A concept six years in the making

The speech by AIC and PAIR Program Director Dr Eugene Sebastian at the official launch of PAIR, the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research, in Makassar

Delivered 18 November 2019 at the residence of Governor Nurdin Abdullah in Baruga Pattingalloang, Makassar.


Distinguished people in the room representing the Australian and Indonesian governments, provincial and district leaders, colleagues and friends.

Pak Gubernur

May I begin by thanking you, Pak Gubernur for your real commitment to the Centre and the program.

You understand the importance of science, technology, education and research.

Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan

And I want to thank His Excellency Gary Quinlan.

We are honoured to have you as an active member of our board.

Your guidance and wisdom are incredibly helpful and appreciated.

Consul-General Richard Matthews

Pak Con-Gen Richard.

You invested time and energy and your ongoing generosity and support since the start.

Your passion, your love of history, the language and culture continue to inspire our work here in South Sulawesi.

The AIC’s recent documentary capturing the important historical trade links between the people of Makassar and Northern Australia is just one example of your influence on our work.

Senior Fellows

To the Centre’s 11 Senior Fellows here today, representing our 11 universities that are important and core to the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

AIC team

And I’d like to acknowledge, my colleagues and project management team – Helen, Kevin, Leo, Nana, Marlene, Dilah and Martijn.

A group of enormously talented individuals, who have worked hard and creatively to make this program happen.


So, it’s great to be here.  And we are here to launch the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research.  Its short form is PAIR.  Or in Bahasa, “Pasangan”, meaning pair, partner, mate.

I’d like to say three things about PAIR.

First, PAIR is a big concept.

It is a different concept.  It is a concept that has taken six years to develop.

It’s a concept that began when the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of Indonesia agreed to establish the Australia-Indonesia Centre or the AIC in 2013.

Sometimes bilateral centres end up being places where one country thinks it is learning about another.

What makes this Centre different, is about people from two countries coming together to try to solve significant issues that are of importance to both countries and beyond.

Nothing is more important than big problems like energy, food, water, health and infrastructure.  All of these have been our core areas of concern since we began our work.

Second, the AIC is a unique concept.

It is an investment in conscious relationship building.

It brings together 11 top universities from two countries.

Seven from Indonesia – UI, ITB, IPB, UGM, ITS, Unair and here in Sulsel, Unhas.

And four from Australia – the University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, University of Western Australia and Monash University.

The AIC is also a platform for long-term, structured international collaboration.

In the last four years, the Centre has formed a network of nearly 500 researchers from both countries.  60 percent come from STEM – science, technology, engineering and medicine.  And 40 percent from humanities and social sciences.  All working together to find interdisciplinary solutions to the big challenges.

What is more exciting is that nearly 70 per cent of our researchers have never collaborated or worked with anyone from the other country before.

So as a Centre, we are connecting our two nations through a new model of research linkages.

The Centre is not only a connector and collaborator, it is also a research incubator and a catalyst.

Here in Sulsel is the RISE project, or Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environment, developed, in part, from the AIC’s Urban Water research.

It started with a small project on flooding in Jakarta and the idea transformed into a multimillion-dollar program funded by the Welcome Trust in the UK and the Asian Development Bank to transform communities in Makassar and Fiji.

There are many more examples of how the AIC created relationships, which led to ideas and ideas leading to larger programs.  We are delighted to see these programs blossom, or berbunga, and take on its own momentum.

No other organisation has ever attempted such a sustained, structured and large-scale collaboration between our two countries.

And finally, here we are.

What began six years ago, the relationships and lessons learned along the way has led to this new program, the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research – PAIR.

This program is funded by the Australian Government and supported by the South Sulawesi Provincial Government, Ristek and the Ministry of Transport.

The Centre began working in this region about five years ago hand in hand with our Indonesian partners, including Unhas.

We have been working on tackling issues like the health problems of Cocoa farmers.

Understanding non-communicable diseases like tobacco, diabetes and mental health challenges of young people.

And working on affordable energy solutions for towns and villages.

So, we are here to continue our research work for the next three years.

Our new research program is about improving the lives of local communities.

This week we are here to visit the new railway project that is being built to connect Makassar and Parepare.

It is an important national investment that presents new economic opportunities, has the potential to change lives and create jobs.

PAIR will bring together 51 researchers from our 11 universities to work together with government, business and communities.

PAIR explores how the new railway line can better support regional development.  And how communities can better take advantage of the railway line to grow and prosper.

We believe that this approach, bringing together government, business, communities and researchers from many different fields, offers a good way to solve real problems.

This big concept is our proof of concept, which starts here in SulSel and has already attracted interest from West Java and others.

Indeed, we believe that Australia and Indonesia could take this approach to third countries in our region.

Once again, terima kasih Pak Gubernur and Pak Dubes.

Executive Director
The Australia-Indonesia Centre