Next year Australia will open its third diplomatic mission in Indonesia – in Makassar – the gateway to Eastern Indonesia.
Makassar, with its enviable position facing the Makassar Strait, was the obvious choice for Australia’s next diplomatic and trade mission outside Jakarta and Bali.
With an economic growth rate of 7.6 per cent, compared to 5 per cent for the rest of Indonesia, Makassar is becoming a sought after city for investment particularly in the rapidly expanding agriculture, manufacturing and retail and hospitality sectors.
Only a week ago 360 Australian business people travelled to Indonesia for the inaugural Indonesia Australia Business Week, led by Trade Minister Andrew Robb. Those businesses came to Jakarta, Bali and Makassar in search of business partnerships and opportunities to invest. The delegation that visited Makassar came away impressed with the work underway to modernise the city, build new transport corridors and to capitalise on the region’s unique geographic position, between Northern Australia, Borneo, Papua New Guinea and the major towns of Eastern Indonesia.
Australia is South Sulawesi’s second largest source of imports with goods worth US$135.6 million. Several Australian companies have been operating in the province in partnership with Indonesian companies, enjoying the rich resources and human capital the area has to offer.
PT Vale Indonesia’s construction services and One Asia Resources Limited, in Luwu Regency, which is exploring gold deposits provide employment for local people and are evidence of the potential for partnerships between Australian and Indonesian companies.
Interflour, (Eastern Pearl), the fourth largest flour mill in the world, is another great Australian-Indonesian success story. Managed by an Australian, milling Australian wheat, this Indonesian enterprise has the second largest market share for flour consumption in Indonesia and exports to the Philippines.
The presence of large operating companies will also enable the transfer of expertise and knowledge to the local workforce. The new Australian Consulate-General will facilitate the movement of ideas, people and products.
Of course Makasar and Australians have been building trade and people-to-people links for centuries. As early as 1700, fishing communities in South Sulawesi made the voyage to Northern Australia to trade and over time married into families in beach other’s countries forming new links and communities and exporting the Aboriginal and Makasar cultures across continents.
So it’s timely during my visit this week that I have honour to present the Yirrkala Batik to the Mayor for Makassar, H. Mohammad Ramdhan Pomanto. The batik is a gift to the people of Makassar will be included in the collection of the renovated Museum of Makassar City.
The batik tells the story of centuries of interaction between the Yolngu people of Arnhem, Land, Northern Australia and Indonesian traders from Makassar. The design of the batik is taken from an image of a bark painting from the Yirrkala Arts Centre created by an elder artist-in-resident, Nawurapu. The artist has ancestral links to Makassar and the triangles in the design translate literally to ‘red sails departing’ of the early trepang traders.
The new Australian Consulate-General is expected to open in Makassar mid 2016. We’re looking forward to becoming part of the community and to help build better connections in business and investment, culture and education between Australia and Eastern Indonesia.