MELBOURNE, February 21, 2011 – Former Australian Foreign Minister and International Crisis Group President Gareth Evans didn't mince words here when discussing the current state of Australia's relationship with Indonesia.
In his keynote speech at the 2011 Asialink-Asia Society AustralAsia Centre Chairman's Welcome, Evans told listeners, "We've gone backwards ... (a focus on) Indonesia has dropped away and that’s catastrophic."
Evans singled out the relative health of relations on an intergovernmental and policy level, but said that wider cultural and societal linkages were lacking.
He highlighted Indonesia's importance in ASEAN and from "every conceivable perspective" and expressed disappointment in the decline in take-up of Indonesian language study in Australia.
"We're just not doing enough and we need to get our consciousness and our act together across the whole spectrum," he said.