State Failure and Civil Society Efforts in Addressing Historical Injustice in Indonesia

Public guest lecture by Dr. Vannessa Hearman

Vannessa Hearman

Dr. Hearman is Acting Head of the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. She holds a PhD in history from the University of Melbourne and her doctoral thesis deals with the 1965-68 anti-communist violence and regime change in East Java. Her research interests are in the areas of memory, activism and human rights. She has published research articles in journals including Indonesia, South East Asia Research and Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs.


Since the fall of the authoritarian Suharto regime, Indonesia has done little to address historical injustice suffered under the regime (1966-1998). The paper will focus on accountability for the 1965-66 anti-communist violence as a case study. While earning praise for its democratic achievements such as direct elections of government representatives and a free media, these are in stark contrast to Indonesia's reluctance to investigate and enforce accountability for human rights abuses.

This lecture examines civil society efforts in pushing the government to act, as well as in initiating its own activities to highlight state impunity in Indonesia. Alternative history projects and truth-telling meetings are examples of these activities. In turn the lecture will examine where the roadblocks are to accounting for the past and what these obstacles indicate about the state of democracy in Indonesia today. Finally the lecture reflects on why democracy does not necessarily guarantee human rights accountability in Indonesia's case and how Indonesia compares with several Southeast Asian countries which are also dealing with the lagacies of the past.

Date and time: 2 December 2014, 14.00-16.00 hrs