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In accounts of wartime Australia the influx of over 5,000 Indonesian men women and children has been largely overlooked. These people were military personnel, merchant sailors, civilians and even political prisoners of the Dutch, all evacuees from the Japanese occupied Netherlands East Indies. They arrived as subjects of the Dutch colonial empire, and the majority of them left after the war as rebels – supporting the fledgling Indonesian republic which Soekarno had proclaimed when the Japanese surrendered.

This book tells the fascinating story of the Indonesians’ engagement with White Australia as they were dispersed to cities and country towns and of the repercussions when their struggle for independence was supported at grassroots level by their Australian friends, by unionists, particularly the Waterside Workers Federation and Seamens Union and eventually by the Chifley Labor Government itself.

"I remember the interest I had when looking across to a nearby platform of Flinders Street Station and seeing very small men in strange uniforms – Netherlands East Indies native troops. Any non-Australian type was very noticeable in those days’. Former RAAF officer G. Wallace Crabbe."

"Phyllis Johnson used to make her way along the wharves where the Dutch ships were tied up, trying to incite the crews to strike by shouting through a megaphone, ‘Merdeka! Indonesia Calling! Walk off the ship! Support Indonesian independence!"



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This page first produced 6 February 2009

This page last updated 23 January 2020