Vale: Professor Ariel Liebman

It is with great sadness that the Australia-Indonesia Centre has been advised of the passing of a respected colleague, Professor Ariel Liebman.

Ariel’s partnership with the Centre began soon after its establishment when he was appointed as one of the co-leads of the energy research cluster.

Through Ariel we found a researcher, an activist and a passionate champion for cooperation between our network of university partners across Australia and Indonesia. He brought a rich blend of professional experiences in academia and business combined with an infectious enthusiasm for forging partnerships among a wide range of communities.

Current Indonesia centre director Kevin Evans recalled the time when Ariel informed the AIC that Monash University had joined a Cooperative Research Centre, CRC, on reliable, affordable, clean energy for 2030 and suggested the centre contact its three Indonesian university partners working on energy issues to see if they would be interested in co-investing in the CRC. Three calls later and each of the three Indonesian universities had agreed to join. In his role as the Director of the Monash Energy Institute Ariel worked to develop a post graduate program involving young researchers from our three Indonesian partner universities. Friend and colleague Dr Max Richter said this was one of Ariel’s many passion projects with regards to Indonesia.One of the legacies of this passion will be seen as the fruits of Ariel’s work continuing to contribute to cooperation among researchers between the two countries.

Max Richter said that “Ariel’s ever-ready cheerful inclusiveness and brilliant intellect were a big part of my life from the moment we met in the early AIC days until his tragically early death”.

“In the otherwise hi-tech big-picture world of energy transformation, Ariel took my arguments for local-level ethnographic research so seriously that we ended up travelling together to remote villages on the Kei islands in far-eastern Indonesia.”

“There and in other settings he shared his knowledge and listened first hand to locals’ experiences, concerns and aspirations with energy and life more broadly”.

Ariel’s interest in the environment and climate change made him a leader in the field, gaining respect from a network of Indonesian colleagues.

Adhityani Putri worked in stakeholder engagement for the energy cluster of the AIC in its first areas of research. She said Ariel was a great mentor and friend to many Indonesian activists and researchers working on energy transition in Indonesia.

“There were so many instances, when we were faced with roadblocks and frustration in our work to advance energy transition in such a complex environment.”

“Ariel’s ideas and insights would serve as a way to renew our energy and spirit in innovating in our work. The narrative of energy transition in Indonesia would not have progressed this far without his guidance and support”.

Andre Susanto had an eight year friendship with Ariel, beginning with his time working as a new and renewable energy expert with the AIC’s energy team.

“His passion regarding climate change and how he can participate in the acceleration of energy transition is obvious but it never clouded his judgement on the reality of its implementation.”

He remembers Professor Liebman as someone keen to discuss the challenges and listen to other points of view.

“He encouraged and built-up those around him to be the best versions of ourselves. The breadth and depth of his knowledge went beyond his academic disciplinary boundaries and he was always willing to share that knowledge.”

Ariel Liebman was also known for his love of early 80s New Romantic music, Alan Watts and Zen Buddhism, nature and friendship.

memory of Prof Ariel Liebman
A Sunday lunch to discuss Indonesia’s energy transition with a few members of the AIC’s energy research cluster. From left to right: Adhityani Putri, Prof. Ariel Liebman, Kevin Evans and Dr Max Richter.
Photo courtesy: Adhityani Putri.

Another of Ariel’s long term research partners was Dr Muhammad Bachtiar Nappu from Hasanuddin University, Makassar, who observed of his friend “many memories in the last 15 years from becoming my PhD examiner at the University of Queensland in 2009, sharing the same podium as invited keynote speakers on renewable energy issues to initiating research collaboration between our institutions.

“We will definitely miss his enthusiasm, passion and kindness.”

Dr Ulfah Siregar from the Bogor Agricultural University began working with Ariel as a fellow co-lead in the AIC’s Energy Cluster from 2014.

She recounted his great sense of humour “in the early days of AIC collaborative research development, I complained to him that in Indonesian politicians never listen to scientists. And Ariel surprised me by saying “Do you think Australia is not like that? It’s the same. Hilarious!”

“Ariel was always friendly, considerate and accommodating and also seriously scientific”.

The Australia-Indonesia Centre extends its condolences to Professor Ariel Liebman’s family and extended network of friends. His passion and intellect will be missed.

Feature image: Visit to the Power and Energy System Research Group at Hasanuddin University by Prof Ariel Liebman (centre) with Dr Muhammad Bachtiar Nappu (left of Prof Ariel).
Photo courtesy of Dr Bachtiar.

Picture of Kevin Evans

Indonesia Director
The Australia-Indonesia Centre

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