Why is Indolaysia in Australia? It turns out that Australians care a lot more about Southeast Asia than Americans do. It makes sense: Indonesia is the closest thing to a neighbor that Australia has. The consequence is that Southeast Asia–and in particular, Indonesia–is kinda like Mexico is to the US. It is considered obvious that knowing about Southeast Asia is not only a good thing in terms of the pursuit of knowledge, but also for making foreign policy.
As a consequence of that, there are lots of good places to study Southeast Asia here. Among the best is ANU (or, as they call it here, the ANU). As a Southeast Asianist at Cornell (which has perhaps the most extensive SE Asian studies program in the U.S.) it pains me to say this, but there is probably no other university in the world that has more active scholars working on contemporary Southeast Asian affairs. Moreover, for various reasons having to do with the structure of the academic disciplines and postgraduate education here, you are more likely to find dedicated Southeast Asianists across a wide range of departments. In the U.S., they tend to be in the humanities and the soft social sciences; here it is not very unusual to find economists and environmental scientists who have real field work experience and who focus exclusively on Southeast Asia.
What this means is that I have lots of people to meet while I’m here. I am officially affiliated with the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics through its Indonesia Project and will also do a seminar for the Indonesia Study Group, but I also have plans to meet with people from the many other departments and schools. It’s very clear that for someone who is interested more in the particularities of Southeast Asian countries than with (often dry) disciplinary debates, the ANU would have a lot to offer.