That Google photo …

12.05.21 - Tsunami Video - AK


It’s gone now, but for around one year when you did a search for APJC this photo of a decrepit two story building in a devastated landscape came up.

Far from APJC’s home in leafy Melbourne, Australia, it is a reminder of how the Asia Pacific Journalism Centre tries to connect with the realities of the region we live in and how we aim to have a positive development impact wherever we can.

That photo was taken in Aceh, Indonesia, soon after the Pacific tsunami of 26 December 2004 when APJC ran a study tour to Indonesia for Australian journalists, funded by the Myer Foundation.

Aceh was not part of the original itinerary – the peace agreement between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government had not been reached then and journalist access was restricted – but Aceh was included at the last moment when APJC’s fixer, the late MM Ahyani, won approval from Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For participants of that program, the visit to the devastated northern province enabled them to witness and report on conditions faced by tsunami survivors, and on the massive relief effort by Indonesian and international aid agencies.

Later, it encouraged APJC, with AusAID and IMS support, to mount video-conference briefings for editors and journalists in countries affected by the tsunami. These video-conferences provided opportunities for participants to get updates on reconstruction progress from UN and national agencies, and to share strategies for planning editorial coverage of the reconstruction work needed in the months and years ahead.

Since then, APJC has been involved in a broad range of international development work aimed at strengthening news media in the Asia Pacific region, and at achieving particular development outcomes, in areas that include sustainable economic development, climate change, social inclusion and security.

In 2014, in the lead up to the 10th anniversary of the Pacific tsunami, several participants in the original tour to Aceh made a self-funded return visit to report on reconstruction progress 10 years on and to reconnect with families they had met during the original crisis.

Their reports were both informative and personal, following up systematically on an event that changed the lives of millions of people across the region and telling the particular stories of loss and triumph of some of those.

For me, that photo of a decrepit building in Aceh is a reminder of how the work of journalism connects so completely and powerfully with the development challenges in our region. Thank you, Google.

John Wallace