Following on from a recent article in The Australian (Language skills add to job prospects), I wanted to provide a little more background for AIYA readers.

The article is based onresearch I conducted, entitled Indonesian Literacy in Australia: Vocational Experiences of Indonesian Language Graduates. I conducted this research in order assess how the Indonesian language is being used by Indonesian language graduates in Australia. Many Australians have studied Indonesian as part of their degree, but relatively little is known about how the these graduates use the language after they graduate.

My personal interest in this issue began after I completed my Indonesian language degree at Monash University. I had studied Indonesian language at high school, and throughout my time at Monash. During this language study, I often heard from teachers, academics and business people telling my how useful my language skills will be in the workplace after graduation, and how my employment prospects will be rosy. After graduation, I found this not to be the case. The dream job didn’t come my way, and many of my Indonesian speaking class mates were also at odds on what to do after university.

That experience was my motivation for completing this thesis at Monash as part of my honours degree. I essentially wanted to know whether my experience was unique, or whether many other Indonesian language graduates were also experiencing difficulty finding work which valued their Indonesian language ability. I find it unbelievable that at a time when governments are spending millions of dollars to attract more students to Asian languages, including Indonesian, while the career prospects for Indonesian language graduates are not so profound.

I know that many of AIYA Australian members and friends are themselves Indonesian language graduates, and may identify with my experience. While the Asian Century is well underway, the practical impact for Indonesia-literate Australians can feel underwhelming. I wanted to highlight this negative sentiment, and to provide concrete figures which to demonstrate that Indonesian language graduates are not able to use their Indonesian language skills in the workforce.

If you would like to contact me regarding this research, or to receive a full copy of the thesis once it is published, please email me at [email protected].

Samuel Bashfield is President of the Victorian Chapter of the Australia-Indonesia Youth Association.