Supporting The Indonesian Government while Overseas as Liaison Officers

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Wonderful Indonesia in Auckland Farmers Santa Parade 2016. Source: PPI Auckland 2016
Wonderful Indonesia in Auckland Farmers Santa Parade 2016. Source: PPI Auckland 2016

During her academic journey in Auckland, Lavinia Disa had a tremendous experience in becoming a liaison officer for the Indonesian Navy personnel to the Indonesian musicians. In this article, she recounted the main takeaways from her involvement as a liaison officer in the events.

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Unlike in the northern hemisphere, November-January in New Zealand is that time of the year when people enjoy full rays of the sun all day long. The awaited Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday always coincides with the summer season. To embrace this great time, international students would usually go on a road trip and visit local tourism landmarks.

But during my period of study in Auckland at the end of 2016, I was lucky to have another option that was more interesting than vacationing: Being second-hand to the Indonesian government as liaison officers in multiple events. My involvement was because I was an active member of PPI Auckland, which always lend a hand to any officials of the Indonesian government in need of technical support.

Welcoming KRI Banda Aceh-593

On November 16, 2016, together with some other members of PPI Auckland, I witnessed a momentous occasion when KRI Banda Aceh, an Indonesian warship, was docking at Queen’s Wharf, Auckland. Days before her arrival, we were briefed that we needed to provide any necessary assistance for the cadets and all the naval crew.

KRI Banda Aceh docking at Queen's Wharf, Auckland. Source: Personal documentation
KRI Banda Aceh docking at Queen’s Wharf, Auckland. Source: Personal documentation

After a short session of introduction, we were given a tour of the warship, something that I might not be able to experience if not for being part of the assisting team. We were also invited to enjoy a bowl of Indomie on the ship while attending a meeting between the officers and representatives of the Indonesian Defense Attaché for New Zealand.

From that meeting, we knew that the crew came to Auckland to take up an invitation from Royal Navy New Zealand in celebration of their 75 anniversary. All the cadets would also undergo a series of collaborative training with the ASEAN Defence Ministry Meeting (ADMM) Plus FTX on Maritime Security Mahi Tangaroa and the International Naval Review (INR).

Lavinia Disa and the naval crews of KRI Banda Aceh. Source: Personal documentation
Lavinia Disa and the naval crews of KRI Banda Aceh. Source: Personal documentation

My first assignment as a liaison officer was finding a bank that could provide the fastest exchange services as the cadets brought Rupiah only and needed New Zealand Dollar to buy things during their six-day stay in Auckland. Meanwhile, some other members of PPI Auckland were tasked to document and create a video of their activities.

On November 22, 2016, we sadly waved goodbye to the ship and all the crew. Though the encounter was short, that was a very memorable time for us all in PPI Auckland as we could mingle with the cadets, medics, and other crew.

Aiding Indonesian musicians in a cultural program

In the middle of my assignment for KRI Banda Aceh, I simultaneously took a role as a liaison officer during the 3-week New Zealand Arts and Culture Development program hosted by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in collaboration with the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture.

From November 13 to December 4, 2016, as many as 50 Indonesian dancers, musicians, theatre actors and actresses, filmmakers, gallery and museum curators, visual artists, and historians participated in a program in which they would learn from their New Zealand counterparts.

Kiwi and Indonesian musicians discussing music. Source: Personal documentation
Kiwi and Indonesian musicians discussing music. Source: Personal documentation

I was assigned to be the liaison officer of the musicians for three weeks. My duty was to arrange transportation and consumption while they were working with local musicians from Auckland. Two places we visited included Marshall Studio in Takapuna and Kog Studio in Titirangi. As these areas were quite far from the Central Business District and I hadn’t been there, I needed to plan out the trip carefully. But the effort and long journey were worth it since the musicians from both countries seemed to have a perfect time making some music.

On the last day of the program, all the 50 participants delivered a cultural performance at AUT’s Marae, which is the traditional Maori house. It was such a delight to all of the physical senses as I got to watch traditional instruments, dances, songs, and stories being weaved into one outstanding performance.

‘Guarding’ Indonesian dancers on Santa Parade

My final assignment was on November 27, 2016, when Auckland Farmers (the supermarket chain) was holding its annual Santa Parade. This parade usually involved beautifully decorated cars and pretty performers who walked through a large crowd on the sides of the road while displaying their brands or sponsors.

In 2016, the Santa Parade was excitingly different because the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism decided to participate in the parade by sending a group of traditional instruments players and dancers from the Jember Fashion Carnival.

With a dancer from Jember Fashion Carnival in Auckland. Source: Personal documentation
With a dancer from Jember Fashion Carnival in Auckland. Source: Personal documentation

Some Indonesian students were asked to help out during the preparation and the parade itself, ranging from heavy-lifting, documenting the event to promoting Indonesia’s tourism in a specific booth. I myself was assisting the dancers to put on their enormous but sparkling costumes. Also, since Auckland was quite well-known for being windy on certain days, including that day of the parade, we needed to make sure that the dancers would not catch a shoe and stumble.

Together with the performers, we walked for around 1,000 meters while holding the ‘wings’ of the main dancer against the wind. This duty was physically tiring but emotionally fulfilling to see cheers and amazement from the audience as we walked by.

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My experience being a liaison officer in some events by the Indonesian government in Auckland is to point out that being far from home does not mean that we cannot contribute to our country. There are countless things we can do for Indonesia as an international student overseas. The second takeaway is that there were so many programs for Indonesians in New Zealand, other than full-time degrees. Hence, once the pandemic subsides and New Zealand’s borders open, I believe opportunities will also come to those looking for experiences in that ‘long white cloud’ country.

*Editor: Yogi Saputra Mahmud

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