Publication Date: Apr 2017
RRP: $39.95
ISBN: 9781925495225
Format: Paperback
Size: 153mm x 234mm
Pages: 336
Category: Herb Feith Translation Series

Bridges of Friendship

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

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.


Ann McCarthy and Ailsa Thomson Zainuddin

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.

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.