Paul Budde's History Archives

Digulists instrumental in preparing for independence

The resistance to Dutch colonialism in Australia was led by the Digulists.

Under the agreement with the Australian Government all evacuees from NEI were under the responsibility of the Dutch. These people had to be employed by them. When they refused to work for the Dutch they were imprisoned in one of the Dutch camps. In one way or another they had to be looked after by the Dutch. The White Australia policy made it impossible for them to seek work elsewhere. Over time the camps started to overflow with ‘Indonesian’ refusing to work for the Dutch.

Most of the Digulists were well educated and after they received their freedom they were eagerly sought after for jobs in the NEI administration in Australia. The main goal of the NEI Government in exile at this stage was to get rid of the Japanese, and the Digulists didn’t have any problems with that.

The Dutch remained rather naïve about the desire of the people to be independent and on one occasion a senior Dutch official mentioned that they would retain their colony for at least another 300 years[1].

The Digulists had, In these administrative positions, access to tools that allowed them to secretly establish and maintain contact with the nationalists in NEI. It looked like the Dutch didn’t seriously enough consider that these people would secretly use these positions to support the independence movement. In the end these ex-prisoners had sometimes better intelligence about the freedom movement in NEI than the Dutch they worked for.

At no time did these people resort to violence instead they used their employment positions to further their cause.

Among the ex-prisoners was also the hard core of the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and they would play a key role in the Black Armada[2] boycott against Dutch ships which started soon after the war, when the Netherlands launched their re-colonisation policy. However, based on lessons learned from previously failed activities – such as the 1926/27 uprising – and with the assistance of the Communist Party of Australia a more effective strategy was developed for the post-war era, headed by Djoko Sardjono (Soerdjono). He had been imprisoned in Tanah Merah since 1926, when he was arrested as the chairman of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI), on his return from Australia to Indonesia in 1946 he again became the leader of the Communist Party in Indonesia.


[1] Wim van den Doel, Afscheid van Indië.

[2] Ban by the Australian Trade Unions on the Dutch from September 1945 – July 1946 with repeats during the so-called Police Actions in 1947 and 1948 and finally during the Netherlands New Guinea Crisis in the early 1960s.