Former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, 25 November 2013
Indonesia is an archipelago nation in south–east Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. Consisting of more than 17,000 islands, it has a population more than ten times larger than Australia. Despite differences in language, culture, and politics, Australia and Indonesia have been linked for decades.
Australians served in the Japanese-occupied Netherlands East Indies during the Second World War. They returned in 1947 as peacekeepers, and again in the 1960s as an armed force to support Malaysia during its conflict with Indonesia. In 1975, six Australian journalists were executed in East Timor while covering the Indonesian occupation. More than 20 years later, Australian peacekeepers deployed to East Timor (also known as Timor–Leste) after a vote for independence resulted in further violence at the hands of militias supported by the Indonesian military. In 2004 and 2005 the Australian Defence Force faced a different force in Indonesia – Mother Nature – after tsunamis had devastated the region.
1. Identify the islands of Indonesia using the map below. Note the following areas, which will be explored in this resource:
The following YouTube video may assist with identifying the islands. Video courtesy of Ollie Bye, January 2019
2. Complete the following table individually, or as a class.
You can use the following slideshow to encourage curiosity about Australian service in Indonesia
Sukarno, future president of Indonesia, talking with Charles Eaton. P03531.001
1947 meeting. P03531.003
Dutch family in Indonesia - P04882.002
Royal Australian Navy minesweeper in confrontation - P04927.002
Bomber from confrontation - P02694.018
Soldier in Borneo - CUN/65/0757/MC
TNI 1999 - P04504.026
Balibo house - P03408.004
Children in East Timor - AWM P03184.377
East Timorese couple wait for medical attention 2000 - P03605.167
Pic of journalists at the window in Timor - P05415.010
US and Australian police in Timor - P03364.027
Indonesian prison Timor - P09937.006
Anti-Interfet protestors - P04504.010
Pro-Indonesian rally in Timor - P03393.019
Boy recovers after being shot in Timor - P04504.018
UN flag being signed - P03416.064
Children in Timor around UN vehicle - P03407.091
Timorese waiting at polling station - P03416.035
Destruction in Timor in 1999 - P03393.005
Destruction in Dili in 2000 - P09937.012
UN helicopter in Timor - P03407.088
Children watch UN workers repair a road Timor - P03407.038
Timorese locals welcome UNAMET in their village - P03407.067
Article where Indonesians claim independence after Second World War - P02018.415
Wendy Sharpe and Santa - P03248.128
Timorese boy with Santa hat - P04504.033
Wendy with children - P03248.061
Background to the United Nations
After the First World War, the League of Nations was created in an attempt to secure international peace and to help resolve disputes. Although Australia joined the organisation, the United States of America did not want to join, while other countries such as Germany and Japan were expelled or withdrew over time. Without full international support the League of Nations was weak, and was unable to enforce the Treaty of Versailles or prevent the Second World War. With a continuing need for conflict prevention and resolution, the United Nations (UN) was formed in 1945. The League of Nations was dissolved the following year.
As a founding member of the UN, Australia was one of 51 countries who signed the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Today, the UN consists of 193 member states.
The UN has deployed military personnel and forces to assist with economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems around the world.
UN peacekeeping operations follow three principles: peacekeeping operations are deployed only with the consent of the conflicting nations; peacekeepers must be impartial; and they must not use force except for self-defence or in defence of their particular mandate.
Australian peacekeepers (military personnel, but also civilians and members of the Australian Federal Police) have contributed to:
- military observation
- monitoring ceasefires and elections
- providing security and medical assistance
- delivering humanitarian aid
- removing land mines
- the promotion of sustainable development
- upholding international law
- protecting human rights
Australians have been involved in peace enforcement operations in which they were armed and authorised to use force to prevent further bloodshed.
For more information about peacekeeping and the origins, purpose, and structure of the UN, visit: