AUSTRALIAN CONSUL-GENERAL IN BALI - Part One

When I was a kid, I used to tell my parents I wanted to be a business woman or a politician because they got to wear nice clothes and carry briefcases. When I got a little older, I would say I wanted to get into law or politics so I would be paid to argue with people all day long – seemed like an interesting way to make money and I don’t mind a healthy argument. But as I’ve got older, and perhaps somewhat jaded, I’ve lost confidence in our world leaders, and certainly respect in many cases when considering the current state of the world politics and economy. The thing is, I’m the kind of person who wants to have someone to look up to, someone who I know is making the world a better place.

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It’s now I’ll introduce Dr Helena Studdert. When I first found out I had been approved by the ‘powers that be’ to interview Dr Helena, I choked on my coffee then did a happy dance around the room. You see I first met Dr Helena at a charity function late last year and was instantly impressed with her down to earth approach and how she talked and interacted with everyone. Then I googled her – once the event was over of course. A truly stellar career, Dr Helena has spent her life serving others, whether in her military career, during academia, and over the last 20 years working for DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), and hence my Facebook post on the day I actually interviewed her, said - feeling less like a reporter or blogger and more like a schoolkid about to meet her idol.

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What I thought would be a blog on how the Australian Consulate works in Bali, has in fact turned into a two part story on some amazing people doing everything they can to enhance relations between Australians and Indonesians, to assist in times of need, and to provide support when little things or big things go wrong. I admit that I had absolutely no idea just how big the role actually is, how many people are involved and that the daily work at the Consulate goes far beyond replacing lost passports or witnessing documents. In fact, with over a million Australians visiting Bali each year, the Consulate has a full program. I’ve only ever been to the Consulate to vote in elections, and just because my friends will ask, yes we did discuss whether the Consulate should put on a sausage sizzle to make voting in Bali for tourists and expats, more like election day in Australia. (My only input, and not remotely intelligent, was to discuss sausage sizzles with the Australian Consul- General; you’ll understand now why my thoughts of politics and law were short-lived!).

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Dr Helena has been in Bali for 14 months of her 3 year tenure, which does have an option to extend by a year. Her first impressions were similar to many people, expats and tourists, that arrive with only a little prior experience in Bali. The traffic and sounds were larger than life , the size and pace of the island surprised her, and yet Bali is still relaxed and balanced with aspects of ‘real’ Bali being enjoyed alongside the new, bustling Bali. Dr Helena asked to be posted to Bali, and like most of us she loves the weather. However her choice was based upon the personal and career objectives the position held – to continue to strengthen the great relationship between Indonesia and Australia; to develop the perception and reputation of Australia and Australians in Indonesia; and to work with the team here on programs of public diplomacy, political-economic reporting, education and community development.

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With the role comes a lot of travelling, in fact Dr Helena just recently went back to Canberra as all the Heads of Mission and Heads of Post, were called back by the Foreign Minister to work on the Foreign Policy Paper. Dr Helena also held tenure in Wellington which was a challenging role and professionally rewarding, plus being a beautiful place to live. She has also worked in Canberra and through her involvement in APEC travelled to Vietnam, Singapore, Peru and had short stints in Poland and Papua New Guinea to name a few. She also spent time in her career serving as Australia’s Ambassador in Serbia and where she was responsible for four states in the Balkans, including Romania . The role was political, with a focus on security in the Balkans, community aid, women’s empowerment, and mandates on economic diplomacy. She considers her time in Belgrade a high point in her career – before Bali of course!

To say Dr Helena has experience in her role is clearly an understatement and it is apparent in the work she has been involved in thus far in Bali, that she is committed to furthering relations at many levels between Australia and Bali/NTB . But…more on that in part 2 of the blog.

Part 2 of this blog is about the Consulate, it’s services to Indonesians and Australians, and its role within the community. From lost passports, to voting, to supporting community projects, to promoting education programs, to ensuring the safety of citizens and residents, it’s a busy Consulate supported by dedicated people. I was honoured to meet some of them when I visited so please check in next week for how the Consulate and its team are working in Indonesia.

In the meantime visit the Consulate by checking out their Twitter @KonJenBali or feel free to send me any questions you have.

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