Dutch – Australian conflicts and chaos at the end of the war

By the end of the war the Australian Government- led by Ben Chifley who took over from John Curtin who had died in office in July 1945 – was very conflicted. On the one hand they had provided enormous support to the Dutch but at the same time were confronted with increased momentum for Indonesian independence.

They were not assisted by the stubbornness of the Dutch refusing to start to talk to the Indonesian people. The Dutch were among the first to the sign the Atlantic Charter[1], promising self-determination for all people under foreign occupation.

Then there were the disastrous events in the Casino Camp that already strained Dutch-Australian relations. This was followed by the incident around the secret deportation of 16 ‘Indonesians’ dissident (rounded up in Mackay) allegedly to the reopened concentration camp in Tanah Merah. This happened with Dutch military force on Australian soil. The Indonesian Committee in Mackay drew this to the immediate attention of the Australian Government and the trade unions. They all strongly opposed such an action, and this certainly limited the use of the concentration camp, it is even unknown if and for how long the camp was reoccupied. In any case it was most certainly closed by the time the handover took place in 1949.

Most of the Indonesian sailors, air-crew and military that were supposed to man the Dutch re-colonialisation fleet were either refusing to serve (classified as mutiny) or had already been stood down because of previous refusals and were held in camps overflowing with increased numbers of dissident people from NEI. The stubborn attitude of the Dutch regarding bringing back the pre-war wages, the requirement to pledge loyalty to the NEI colonial government and the persistence of colonial attitudes were, according to Lockwood[2], the key reasons why there was such a dissatisfaction among the ‘Indonesians’.

[1] Australia and the Indonesian Nationalist Movement 1942 – 1945. Beverley M. Male https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/111391/2/b1839985x_Male_Beverley.pdf

[2] Rupert Lockwood –  Black Armada https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/26436607