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7511HUM

DEADLINE FEATURE 2

Target publication: Reportage Online (http://www.reportageonline.com)

Why is my interviewee worthy of a profile piece?

Antoni Tsaputra was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of two. He has been

living with a disability for the most part of his life. Coming from an ordinary, working

class family in Indonesia, he is currently on study leave from his public servant job as

Public Relations Officer of the City Council of his hometown of Padang. He is now in his

first semester of pursuing a Master of Arts in Journalism and Communication at Griffith

University (Nathan campus). Antoni is also a beneficiary of the AUSAID scholarship.

I believe he has shown strength, courage, and determination to get to where he is today.

Antoni is an inspiration to people, disabled or not. He is living proof that a disability

should not be a hindrance to achieving our dreams.


First section of profile piece

Wheels of life

Like most students, Antoni Tsaputra always harboured dreams of obtaining an overseas

education, away from his hometown in the modest city of Padang, Indonesia. Antoni

loved life. He was outgoing and always enjoyed the company of friends. But he knew

there was a whole realm of unexplored possibilities beyond the simple life he led, and he

wanted to see what the rest of the world had to offer. But as one meets Antoni for the first

time, they immediately realize that he is unlike most students. At the age of two, he was

diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and has been confined to a wheelchair since he was

six.

Today, Antoni, 34, sits on his bed accompanied by his laptop. He is in his room at

Carnarvon, the residential college of Griffith University’s Nathan campus in Brisbane.

He is a long way from home.

(143 words)
Observations during interview:

Antoni does not make much movement during the interview, due to his disabilities,

which restricts his hand movements. But he is impassioned when he makes a point

throughout the interview.

He is relaxed, maybe because he is in the comfort of what he calls home here in Brisbane.

His father, who is here with him in Australia, and who normally accompanies him

everywhere he goes, has gone out to run errands and buy groceries.

Maybe due to the nature of his job as a public relations officer and also his own

personality, Antoni seems at ease answering questions, always maintaining eye contact.

Before starting the interview, we chat a bit about our lives as international students here

in Griffith University. He looks pleased when talking about the classes he is taking this

semester and also the upcoming semester break, mentioning that his mother will be

coming to visit him and his father during that time.


Interview Transcript

1. When did you start using a wheelchair? Has it been challenging growing up?

How did other people accept you?

I started using my wheelchair when I started my schooling…kindergarten. My dad

had to go to Java, which is really far away from the area where we live in Sumatera,

and he went by ship and took several days because there were no planes yet at the

time. I was in kindergarten; I don’t remember what year it was…and he bought it in

Bandung.

I would say that I’ve been facing some challenges when it comes to facilities. During

my schooling, I needed a lot of help from my friends (and) from my teacher. To get to

classes, sometimes they had to carry me. In terms of getting along with friends, I

think I did not really face some (any) discrimination…because they (friends) treated

me well. Maybe when I was a child, (you know) children, they mock me or

something…but they’re children you know. (But it would only be) just a few of them.

But most of my friends treated me just like I’m a normal person. Sometimes, they

would even ask me to join them for football even though I can’t (laughs) but I would

be a very good watcher! We went here and there.


(Interviewer: They didn’t see you differently, then?)

No, no. Since I was in primary school, and high school, in university, all my friends

treated me normally. They do not look at me strangely. And I always had a lot of

friends.

(Interviewer: Maybe it’s because you’re friendly?)

(Laughs) I guess so.

2. What kind of dreams did you have for yourself growing up? Did you ever

imagine yourself one day studying overseas in Australia?

Well, you know, when I was a child I never thought that I would be studying overseas

in Australia. This dream came when I was in university (doing) my Bachelor in

English Literature. A lot of my teachers were overseas graduates so it gave me

motivation. I wanted to experience what they had and see a different world, different

country, not only studying. So this dream started when I was in university. And I

aspired to be a lecturer. (Laughs)

(Interviewer: So do you still aspire to be a lecturer?)

Yes! I think I have a gift or talent for teaching. So when I was doing my Bachelor in

university, I opened an English school at home. Even right now, the school is still

running. I’m here, so it’s managed and run by my friend. We have different classes
(for every age group); for younger children, and also for high school students,

teenagers.

3. Can you tell me a bit about the process of you obtaining a scholarship to

study here at Griffith University? When did you apply? Was it a difficult or

an easy process for you?

Well you know, I think the process is…(I wasn’t given special treatment) just because

I’m disabled. I wasn’t given special treatment, no. It was my third time (applying)

under the AUSAID scholarship. I just went through the same procedures (as everyone

else), no difference whatsoever.

(Interviewer: So did you consider it an easy process? Or was it a difficult process?)

Oh, really, really difficult. I mean, you have to work hard, go through so many tests,

interviews. And you have to wait for a long time, almost a year. Starting from the

application until I finally got the decision that I passed, took about a year; the whole

process. Including the training as well, in Jakarta.

4. You were recently presented with a new electrical wheelchair by the Muslim

Charitable Foundation. Has this new wheelchair affected or changed your

life? If so, how?


Oh, very much. I used to dream of having this kind of wheelchair; a chair that I could

control by myself, that I wouldn’t need anybody else to push me around. (I wanted to

be able to) just go wherever I want, as if using my own feet. When I watched films, I

always wondered, is it possible for me to have that kind of chair?

(Interviewer: So you’ve always wanted a wheelchair like this?)

Yes, but I never thought I’d be going to have it here in Australia. I don’t know, (I

always wondered) when Indonesia would have this kind of chair? I didn’t know if I

could afford it. Let’s say, if I could finally find it in Indonesia, it would be really,

really expensive and I could not afford it. (I thought of it) in my imagination, but I

never thought it would come true. It’s like a dream come true. Studying overseas, and

having an automated wheelchair.

5. As a person with special needs, do you think the university’s campus here in

Nathan as disability-friendly? How does it compare to the facilities you had

in Indonesia?

(Yes) very much so. The things that I have now are really different from what I had

back in Indonesia, when I was doing my bachelor’s degree, when I was in university.

Everything is accessible here. I can go to the library, the laboratory, or whatever.

There’s always access. It’s very much better than what I had in Indonesia. You can

imagine, in my (old) university, (we had) no elevator, no ramps. Only very narrow,
steep stairs. Can you imagine when I had classes on the fourth floor? All my friends

had to carry my wheelchair with me on it all the way up. It’s really risky.

I think I had much more greater challenges during the university years back home.

When I decided to (pursue) my studies, I was kind of…I’m not sure if I could study in

university in the first place. But my dad kept convincing me that I should just try it.

Even my mum was not very sure at first. She said, “How could you study, go to

classes when they’re on the fourth floor, with only the stairs?” But you know, God

always has his way for you, if you have a strong will. Where there is a will, there is a

way. (smiles) That is my life motto.

6. Do you feel like you’ve had to work harder than other people to succeed? Do

you consider your disability as a limitation? Or is it a blessing is disguise?

How do you see it?

I’ve never considered my disability as a limitation at all. It’s a blessing in disguise, I

think. It doesn’t mean that just because I’m disabled I have to work harder. You need

to work hard, whether you’re disabled or not, if you want to succeed (laughs). So

yeah, I think everyone faces challenges. Because (to me), life is a challenge. As long

as you live, you will never stop facing challenges even though the challenges could

be in different magnitudes. Yes, life’s a challenge.


7. Who or what do you consider as your motivation in life?

My greatest motivation is my dad. He always wants to see me to be able to achieve

something that maybe other people would think as impossible. Going overseas is one

of the great examples. So he’s been a great motivator for me, because he always

keeps saying that nothing is impossible for you, as long as you want to work hard. He

keeps saying that (having a) disability will not make you disabled.

8. What would you like to say to other people out there who are living with

special needs? Especially those that are sill young, and possibly still have the

rest of their lives ahead of them.

For them, I would like to say never stop dreaming. Any dream can be achieved as

long as you want to work hard. Even though you are disabled, it will not stop you

from reaching your dreams. Because where there is a will, there is a way. Never think

your disability will make you end up just staying at home, doing nothing and (you’ll

need) to just accept help from other people. (Don’t think) that you cannot contribute

something good to people around you. It’s really, really wrong. You can do it. You

can contribute a lot of things to the people around you if you want to. You can do

many good things in your life, if you want to. After all, everyone must have

something…a talent, or a gift for them to improve the quality of their lives.
At home (in Indonesia), many people with disabilities just do nothing; they’re just

discouraged. (They think that) everything is difficult; no chances, no opportunities for

them. You know, a lot of people would think that it’s impossible for a disabled person

to work for the government (of Indonesia) and I’ve proven that it’s absolutely wrong.

I work for the government. Even for normal people, it’s really hard, because of the

bureaucracy, to get a job in the government. But I’ve proved that’s wrong. I believe

that I can do it and I can make it. Go for it and pray to God, always. And keep

believing in yourself that you can make it. Keep praying, and you’re going to make it.

But if you only pray, and do nothing, then it’s just useless (laughs).

(END)

Interviewee Contact Number: 0425648567

By:

NADIRAH LAHUREE

2731852

7511 HUM

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