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Can copyright laws protect Indonesia's unique batik art?

This article appears in: Humanities and Social Science, Indigenous Knowledges, Law, Studying in Australia
CDU student Dina Widyaputri Kariodimedjo on a loom

Dina wanted to find a way of safeguarding and protecting the cultural assets and traditions of her Indonesian homeland. So, she moved from the bustling city of Yogyakarta to Darwin to pursue a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) at Charles Darwin University. Here's where her journey led.

PhD candidate Dina Widyaputri Kariodimedjo cherishes the cultural value of art forms that originate in her homeland of Indonesia. Take batik, for example. It’s a technique of wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth that can result in stunningly beautiful patterns. Or gamelan, the traditional ensemble music played on percussive instruments.

But can laws protect these Indonesian treasures from cultural misappropriation?

Dina’s research project is finding answers. She’s examining the safeguarding and protection efforts of intangible cultural heritage in Indonesia from perspectives of intellectual property law, international law and culture.

CDU student Dina Widyaputri Kariodimedjo and her research peers sit amongst Indonesian cultural artefacts


Her research takes traditional methods of batik making, gamelan music and coffee as examples of Indonesia’s intangible cultural heritage.

“The Government of Indonesia has made efforts to safeguard and protect its intangible cultural heritage, but still there have been issues and challenges in passing legislation and policies to achieve this," explains Dina. 

"My research proposes recommendations and future directions for Indonesia to protect its intangible cultural heritage," she says. 

“I want to dedicate my work and knowledge to a greater cause to create common good, especially for my students and local community in my home country,” Dina added.

Research to round out her career

Although protecting intangible cultural heritage is a topic of Dina’s PhD by Higher Research, it’s also a theme that’s been informed by her prodigious academic background.

“My family, especially my late father, became my biggest motivation to pursue my study,” Dina said. And pursue study she did. Dina completed her Bachelor of Laws at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta and a Master of Laws at Monash University. She completed a second Master of Laws (Intellectual Property Law) at the University of Turin in Italy and the World Intellectual Property Organization Academy. When she ultimately landed a position as an Associate Professor in UGM’s law faculty, she knew that a PhD would eventually become part of her journey.


CDU student Dina Widyaputri Kariodimedjo sits at her desk

Support to succeed

Dina chose to undertake her Higher Degree by Research PhD at CDU partly thanks to academic connections she’d made previously. The CDU instructors who emerged as Dina’s principal and associate supervisors were people she already knew from years spent moving in academic circles.

“It was the calibre of these mentors that led me to CDU. I’ve have had excellent guidance from my supervisors and met good friends throughout my Higher Degree by Research journey. 

“The staff at CDU are very helpful and friendly, and there are many different ethnic groups and religions represented in the community around me. But making some very good friends from across Australia and the world has been my best experience of being a student at CDU,” Dina said.

Dina’s advice to other students undertaking their HDR studies?

“Be persistent, humble and composed throughout your studies. Get to know your supervisors’ style and gather all important information about studying for an HDR. Keep in touch with the HDR staff and your fellow students and make sure you have good relationships with these people too. Those things will ensure your time as an HDR student at CDU is successful,” Dina said.

Find out more about studying a Higher Degree by Research at CDU.

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