The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists. Bruce Christie, a proponent of cricket in Eastern Indonesia, is this week’s interviewee.
Tell us a little about your early career.
I studied Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland, living at International House in St Lucia. I worked in private veterinary practices in Gympie and Caboolture before beginning work with the NSW government in 1982.
I was appointed to the position of Australian Animal Health Advisor with the Eastern Islands Veterinary Services Project, an AusAID/GOI project from 1989 to 1992, and returned as the Project Leader for the second phase from 1995 to 1998. I was based in Kupang, NTT.
I was appointed the NSW Chief Veterinary Officer in 2002 and now hold the position of Deputy Director General Biosecurity and Food Safety within the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
What brought you to connect with Indonesia?
In 1989 I applied for a position with the Eastern Islands Veterinary Services Project (EIVSP). I was successful and moved to Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, for three years. I then returned frequently to Indonesia on short-term assignments for the same project before returning again as team leader in 1995. Following my return to Australia in 1998 I continued to work in Indonesia through projects with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
It was during our second term in Indonesia that I started to teach young Indonesians to play cricket. Working with the Nusa Tenggara Timur Cricket Club, we picked five of the best players to participate in a cricket tour to Bali to challenge the Bali International Cricket Club. To cut a long story short, we lost but were competitive. The group (consisting of Soni Hawoe, Melvin Ndoen, Yeri Rosongna, Bernadus Bena and Zack Awang) went on to become the founding members of Indonesian cricket. Soni, for example, is now General Manager for Persatuan Cricket Indonesia (PCI) and the others are still employed by PCI and the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Since 2014 we’ve had some great success in reinvigorating cricket in NTT. We’ve taught cricket to many children at primary and secondary schools and at universities as well as other young adults. The NTT men’s team recently came third at the Indonesian national games, PON 2016. This was the first time that cricket had been included in PON and the first time an NTT team has won a medal at PON. So unusual was this that the Governor of NTT gave each of the cricketers a house!
I believe that sport provides many opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and socio-economic development and we have already demonstrated proof of this. Our original group are good examples. They all have jobs and families, and they have been to many different countries as a result of playing in or managing cricket teams. They have also passed their knowledge on to another generation of Indonesians who are now paid to play and participate in the management of cricket, all of whom believe in the importance of Australia and Indonesia being friends.
Read more about our plan for cricket in the region on the NTTCC website.
Tell us about your current occupation.
I am the Deputy Director General Biosecurity and Food Safety with the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Biosecurity is all about protecting our economy, environment and community from pests, diseases and weeds and food safety is about protecting people from food related illnesses, both of which and are extremely important in both Australia and Indonesia.
I was very lucky to live and work in Indonesia, particularly eastern Indonesia, for over 10 years. During that time I made many friends and hope I was able to help some of the people of Indonesia, by working in my professional capacity with Indonesian government officials and farmers to help develop their livestock production systems and in my private capacity to develop cricket.
I am also very grateful to Indonesia for what I learned while I was there as it has helped me in both my career and life in general. The skills I learned are many and include: learning a new language, learning to see life from different perspectives, to understand what it’s like to be a minority, and to manage projects and to deliver outcomes, sometimes in difficult situations.
What do you enjoy the most about working in Indonesia?
My Indonesian friends, the variety of cultures that exist in Indonesia in relative harmony, singing Indonesian love songs at karaoke, Indonesian food, the variety of different environments that exist across Indonesia, the surf, fishing and snorkelling.
What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in sport?
Sport offers a great way to improve cross cultural awareness between our countries and within each country as well as providing socio-economic benefits to those who participate.
Cricket is an international game, played across the world. This opens up opportunities for players to travel the world and to see how others live. It teaches individuals physical skills that can help to keep both children and adults healthy. It teaches skills that are applicable to life in general, such as living and working within a set of rules that apply to everyone. It teaches respect for the law and the umpire. It teaches teamwork as well as praising individual effort. It teaches respect within a team and between teams. It teaches religious tolerance and it offers the opportunity for raising socio-economic levels within communities.
What advice would you offer to youth interested in working in sport?
If you get the opportunity to travel or live and work in another country, grab it with both hands and make the most of it.
Go with an open mind and heart. Learn what makes us similar but also recognise and learn to understand the differences that exist. Being different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. No one has the answer for everything and there are usually a number of different ways of doing things.
Travel! See as much as you can while you are there and make sure you keep in touch with the friends that you make when you return. Be generous. You are in a very privileged position being able to spend some time in a foreign country. Be respectful of the cultures you visit. Try new things and have fun.
We would like to thank both Bruce and the President of the Australia Indonesia Association of NSW, Eric de Haas. You can email Bruce at [email protected], and find out more about the Nusa Tenggara Timur Cricket Club at nttcricket.com.