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The Australia Indonesia Association held their annual dinner at Thoroughbred Park. It is one of our most uninviting venues for guests unfamiliar with the surroundings and a pain in the proverbial for access. I’m used to the space, and always suppose the function spaces are accessible via the betting ring. Not so for the AIA party but with the help of staff I found the path out the back and walked the perimeter with the aid of the phone light. Someone needs to turn the lights on!
But I found it and the welcome was a musical treat from the biggest Balinese Gamelan Orchestra ever assembled in Canberra and the haunting sounds and memory of a ‘balmy Balinese night’ dining under the stars came back despite it being the middle of winter. I’m familiar with many of these musicians who perform regularly at the Embassy of Indonesia’s special events and with on this night the master of the Gamelan tradition, Soegito saying this orchestra required a bit of a learning curve for him, the result quite lovely.
Pretty in their national costumes the dance troupe were just a little nervous but the three piece band of girls not so, as they’d played last year and their preparation involved most of the time being spent on their phones. And with a great sense of humour the MC for the event, Shinta Benilda, proceeded to dismiss the great Australian sausage sizzle so beloved of Bunnings on a Saturday fanatics and election stalls as being in need of an Indonesian influence to put a better shaped bun with the snags rather than the ubiquitous slices of white bread. As a prelude to a fine feast the thought of a sausage sizzle diminished rapidly.
President of the association Les Boag, welcomed guests including Ambassador of Indonesia Nadjim Riphat Kesoema and Minister for the Arts Chris Bourke whose wife Julie Ryder instigated his attendance because of her artistic involvement in the textiles of Indonesia. Boag also told association members where the monies raised from all their fundraising goes to help Indonesians, especially school children at underprivileged schools, charitable work and teacher training with no administrative costs in all that they do. Of course much of their work also goes to provide Indonesian language lessons and cultural activities locally.
With lots of batik shirts, beautifully embroidered dresses and the traditional costumes of the orchestra and entertainers the room sparkled. It made our winter clobber of best black feel dull by comparison.