Gusrizal: Bridging the Gap Between Indonesia and Australia

Story By
Donny Syofyan

Ensuing the recently strained relation between the two countries, the teacher is now intensifying his undertaking to achieve a better relation and understanding.

Graduated from the English Language Teaching Faculty at Jakarta National University in 1988, Gusrizal did not start his career working in public services. Cushioned by his proficiency in English, he has recently been busy alternating between Indonesia and Australia to teach Indonesian language in various elementary and junior high schools in the Western Australia as a temporary teacher. 

Born in Bukittinggi on August 6th, 1962, Gusnaldi had been mostly teaching Indonesian for foreigners in the country. Until he came across an article about the limited number of Indonesian teachers and textbooks available in Australia, despite soaring interest to learn the language. After that, he was later resolved to write a textbook of his own. 

“I’ve authored an Indonesian book for foreigners. The first edition, Mari Belajar Bahasa Indonesia was published in 2000 and the second one was published in 2007 with an English title, “Let’s Study Bahasa Indonesia with a New Method.” The latter has forewords from various figures such as the West Sumatra Governor (at that time) Gamawan Fauzi, Indonesian expert Prof. Dr. J.J. Badudu and the Australian Embassy’s Counselor for Education, Science and Training, Dr Shannon Smith.

He believes in education as a momentous instrument to promote Indonesian culture and tourism to students in Australia. Based in Bukittinggi, Gusrizal is now immersing himself into building socio-cultural bridges between West Sumatra and Australia through exchange programs for students and teachers. He established Element for Indonesia—an education, culture, research and development NGO headquartered in the city.

Gusrizal applied touches of Indonesian culture to his classes in Australia; by bringing Indonesian currency, maps and miniature models of Minangkabau traditional houses to his class. He also got the students to sing Indonesian songs such as “Topi Saya Bundar” (My Hat is Round) and “Burung Kakaktua” (Cockatoo). Learning these songs have encouraged students to learn more about the country.

Gusrizal has been working almost fourteen years to a build good cooperation between Australia and Indonesia pertaining to education and culture, particularly between West Sumatra and Australia. During the long period, he has visited Down Under eight times, with two of them volunteering to stay and teach in various Australian states. He even received recognition from the Australian government; Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Moriarty Greg, invited him to Jakarta in 2013 and credited him to his great contribution to constructive relations between the two countries.

Soon he will come and visit classes at Mornington Secondary College, a secondary school in Mornington, Victoria and introduce Indonesian culture and teach Indonesian language with his new method of showing students that learning language can be very clear and simple.  

“I will also want to meet Languages Other Than English (LOTE) teachers and share our experience about teaching of Bahasa lndonesia. Mutual understanding between people of different cultures can only begin through direct contact, and language and culture class at schools is the best place for students to start. This is my way of bridging the gap between people.” he explained.

In response to the current tension between the two countries, he regrets the poor understanding on the significance of Australia and Indonesia’s relationship. Heedless of its ups and downs, Gusrizal is committed to continue his work, with or without any financial aid, and expects that someday the two governments can sit together and settle their differences.