OAM for Dr Untung Laksito

It’s more than 50 years since Untung Laksito responded to an ad on a noticeboard at his university in Java that was offering scholarships to study in Australia.

Dr Untung 'Lakie' Laksito has been awarded an OAM in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Dr Untung 'Lakie' Laksito has been awarded an OAM in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Although he was awarded one, our beloved Dr Lakie nearly didn’t make it out of his birth country, arriving in Jakarta in the wake of an alleged communist coup with the same name its alleged leader, his birthplace a village where there had been a communist rebellion.

Now we know Lakie’s story has a happy ending: he did arrive in Sydney, study medicine, marry Mary and settle in Forbes as a young doctor with a young family.

He’s been here ever since – and now the much-loved, retired doctor has been named in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for services to the Forbes community. 

Any story of Lakie’s contribution to the Forbes community has to begin with his service as a doctor. 

He came here in the early 1981 to work with Dr Kelleher, then founded the cross Street Surgery with doctors Lobo and Braganza. 

Being a doctor in Forbes was no small task – on retirement Lakie said he wondered how they had survived those years, on call 24 hours a day for seven days at a time.

But the Order of Australia Medal acknowledges he has done so much more than than work here, especially since his retirement in 2015.

The turning point came in 2002, when Lakie was himself rushed to Orange for emergency surgery.

He began to query whether he could keep up his frantic working pace, and the answer was no.

As a doctor who always made time to listen to his patients, Lakie knew the struggle they faced when retiring from a busy career and started to look to his own interests outside work.

It led him to new hobbies, which led him to open up opportunities for others.

Lakie was involved with the formation of the Forbes Men’s Shed and named its patron. There he learned to play guitar, and tapped back into his childhood passion for music. 

But he didn’t stop at that.

“In some way I feel indebted to this country, especially to the people of Forbes,” Lakie said.

“I felt I should put something back.”

He formed the Lakie’s Larrikins music group where people could come and sing, they then take music into local aged care facilities and to events such as the River Arts Festival.

It’s as simple as, “I feel good when I sing” for Lakie – and he wants to give others that opportunity too.

Cultures across the world sing constantly, and sing in community.

“Nobody passes any judgement on anybody’s singing, it just comes naturally,” he said.

It doesn’t happen in western culture any more, but he hopes to revive music as enjoyment, for everyone – not just those who you’d pay money to see. 

Lakie is a regular amongst the festival drummers for the biennial Kalari River Arts Festival and has also taken his Larrkins to the stage.

Last year he birthed the “Pot and Pan-demonium” band and invited the kids of Forbes North to form a band with homemade instruments to perform at the River Arts Festival.

“I told them I wasn’t there to give them formal music education, of which I know nothing, but to reawaken their natural musicality,” he said.

It brought back memories of the music group he formed in primary school in Java: he had a bamboo flute but all the other instruments were home made, from didgeridoo-like instruments to earthern-ware containers made into drums with rubber sheeting. 

Those early years had a profound impact in forming the man he is today.

“I was brought up not far after independence (for Indonesia),” Lakie explained.

“The country was very poor, everyone was very poor, but we were fairly well off compared to most of the people around us.

“I was quite aware, I had empathy even as a child, and that has carried on …

“As a kid I had this grandiose dream, that one day I would love to be someone who could make a difference in the world.”

Lakie also runs a free community relaxation class and has over a number of years written columns for the Advocate explaining mindfulness principles.

Having struggled with depression, he hopes he can help others. 

“It’s only a little thing, but if I make a difference for one person then it’s something,” he said.

“If I could provide some relief for people … that’s where the relaxation class came from.”

It’s hard for Lakie to put into words how he felt when he received notification he had been nominated, and accepted, for the OAM.

Disbelief at the same time as excitement.

And a profound sense of acceptance and belonging in the country he has called home now for decades. 

“I feel very proud and humbled,” he said.

The recognition, Lakie says, is for things he loves to do anyway.

“Getting a medal is not the end,” he said. 

“In fact it has encouraged me, given me a new lease of life, to do more.

“I look back at my life and think, I owe this to a lot of people,” he added.

“First and foremost, Mary and my children.”

He also paid tribute to his family, in Indonesia, and those who welcomed him as family when he moved to Australia.

And finally, he thanks the people of Forbes for welcoming him and his family with open arms.

In his professional life Lakie was also Chairman of the Forbes Medical Council, approx. 1990-2000; and a member of the Medical Appointment Advisory Committee, NSW Central West Health Service.