AUTRALIAN WATERFRONT WORKERS SUPPORT INDONESIAN INDEPENDENCE AGAINST THE DUTCH
Australian waterfront workers support Indonesian independence against the Dutch
Location: Melbourne VIC, Sydney NSW, Brisbane QLD, Fremantle WA
Until World War II, Australia’s nearest neighbour was known as the Netherlands East Indies. The Japanese invasion of 1941 and the defeat of the Dutch colonial government in 1942 enabled the Indonesian independence movement to establish the Republic of Indonesia in August 1945. As the Dutch prepared to reoccupy its colony, Indonesian nationalists in Australia lobbied the Australian government and forged strong links with the trade unions. In a show of solidarity, over 4,000 Australian waterfront workers joined Indonesian crew members in a strike and refused to load Dutch ships carrying arms and supplies, declaring such ships ‘black.’ The blockade was a high point in the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. It established a bond of friendship between the two nations which made later tensions in the relationship less acute. The support shown by Australians to the infant Indonesian republic suggested the possibility of a post-war shift in the way Australia conceived its position in the region, aligning itself regionally ahead of imperial ties.
In this radio broadcast from 1945, the first Premier of the Indonesian Republic, Sutan Sjahrir speaks to the people of Australia, claiming as friends to his fledgling nation the Australian workers who refused to load the Dutch ships. Promising close political and economic ties between neighbours, Sjahrir also refers to the recent experience of the war in the Pacific and the Australian success in repelling the Japanese in the name of freedom. Sjahrir promises that in future conflicts, an independent Indonesia will help defend Australia’s freedom.
Image Source: Sylvia Mullins being attacked with firehoses by Dutch troops on the Stirling Castle. The Sun, Sydney 7 November 1945, courtesy the Mitchell Library, NSW
Dutch sneak out of SydneyBy paul2006Dad was a soldier on the Stirling Castle and he and some of the other boys used fire hoses to stir up the protesters. When it was time to leave Sydney the wharfies’ got in the way and would not allow the boat to leave. Meanwhile, another boat had entered the harbour and the soldiers packed their things and sneaked off to the second boat in the middle of the night. That boat then set sail and left. The first boat was now unable to leave the harbour, as it no longer had any crew, as all personnel had transferred over to the second boat.