Scotts Head Public School growing tomorrow's diplomats

Selamat Siang!

In a year when school festivities are few and far between, it was a joy to be swept up in the sights and smells of Scotts Head Public School's Indonesia Day celebrations on Tuesday.

Students were dressed head to toe in red and white - Indonesia's national flag colours - and the barbecue was full of sate ayam (chicken satay) to go with the nasi kuning (yellow rice).

"For me, food is everything. It is the most important part of my culture," Indonesian teacher Pak Mur said.

"It is the first question asked of any guest who visits my family - 'have you eaten?' - and it is the perfect tool of diplomacy."

Cahaya, Alfira, Damai and Pak Mur

Cahaya, Alfira, Damai and Pak Mur

After lunch, laughter pealed through the school ground as students attempted to handlessly devour a hanging rice cake, squat a screw dangling from their waists into a glass bottle, and hop a ping pong ball from cup to cup using only their breath, in a series of traditional Indonesian games.

While this year's celebrations were smaller than previous years', the pandemic preventing the special envoy of diplomats from the Indonesian Consul in Sydney, the joy was still writ large on the faces of the kids offering up their bowls for a third helping of yellow rice.

"We had to minimise our celebration, but we couldn't not do it," Scotts Head Principal Gillian Stuart said.

This year marks the 75th anniversary since Indonesia declared independence. It is also the 70th year of formal diplomatic ties between Australia and Indonesia.

With over 240 million people, Indonesia is Australia's largest regional neighbour, sharing maritime borders, close historical connections, growing trade ties and increasing bilateral engagements.

An $18 billion free trade deal in agriculture, education and health services between Australia and Indonesia has just come into force last month, after 15 years of negotiations.

And as the only official Bahasa Indonesia bilingual state school in NSW, Scotts Head Public is positioning its students to be potential leaders in the future relationship between two of the Pacific's major players.

"Globalisation has been put on hold at the moment due to COVID, but there is a world out there," Gillian Stuart said.

If our kids were to find themselves in a diplomatic role between Australia and Indonesia I would be so thrilled - because that's our future.

Scotts Head Public is currently in its 11th year of the Indonesian language immersion program.

Students start learning in Kinder, and can now continue their language study into their HSC, with Macksville High offering a targeted Indonesian program, with assistance from the teachers at Scotts Head.

"Our long-term goal is to have 30 kids studying Indonesian in Year 11," Ms Stuart said.

While she admits to not quite understanding the importance of learning another language at school when first taking on the leadership role eight years ago, she is a complete convert now.

"It's a core part of a holistic education," she said.

"Our kids performed 8-10% better in NAPLAN than kids from non-bilingual schools," she said.

"But NSW is falling behind most other states in language teaching - most kids don't learn a second language in this state."

Ms Stuart said her school was actively engaging with other schools in the area to support them to take up Indonesian language teaching too.

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