Photo by NeilsPhotography on flickr

Photo by NeilsPhotography on flickr

Indonesia Project marks major anniversary with series of special events.

Indonesia’s society and economy have changed remarkably over the last five decades.

Monitoring that profound transformation has been the heartbeat of the Australian National University’s Indonesia Project, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this week.

First mooted by the renowned economist Professor HW Ardnt in 1964 – an expert on Australian banking who hadn’t ever travelled to Indonesia – the Project has grown from humble beginnings in 1965 to become Australia’s most important and long-lasting institution for the study of a single country.

Initially the home of a small group of economists, today the Project not only hosts the annual Indonesia Update conference, but is home to the distinguished Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, as well as a leading international centre for research and graduate training.

Building on its initial economics focus, the Project examines the range of issues and factors impacting Indonesia’s development, and helps create important links between Indonesian and Australian scholars, students and policymakers.

Not too shabby considering that at the time it all kicked off, studying its subject matter could prove to be difficult; and not only because of Australia’s distinct ignorance when it came to its northern neighbour.

According to a new book on the Project’s history, during the 1960s the Indonesian budget was a state secret under then leader Sukarno, data was dubious and difficult to track down, and the economy was suffering from inflation of approximately 500 per cent.

These days Indonesia is the world’s 16th largest economy, perched above Australia in 17th, and the third largest democracy on the planet.

Readers in Canberra can join in the Indonesia Project’s anniversary celebrations with a series of events taking place at ANU from Tuesday to Friday this week.

Highlights include lectures by former tourism minister Marie Pangetsu and former vice-president Dr Boediono, as well as the launch of the book The Yudhoyono presidency: Indonesia’s decade of stability and stagnation.

Find out more here.