By Flight Lieutenant Bel Scott

Mutual respect, cultural understanding and knowledge sharing have been fundamental to the Australia-Malaysia relationship, a relationship with close people-to-people links over many years.

This connection has been reinforced during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019 (IPE19), Australia’s major defence engagement with regional partner nations.

IPE19 Joint Task Force members were honoured to join Malaysian Defence Force personnel on a visit to the Mah Meri Cultural Village to learn about the local Indigenous community, whose heritage dates back more than 25,000 years.

"Together we’ve learned about the cultural traditions in carvings and history of the Indigenous people of this region in Malaysia."

Flying Officer Brad McMaster participates in a traditional marriage ceremony during a visit to the Mah Meri Cultural Village in Malaysia. Photo: Leading Seaman Steven Thomson

The ‘Mah’ is the word for people and ‘Mari’ refers to the forest. For this reason, the tribes are referred to as the Mah Meri people.

Meh Mari Cultural Village’s Director, Rashid Esa, said the village was built in 2011 to assist the local community with income and educate people about their unique culture.

“It’s a story of many people whose collective vision made it what it is today, of young men and women who wanted to bring their Mah Meri cultural heritage back to life,” Mr Esa said.

“Everyone from educational partners to archaeologists to government officials and corporations, through sweat and determination, helped make this vision a reality.”

Petty Officer Janelle Price plays a game of slingshot with members of the Malaysian Armed Forces during a visit to the Mah Meri Cultural Village in Malaysia. Photo: Leading Seaman Steven Thomson

The Joint Task Force’s Deputy Commander, Captain Andrew Quinn, said it was pleasing to visit the cultural village with Malaysian friends.

“Together we’ve learned about the cultural traditions in carvings and history of the Indigenous people of this region in Malaysia,” Captain Quinn said.

“It’s been a fantastic day for all involved. We were able to rebuild a bridal hut, experience a traditional marriage ceremony, enjoy authentic Malaysian food and hospitality, and plant a mango tree in recognition of today’s activities.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the Malaysians and Australians working together; it’s really in line with what we are hoping to achieve during IPE19.”

Rashid Esa said rebuilding the structure where a marriage ritual took place was “very significant for the community and it’s great to see our two countries working together to keep traditions alive”.

In recognition of the increasing complexity and closeness of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, the Australia-Malaysia relationship was elevated to a Strategic Partnership in November 2015.