Making an Impact? Measuring the New Colombo Plan’s Influence on the Australia-Indonesia Bilateral Relationship

Ms Elena Williams

Australia-Indonesia Consulting/ ANU, Melbourne/ Canberra, Australia

Indonesia has been a priority country for the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan (NCP) since the launch of the scholarship initiative in 2014. Since 2016, Indonesia has been the number 1 destination for NCP mobility grant recipients and by 2020, almost 10,000 undergraduate students will have undertaken formal study, internships and mentorships in Indonesia through the scheme. However, few studies have critically examined the NCP’s impact on the Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationship, or questioned the extent to which an NCP experience encourages young Australians and Indonesians to make meaningful contributions to the bilateral relationship, becoming ‘young ambassadors’ in the region, as former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop described in the NCP’s design. There also remains a significant analytical gap regarding the measurement tools used by DFAT to assess the NCP’s impact, which have largely been characterised by a reliance on quantitative over qualitative data from respondents, highlighting a lack of student feedback regarding their own experiences of the NCP. Drawing on current NCP research and program evaluations, this paper will examine the NCP’s influence on the Australia-Indonesia relationship to date and review the evaluation methods used by DFAT to measure the NCP’s impact on the lives and career trajectories of student participants.


Ms Williams is Director, Australia-Indonesia Consulting, researching the impact of DFAT’s public diplomacy initiatives on Australia-Indonesia relations. Between 2013 – 2017 she served as ACICIS Study Indonesia’s Resident Director, facilitating New Colombo Plan-funded programs across Indonesia. In 2018, Ms Williams was appointed to the board of DFAT’s Australia-Indonesia Institute.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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