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From virtual to reality: Law student to explore human rights protection in Indonesia through the NCP

La Trobe University Law and International Relations student Hammad Shahin is set to step foot in Indonesia for the first time next month after COVID-19 disruptions over the past three years.

The 2021 New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholar has had his sights set on Indonesia since he was awarded the scholarship in 2020. While he waited for international borders to re-open, Hammad decided to stay connected to the Indonesia through an NCP mobility project in 2021.

Hammad undertook a six-week Law Professional Practicum at Atma Jaya University, organised through the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS).

The project consisted of intensive Indonesian language study, English-language lectures from Indonesian legal practitioners and experts in the field of law, and a supervised practicum placement.

Hammad’s placement was with Yuyun Wahyuningrum, the Indonesian Representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), a consultative body that promotes and protects human rights and fosters regional co-operation on human rights amongst member states.

Screenshot of Hammad Shahin on a virtual call with colleagues.
Hammad Shahin on a virtual call with colleagues on his last day of placement with Yuyun Wahyuningrum, the Indonesian Representative for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Credit Hammad Shahin.

“At AICHR I contributed research to a background paper on the protections for child refugees in ASEAN member states and assisted in contributing to research exploring the context of human rights protections in Southeast Asia,” he said.

“The purpose of our work was to set up a foundation for future long-term interns to expand on. Yuyun’s goal was to use our collective research as a valuable ‘outsider’s perspective’ in a book to commemorate the AICHR’s 15-year anniversary in 2024.”

This experience helped Hammad expand his knowledge of Indonesia’s legal system and the complex nature of bilateral agreements.

“I gained a better appreciation of the challenges associated with running a civil law system. I also learnt about the treaties each ASEAN country has ratified, signed, or chosen not to adopt.

“It was interesting to learn that there is not necessarily a correlation between how many treaties a country has ratified and their commitment to human rights.”

Hammad also enjoyed the chance to study the Indonesian language during the virtual NCP mobility project and is looking forward testing out his skills when he travels to Indonesia next month.

Image of gift that Hammad and fellow students presented to their Indonesian teacher also known as guru.
Hammad and fellow students show their Indonesian guru (teacher) appreciation for teaching their class. Credit Hammad Shahin.

“While virtual classes can be challenging, our teacher Bu Eli brought her energy and brightness to each lesson, making it engaging and interesting,” he said.

“I can now see the array of opportunities that exist through learning Indonesian – it has changed my life.”

Hammad said the NCP mobility project also gave him an insight into how hospitable Indonesians are, how much they enjoy having a laugh and how they find it so natural to be inclusive of foreigners.

“After such a positive experience, I am even more excited to finally commence my NCP scholarship this year,” he said.

“I’m grateful the NCP mobility project was available to me in the interim as a way of making connections with the country and working on my language skills, which I’m sure will come in handy once I commence my scholarship.”

As part of his scholarship, Hammad plans to undertake additional study programs with ACICIS, including their semester-long International Relations Program and Flexible Language Immersion Program, both facilitated by Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta.

“I’m hoping to achieve stronger Indonesian language proficiency to build on what I have already learnt and gain a better understanding of how Indonesia views itself in the international relations sphere,” he said.

“I think this will help me to better appreciate how Australia can facilitate closer ties with Indonesia.”

As he gets ready to pack his bags, Hammad reflected on what the NCP represents to him.

“The NCP is a great way for students to bridge gaps across the region, immerse themselves in a location and its culture, learn the language and advance their future career,” he said.

“I believe that there are amazing opportunities for Australians in the Indo-Pacific region and the NCP allows you to get a foot in the door. I am eager to see where this journey takes me.”

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