CDU author wins national book award

Senior Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman
Senior Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman

A book that interrogates a turbulent period in Indonesia’s history and authored by a Charles Darwin University scholar was recently awarded by the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA).

Senior Lecturer in Indonesian Studies Dr Vannessa Hearman was acclaimed by the ASAA with its inaugural Early Career Book Prize for “Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia”.

The ASAA is Australia’s peak body of university experts and educators on Asia. Established in 1976, it promotes and supports the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community.

The ASAA judges said: “Dr Hearman offers an original and highly engaging account of anti-communist violence in East Java.

“This book weaves together rich narratives drawn from oral history interviews, appealing to a broad interdisciplinary audience.

“A critical contribution to the historiography of the Left in Indonesia, this book both reveals the suffering of the past while speaking to present hopes and struggles for the acknowledgement of the tragic massacre of 1965-66.”

During a coup against Indonesia’s President Sukarno by the forces of General (and future president) Suharto in 1965/66, hundreds of thousands of people accused of being communists were murdered in a pogrom that, to this day, has received little official acknowledgement.

Born and raised in Malang, Indonesia, Dr Hearman said she did not begin to glimpse her birth-country’s hidden history of violence and oppression until long after she migrated, at age 11, with her family to Australia.

She undertook a PhD into the catastrophic events in 1965/66, which resulted in the publication of “Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia”, launched in 2018.

“I am very pleased to have won the award. I hope the book will help Australians in understanding the impact of history and political violence on this region,” Dr Hearman said.

“The book traces the journeys of people being detained and separated from their families, of having family members killed, and about the distortions of Indonesia’s history afterwards.”

Dr Hearman is working on another book about a group of East Timorese asylum seekers in Australia, research for which was supported by a NT History Grant and a National Library of Australia’s Asia Study Grant.

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