One of the nicest blokes I have ever met is an Indonesian journalist called Agus Diatmika with whom I did a six-month newspaper exchange in Jakarta in 1994. Agus was born in Kuta Beach, Bali, in 1964, when it was a tiny fishing village attracting nothing in the way of tourism.

A tale of two Balis. Pics: News.com.au
The Indonesians love creating comical acronyms. They say the name of their national airline Garuda stands for “Good And Reliable Under Dutch Administration”. In a similar vein Agus explained that, in Indonesian, Kuta stands for “Kampung Untuk Turis Australi” – “Village For Australian Tourists”.

When he made the gag I became somewhat apologetic about the fact that his little slice of paradise had been overrun by us all, and asked whether he felt that tourism and, in particular, Australian tourism had ruined places like Kuta and Sanur. Hell no, he replied firmly. Tourism was the best thing that happened to Bali, lifting the standard of living to levels unseen elsewhere across the archipelago.

During my stay Agus urged me to go to Bali and visit his hometown, which I did, and had an awesome time. The visit included an obligatory boozy night at the Sari Club, chocker-block with young Aussies, blasting Chisel, the Oils and the Hoodoo Gurus on massive screens, and serving lethal arak-based cocktails in squirt bottles with the word “DRINK” written menacingly on the side.

Eight years later the Sari Club would be replaced by a crater in the ground. The atrocity would claim the lives of 202 people, 88 of them Australian, murdered in the biggest act of terror ever perpetrated against our citizens.

It is hard to believe it is 10 years since the Bali bombings. Thinking back to that week, as the scale of the attacks became apparent, it is still hard to comprehend the grief which was unleashed.

Because of its scale, Bali was a harrowing event both at the macro level and the micro level, because so many people had some kind of association with the dead and the injured. Much of that association came through our love of sport, and the fact that so many community clubs and first grade clubs were involved. The team my family has always supported in the SANFL, Sturt, had broken a 26-year drought to win the grand final that year, only to lose player Josh Deegan and trainer Bob Marshall on their club trip to Kuta.

From the Coogee Dolphins to the Kingsley Football Club in WA to the Forbes Rugby Union Club in western NSW, these horrible stories played out across the land. And then there were the mums and dads who had just taken their kids up for their first big holiday.

Our then prime minister, John Howard, provided exemplary and humane leadership in the aftermath of the attacks. He gave a powerful speech in Darwin on Thursday where he talked about how if the objective of the attacks was to destroy the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, then the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah had failed miserably.

Indeed aside from their tragically successful murderous intent, the Kuta attacks (and the second Bali attack in 2005) were a total failure by almost any measure.

The joint operation between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesians was a swift and complete success. All the ringleaders of the attacks were arrested, many have been executed.

In the aftermath of the attacks, there were predictions that it was only a matter of time before radicals from the region would stage a Kuta-style attack on our shores. To this day, touch wood, we have been successful in rounding up and jailing would-be terrorists among our number, and no such attacks have eventuated.

The ultimate aim of terrorism, as the word obviously suggests, is to engender such a level of fear that people will alter their way of life. That can include everything from the policies of the government of the day, to their preparedness to travel, how they choose to enjoy themselves, the level of freedom they give to their kids.

After the Madrid train bombings - for which al Qaeda claimed responsibility as payback for the Spanish deployment in Iraq - the public turfed out the government in a landslide and the new government immediately withdrew its troops. It looked like a western democracy losing its nerve in the face of a terrorist attack.

In foreign policy terms Australia has maintained a largely bipartisan position on national security issues, such as the war against the Taliban, or the proposed deployment of US troops in Darwin. If JI was trying to make us cool our relationship with Washington, it remains as strong as ever.

At the individual level our behaviour has been hearteningly defiant. After the attacks there were predictions that Bali would never recover and that Australians would never go there in the numbers they once did. There was a broader existential view that our country would be so rocked that the natural response would be to withdraw into ourselves. The opposite has happened. In the 2001-2002 financial year there were 981,409 passports issued in Australia; in 2011-2012, there were 1,747,670 passports issued.

Last year, there were a whopping 8 million overseas trips made from Australia – and more than 450,000 of them were to Bali, more than twice the number of Bali trips being made in the year of the first attack.

Bali is still as culturally rich and as naturally beautiful as it has ever been. Kuta, the village for Australian tourists, is as crazy as ever, and more packed than ever. The idea that JI was somehow speaking on behalf of a nation which is repulsed by tourism and troubled by our presence is one of the greatest misnomers of all. No-one would be happier than the Indonesians – especially the Balinese – that it’s business as usual 10 years on. It’s also the greatest demonstration for Australians that an act of murder is not going to change the way we live.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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39 comments

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    • NESLIHAN KUROSAWA says:

      08:27am | 07/10/12

      Hi David,

      Any form of calculated and senseless act of terrorism targeting unsuspecting and innocent women, men and children can be so devastating and life altering!  Why single out Indonesia and Spain really?  There have been other mass murders in Oklahoma, USA, Port Arthur, Tasmania and very recently in Norway, which actually cost the lives of many innocent people when they least expected it.  I only wanted to say that terrorists can be from very different ideologies, nationalities and not exclusively from a particular faith or background, like it has been portrayed out there in the media, over and over again.

      And in a country like Indonesia with a population of 237 million, surely we can not bring ourselves to call all people from Indonesian background as potential terrorists or can we?  As we have witnessed in our not too distant and very recent past all those so called atrocities, mass murders and acts of terrorism are usually committed by very sick people with very extreme religious, ideological and ultra nationalistic views.  It can happen in any part of the world.  We can only stop it from happening again if we are fully aware and fully informed about the real dangers rather than living in constant fear. 

      Also most importantly when it comes analysing any kind of senseless act , we just have to beyond religion, nationality and race.  And by truly trying to understand the act of terrorism and facing the reality that it has no borders.  By simply going with our lives as normally as we can, is the first step.  And also living in a multi cultural and diverse society such as Australia, we can never underestimate the value of educating our children to love and respect other cultures.  Because feelings of strong views of hatred and racism can only manage to divide and polarize a nation even more so! Kind regards.

    • seline says:

      10:10am | 07/10/12

      I think you’re assuming a rational world, but until things like religion, nationality and race are left in the dust as outdated and trivial there will never be this rational world you are thinking of.  All three of these things - religion, nationality, race (and maybe even chuck in things like homosexuality) - just give easily lead minds reasons to hate.  All three of these things can be traced back to the fact that many people do not wish to think for themselves and therefore allow others to do said thinking for them.  When this happens, terrorism can grow like an unchecked boil because the people who pursue this notion have long since given up their right to decide for themselves to a less unsavory person.

      It is nice to think we will win against terrorism, but the thing that provides it fertile soil - the person who wants freedom from making their own decisions and thoughts - is very very common and thus those who seek to use these people will always be there to take advantage.

    • Matchofbris says:

      10:35am | 07/10/12

      I don’t think that this piece is trying to pigeon-hole Indonesians/Islamic peoples as terrorists. I mean, it is referencing a specific incident in which, yes, Islamic Indonesians (extremists, to be sure) blew up night clubs in Bali. Not generalisation, just pure fact. While I usually enjoy reading your (often vastly different or unusual) perspective on issues, I think you’ve drawn yourself into a massive tangent on this one, Neslihan.

    • Penguin says:

      11:16am | 07/10/12

      Australians are very ignorant of Indonesia and its modern bloody history.

      Indonesia is a country full of volcanoes which can erupt and caused great damage to the surrounding areas. It is a country full of political volcanoes which can severely damage Australia. Latest reports says it is a fertile nursery of jihad, see http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesias-jihad-factories-uncovering-nurseries-of-terrorisms-next-generation-20121006-275wh.html.

      In 1965 more than 500,000 Indonesians were slaughtered when Suharto kicked out Sukarno and took over.

      Bali was a particularly bloody place. All the Chinese were slaughtered in 1965.

    • Fanta Pants says:

      12:32pm | 07/10/12

      @matchifbris. Wow, you can read Wikipedia.

    • Pavlo says:

      01:29pm | 07/10/12

      Neslihan,
      I think you’ve missed the point of the article and misinterpreted the intent of the author. On the plus side, you’ve reduced your usual plethora of exclamation marks.

    • Achmed says:

      01:35pm | 07/10/12

      What happened in Norway and in Tasmania was not terrorism.  It was mass murder.  Scary, terrifying and tragic but not terrorism

    • Matchofbris says:

      02:03pm | 07/10/12

      @Fanta pants… I’m not sure what part of my post you’re taking a pot shot at?

    • John says:

      08:29am | 07/10/12

      How many Australians who go to Bali to surf and sink pizz know that it is in Indonesia?

    • marley says:

      08:51am | 07/10/12

      I think they all know about the Bali bombings.  Penbo’s fundamental point - that JI failed in breaking the nerve of Aussie tourists stands.

    • Joan says:

      09:41am | 07/10/12

      marley: It`s the cheap fares and package deals that lure Australians to Bali . Majority of Australians always chasing world cheapest deal, wouldn’t know what JI was and memorial at Kuta now a tourist visit point. If Bali had higher cost of holiday than Australian tropical holiday then they wouldn’t get Ozies numbers .Cost is number one reason for a Bali holiday

    • marley says:

      10:40am | 07/10/12

      @Joan - I realize that, but I’d be surprised if even the most ignorant tourist hasn’t heard of the Bali bombings.  And the cost of a holiday in Bali is always going to be attractive, compared to the costs of a holiday here.  Heck, the cost of a holiday in Europe is more attractive than prices here.

    • egg says:

      11:14am | 07/10/12

      pretty funny stuff.
      John states the obvious
      marley tells john to go suck eggs
      Joan tells marley to go suck eggs
      and marley tells Joan he already had breakfast.

    • maley says:

      06:34pm | 07/10/12

      @egg - and you are the breakfast. Or you were.

    • Truelle says:

      06:52pm | 07/10/12

      What does ‘sink pizz’ mean?

    • Shep says:

      09:08am | 07/10/12

      I think it certainly had a small short-term impact, I think we saw that we weren’t invincible.  I also think that we then decided (with the help of cheap fares) that bugger-it we’ll go and have a look at a few other places as well.  We were emboldened somewhat to look further, because we’d toughened up after Bali.

      Aussies do seem to have a fairly fatalistic view of life.  Ke sera sera.

    • waynevan says:

      09:34am | 07/10/12

      Since the Bali bombing happened a huge network of “terrorists” have been convicted over the so-called “plot”. What I’d like to know is what did they all do? From what I understand, what happened that night that night was too simple to require such a large scale operation. A guy made a bomb, put it in the back of a ute and blew himself and 202 others to smithereens. Simple as that. As the legendary Doonside bomber showed it’s not too hard.
      The timing of the tragedy - 1 year after the 11th of September put Indonesia in a position where they needed to act fast to give the impression they were serious about terrorism, so what do they do? They round up a bunch of good-for-nothings and create an elaborate plot for them to be convicted of, possibly under the promise of them dying an honorable martyrs death for their so called crime.
      I’m not normally one to buy in to conspiracy theories, perhaps this could be called an un-conspiracy theory but I’ve yet to come across any evidence to say this was anything but a solo job and that 1 person isn’t around to tell us about it.

    • Meako says:

      11:43am | 07/10/12

      Most of them confessed… gladly. They were proud of what they had done. JI took credit for it on top of that.

    • chuck says:

      10:14am | 07/10/12

      Yes I was there in 68 and several times since. The balinese are a lovely people, gracious, kind and hospitable. It is hard to believe they are Indonesian. They are not enamoured to their counterparts from java, sumba and flores who if you believe what they say have an alternative agenda to themselves with respect to the West. These newcomers who are actively supported by the Jakarta government have been slowly undermining the existing (read Hindu) culture on that beautiful island for years.
      You would have thought that our government advisers could learn from that while plying their trade and egos with UN grandiose membership plans.

    • Steve Putnam says:

      12:22pm | 07/10/12

      What precisely could “our government advisers…learn” from the widely known fact that the rest of Indonesia disparages the Hindu minority in Bali?
      PS: We are already members of The UN - have been since day one.

    • Matchofbris says:

      10:29am | 07/10/12

      While it wasn’t the best of speeches, John Howard’s address in Darwin this week was still very good. I have to agree with him, wholeheartedly. Our ties have grown stronger, and our relationship has gotten better. Whatever JI were trying to do, it failed. Apart from that initial lose of life, which is of course tragic, they have failed completely to create fear/tension/a chasm between our two nations. The professional/medical relationship between the hospital in Bali and Darwin hospital is an exemplary representation of this. In some ways, the tragedy was a platform for us to engage with Indonesia, not a reason to cut ties and run. The silver lining, if there can be one to a terrorist attack.

    • John says:

      11:13am | 07/10/12

      How appropriate that adjacent to a story on Bali tourism is an ad for Jetstar. I’ve never flown Jetstar to or from Bali, but I know people who have and they tell me that the passengers are everything you would expect.

    • JohnO says:

      11:22am | 07/10/12

      Hurray for Ozies!

    • Butterfly says:

      11:40am | 07/10/12

      Give me a free trip and accommodation and I still WOULD NOT go to Bali.
      Too many news reports of way too many people in trouble.
      Prefer to pay extra and go to quiet places…like Northern Scotland. Yes, I do realize its a lovely place, but toooo commercial now.
      On the anniversary of the bombings, my thoughts go out to the bereaved.

    • TheRealDave says:

      02:51pm | 07/10/12

      I’m with you, I wouldn’t go if I was paid to go.

      Somewhere nice and democratically stable for me thanks…..oh and those little umbrellas in your drinks…..

      Nice article though Penbo, but I’d disagree with referenced to Oklahoma and Norway. Those were internal incidents targeting their own. The Bali bombings, both of them, were target at foreigners.

    • David V. says:

      01:53pm | 07/10/12

      Bali teaches us to know who our enemies are, and to put our own country and people first.

    • firefly says:

      01:27pm | 07/10/12

      Sadly though David, our country & people are not being put first. Our government is importing our enemy in the guise of ‘multiculturism’ & any one who questions the failed logic behind this is shouted down as a racist.

    • SD says:

      02:36pm | 07/10/12

      Yea. Queenslanders are foreign. That’s the equivalent aus holiday. in Bali most of your tourist dollars are going to business run by Victorians or west Aussies.

    • David V. says:

      03:26pm | 07/10/12

      “I have this feeling that a majority of European leaders have lost their faith in what made Europe great and into an influential factor in the world. Moreover, it seems as if it would be something shameful or something forbidden to talk about this issue. We can not help to see that those who are coming up now, stand firm for their spiritual identity: the Islamic peoples to Islam, the Asian peoples to Asian traditions and their spiritual system. It’s not just about God, but also about the culture that was influenced by their traditional beliefs. We on the other hand reject the power that comes from the fact that this is the world of Christian culture. The successful ones make sure that there is no future without children and family.” - Hungarian PM Viktor Orban

      as it were, this is what the Lefties try to undermine and thus enable extremism from foreign sources, and thus the real danger to us is at home.

    • Jim says:

      01:04pm | 07/10/12

      I’ll never understand why Australians would choose to go to Bali. The dirty beaches, the terrorism risk and a hostile portion of the population towards westerners, the corrupt police out to get foreigners, the chance of getting thrown into prison for life (or worse) for what wouldn’t even merit a fine in this country. Why in Gods name holiday in a place like that? Oh we’ll, I guess it keeps the bogans contained away from the many nicer destinations on our doorstep.

    • Matchofbris says:

      02:08pm | 07/10/12

      Ha, exactly. It’s an adequate filter to prevent bogans from going to better places. The shirtless yobs attending the Bali bombing memorial in all the news shots = nuff said. I mean, seriously, how bogan and disrespectful. White trash with their random, don’t-know-the-significance tribal tattoos, walking around half naked in a foreign land, AT A MEMORIAL of all places. Jeeeesus.

    • Reg Whiteman says:

      03:30pm | 07/10/12

      I’ve long been of the view that certain classes of Australians should not be given passports or allowed to leave the country. I’ve had the experience of being OS and running into a bunch of drunken Oz boofheads carrying on like pork chops and insulting all and sundry.

      Is there anything worse than being OS and seeing some overweight slop in a wife-beater singlet, stubbies shorts, thongs, missing teeth and covered in tattoos showing the locals how things are done in a proper country?

      There should be some way to weed out these drongos and confine their travel to places like Dubbo or Charters Towers. Fly them out over the water and tell them they’re overseas and they wouldn’t know the difference.

      I can’t understand why anyone would want to go to Bali either. It’s a third world toilet with nothing to offer you can’t find on the central coast - other than small brown people that big boofheaded toughs can shove around. I can’t understand why anyone would want to go to Thailand either - that’s another sewer that seems to be one extensive brothel crawling with every sort of pervert in the outside world.

      It is no surprise to me why Australians are so hated in many of these “holiday destinations”. It is time we stopped people who are embarrassing from staggering on to the Jetstar and ruining the reputation of decent Australians overseas.

    • Peter says:

      05:26pm | 07/10/12

      @ Matchofbris “I mean, seriously, how bogan and disrespectful. White trash with their random, don’t-know-the-significance tribal tattoos, walking around half naked in a foreign land, AT A MEMORIAL of all places. Jeeeesus.”
      How utterly disrespectful of you to use the Name of Jesus as a swear word! Just as bad if not worse than the bogans who have no respect. Respect is a two way street.
      And before you get on an ‘all religion is BS’ bandwagon in reply, please have the guts to admit the Bali bombings were not perpetrated in the name of all religions. They were perpetrated in the name of i-slam alone. I-slam is the greatest threat to peace and freedom on the face of this earth.

    • David says:

      03:05pm | 07/10/12

      Apart from remembering those that lost their lives in this tragic event we must not forget that the Howard Government at the time made sure the Indonesian people were not to be blamed for the 88 Australians that died. This was made possible by upping our relationship with Indonesia! Since the Rudd/Gillard Labor Governments our relationship with Indonesian has deteriorated because of the mess they have made in protecting our borders! I hate to think how this Government would deal with something so horrible if there where another.

    • Achmed says:

      03:24pm | 07/10/12

      @Jim..Its not just Bali.  There are a large number of places where tourists travel to that are always a risk of a terrorist act.  Because terrorism knows no boundries/borders nor do they value any human life, even their own, you take the chance even just going to your local shopping centrethat there could be a terrorism act

    • Cherie says:

      03:47pm | 07/10/12

      I have another view of the Bali Bombings, I was on duty, at a Brisbane ,
      Hospital, we moved Patients out of a clean Ward, non Surgical.
      The Hospital didn’t want to move the “Bali Burns Victims” to the,
      Burns Unit, as they are an established Unit, and the Risk of Infection,
      from the “Burns Unit” where Patients are isolated, could have although unlikely,caused an infection, the worst condition to happen to a Burns Victim. .
      But the Hospital didn’t want to take any chances.
      What I saw , I will not forget, I wish I could relate to you, but I am not at,
      liberty to say, all of the staff , who cared for the “Bali Burns” I hope you ,
      don’t find the term offensive, but in Nurse speak, we often use , a term,
      to describe the condition, for example the term is used, not to use their,
      names , when speaking in general conversation.
      Yet when I am Nursing them, one on one, I use their first Name, and always,
      do.
      They suffered terribly , Burns are a cruel injury, shrapnel, as well, I had such
      a tremendous respect for our Patients, sadly some didn’t survive.
      So the Villains who did such a despicable Act, knew how to cause the worst,
      damage , the worst suffering, they knew how to inflict pain.
      What sort of Monster , does such an Act, low scum cowards, I hope they rot,
      in Hell.
      I will remember the Victims of Bali, I remember to well.
      May they Rest In Peace.
      ,

    • stephen says:

      03:57pm | 07/10/12

      Didn’t the evil mastermind of the Bali bombing - he looks out from a porthole with horn-rimmed glasses and a cape - get 15 years and on appeal, get a reduced sentence to 7 ?
      That’s what I read 6 months ago, yet the Foreign Editor of The Weekend Oz did not say this.

      Anyway, if you want to get notoriety in Indonesia, you kill 200, but if you want 30 years at the Governor’s expense, you bring in some hash to pay for your surfboard.

      (Not good for crime, but Capitalism sure gets a rhapsody up there.)

    • stephen says:

      06:32pm | 07/10/12

      And our own Foreign Minister has the gall to say that our relationship with Indonesia is on track.
      On track for what ?

      We give them 500 million a year.
      They give us nothing.

    • Ben says:

      06:38pm | 07/10/12

      the only thing that changed on 911 and bali ,  is the freedom we once had had been stripped away from us by a backwards thinking government ,  who would deem everyone guilty until proven innocent.

      Otherwise law abiding citizens now get treated with contempt and that the government now thinks it has the right to probe into everyones lives as a way of weeding out the evil terrorists..

      reality is terrorists are bad and should be found and prosecuted etc..  But our freedoms and liberties must be restored..

      I personally dont buy into the giving up of our freedoms so the government for the government “Safety”..  I can look after myself.

      sorry big brother but you can go and get f#$ked.

 

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