Author to discuss dark time in Indonesian history

08-Mar-2019

Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman will discuss a tragic period in Indonesia’s not-too-distant past

Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman will discuss a tragic period in Indonesia’s not-too-distant past


Charles Darwin University Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman will discuss a tragic period in Indonesia’s not-too-distant past with ABC journalist Matt Garrick at the Northern Territory Library on 13 March.

In 1965-66, half a million Indonesians were killed after the army, under Major General (later to become President) Suharto, suppressed the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI). The pogroms, that have received little official acknowledgment to date, became the basis for the army’s own coup against President Sukarno.

Dr 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 late last year.

Born and raised in Malang, Indonesia until moving with her family to Australia at age 11, Dr Hearman 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.”

Dr Hearman said that shortly before leaving Indonesia she watched a lengthy army-sponsored film that placed the blame for the coup at the feet of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and its sympathisers.

“Until I started hearing from people in Australia who understood what really happened, that film was pretty much how I related to the events of 1965,” Dr Hearman said.

The army coup in 1965 led to the installation in 1966 of the Suharto authoritarian regime that reigned for 32 years. Today, the PKI and Marxist ideology remain banned in Indonesia, and public discussion of the events that led to so many lost lives remains heavily restricted.

Event: Dr Vannessa Hearman and Matt Garrick in conversation about “Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia”.

Venue: Northern Territory Library

Date and time: Wednesday, 13 March at 5.30pm

The event is free, and open to the public. Registrations via Eventbrite.