An Indonesian Experience: Gado-Gado, Gojek and Inclusive Disaster Management

Four years ago, I began my journey into higher education. First at Charles Darwin University, then transitioning to a bachelor’s degree in Humanitarian and Development Studies at Western Sydney University. My goal was to equip myself with the knowledge needed to alleviate widespread suffering and enhance human dignity. During the past few years, I have volunteered as a community organiser, advocating for the rights of people seeking asylum and supported people experiencing homelessness to achieve their basic needs. I have petitioned for greater levels of sustainability on my university campus and facilitated workshops on sustainable development for my friends and family.

I have attended rallies and protests and written to our politicians when they are violating the rights of minority groups. I have provided event support to political events in Western Sydney and begun my career in the community sector. I have completed internationally recognised training in humanitarian logistics and have proven to myself I am capable of working in high-pressure environments with a range of professionals. All of these experiences have been made possible through my university studies and finally, after three and a half years, I am in the final semester of my degree and am completing my long-awaited internship in the field of International Development. 

As I disembarked the plane, the air was hot and sticky, a welcome change from the Sydney winter I had left behind. Sitting in the back seat, as a taxi took me from the airport into Yogyakarta city, I was in awe of the surrounding landscape. Rice fields and traditional houses filled my view while mountains loomed in the distance, with their intense presence and energetic pull. I instantly knew Java was special and I couldn’t wait to see what this Island had in store for me. My first night was quite memorable, staying in a cheap hostel in the south of the city. As I walked around at dusk I heard the prayer call for the first time, children waved at me and then shyly ran away and strangers smiled at me, curious of who I was and what I was doing there. The people were so friendly and welcoming, and I was so happy to be here. For the next two months, I tried to immerse myself into the Indonesian way of life. I ate nasi goreng and gado-gado, drank countless es jeruk and regularly indulged in martabak.

Riding on the back of gojeks was sometimes terrifying, but mostly enjoyable and getting asked for photos was about as common as my stints of ‘Bali belly’. Despite the ups and downs of being sick, I loved settling into this new life. I studied Bahasa Indonesia Monday-Thursday at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) and Indonesian development on Fridays. The more I learnt, however, the more I felt I needed to learn. Indonesia is an intricate country with complex workings which cannot be understood at a surface level. It requires a depth of cultural, traditional, and religious knowledge to begin to understand why life here is so unique.

My time in Indonesia has been separated into two stages. The first was learning Bahasa Indonesia at Inculs UGM and the second is an internship. With a desire to establish a career in disaster management, I reached out to YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU) to see if they would accept me as an intern and luckily for me, they said yes! In my two weeks here with YEU, I have already had the opportunity to join a community field visit to Gunung Kidul for the Community-Led Innovation project (CLIP) and attend a Locally Led Inclusive Disaster Response and Preparedness (LEAP) workshop. So far I have already learnt so much about disaster management in Indonesia, the importance of community in disaster preparedness and the need for inclusive policies and procedures in disaster management. With two weeks down and six to go, I look forward to seeing what I can achieve and how I can contribute to the work of YEU.