Building Bridges Across the Seas: A Discussion of Australia-Indonesia Cooperation for the Preservation of Underwater Cultural Heritage


Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelagic state, its waters home to hundreds, if not thousands, of shipwrecks. As maritime neighbours with both a common boundary and a shared history, protecting and preserving this maritime heritage is an important element of the Australia-Indonesia relationship. In recent years, government agencies from both countries have cooperated to manage the wreck of HMAS Perth (I), an Australian warship sunk off the coast of Java in World War II. However, efforts to engage the next generation have been limited.

For this special episode, Dr Natali Pearson jumps on the other side of the mic and chats with Dr Thushara Dibley about her recent work building links between Indonesia and Australia to increase cooperation for the preservation of underwater cultural heritage. She notably discusses her recent initiative coordinating a capacity-building course in Indonesian maritime archaeology with funding from the Australia Indonesia Institute. Delivered through online learning modules and field site visits, the course brought together students from across the archipelago to learn more about the challenges and opportunities of managing and interpreting underwater cultural heritage in an Indonesian context, and paved the way for future cooperation across the seas to preserve the nation’s wealth of maritime histories.

About Dr Natali Pearson:

Natali is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre at the University of Sydney, where she is affiliated with the School of Languages and Cultures. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia. Natali is co-editor of Perspectives on the Past at New Mandala and a regular contributor to The Conversation and Inside Indonesia. Natali holds a PhD in Museum Studies (2019, USYD). Her new book, Belitung; The Afterlives of a Shipwreck, will be published by University of Hawai’i Press in 2022. You can follow Natali on Twitter @sea_greeny.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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