Background information

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:

a.)Banda Aceh


c.)West Timor



Map of south-east Asia

Courtesy of   

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

Balibo house - P03408.004

children in East Timor

Children in East Timor - AWM P03184.377

East Timorese couple wait for medical attention 2000

East Timorese couple wait for medical attention 2000 - P03605.167

pic of journalists at the window in Timor

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

Timorese waiting at polling station - P03416.035


Destruction in Timor in 1999 - P03393.005

Destruction in Dili in 2000

Destruction in Dili in 2000 - P09937.012

UN helicopter in Timor

UN helicopter in Timor - P03407.088

children watch UN workers repair a road Timor

Children watch UN workers repair a road Timor - P03407.038

Timorese locals welcome UNAMET in their village

Timorese locals welcome UNAMET in their village - P03407.067

article where Indonesians claim independence after Second World War

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

Wendy with children - P03248.061

Background to the United Nations

United Nations cap badge featuring the UN emblem of the globe surrounded by a wreath, 1965. (AWM REL38276)

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.


Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Francis Michael Forde signs the UN Charter in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945.

Photo # 176114 courtesy of UN/McLain

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
  • disarmament
  • removing land mines
  • reconstruction
  • 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:  



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