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Bridges of Friendship

Reflections on Indonesia’s Early Independence and Australia's Volunteer Graduate Scheme

Includes writings from Betty Feith and Kurnianingrat Ali Sastroamijoyo

Edited by Ann McCarthy and Ailsa Thomson Zainuddin


Bridges of Friendship allows a finely stitched patchwork of experiences to be brought together so that the reader can … gain in-depth information along with honest and personal reflections at a time when Australian idealism, Indonesian nationalism and friendship coalesced.”
Barbara Leigh, University of Technology Sydney, in Asian Studies Review

Bridges of Friendship unveils personal ties between Indonesians and Australians in the early days of the Indonesian Republic. At the same time it reveals an important chapter in the history of international development and volunteering, and provides insight into Indonesian-Australian relations.

Betty Feith, co-founder of the Volunteer Graduate Scheme in Indonesia – an initiative under which Australian graduates were employed in the Indonesian civil service – draws on both first-hand experience and an array of archival documents to narrate a history of the Scheme from 1950 to 1963. The VGS pioneered the concept of international volunteering as we understand it today. Feith’s nuanced and insightful narrative demonstrates the ideals of equality and support for the newly formed Indonesian Republic that were at the heart of the Scheme.

The reminiscences of Kurnianingrat Ali Sastroamijoyo – an educator who worked extensively in English language teaching and training, and who took an active part in the Indonesian Revolution – include a fascinating and moving account of daily life in occupied Yogyakarta during the struggle for independence against the Dutch. Kurnianingrat illuminates Indonesian social and cultural history at this critical time for the nation.

A common thread across these two accounts is the friendship of Kurnianingrat and Harumani Rudolph-Sudirdjo with Australian volunteer graduates Feith and Ailsa Thomson Zainuddin: all four women worked together at the English Language Inspectorate in Jakarta in the mid-1950s. Extracts from correspondence, in a final section, illustrate the mutual interests and lasting connections and commitments of this circle of friends.

Taken as a whole, Bridges of Friendship suggests the depth of human connection between Australia and Indonesia, fostered by the international spirit common to both the Indonesian Revolution and the Volunteer Graduate Scheme.

About the Editors and Authors

Betty Maynard Feith (née Evans)

Betty Feith is a teacher with a lifetime involvement in church and other service, particularly with refugees and the advancement of peace and human rights. Born in Melbourne in 1931, Betty attended Methodist Ladies’ College, Kew, before studying history and education at Melbourne University, and she later graduated with a Master of Educational Studies from Monash University. Betty worked at the English Language Inspectorate, Jakarta, in 1954–56, under the auspices of the Volunteer Graduate Scheme, a programme she co-founded. She has taught at schools and tertiary institutions in Melbourne and Indonesia, and her courses on Asian and Indonesian Studies at Burwood and Toorak Teachers’ Colleges in the 1970s were among the first of their kind in Victoria. She has been closely involved with the Australian Student Christian Movement, the Christian World Service and the Uniting Church of Australia’s Division of Social Justice in Victoria, among other organisations. Her association with Indonesia has been shared with her husband, Herb Feith, and with the couple’s three children.

Harumani Rudolph-Sudirdjo

A teacher whose career spanned English language education, training and curriculum development, Harumani Rudolph-Sudirdjo has been described as having belonged to ‘a small educationally privileged generation of teachers who played a key role in the great democratising wave of education for all’ (Belben, ‘Harumani Rudolph-Sudirdjo: “Learning and Teaching through Changing Times”’, Network 2(1) July 1995). Born on 7 December 1922 in Bandung, Harumani attended Dutch schools, and graduated with a teaching diploma from the I. E. V. Kweekschool in 1941. She took up a Fulbright scholarship to study at Barnard College, Columbia University, in 1951–52, and graduated with a Bachelor of Education from the University of Indonesia in 1967. Harumani was a member of the English Language Inspectorate, Jakarta, from 1955 to 1966. She also worked in junior and senior high schools, the University of Indonesia, and many other organisations. She married Chris Rudolph in 1953, and the couple had five children. Harumani died in 2014.

Ann McCarthy

Ann McCarthy was raised in New Zealand, and has a background in archival work at Archives New Zealand and also at the e-Scholarship Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, where she was a member of the team that worked on the archival records of Diane Elizabeth Barwick, anthropologist, historian and Indigenous rights supporter. Ann studied history and English at Victoria University of Wellington, and her Masters thesis, completed at the University of Melbourne with Patricia Grimshaw and Katherine Ellinghaus, was a postcolonial analysis of an early novel by a Native American woman – Cogewea, by Mourning Dove (Okanogan). Ann’s current PhD project, which is informed by the work of philosopher Agnes Heller, explores the emotional households of fictional characters, drawing on two 1940s Australian novels.

Kurnianingrat Ali Sastroamijoyo

Teacher, lecturer and public servant, Kurnianingrat Ali Sastroamijoyo worked extensively in English language education and training in the early years of the Indonesian Republic, and she is also remembered for the active part she took supporting the nationalist cause during the Revolution. Born into a Sundanese bupati family in 1919, Kurnianingrat attended schools in Tasikmalaya and Bandung, and she graduated with teaching diplomas from the I. E. V. Kweekschool, aged 18. In 1950 she spent a year in Australia observing the school system, and in 1956 she took up a Ford Foundation scholarship to study for a Master of Arts at Cornell University. During the 1950s she was second in charge of the English Language Inspectorate in Jakarta, and in this role helped to oversee the establishment of English as Indonesia’s first foreign language. She later joined the English Language Department at the University of Indonesia, becoming head of the Department in 1961. Kurnianingrat married former Indonesian Prime Minister, Ali Sastroamijoyo, in 1970. Kurnianingrat died in 1993.

Ailsa Gwennyth Thomson Zainuddin

Ailsa Thomson Zainuddin is a writer and scholar who has specialised in the history of education. Born in Melbourne in 1927, Ailsa studied English and history at the University of Melbourne, and received her MA for a thesis entitled ‘The Bulletin and Australian Nationalism’. In 1954, Ailsa travelled to Jakarta under the Volunteer Graduate Scheme, working at the English Language Inspectorate. In 1965 she joined the Faculty of Education, Monash University, where she carried out pioneering work in relation to Southeast Asian history of education, and the history of education for girls and women. Ailsa was awarded a PhD from Monash University in 1983 for her centenary history of Methodist Ladies’ College, Kew, the school she herself attended, and which she maintained an association with for over fifty years. Ailsa’s published works also include A Short History of Indonesia, and an Indonesian cookery book. She retired from Monash in 1992. Ailsa and her husband Zainu’ddin (Minangkabau), whom she married in 1954, have two daughters.

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