Date released
22 April 2022

By Ms Mirah Nuryati
ACIAR Country Manager for Indonesia

About the author

Ms Mirah Nuryati is currently the ACIAR Country Manager for Indonesia. She started working with ACIAR in 1991 and is currently the longest-serving ACIAR staff member.

Woman smiling
ACIAR Country Manager for Indonesia, Ms Mirah Nuryati

John asked me to help with typing his handwritten research notes into the computer and at the end of his study leave in Indonesia, he asked if I’d be interested in working formally for ACIAR, supporting the Country Manager. I said yes, and I am now the longest-serving staff member (31 years) in ACIAR. In 2007, I was awarded an Australian Public Service Medal for my contribution to strengthening ACIAR collaboration with relevant Indonesian ministries.

4 people stand facing the camera smiling and holding up an award.
In recognition of her outstanding service, achievements and leadership Ms Mirah Nuryati was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2007. L–R: Then Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Mr Bill Farmer AO, Ms Mirah Nuryati, then ACIAR Chief Executive Officer Mr Peter Core, then ACIAR Country Manager to Indonesia Mr Julien de Meyer.

Evolving roles

When I started, I had no scientific background, just secretarial and administrative skills, but the ACIAR program was not as big then as it is now. In the 1990s, the program was moderate, mostly ACIAR projects in animal science and fisheries, and our role was to offer administrative support, coordinate meetings and act as a travel agent for Australian researchers visiting or working in Indonesia. I first visited Australia in 1996 to familiarise myself with ACIAR, and a lot of things made sense after that.

I have worked in four positions, starting as an Administration Officer. Then in 2002–10 I was Assistant to the Country Manager, and in 2010–15 my position changed to Stakeholder Relationship Manager, reflecting the increasing complexity of the ACIAR program in Indonesia. At the time Country Managers were usually Australian expats who changed every 2 to 3 years.

With increasing recognition of the value of national staff – including their local relationships, cultural knowledge, and interest and capacity to stay with ACIAR for the longer term – the organisation changed its approach and, in 2015, I became the Country Manager.

Inspiring leaders

Inspiring leaders

Two people were very influential in my career. Ms Rhonda McLellan was the ACIAR Country Manager for 3 years in the 2000s during her husband’s diplomatic assignment. She transformed the ACIAR Indonesia office from being jointly managed by AusAID, to working independently under ACIAR. And Dr Peter Horne, the current General Manager for Country Partnerships, has always encouraged the Country Network to develop our capacity to align with the recommendations of the 2013 review of ACIAR. Peter has been stimulating us to be partnership brokers and our next step is to be knowledge brokers. This work is ongoing.

When the independent review of ACIAR was commissioned in 2013, it was led by Australia’s former Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr H.E. Bill Farmer, AO. When Mr Farmer and the review team visited, the ACIAR team in Indonesia accompanied them to project sites in East Java and Lombok, and we had lots of opportunities to provide insights from the Country Office’s viewpoint.

Two of the Review’s recommendations changed the organisation and my career. The recommendation to establish a Senior Executive Service Officer to enable more extensive senior-level liaison with organisations and agencies within Australia and better support for the efficient discharge of the research program – this is now Peter Horne’s job; and the other was the recommendation to examine the role of Country Managers, with a view to enhancing the use of their in-country knowledge and experience.

ACIAR also decided to appoint local people as Country and Regional Managers, so that regional and country offices are led by local staff in all countries. This means I am an Indonesian national but working within the Australian mission and representing Australia’s interests in dealing with our Indonesian partners.


ACIAR has been partnering in Indonesia for almost four decades. Geographically, Indonesia is very close to Australia, but the two countries have huge differences in terms of culture, socio economics and politics. We position ourselves as a bridge between the two countries and we have nurtured people-to-people relationships over the years at various levels.

We respect our partners equally and do not apply a donor-recipient relationship. It is our belief that every partner contributes their different capabilities and resources to collaborative research to seek solutions to common agricultural issues.

Therefore, ACIAR is highly regarded as a trusted and long-term partner for agricultural research in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Government is currently restructuring its research and development (R&D) systems with the establishment of BRIN (Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional – National Research and Innovation Agency) and the amalgamation of all R&D agencies of the technical ministries. We think ACIAR is well-positioned to assist the Indonesian Government in bridging a gap between research and implementation for smallholder farmers and offering science-based evidence for the policy-making process.

The strength of our knowledge of people, culture and government has been crucial, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, because how can you develop a new research project without understanding the people or meeting them? The pandemic has taught us many invaluable lessons with travel restrictions, the increasing risks and the real need to cooperate and build trust with existing and new partners. I do hope this will open up more opportunities to qualified Indonesian research institutions or universities to play a greater role as a Commissioned Organisation. This can also be applied through a trilateral South-South research collaboration with other countries, such as Cambodia, Pacific island countries and others.

Indonesia is becoming one of the middle-class-income countries of Asia. It is our aim for the future that the country will become a stronger and more strategic partner, in which any research collaboration can be co-designed and co-funded.