‘Orang Putih Kita’ gets real on Sabah, Covid-19
Published on: Monday, July 27, 2020
By: Audrey J Ansibin
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Dane posing for the camera at a recent interview.
MEET the Australian lad who goes by the moniker “Orang Putih Kita” on his Instagram account that has nearly 32,000 followers. Dane Kovacs from small-town Home Hill, who’s lived in Sabah for seven years, is not only passionate about the people but also Sabah’s environmental decline.

The free-spirited 32-year-old tells all, including how he’s coping during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, in this no-nonsense interview with Daily Express.

He said as a foreigner, the pandemic hit him “really hard”.

“I was already going through a difficult time before the MCO (Movement Control Order) started, and then to lose my work, because the company I work for went into hibernation. 

“It’s like a series of all these things happening to me at once. It’s really a big challenge for me to stay mentally focused and not get too down, trying to look for the positives – to see that things will get better. 

“I’m starting my new show called ‘The Orang Putih Kita Show’. I’ve been writing some songs. The difficulty for me is that I’m a foreigner here, so I don’t have any Government assistance or anything.”

On the State and Federal governments’ approach in handling the crisis, the Australian said it’s tough for him to say. 

“At the moment I’m feeling quite sceptical of the whole world’s approach to the crisis. But their (local governments’) response was reasonably great,” Dane said, adding however that he was disappointed on the environmental impact as a result of everyone’s “fear and paranoia, causing them to use tonnes of plastic. No one’s thinking of the consequences”.

Meanwhile, Dane said the idea of using “Orang Putih Kita” as his social media handle came after some acquaintances referred to him as such – and the name stuck. His colourful Instagram account shows his artistic side, which was why he originally set it up – to showcase his photographs and videos of wildlife and nature. 

He also speaks openly about how the Government could improve its attitude towards preservation of the environment amid the climate change crisis. 

Below is the full interview:

Q: You have an amazing portfolio (as evident on your website orangputihkita.com). How did you first get involved with the Sabahan community?

A: The way I got involved with the local community is kind of by accident-lah. I was just friendly to everyone and I got to know a lot of people. As my social media started to grow, more and more opportunities became available so I just went along with the opportunities.

Q: What is it like to be an ambassador for 


A: It’s a good opportunity. The goal was to create a platform that can benefit the entire tourism community rather than just one individual company. It’s kind of like my principle – I like to use my social media to highlight and support the local tourism community. It’s a great opportunity for me to promote different places and help them out. A lot of the tourism community are severely lacking in marketing or just the basics of getting their message out there. There are just so many tourism products.

Q: What brought you to Sabah 

in the first place?  

A: I was desiring to get out of my comfort zone. I was living in Melbourne at the time, very comfortable, very nice – I love Melbourne, one of my favourite cities. For me, it’s kind of like, ‘what am I doing? I only speak English and only know one culture’. I just wanted to experience what it’s like to put myself out there.

Q: What do you like most about the Sabahan 

culture/lifestyle? Is there anything you dislike?

A: It’s like a paradox – what you like is also what you don’t like. When you’re here you love how Sabah is more laid-back, chill. But when you’re trying to get things done, you dislike how Sabah is so laid-back and chill, because it’s frustrating to try and get things moving or get things done. But I love Sabah. For me, one of the things I love about Sabah is the potential for so much more. What I love about it is everything is so close.  If you want colder weather you can go to the mountain. If you want warm weather you can go to the beach, the island, the jungle… it’s all pretty close. Even within one day you can do all of them. For me, it’s kind of like a dream because in Australia you have all of that as well but everything is so spread out.

Q: You’re also known for being an environmentalist and your no-trash movement. What do you wish Sabahans could improve towards becoming a greener State?

A: There are many factors involved. The Government, corporations and the people all have to work together. The problem at the moment is everyone is pointing their finger at each other. Everyone has an equal part to play. The people have a choice that they can start to live in a more sustainable way, they can start to buy more environmentally-friendly product. But I also understand that when people are in extreme financial difficulty, that’s the least of their concern. Their concern is just buying things they can buy. So the corporations need to change the design of their products to make sure that they’re allowing people of any income range to be able to live sustainably. Regardless of who you are, what income or what background you come from, you can change your habits. They don’t realise how much nicer it is to have a clean environment.

Q: You’re known for your laid-back approach to life. How do you maintain your work-life balance?

A: I’ve never craved or desired to be rich… even though I can work really hard if I have projects. Sometimes I go too far with having too many projects on the go and burning myself out. For me, I’d go crazy if I don’t have the time to just go to the beach, enjoy some of nature. That’s how I stay grounded.

Q: What do you think should the global community learn from the Covid-19 pandemic?

A: The only reason all these stuff, restrictive orders and everything that’s necessary, is because governments of the world did not adequately prepare for this – even when we’ve had years of warning that a pandemic was possible. More and more money should be put into healthcare, that’s what the world can learn.  

Q: Where is your hometown?

A: My hometown is in Home Hill. It’s a tiny, tiny little town. It’s near the Great Barrier Reef. To drive from my hometown to Melbourne is 40 hours.

Q: What’s your favourite memory growing up?  

A: I have so many. I’m grateful that our parents just allowed us this great freedom. My brother and I, we’d just go ride our bikes for a day. We’re in a small town so everyone felt safe. We’re basically always outside, always doing something.

Q: Who inspires you the most?

A: I get my inspiration from many people – usually people who are unknown, who overcame huge challenges behind the scenes. There are many Sabahans doing great things here and nobody even knows about it – whether it’s for the environment, for the community. They just do it behind the scenes, they don’t seek fame, they don’t seek attention.  

Q: Who’s your No.1 supporter?

A: Sometimes you feel like you’re alone. But what I find is that usually when I’m feeling like that, I get some really nice comments, someone would DM (direct message) me and say how I inspired them or something, that means a lot. Supporters come in many different ways.  

Q: What advice would you give to young people who look up to you?

A: Don’t become apathetic. Don’t let this world, don’t let politics, don’t let people’s negativity cause you to think that what you do doesn’t help because everything you do does help. Learn about yourself and find out what your talents and strengths are. Find joy in what you do.


Dane: ‘Learn about yourself and find out what your talents and strengths are. Find joy in what you do.’ (pic: Orang Putih Kita / Instagram)


Dane uses his social media influence to raise environmental issues in Sabah. (pic: Orang Putih Kita / Instagram) 

One of Dane’s favourite naturescapes in Sabah is ‘beautiful’ Danum Valley.  (pic: Orang Putih Kita / Instagram) 

Reaching for the Stars: Dane posing underneath the Milky Way at Kokol Hill. (pic: Orang Putih Kita / Instagram) 

Dane posing in traditional attire. (pic: Orang Putih Kita / Instagram) 

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