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Student story

Ibnu Sitompul

31 August 2023

"I am passionate about law..."

PhD in Law

Ibnu Sitompul has a passion for the environment. He wants to preserve the world for his kids, and for the generations to come.

He’s also passionate about law, and over the summer those two passions came together to help him investigate legislation around the globe.

“I am passionate about law, and my ambition is to transition from professional to academic work because I enjoy teaching and research,” he says.

The PhD graduate spent his summer researching under the University of Canterbury’s Biosecurity Innovations initiative (UCBI). His project dissected how international law controls the movement of biological organisms – everything from animals to pathogens.

“Movement here means transfer – some organisms come by boat, in the mail… there are so many ways something can transfer from country to country.”

For three months, Ibnu combed the internet and the library for international legislation and obligations on the movement of living things. He says it was a struggle to find relevant law, and that the information he could find was sparing and contradictory.

“In biosecurity, a lot of things are hidden. You can read the legislation but there are certain motives each country has to avoid regulating movement.

“Also, everyone defines things differently. New Zealand, for example, has a different definition for biosecurity to other countries… which makes things trickier.”

He says international trade was a major reason for the lack of clarity and transparency in biosecurity law; many countries may risk their national interest, including economic interest, as well as access to resources like oil, food, and medicines if they regulate movement of bio-organisms from other countries too heavily.

Ibnu moved from Indonesia in 2016 to chase academic opportunity at UC. He recalls the shock of seeing the city in person after looking at pre-quake pictures online.

“You learn to love it, and the people as well. We call Christchurch home now.”

Outside of study, Ibnu plays basketball and runs a YouTube channel with his kids, which sports over 2,000 followers.

While his project is over, Ibnu’s work is only beginning. He’s taking the skills he gained over summer and applying it to various legislations related to the environment, including climate change.

“It’s much easier to find law about climate change,” he says, somewhat relieved. “Everyone is talking about it and the media talks about it too. The media doesn’t talk about biosecurity in the same way.”

Ibnu hopes to work for an NGO in the future, whether helping better the planet or educating the public on important areas of law. To others with an interest in his field, he says, “be stricter in asking the government questions. Be more critical”.

It will take a lot of courage and dedication to see biosecurity prioritised across the globe. Ibnu has played his part, and hopes others with the same passion and fire pick up the torch in the next few years.

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