Many Australians are embarrassingly ignorant about our country's largest near neighbour, Indonesia. Thirty per cent of Australians think Bali is an independent country, a majority believe that Indonesian law is based on Islamic law and less than half of us know that Indonesia is a democracy.

Encounter's, MargaretCoffey,presents some 'need-to-know' Indonesian facts:

  • Indonesia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world
  • Indonesian law is not based on Islamic law codes
  • Indonesia is a democracy

A survey conducted this year by Newspoll, on behalf of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, found that more than half of the sizeable national survey group did not know these things.This is despite the fact that 30% per cent of us claim to have visited Indonesia.

ABC International's Dian Islamiati Fatwa says that she still comes across people who think that Muslims are Arabic and that Indonesia has implemented Islamic Shari'a law. She suggests visiting a Jakarta mall to see the diversity of Indonesia. 'You can see people wearing a burka or hijab and next to her is also someone with a low cut dress in a provocative style. This is the thing that Australians need to know - that Indonesia is not a military country, and also is not an Islamic country,' she said.

'Yes we have 190 million Muslims of 240 million [population], but it doesn't mean that we implement the Shari'a law. Even here at the ABC some of our colleagues here were surprised that I am actually Muslim. There is some misconception that Muslim women should wear a hijab—I don't need to wear hijab. My belief [is] that I need to cover my heart instead of to cover my hair.' click here to read more » or listen to the report here: click here to listen to report»

Try this National Indonesian dish - Nasi Goreng (Nasi = rice, Goreng = fried)

Fry 2-3 cloves of garlic in a fry pan.

Add some chilli – as much or as little as you like.

Add some meat and vegetables. Whatever leftovers you have in the fridge.

Fry for about 5 minutes, then add cooked rice.

Mix 1 tablespoon each of oyster sauce, soy sauce and tomato sauce. Add a few drops of fish sauce. When mixed well, add to the vegetable and rice mix. Stir well. Remove from heat and mix through kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). Serve with a fried egg on top and slices of tomato and cucumber. Enak sekali

Ms Heather Kopp Head of Curriculum - Indonesian