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Australian water professionals share expertise in Indonesia

Despite being home to Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia is still striving to provide clean water and sanitation to its population of 264 million people.

With just 20% of Indonesians able to access a piped water connection and 45% of the country’s rivers categorised as heavily polluted, the Indonesian Government is taking steps to address the problem, but much remains to be done.

Australian Water Association (AWA) International Manager Paul Smith said Australia has a role to play in helping its second-closest neighbour achieve clean water and sanitation for all.

“The Australian water sector has much to offer Indonesia in its pursuit of safe, efficient, sustainable and secure water and wastewater services,” Smith said.

“The AWA, in partnership with the Indonesian Water Association (PERPAMSI) and with support from the Australian Government, has commenced a series of initiatives designed to strengthen relations and share expertise and technological innovations in water.”

Australia's Deputy Head of Mission to Indonesia Allaster Cox hosted a briefing on the opportunities and challenges of working in the Indonesian water sector.

This includes sending an Australian delegation to the Indonesian Water and Wastewater Exhibition and Forum, held in Jakarta recently. The event, hosted by PERPAMSI, brought together more than 200 exhibitors and 5000 visitors from 10 countries and regions, including Australian young water professionals (YWPs), technology providers and utilities.

As part of the trip, the Australian delegates participated in a series of events designed to share water knowledge and expertise, and promote trade between the two nations.

Chee Tern Lee, Business Development Manager at water technology company Aqseptence Group Australia, exhibited at the Australian Pavilion, where he had the chance to network with potential end-users of his product.

He said local water professionals were eager to learn about Aqseptence’s triton underdrain solutions solutions and how the technology could improve their filtration performance and operations.

“There’s definitely strong demand for good technology to tackle some of the challenging water conditions in Indonesia,” Lee said.

The Australian Pavilion at the Indonesian Water and Wastewater Exhibition and Forum.

“It was a great experience. There was a lot of foot traffic and having all the Australian companies together meant we could help each other.”

The AWA delegation also included those in the early stages of their careers, like environmental engineer Shane Woods, who helped run a workshop for other YWPs alongside Unitywater Project Engineer Sandrika Ryan.

Woods said it was his work in the water sector as well as his Indonesian background that attracted him to the opportunity. 

The YWP workshop focused on the challenges faced by Indonesian and Australian young professionals, and Woods said participants from the two countries found they had a lot in common.

“The Indonesian YWPs spoke about everything from technical problems to difficulty finding mentors to gender equality issues in the workplace,” Woods said.

“These resonated quite strongly with me; they’re similar to a lot of challenges in Australia, but at an earlier stage.”

Woods said exposure to the challenges and opportunities in Indonesia gave him a greater appreciation of the work he does at home, and put the universal nature of the water sector into perspective.

“It made me realise how similar the water industry is around the world and that the challenges we all face are very similar,” he said.

“The key thing I felt came across throughout the week was that we’re different but we’re the same. There might be a cultural and language barrier, but we were all there for the same reason: clean water.”

To learn more about the Australian Water Association's international programs, click here.