Australia Awards in Indonesia

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21 Aug 2023

Valerina Daniel and the Mission to Boost Indonesia’s Image on the Global Stage

Valerina Daniel has made building a good image for Indonesia a lifelong mission, and she has consistently done so in the past 20 years, whether as a journalist or as a communication advisor for government ministries.

It all started in 1997 when the monetary crisis hit the country hard. Valerina was an exchange student in a Kansas City high school at that time. Young as she may be, she felt she needed to let people know there is more to her home country than the media presented.

“As the only Indonesian in town, I did a lot of presentations about Indonesia, teaching people how to play the traditional music instrument of angklung, and performed classical Indonesian dances,” said the alumna of the 2008 Australian Leadership Awards.

The experience awakened a desire to improve Indonesia’s branding overseas. Going home, Valerina enrolled in the University of Indonesia’s International Relations program in hopes of becoming a diplomat. But an internship in a media company created a detour to journalism, and she has never looked back since.

“I’m grateful for being able to meet so many people from diverse backgrounds. It has enriched my experience and expanded my network,” said the 44-year-old mother of two.

Valerina has worked for a number of private television stations in Indonesia, including Metro TV and SCTV, covering dozens of stories, from the devastating 2004 tsunami in Aceh and Sri Lanka to the U.S. presidential election in Washington, D.C.

She is currently an anchor for TVRI World, the English Channel on the state-owned station TVRI, which is aimed as a window for the international audience to take a peek at Indonesia.

“We collaborate with broadcasting associations across Asia and Europe to share coverage on Indonesia, from politics and business to culture. We are not only covering negative problems, conflicts, and drama, but we try to present possible solutions. It aligns with my mission to build a good image of Indonesia,” Valerina asserted.

Environment Ambassador

Growing up in a family that loves nature, Valerina had the same inclination towards the environment. The awareness of environmental issues increased as she covered the destructions happening in the country, such as illegal logging and regular forest fire haze. This led her to be assigned as Environment Ambassador and Communication Advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in 2005.

Valerina worked under the tutelage of then Minister Rachmat Witoelar and legendary environmental activist Emil Salim, who is also Rachmat’s predecessor. She was involved in the formulation of communication strategies for climate change issues.

Pak Emil said we needed a more expansive campaign against climate change. He then advised me to study communication abroad to improve my skill. With his recommendation, I applied to the Australian Leadership Awards and received the scholarship to obtain my masters degree in communication and media studies,” said Valerina, the winner of Miss Jakarta 1999 and Miss ASEAN 2005 pageantries.

After graduating from Monash University in Melbourne, Valerina transformed the knowledge and insights from her study into more impactful communication strategies for the Environment Minister. Her dedication as the Environment Ambassador and journalist has earned her the Indonesia Green Awards 2011 and the Australian Alumni Awards for Communications and Journalism 2011.

She wrote a series of environmental books titled Easy Green Living (2009), as well as five children’s books, such as I Love Earth (2009) and 4 Super Bestfriends (2016, 2017), to promote the issues of conservation, climate change, and sustainable living.

In 2018-2019, she became the advisor to the Minister of Tourism of Indonesia, leading the Acceleration Team for Sustainable Tourism Development after being certified as Assessor by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Starting this year, she has been involved in Badak Indonesia Foundation’s board of senior advisory to preserve the rhinoceros.

Gender and Inclusivity

During the administrative process for the Australian scholarship, Valerina became pregnant with her first child. She was supposed to fly down to Melbourne in December 2008, or one month after giving birth, but the scholarship committee then offered her to defer for one semester to enable Valerina to have proper post-partum rest and exclusive breastfeeding.

“I was utterly grateful for the privilege. I felt valued as a woman and a mother. It is rare for similar programs to offer such support,” Valerina said.

She was accompanied by her husband, who coincidentally also received an Australia Awards Scholarship for a masters degree in Melbourne. According to Valerina, the city—dubbed as one of the world’s best cities to live in—was very family-friendly as it provided supporting public facilities, including on-campus daycare.

“It was challenging to study and raise a family at the same time. I sometimes had to leave my family for field trips and internships at ABC. But the situation made my husband and I used to share responsibilities at home. And we still practice it to date,” Valerina said.

The Australian experience has heightened her awareness of gender issues. As the saying goes that gender equality starts at home, Valerina and her husband continue to share responsibilities and chores at home regardless of gender.

Within 2020-2023, she became the Industry Fellow for the Australian-Indonesia Centre to help the institution with communication and women’s leadership programs. Apart from her news anchor routine, Valerina is currently working as a communication advisor for GESIT

(Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Infrastructure)—a program by KIAT (Australia-Indonesia Partnership to support sustainable and economic growth through infrastructure development).

“The program covers ten regencies in Indonesia. I help design communication strategies to encourage local governments to advocate for inclusive infrastructure and create regulations that promote gender equality and disability inclusion,” Valerina said.

Another gender issue of her concern that needs to be addressed is in journalism, where women are still outnumbered by men, especially in the mid-and upper-management levels.

“With the increased number of women chief editors, we’ve seen how they have contributed to richer and more nuanced news coverage. It is the homework of all stakeholders to achieve gender equality in the newsroom. Women need to be more outspoken, and men need to provide more opportunities,” Valerina asserted.

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