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Research Guides

Near Neighbours: Records on Australia's Relations with Indonesia

Appendix 4: Timeline of significant events

This timeline of significant events in Australia and Indonesia between 1940 and 1970 is intended to provide a ready reference for researchers.30

Date Event
1940 SepThe Menzies Government clings to power with support of two independents.
1941OctThe Fadden Government is defeated in a no-confidence motion and the Labor Government is sworn in with John Curtin as Prime Minister.
8 DecAustralia declares war on Japan.
17 DecAustralian troops land in Portuguese Timor in face of Portuguese protests.
1942JanNorthern Indonesia comes under Japanese attack.
FebSingapore surrenders to the Japanese.

A Japanese-supported revolt against the Dutch in Aceh in northern Sumatra begins.

Australian forces on Ambon surrender to the Japanese.

MarAustralian forces in Java and Timor surrender to the Japanese.
1943The Japanese organise an indigenous defence force, Pembela Tanah Air (PETA).
AugThe Curtin Government is returned to power.
NovSukarno, Hatta and Hadikusumo are flown to Tokyo to be decorated by Emperor Hirohito.
194422 AprHollandia is recaptured by Allies.
9 MayV E Day celebrated.
28 AugAmbon is destroyed in Allied air raids.
8 SepUnited States forces recapture the island of Biak.
15 SepThe Allies begin landing on the island of Morotai (north of the Maluku group).
194514 FebPETA soldiers at Blitar (Java) attack the Japanese armoury.
1 MarThe Japanese announce formation of committee to pave the way for Indonesian independence. Its members include Sukarno and Hatta.
30 AprAustralian forces land at Tarakan (East Kalimantan).
3 MayAcehnese guerillas attack and capture the Japanese post at Pandrah, killing all the Japanese in the post.
JunDutch forces land in North Sumatra.

Australian forces land in Brunei and Sarawak.

5 JulPrime Minister Curtin dies and is replaced by F M Forde.
13 JulJ B Chifley elected Prime Minister.
JulBalikpapan (East Kalimantan) is recaptured by Australian forces.

Senior Japanese military commanders meet in Singapore and plan to hand over Indonesia to the Indonesians.

9 AugSukarno and Hatta are flown to Vietnam by the Japanese to meet with Marshal Terauchi. They are informed that the Japanese forces have been defeated and that Japan will grant Indonesia independence on 24 August.
15 AugThe Japanese surrender is announced.
17 AugSukarno publicly declares independence for Indonesia.
22 AugAlthough the Japanese have surrendered, this is still not widely known throughout Indonesia. Japanese units generally remain armed and disciplined. They are not prepared to surrender to other than Allied units.

The Japanese begin disarming PETA forces.

SepWaterside workers in Australia boycott the loading of Dutch ships in support of the republicans in Indonesia.

Lord Mountbatten agrees to a Dutch request that Japanese troops be used to put down the nationalist rebellion, but Japanese desist.

British reinforcements arrive in Jakarta in the face of increasing popular support and mass rallies for a republic. Dutch resistance to the growing republican movement hardens. They call up all available Dutch males, even former prisoners-of-war, to confront the republican forces.

OctGeneral demobilisation of troops begins in Australia.

The British troops who took the surrender of Surabaya (East Java) from the Japanese suffer heavy losses from attacks by the Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia (the Indonesian Armed Forces) and guerilla forces.

Sukarno, Hatta and the British General Mallaby negotiate a truce, but shortly afterwards Mallaby is killed. The British shell Surabaya in retaliation, inflicting heavy casualties amongst the civilian population.

NovThe British land the 5th Indian Division at Surabaya to recapture the city and destroy all republican resistance there.

Fierce fighting continues for three weeks with heavy casualties. Many Indians defect to join the Indonesian fighters.

The Dutch abandon their attempts to recapture Aceh.

DecDutch forces start taking over territory in eastern Indonesia captured by the Australians.
1946 At the beginning of the year the Dutch forces number about 20 000. Throughout the year they continue their program of reoccupying Indonesia, starting mainly with the outer islands where republican sentiment is weakest. As they reoccupy each area, they create so-called independent 'states' loyal to the Dutch cause.

Negotiations continue between the Dutch and the republicans but to little effect.

JunAllied forces officially hand over all of the former Netherlands East Indies to the Dutch with the exceptions of Java and Sumatra.
SepThe Chifley Government is returned to power.
NovThe Linggadjati Agreement is signed, with the Dutch agreeing to recognise republican control over Java, Madura and Sumatra. The agreement provides for a United States of Indonesia (the other islands being under Dutch control) with the Crown of the Netherlands as symbolic head of state for the union.
DecThe United Nations approves Australian trusteeship over New Guinea.
1947The Dutch continue with their program of creating independent states.
JulDutch forces, in a euphemistic 'police action' to restore law and order, conduct military attacks throughout Java, Madura and Sumatra.
AugThe United Nations Security Council calls for a cease-fire throughout Indonesia. Although agreed to by Dutch and Indonesian leaders, it is largely ignored in the field and the Dutch continue to consolidate their gains.
1948The Dutch implement a blockade of the archipelago, denying the republicans much-needed supplies.
JanThe Renville cease-fire agreement is signed. Immigration Minister A A Calwell announces that all coloured people given temporary refuge in Australia during World War II must now return to their homelands.
SepThe Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) attempts a coup at Madiun (East Java), but is swiftly routed by republican troops.

H V Evatt is elected President of the United Nations General Assembly.

DecThe Dutch launch a second 'police action'. Using surprise as their advantage, they quickly advance and capture most of the republican territory, as well as the republican leaders including Sukarno and Hatta who are exiled to Bangka Island.
1949 The Dutch consolidate their hold throughout Indonesia in the face of increasing international condemnation.

The High Court rules that Mrs O'Keefe, an Indonesian who is married to an Australian and has eight children, should not be deported.

Australian unions end their ban on loading Dutch shipping heading to Indonesia.

DecBy now the Dutch realise that restoration of Dutch rule is impossible in the face of increasing republican resistance. Negotiations lead to Dutch recognition of the Republik Indonesia Serikat (United Republic of Indonesia), which comprised the 15 states created by the Dutch and the original territory of the Republic. Sukarno is to be President of this revised Republic.

The Australian Liberal Party wins the Federal election and R G Menzies becomes Prime Minister.

1950With the Dutch defeated, most of the fabricated 'states' on the outer islands of the archipelago dissolve and join the Republic.

Some 300 000 Dutch citizens begin leaving Indonesia as it becomes clear that all 'states' will eventually join the new Republic.

Indonesia is admitted to the United Nations.

British Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meet in Colombo. The Colombo Plan for economic aid to South-East Asia is initiated by Sir Percy Spender.

The Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950 comes into force.

1951The High Court of Australia declares the Communist Party Dissolution Act invalid.

The Menzies Government is returned to power. R G Casey replaces Spender as Minister for External Affairs.

The ANZUS Treaty is signed.

A referendum to empower the Commonwealth Government to ban the Communist Party is defeated.

1952The ANZUS Treaty is ratified and its first meeting is held in Honolulu.
1954 Australia and the USSR break off diplomatic relations following the Petrov defection and a subsequent Royal Commission into Soviet espionage in Australia.

The Menzies Government is re-elected, but with a reduced majority.

The South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) is established.

1955 The Afro-Asian Conference is held at Bandung, Indonesia. It gives Sukarno much publicity and promotes Indonesia's claim for leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Menzies Government is returned with an increased majority.

1956Sukarno visits the United States, while PKI leader Aidit visits Moscow.
1957 Sukarno proposes a new system of government called 'guided democracy'.

Military commanders in Sumatra and Sulawesi protest at the conduct of the government in Jakarta.

The nationalisation of all Dutch assets begins.

Thousands of Dutch citizens are expelled from Indonesia.

1958Rebel Indonesian military officers form a revolutionary government, demanding more autonomy for the outer islands. Central government forces land in Sumatra, and advance and capture rebel-held towns.

Discussions are held in Canberra between Australian and Netherlands officials concerning New Guinea.

Australia assumes administrative responsibility for Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

The Menzies Government is again returned to power with a substantial majority.

1959 Sukarno commences a world tour despite the central government's continuing military operations against the rebels.

The central government issues various decrees restricting foreign business operations, including those belonging to ethnic Chinese.

Facing an increasingly hostile indigenous population, thousands of ethnic Chinese leave for China.

In Australia the Migration Act 1959 comes into force and the infamous dictation test is abolished.

Australia and the Soviet Union resume diplomatic relations.

1960 Sukarno introduces the concept of Nasakom (nasionalisme, agama, komunisme, or 'nationalism, religion, communism').

Kruschev, President of the USSR, visits Jakarta.

Indonesia breaks off diplomatic relations with the Netherlands over continued disagreement about the future of West New Guinea.

1961 General Nasution visits both Washington and Moscow seeking aid. He returns empty-handed from Washington, but the Soviets promise some $400 million in assistance.

Sukarno visits President Kennedy in the United States of America.

Rebel groups on the outer islands of the Indonesian Archipelago continue to surrender.

The Menzies Government is returned with a reduced majority.

The Australian Government publicly declares concern over the future of West New Guinea.

1962 Australia agrees that Indonesia should obtain sovereignty over West New Guinea. Indonesians form the special Mandala Command to take West New Guinea by force.

The Dutch defeat an Indonesian naval force off the West New Guinea coast.

OctWest New Guinea is transferred to the control of the United Nations pending a plebiscite to determine its future.
DecAn attempted rebellion in Brunei is put down by British forces.
1963JanIndonesia declares Konfrontasi (Confrontation) against Malaysia.

The new nation of Malaysia is formed. Angry demonstrators in Jakarta burn the British Embassy.

Indonesia breaks off diplomatic relations with Malaysia and Singapore.

Sukarno declares that he will crush Malaysia. Australia promises military assistance to Malaysia.


The Menzies Government is returned with increased majority.


PKI leader Aidit returns from his tour of the Soviet Union and China.

The PKI begins implementing land reform by confiscating rural landholdings. This radical land reform program is widely opposed and violence ensues.

1964Violence associated with the PKI-sponsored land reform program continues throughout the year.

The first landings of the Indonesian forces on Malaysian territory are a total failure.


First contact between Australian forces and Indonesian guerillas results in the capture of several Indonesians. Menzies announces the commencement of selective national service in 1965.

1965JunIndonesia walks out of the United Nations in protest against the admission of Malaysia.

Anti-PKI newspapers in Indonesia are closed down.


Menzies announces a decision to send a combat force to South Vietnam.


Sukarno announces that Indonesia will cut its ties with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Interpol.

Sukarno promotes an anti-imperialist alliance with Beijing. PKI leader Aidit returns from another trip to China and announces a policy to arm the people.

30 Sep

An attempted coup results in the murder of six generals. Rebels seize Merdeka Square near the Palace, as well as television and radio stations.

1 Oct

Suharto goes to Halim Air Force Base and meets with rebel supporters. He takes control of loyal troops.

Rebel radio announces Gerakan 30 September (the 30 September Movement). Soldiers in five of the seven Diponogoro battalions mutiny in support of the rebels. Sukarno leaves Jakarta for Bogor.

2 Oct

The PKI newspaper Harian Rakyat publishes an edition in favour of the coup. Troops loyal to Suharto recapture Halim Air Force Base from the rebels.


Suharto consolidates his control over loyal troops and moves against rebel groups. The backlash against the PKI begins to grow with widespread massacres of its supporters.


A new security force (KOPKAMTIB), with Suharto as its head, is established to restore law and order. PKI leader Aidit is captured and killed.


By now over 10 000 PKI supporters have been arrested and many thousands killed. The arrests and killings continue for several years.

1966JanPrime Minister Menzies retires and is replaced by Harold Holt.
MarSukarno signs over broad powers to Suharto.

Suharto formally bans the PKI.

AprForeign Minister Adam Malik announces that Indonesia will rejoin the United Nations.
MayAdam Malik announces the end of Konfrontasi.
AugKonfrontasi formally ends.
1967Indonesia breaks off diplomatic ties with China. The central government bans most Chinese language newspapers.
MarSuharto is named Acting President.
AugThe Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is formed. Its founding members are Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand.
DecHolt disappears in surf at Portsea and is replaced by McEwen as Prime Minister.
1968 Gorton sworn in as Prime Minister.

Foreign Minister Adam Malik announces that Indonesia's foreign policy will be independent, but that Indonesia will remain friendly with the United States.

1969 A special prison camp is established on remote Buruh Island for PKI detainees. Irian Jaya becomes an Indonesian province.
1970 Suharto visits Washington.
21 JunSukarno dies in Bogor.


Chapter notes | All notes

30 Much of the material in this timeline is drawn from Anthony Barker, When Was That, Chronology of Australia from 1788, John Ferguson, Sydney, 1988, and Charles A Gimon's informative Sejarah IndonesiaAn Online Time-Line of Indonesia, September 1999, published at