The overall survey revealed some stark contrasts in perceptions with Indonesians more positive about the future and more positive about Australia than vice versa.
This underlines quite a void in Australian knowledge of the country’s closest Asian neighbour at a time when Indonesia is growing much faster and modernising and its citizens appear to be more open to business, education and tourism contact with Australia.
Eighty seven per cent of Indonesians have a favourable view of Australia but only 43 per cent of Australians view Indonesia favourably, outnumbered by the 47 per cent who view it unfavourably.
Eighty-two per cent of Indonesians think their economic prosperity will improve over the next ten years compared with only 34 per cent of Australians.
And at a time when both governments are trying to boost trade relations and rebuild ties after diplomatic rows over Australian spying on Indonesia and the executions of drug traffickers, Indonesian are much keener on a better relationship.
Sixty-five per cent of them think Australia is an important trading partner but only 51 per cent of Australians think the same of Indonesia. Seventy-seven per cent of Indonesians want their government to improve relations but only 51 per cent of Australians.
Nevertheless, the survey by EY Sweeney finds a strong thirst for knowledge about the other country in both places. The words Indonesians most frequently use to describe Australia are progressive (89 per cent), beautiful (86 per cent) and educated (85 per cent).
On the other hand, Australians most commonly describe Indonesia as religious (75 per cent), beautiful (51 per cent) and friendly (40 per cent).
The overwhelming takeaway from this research is Indonesians are much more familiar with Australia than vice versa.
But this is happening at a time when Australia is trying to build new business and security links in Asia to balance China and when Indonesia is undergoing its own political and economic transformation no better epitomised than by the dynamic mayor of Surabaya.
Greg Earl was a foreign correspondent in Indonesia in 1994-99, is a member of the Australian National University’s Indonesia Project advisory board and a participant in a recent Australia Indonesia Dialogue.