ANU Graduation, December 17, 2013
Aliya Boulom receives her bachelors degree in Finance and has the full support of her family who travelled from Laos to be here today. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Allegations that the Australian government spied on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and inner circle represents one of the low points in relations between the countries, Indonesian Tourism Minister Mari Pangestu says, but the two countries have experienced serious setbacks before.
Dr Pangestu spent many of her early years in Canberra and was in the ACT on Tuesday to receive an honorary doctorate from the Australian National University.
Indonesia's Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy, Dr. Mari Pangestu. Photo: Graham Tidy
''If we study the history of Australia-Indonesia relations, it's always had ups and downs. But despite the ups and downs economic relations and business relations and people-to-people relations have never actually dropped off completely,'' she said.
Dr Pangestu first moved to Canberra in 1966 when her father took up a research position at the Australian National University. ''When we came it was a two Chinese-restaurant, two movie-theatre town, now of course it's much much more cosmopolitan,'' she said.
She attended Hughes Primary School, Telopea Park High School and Canberra High School, where she was part of the rowing team which practised on the newly formed Lake Burley Griffin. Dr Pangestu said she benefited from Australia's good public education system and had strong memories of a program that gave all students a third of a pint of milk each day.
''I think all of the Australian students hated it, but I loved it, and I think that's the main reason I'm in good health and have good bones,'' she said.
Formerly the trade minister of Indonesia, Dr Pangestu studied for undergraduate and master's degrees at the ANU and went on to complete a PhD in economics at the University of California, Davis.
''ANU has played a very important role in my life, in terms of the very strong economics education that I received here, and all the contacts in terms of the professors that I had here, that I still have very good contacts with until today,'' she said.
Dr Pangestu, who is Chinese-Indonesian, said her country had recently been stereotyped as increasingly intolerant, a perception she hoped could be overcome.
''By and large Indonesia and Indonesians still remain very moderate and still very tolerant between religion and between ethnic origins, between regions,'' she said.