Getting to know you series: Indonesian community in Australia

his edition of MultiConnexions’ Getting to know you series focuses on Australia’s closest neighbour in our north – Indonesia, and was written by Alec Vincent Go. 

Indonesia is regarded as one of Australia’s most important neighbours and strategic allies. At the end of 2019, the two nations marked the 70-year milestone of formal diplomatic relations, but Australia and Indonesia’s shared history goes back much further.

The earliest known Indonesian visitors were trepang fishermen from Makassar in Sulawesi, who traded with the indigenous communities in northern Australia. In the 1870s, Indonesians were enlisted to work in the pearling and sugar cane industries with many of them settling here. During WW2, many Indonesians evacuated to Australia; in the 1950s, some Indonesian students became temporary residents under the Colombo Plan; and since the 1970s, the number of Indonesian migrants has seen a significant increase.


There are more than 80,000 Indonesian-born people calling Australia home, and many more people claim Indonesian ancestry. The 2016 Census tells us that Australia’s Indonesian community is:

• Young
• More female than male
• Educated
• At home, 72 per cent speak Bahasa Indonesian, 16.8 per cent speak English, and 4.8 per cent speak Mandarin (due to the large number of Chinese-ancestry Indonesians
• Catholicism is the religion of the majority with 24 per cent, followed by Islam (18.9 per cent) and Buddhism (10 per cent). Did you know the largest Muslim population in any country is in Indonesia?

How can I target this demographic with my marketing?

Marketing and building relationships through Indonesian media channels are great opportunities to reach out to the Indonesian communities in Australia.

This audience also tends to live in clusters. Based on the 2016 census, most Indonesia-born people living in Australia are in NSW (43.4 per cent), while 24 per cent are in Victoria. In Sydney, the suburbs of Maroubra, Kingsford, Botany and Mascot are where many Indonesians reside. In Melbourne, Boroondara, Monash, Whitehorse and Wyndham are the popular regions for the community.

But beyond this, culture matters too. Marketing that taps into insights on the culture will win hearts and minds.

Indonesian Culture

Harmony and cohesiveness are highly valued in the Indonesian community. Harmony in the workplace is seen as a crucial element for productivity. Hence, Indonesians are generally indirect, gentle, and courteous.

They are also very collectivistic, meaning that they perceive themselves as members of groups instead of autonomous individuals – in contrast to mainstream Australia’s more individualistic culture. This is why they are very family centred. Loyalty to the family is put first before other connections.

The value of hierarchy is also evident in Indonesian families as well as in broader society. Age determines the level of respect to members of the family. Being a patriarchal society, the father, or oldest male typically serves as the head of the family.

Indonesians are generally gracious and warm people who enjoy affection and like to please people. Your warmth, time and general pleasantness are likely to be returned with enthusiasm and friendship.

Because of the diversity of Indonesian society, they recognise a broad variety of cultural and religious celebrations, such as Lunar New Year, Eid al Fitr, Hari Raya Hyeni, and Christmas Day. Indonesian Independence Day is celebrated by the community every 17th of August, including in Australia.

For further information on targeting this audience in your next campaign, contact MultiConnexions today.

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