Issue 10
Monday, 03 December 2018
Charles Darwin University
Dr Vannessa Hearman illuminates Indonesia’s dark past in her new book
Dr Vannessa Hearman illuminates Indonesia’s dark past in her new book

Researcher finds truth in unmarked graves

By Andrew Hall

During a coup against Indonesia’s President Sukarno by the forces of General (and future president) Suharto, hundreds of thousands of people in East Java and Bali were murdered in a pogrom that, to this day, has received little official acknowledgement.

Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman’s research into the catastrophic events that took place in 1965/66 has resulted in a book titled “Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia”, which was launched at the University of Melbourne recently.

Dr Hearman, who was born and raised in Malang, Indonesia until moving with her family to Australia at age 11, said that during her schooling in Indonesia she had never heard of the events she would later spend a lengthy period investigating.

“The first time I became aware of what had really happened during the coup I was in my late teens and had been living in Australia for six years,” Dr Hearman said.

“I felt a sense of betrayal that we had been told so many untruths about what really happened with regard to how Suharto’s ‘New Order’ government took power in Indonesia.

“The book traces the journeys of people being detained and separated from their families, of having family members killed, and about the loss of a fair and accurate rendering of the nation’s history as people were relocated, dispersed and forced to flee the army repression.” 

* “Unmarked Graves” is published by NUS Press, Singapore.