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Campaigns and other communications in the discourse of orphanage voluntourism in Bali

Titelius, ReginaORCID: 0000-0002-5506-3397 (2019) Campaigns and other communications in the discourse of orphanage voluntourism in Bali. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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There has been considerable research in the past several decades on the emotional and physical harm caused to children by being kept in institutional care including developmental problems, and social and behavioural abnormalities. In 1990, the United Nations ratified its Convention on the Rights of the Child, setting the scene for countries throughout the world to recognise the family home as the ideal location for children to be raised, rather than regarding institutional care as the “desirable alternative”. The UN’s Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children in 2010 further reiterated family-based care as the priority and institutional care such as orphanages as the last resort.

These UN documents firmly established an agenda for participating countries such as Indonesia which resolved to address its heavy reliance on institutional care. Of increasing concern throughout the world, including Indonesia, was the negative impact of orphanage voluntourism, where tourists volunteered and donated funds and goods to orphanages. In a bid by many Westerners in the Global North to “do their part” to help the poorer Global South, these tourists were unwittingly “feeding” the orphanage sector, with children who had one or both parents being surrendered by their families to orphanages to meet voluntourism demand. The “intersection” of orphanage care and voluntourism has added to the physical and emotional harm of children in orphanages, including exposure to sexual exploitation and trafficking, attachment disorders, child labour and other exploitations.

This thesis considers the role of educational and communications campaigns, as well as other communication forms, in the discourse over the intersection of orphanage care and voluntourism. It provides a Bali perspective in comparison to global, Indonesian and Australian perspectives. The thesis considers the complex factors influencing orphanage care and voluntourism in Indonesia, particularly Bali, given the various economic, political and religious influences since the 1600s when orphanage care was first introduced during Dutch colonial rule. While the Indonesian Government eventually decided to address its heavy reliance on orphanage care by implementing legislative and policy changes, it also provided a compromise position, recognising how entwined orphanage care has been within the Indonesian community. Taking into account the anti-orphanage and voluntourism perspective, as well as the counter argument, this thesis considers how this discourse is communicated within the local community and the broader global context. While global campaigns have existed since 2011, there have been minimal Indonesian-specific campaigns. In Bali, which is a tourist mecca where the orphanage-tourism interaction would be prevalent, there are no specific campaigns. Despite this void, there are other forms of communication used for the discourse over the orphanage-voluntourism intersection, which are considered in this thesis.

This thesis includes a literature review, content analysis as well as basic data analysis. This thesis emphasises that while institutional care is a “last resort” for the care of children, it is still an option. The view that orphanages should not exist at all could be considered a privileged Western perspective of the Global North where orphanages are stigmatised and economic fortitude combined with well-established childcare alternatives have allowed orphanages to be phased out. This privileged view does not necessarily recognise conditions in countries such as Indonesia where there is widespread poverty, slow improvements to childcare and alternatives such as foster care, as well as religious and cultural influences. It is in this context that there are still families in Indonesia, including Bali, who consider “good” orphanages as providing opportunities for their children.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Creative Media, Arts and Design
Supervisor(s): Trees, Kathryn
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