Mother Tongue, Mothering, and (Transnational) Identity: Indonesian Mothers in Canberra, Australia


  • Ariane Utomo



Indonesian Diaspora, Migrant Mothers, Migration, Mothering, Transnational Families


This article focuses on the cultural-linguistic maintenance rationales, efforts, and experiences of a group of Indonesian mothers residing in Canberra, Australia. The conceptual framework rests on the premise of a bidirectional relationship between migration and mothering, and how this dynamic shapes the identities of both migrant mothers and, potentially, their children. The article’s auto-ethnographic approach centers on my involvement in a small community organization in Canberra that runs Indonesian language and dancing classes, primarily targeting young children of parents with Indonesian background. I argue that, while mothers’ collective efforts in this institutional setting may not be effective enough in achieving a native level of language proficiency among second generation children, the club facilitates the production of shared transnational identities among migrant mothers and the mothers’ collective aspirations for their children’s transnational identities.


Author Biography

Ariane Utomo

Ariane Utomo is a research fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy of the Australian National University. Working in the field of social demography, her research interests include gender, education, labor force, and the family in Indonesia. Ariane’s current work focuses on marriage patterns (in terms of couples’ relative age, education, and ethnicity) in the broader context of development and social change in Indonesia. Contact:






Current Research on Southeast Asia