Two Midshipmen have found themselves marking Anzac Day away from the familiar marches and gatherings but each say it was an experience they will remember for years to come.
Morgan Groves and Jordana McLeod are spending almost six months in Jakarta, studying at Pusdiklat Bahasa – the Indonesian Ministry of Defence Language School.
Situated in a rare area of greenery, in the shadow of the city’s high rise apartments, Jakarta’s War Cemetery is the final resting place to over 1,000 Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who died in the defence of Java and Sumatra during the Japanese advance in 1942.
Ninety-six Australians are buried in the Cemetery; four from the Navy, 79 Army, five Air Force and eight whose identities remain unknown. Among the dead are sailors who fought in the Java Sea and Australian soldiers who were part of ‘Black Force’.
Ceremonies were also held in several other places around Indonesia, including Ambon, Bali, Balikpapan, Bandung and Timika.
“The number of Australians and Indonesians who died protecting our region and the freedoms we enjoy today is often overlooked,” Midshipman Groves said.
“This cemetery and others like it across Indonesia are home to so many Australians who gave their lives for a cause they believed in.
“And of course, from a Navy perspective, the wreck of HMAS Perth not far from here, is further evidence of our historical ties with Indonesia.”
Midshipman McLeod said that in her experience many Australians knew little about their nearest neighbour, other than Bali.
“I definitely think they are missing out!” she said.
“It’s the people that make the place and every Indonesian person I have met has been unbelievably friendly.”
Midshipman Groves said living in Jakarta was remarkable.
“This is a city like no other,” he said.
“I think as Australians we have an unfair expectation that people will simply be able to understand how we speak and how we operate but that’s not always the case – especially in Asia. Relationships and communication are a two-way street.”
The dawn service marked the start of a busy day for the pair, with a gunfire breakfast followed by a visit to the Australian Intercultural School for a speech on the importance of Anzac Day – a subject which sometimes leaves the average Indonesian a little puzzled.
“As a young military officer, I am well aware of how our two nations have worked together to safeguard our freedoms,” Midshipman McLeod said.
“This is a relationship which continues to grow. We may be from different backgrounds but we have much in common.”