language and culture was a unique experience that was enabled by Lisa’s passion for her students and their learning.”
Originally published on the South Coast Register, titled 'Cultural education at Nowra's St John the Evangelist'. Photos: South Coast Register