Original photos of HMAS Australia leading the first Royal Australian Navy fleet in 1913
What last night's ceremony on Sydney Harbour was all about.... "whose mission is to guard our shores"

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

It's just over a week since Prime Minister Abbott was in Jakarta, Indonesia for his first overseas trip as PM.

Today he's flying once more to Indonesia - this time to Bali for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-Operation (APEC) Leaders Meeting.   70% of our trade in goods and services takes place with member economies.

A lot of crap gets written about Indonesia.   I think it's useful to spend a bit of time getting to know our neighbour properly.

This photo from last week's meeting between President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Abbott just takes in the bottom of the Garuda Pancasila, the National Emblem of Indonesia (equivalent to our Coat of Arms).   Sadly it cuts off the whole Garuda, but the words Bhinneka Tunggal Ika are there above our head of government, Indonesia's President and between our flags.

Tony abbott

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is the official national motto of Indonesia (Australia doesn't have an equivalent, although Advance Australia was an unofficial motto for many years).   It's not written in the current Indonesian language, rather it's old Javanese meaning "Unity in Diversity" (literally it means something like "although in pieces, yet one").

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is taken from a poem written in the 14th Century which teaches religious tolerance between the Hindu and Buddhists, then the dominant faiths in Java (the poem is called Kakawin Sutasoma, about Lord Sutasoma's travails).

14th Century Java beats the American Revolution by a few centuries.   It was just after the American Revolution that the nascent United States unofficially adopted "E pluribus unum" as a motto, translating as "one out of (or from) many".  Heraclitus, Virgil, St Augustine and a range of other real and mythical figures in history are said to have used similar words so it's a bit hard to "own" the US version.

The whole Indonesian National Emblem should quell a few fears in Australia and show Indonesian priorities a little more clearly.

The Garuda, a mythical golden eagle was significant in Hindu and Buddhist mythology and spanned the region as an emblem of strength and power.   In Indonesia's National Emblem the Garuda's talons hold the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika and a shield on its chest bears 5 emblems, each one representing a tenet of the Pancasila or 5 principles that set out the basis for the Indonesian state.

  • Belief in "Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa" - the first word there has its core word in the middle - Tuhan, Lord or God or god.   Tuhan is often used by orang biasa (ordinary people) or orang kecil (little people) to address lofty position-holders (orang tinggi, or high-up people).  It's important to note that it's not Allah, rather Tuhan.   Yang means "the one that is" or "which", maha esa means "infinite one".   So the first principle of the Indonesian nation is a belief in an infinite God, greater than all of us.   It is similar in meaning to the United States of America's official motto, adopted by an Act of Congress in 1956 "In God We Trust".
  • Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab - Just and civilized humanity
  • Persatuan Indonesia - The unity of Indonesia
  • Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan dan Perwakilan Democracy guided by wisdom in consensus after deliberations amongst representatives 
  • Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia - Social justice for all of the people of Indonesia


Indonesia is often referred to as the world's most populous Muslim nation.   But it is not a Sharia state.   Its constitution does not permit the adoption of Sharia law.  The notion of a democracy guided by the wisdom of men, or laws made by mere men is an anathema to the Sharia, which holds that only Allah can make laws.

We are, I think, a little too hasty in our funding for the pesantren and madrassa (or Islamist schools) in Indonesia.   Understanding the fine balance of Panca Sila, or the five principles is a complex task and it's very hard for foreigners to grasp it.

We all have to take an interest in a real relationship with Indonesia - Andrew Robb has been there now for the past week and for most of next, Julia Bishop has been there, Prime Minister Abbott was there last week and is there again today. 

We're neighbours, we have to get on and it's in all our interests that the great opportunities in trade are developed, and the threats like Islamist extremism are smashed.

Garuda indonesia

And here's the Great Seal of another great friend of ours, the United States of America.

Great seal of the united states