Past Projects

This page contains information on a number of past projects conducted under the ‘Renewing Democracy’ theme.

Youth perceptions and diplomatic relations: improving Australia-Indonesia relations through education

Project summary:

This project explores the perceptions of Indonesia held by young Australians (aged 18-34 years). It is motivated by survey research suggesting that nearly 50% of Australians have unfavourable views of Indonesia, and that levels of misperceptions and ignorance about Indonesia are high. This project aims to gather qualitative data to extend this survey research, by exploring whether and how education about Indonesia shapes young Australians’ perceptions of the country. More broadly, the project explores how young people engage in debate about comparative democracies and governance in different cultural contexts. This project is funded by a grant from the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

Chief Investigator - Dr Avery Poole

Aims of the project:

This project seeks to gain an understanding of how young people see Indonesia, and how and why their perceptions of Indonesia may evolve over time. It asks: What role does tertiary education play in shaping the perceptions of Indonesia among young Australians (aged 18-34 years)? It focuses on university students who are enrolled in Indonesian studies subjects and/or otherwise engaged with Indonesia. The research findings will have implications for the approach of universities to Indonesian studies (e.g. degree and subject offerings, and curriculum design), and more broadly, for public policy approaches to Indonesia in Australia. In the future the project will be expanded to explore the engagement of young Australians with a range of countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and will thus contribute to our understanding of how young people view international affairs, the meaning of democracy and citizen engagement in debates about Australia’s place in the region and the world.

Democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia

Project summary:

Southeast Asia is a vast, highly populated and incredibly diverse region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) aims to provide regional order and a basis for economic and security cooperation. It promotes democracy and human rights as central to this order. However, most ASEAN members are not democratic and have poor or questionable human rights records. Traditionally, ASEAN has treated democracy and human rights as ‘sensitive issues’ to be omitted from regional dialogue. So why does ASEAN now routinely refer to democracy and human rights as foundational regional principles? And why has it institutionalised these principles in initiatives such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights? This project explores the problem of why and how elites in a regional institutional context construct a particular rhetoric around democracy and human rights. It explores this rhetoric in the context of the objectives of ASEAN regionalism and the domestic political contexts of individual member states.

Chief Investigator - Dr Avery Poole

Aims of the project:

This project traces the processes through which the ten ASEAN member countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) agreed to promote the ‘liberal norms’ of democracy and human rights. These norms have now become standard references in ASEAN rhetoric. The leaders of these ten countries are particularly concerned about the way ASEAN is perceived by the outside world. Some countries, such as Indonesia and Singapore, seek to project the image of being liberal democracies and ‘good global citizens’ – and they want ASEAN, as a regional organisation which represents them – to embody this image.

The project investigates the ways in which regional norms are shaped by competing perceptions of legitimacy. Legitimacy refers here to the social judgments of an entity as appropriate, proper or desirable, within a particular institutional environment. In particular, ASEAN rhetoric is shaped by elites’ perceptions of how those outside the region (including states and interstate organisations) view the legitimacy of the regional organisation and its norms.

Security and political engagement

This theme addresses three key questions:

  • How are risks created and perceived by individuals, groups and governments involved in the policy process?
  • How do these impact on feelings of insecurity of the person, the group and of the State?
  • What role might existing or new forms of social and political engagement at local, national and multinational levels play in enhancing security?

Learn more about security and political engagement

Research Projects: