Claire Achmad: ‘Bali is not all there is to Indonesia’

Wellington lawyer Claire Achmad dispels some myths about Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country and the biggest economy in Southeast Asia.

But, according to research, it’s one of the countries New Zealanders know very little about

Wellingtonian Claire Achmad, a human rights lawyer with Indonesian heritage, shares some of the misconceptions New Zealanders have of the country, and how Kiwis can learn more about its peoples and cultures.

* * *

What’s the biggest misconception Kiwis have about Indonesia?

Claire Achmad: I think the biggest misconception New Zealanders have about Indonesia is that Bali is all that there is to Indonesia. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Actually there’s an estimated 18,000 islands making up the Indonesian archipelago. And in fact, there may be a number of islands that we still dont know about. The Indonesian government is currently doing a census to try and understand exactly how many islands there are.

What’s one surprising fact about Indonesia?

Indonesians, especially young Indonesians, are among the highest users of social media in the world.

Indonesian food

Each region in Indonesia has its own unique cuisine.

What are people-to-people links between New Zealanders and Indonesians like?

I think we can do a lot more in terms of our people-to-people links between Indonesia and New Zealand. 

One barrier is the fact that in New Zealand universities, currently we don’t have anywhere where we can go study Bahasa Indonesia – the pan-Indonesian language. That would really help New Zealanders to have greater knowledge of the culture and the language and the people.

Also I think another thing that’s holding us back is New Zealanders don’t understand that Indonesia is open for business. There are some really great opportunities for New Zealanders to do business in Indonesia. The systems that are set up now really help that to be a reality.

What are some ways for Kiwis to get to know Indonesia?

The Raid is an Indonesian martial arts film, which was the first Indonesian film to enter the US box-office and it ’s been a real hit. 

Food is another great way to get to know Indonesia – it’s much more than beef rendang and satay. The different regions in Indonesia have really diverse cuisine, so check it out. 

In Wellington, we have a number of Indonesian food trucks. In Auckland, there’s an annual Indonesian community festival which has a great range of food. 

– Asia Media Centre

Check out other stories about

Indonesia, Culture and society, Southeast Asia