Interview with ‘Go-Jek’ Girl: Wild Card Award winner of NAILA 2017



At the start of 2018, Asia Options interviewed Catherine Coyne, the Wild Card Awardee of the National Australia Indonesia Language Awards (NAILA) 2017. Catherine has become well known in the Australia-Indonesia (Aust-Indo) community for her online media personality ‘Go-Jek Girl’ which formed part of her entry to NAILA.  



Can you summarise your experience at NAILA this year?

This year was the first time that I’ve entered NAILA. I had been keeping an eye on it since it was established three years ago, but it took some encouragement from a friend to help me put my ideas into action. I’m so glad I did – it was a hugely rewarding experience: both in terms of winning the wildcard prize as well as being able to take part in the creative process. 

I’m impressed with the NAILA team for putting together an Indonesian language award that holds so much significance and prestige. The dedication of the NAILA team is reflective of the wider Aust-Indo community, and it’s so important that we come together to support each other to find ways that strengthen our engagement in language-learning and bilateral relations.  


What kinds of new doors has this achievement opened for you?

I’m so lucky to have had the support of the Aust-Indo community – everyone’s been very encouraging. Australia Plus, ABC’s Indonesia specific news channel published an article and a Facebook post about my video and my love for Indonesia. It went viral and was picked up by BBC Indonesia, Dramaojol on Instagram and, Liputan6 and Metro News.

BBC Indonesia set up a Q&A session on their Facebook page with me, I answered people’s questions about why I love Indonesian slang (Bahasa Gaul). It was a dream come true to chat with people about one of my favourite topics, slang.

For over a year I’ve had a YouTube channel where I post videos in Indonesian or about Indonesia. The videos are poor quality and it’s never taken off, but I’ve always wanted to give more time and energy to the channel and produce some good quality, entertaining content that engages Indonesian and Australian viewers. I’m passionate about creating engaging content about Indonesia for an Australian audience.


How has learning Indonesian language helped?

It’s helped me to have the most brilliant and memorable experiences of my life. Unfortunately, being an Indonesian speaker in Australia doesn’t have a lot of value, so almost all of those wonderful experiences – except for NAILA, NAILA was excellent – have been in Indonesia.

Those of us in the Aust-Indo community know that it’s tough to get much traction in your career from having Bahasa Indonesia under your belt. There are a few avenues, but I feel that they’re very limited and also limiting. Academia, teaching and trade are the main areas that I see bilingual speakers working in, and while there is some room to be creative in those areas, there isn’t yet a place for creativity to thrive.

We, our Aust-Indo community, have a lot of work to do on opening up those channels for creative engagement with Indonesia. The good news is there’s so much space to fill in that gap, there’s plenty of room for people who are innovative, creative and have skills in cross-cultural relations from both countries. It’s my hope that the corporate and education sectors will become more closely involved with Australians who have on-the-ground experience and a commitment to engaging with Indonesia.    


Where did the idea for Go-jek Girl come from?

I’ve wanted to make a comedy video about Go-Jek since 2015 when I was using Go-Jek regularly whilst living in Jakarta.  

During my first 2 months of living in Jakarta, I walked to and from work and to my local shopping area in Cikini, Menteng. I was working for Komnas Perempuan through the DFAT funded AVID program (Australian Volunteers International Development) and my assignment was set for 13 months. Jakarta is a tough city to live in, it’s not like any other large-scale Asian city I’ve been to and honestly – I found it incredibly overwhelming. For the first couple of months, I shed some tears while I was adjusting to the intensity of Jakarta.

One of the most challenging issues that I found about the city was getting from one place to another in Jakarta. The city is world-renowned for its traffic jams and the high-density population. The spaghetti-like streets are mind-boggling to navigate and awful to walk around as they’re not designed for people on foot.

I then discovered Go-jek and that changed my daily life. I had used Ojeks but they weren’t as reliable, convenient or safe – and safety was an issue for me because I was harassed on the streets several times on one walk. Many people are heckled when they walk the streets, but women face more than just a ‘mau ke mana?’ or a ‘hello mister’, women also get sexual harassment on top of general menggangu.

I was feeling stressed about stepping on to the street every day, and then came Go-jek! I got to know the Go-jeks in my area and would hang out with them sometimes. If they saw me walking down a street close to my home (I never completely stopped walking!) they’d give me a lift for free. I felt safe and confident because of them, I felt like I could get on with the rest of my life in Jakarta. Then came Go-Food, and it was such a luxury, I was hooked to Go-Jek.  


How did you put together the video?

I had a bit of trouble making the NAILA topic, Origins, fit with a Go-Jek themed video at first, but I was determined to make it happen. I wrote a script that included the Origins of Go-Jek, but the main storyline is more about juxtaposing the function and characteristics of a Jakartan motorbike taxi-driver with the culture and landscape of the Australian desert. They’re vastly different and emphasizing one highlights the difference of the other.

I had my own reverse culture shock when I moved from Jakarta to Alice Springs. I found the long, wide, open roads and dirt tracks a little overwhelming at first, even though they were incredibly soothing after looking at the grey, sooty, traffic-clogged streets of Jakarta.  I also found the lack of people both confronting and peaceful, it took me time to re-adjust from living in a Mega City to a remote small town of 28,000 people. I wanted to capture those differences and tailor the content for an Indonesian audience. I thought it would be funny to see a blue embodying a Jakartan perspective.


Advice for others about combining creativity and language.

To use language effectively you need to adapt your style, vocabulary and delivery to whomever you’re speaking with. This is why you can create so many fascinating ways of communicating your message because you have the choice to use it however you see fit. My body language, tone and word choice changes when I talk with an Ojek driver on the street while I’m negotiating a price for a fare, to when I’m having my passport stamped at Immigrassi.

Using language in a creative way means paying attention to how you relate to different people in various situations and then breaking those rules in order to create a new and fresh approach. I’m most definitely not the best Bahasa Indonesia student, my language learning skills are average, but I do love using language as a tool – rather than a polished skill-set – to communicate with people.  

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Catherine Coyne was the 2017 winner of the wild-card award in NAILA. She has previously worked as an Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID) for the National Commission on Violence Against Women (KOMNAS PEREMPUAN). Catherine studied Indonesian at La Trobe University and at the University of Udayana in Denpasar.

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