The Australia-Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) welcomes the release of the federal government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper over the weekend. Particularly, AIYA are encouraged at the government’s recognition of the increasing economic opportunities for young people in Asia, including Indonesia, and the role that people to people links play in accessing these opportunities. AIYA was delighted to be acknowledged as one of three new youth-led non-government organisation working to improve people-to-people links between Australia and Asia.

AIYA is pleased to note the White Paper’s announcement of an increased Australia Award program, promoting greater work and study opportunities for young students and young professionals of both Australia and Indonesia.

“It’s really encouraging to see the government increase the pathways for young Australians and young Indonesians to spend time in each others’ countries” said AIYA’s president Arjuna Dibley. “We know from our own research and from the anecdotes of our members, that the experience of studying and working in Australia or Indonesia allows young people to develop career opportunities, deeper cross cultural skills and lasting relationships across our state-boundaries. Professional and study exchanges are really the bed-rock of accessing opportunities in the Asian Century.”

As part of its submission to the White Paper earlier this year, AIYA conducted a survey which found that a significant proportion of respondents (40%) felt that prospective employers in Australia did not value their ‘Indonesia-literacy’ – to the extent that some employers regarded their experience more of ‘a curiosity’ than an asset. Therefore, the government’s stated aim to work with business and the community to “increase understanding of the benefits of learning a foreign language” is especially welcome by AIYA.

The White Paper’s re-affirmation of an expanded Australia-Indonesia working holiday visa program to 1,000 places was also endorsed by AIYA– noting, however, that the visa’s success will hinge on its ability to be properly implemented. “Expanding the program is a great idea, although we remain concerned about bureaucratic hurdles involved for Australians eager to access this visa,” said Mr. Dibley. AIYAs survey for its White Paper submission, conducted with around 1,000 Australian university students and graduates, recorded only three successful Australian applicants for the visa.

Finally, AIYA also endorses the White Paper’s ongoing recognition of Indonesian as one of four ‘priority’ Asian languages, along with Hindi, Mandarin, and Japanese, and the policies announced to try and boost opportunities for Australian students, particularly at a secondary level, to access these languages.