Driving a culture of change: How PAIR research is helping facilitate young people’s aspirations in Makassar and surrounds

Six young researchers from the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s university partners discover how the aspirations of young people matter in a city’s development.


When PAIR research assistant Nurul Fauzia visited some of the rural districts near Maros recently, she was taken aback at the pace of change.

Maros is just 30 kilometres from Makassar, a maritime trading centre of over 1.4 million people, and growth in that city is having an impact in the surrounding areas.

“I see a change in the livelihoods of the local community due to massive development from Makassar, such as the construction of cross-city and district infrastructure,” said Nurul, who works with Institut Teknologi Bandung.

The research team has observed that people are moving from their villages to take advantage of new work opportunities.

A researcher visit the village office
The young people and development research team visited the Salenrang village office. Image by Nurul Fauzia for the AIC.

She is one of six junior researchers from four different universities in Indonesia working with the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s young people and development research team. The team first visited South Sulawesi in February 2020 and due to the coronavirus pandemic could not return until early in 2022.

“Makassar is becoming an increasingly crowded city because there are several massive housing developers, a lot of trade and service activities,” Nurul said.

The research team is studying how the changes could affect young people and their aspirations for life and career.

Spending time in both the city and the countryside, the researchers had much to learn.

Fellow researcher Uly Faoziyah is a doctoral student from the University of Melbourne with a background in regional and city planning.

Interested in observing changes in land coverage in Maros, she too has been struck by the energy and sense of change.

“I wanted to learn more about Maros and its connection with youth and how the urban expansion of Makassar will have an influence on Maros,” Uly said.

Uly’s research seeks to help those charged with developing youth policies, particularly in terms of employment and government support.

“When we can examine how the dynamics of youth occur, then we can get an interesting picture,” Uly reflected.

Florentina Dwiastuti, who hails from Jakarta, loved spending time in Makassar, “the government office’s forecourt has lots of trees”.

A visit to a local tourism and hospitality school or SMK was similarly inspiring.

students at a vocational school
Student activity at SMK 8 Makassar, a vocational school in hospitality management. Image by Florentina Dwiastuti for the AIC.

“We visited an excellent vocational school and chatted with students about their inspiration and motivation for vocational learning,” Florentina said.

“Hopefully in the future Indonesian vocational schools, especially those in South Sulawesi, can develop an SMK focusing on the seaweed industry, a specific commodity or skill set in Maros, based upon our report.”

Looking at another potential aspect in South Sulawesi which is agriculture, Medina Savira started her research by analysing the interest of the younger generation in farming.

“I am writing a paper about rural entrepreneurship and youth involvement,” added Medina, a research assistant from ITB who has just started her PhD.

Researchers visit to a vocational school
The research team with the principal and teachers of SMK 8, a vocational school in Makassar. Image by Florentina Dwiastuti for the AIC.

Researcher from Universitas Airlangga Retno Indro spent time at the same vocational school and was taken by the energy of students who were, she said, “active and open, good at presenting and communicative”.

“From the results of observations in a vocational school, we recommended that the public perception of vocational schools needs to be changed, especially for senior levels,” Retno said.

Researchers believe their work can have a powerful impact for the youth of Makassar and Maros and help overcome policy problems.

“There is a gap between what the youth want and what the government does,” said Uly.

“We hope that our research can help bridge the interests of both parties, both for youth and the government, especially in Maros.”

Nurul agrees with this sentiment.

“This research can produce policies that are not only practical in nature but also allow for consideration of long-term plans for the future of youth,” she said.

“I hope that the potential of human resources in the regions can advance the region because Maros has a lot of potential in terms of [both] natural resources and human resources.”

For instance, a focus on the transport industry in Maros could potentially be relevant to vocational curriculum development related to nearby railway, airport, and seaport infrastructure.

Researchers meeting with stakeholders
Research interview with Mr Tautoto Tanaranggina, Head of the South Sulawesi Manpower and Transmigration Service. Image by Irfan Raharja for the AIC.

The involvement of aspiring researchers in this project also aims to bridge the gap between research and policy.

“That’s why collaborative research projects like PAIR can be an alternative solution and can be a reference point in creating good public policies,” said Irfan Raharja, one of the Universitas Indonesia’s junior researchers.

This collaborative research experience is valuable for young researchers’ professional development.

“It opened up my opportunities for understanding new cultures and traditional values embedded within farmer communities, and gaining international exposure,” Medina added.

“Working together with international teams is insightful and eye-opening,” Irfan added.

The benefits are not only for individuals but also for the Indonesia-Australia bilateral relationship.

“Under AIC leadership, Indonesian young researchers have been nurtured by both Indonesian and Australian senior researchers and vice versa. The young researchers learned about their own culture and values through others,” said AIC senior fellow Reni Suwarso.

According to Dr Suwarso, geographical boundaries become less important because the focus is on a shared research issue.

Image at the top by Florentina Dwiastuti for the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

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