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Research Guides

Near Neighbours: Records on Australia's Relations with Indonesia

2. External Affairs records

Functions of the Department of External Affairs

Image 4: Prime Minister Menzies with Lieutenant-General Nasution, 1959.

Image 4: Prime Minister Menzies with Lieutenant-General Nasution, 1959.
NAA: AA1972/341, 322
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The Australian Department of External Affairs, now known as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is the most important source of records about Australia's relations with Indonesia. By 1970 its functions broadly covered foreign affairs and relations with overseas governments. It was also responsible for protecting Australian interests and citizens abroad and disseminating information and intelligence on international affairs. It advised the Federal Government on foreign policy and on matters such as defence, trade and the administration of Australian territories overseas.

Specific functions of the department included:

  • controlling Australian embassies, legations, high commissions, consulates and similar permanent missions abroad which had diplomatic status;
  • controlling relations between the Australian Government and foreign diplomatic missions and consulates within Australia;
  • controlling all communications, including telegraphic traffic, between the Australian Government and other governments, the diplomatic mail service, and the safehand mail service;
  • advising on Australian policy or other matters that arose within the United Nations and associated specialised agencies, and with the International Atomic Energy Agency; apart from purely political issues, these also included questions of trusteeship and international economic and cultural relations;
  • implementing the Australia–New Zealand Agreement, the security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and the foreign policy aspects of Australian participation in the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty;
  • administering Australia's external aid policy;
  • administering Australian policy on the South Pacific Commission;
  • dealing with general questions of international law (in consultation with the Attorney-General's Department) and relations with the International Court of Justice and the International Law Commission;
  • negotiating and concluding treaties and international agreements;
  • maintaining the Australian Treaty Series and the Australian Treaty List, and publishing the Australian Treaty Series;
  • advising on Australia's cultural relations with other governments; and
  • coordinating and implementing the works of other government agencies and non-government bodies in the external cultural relations field.

Table 1 lists the ministers who were responsible for the External Affairs portfolio between the start of World War II and November 1970. Where an individual's name is followed by the acronym 'CP' (Commonwealth Person) and a number, the National Archives holds personal records of that person. These records may be accessed through RecordSearch.

Table 1 Ministers responsible for the External Affairs portfolio, 1939–70

14 March – 28 October 1940 Hon. John McEwen (CP 47)
28 October 1940 – 7 October 1941 Hon. Sir Frederick Harold Stewart (CP 228)
7 October 1941 – 19 December 1949 Hon. Herbert Vere Evatt (CP 7)
19 December 1949 – 27 April 1951 Hon. Percy Claude Spender (CP 692)
27 April 1951 – 4 February 1960 Hon. Richard Gardiner Casey (CP 24)
4 February 1960 – 22 December 1961 Hon. Robert Gordon Menzies (CP 54)
22 December 1961 – 24 April 1964 Hon. Sir Garfield Edward John Barwick (CP 651)
24 April 1964 – 11 February 1969 Hon. Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck (CP 115)
11 February 1969 – 12 November 1969 Hon. Gordon Freeth (CP 45)
12 November 1969 – 6 November 1970 Hon. William McMahon (CP 41)

Until 1935 the Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department acted as Secretary of the Department of External Affairs. Administration of these two departments was separated in that year. Individuals who subsequently held the position of Secretary of the Department of External Affairs are listed in Table 2.

Table 2 Secretaries of the Department of External Affairs, 1935–70

19 November 1935 – 21 June 1945 Lieutenant Colonel W R Hodgson, CMG, OBE (CP 80)
10 September 1945 – 25 March 1947 Sir William E Dunk, CBE
27 March 1947 – 17 June 1950 Dr J W Burton
19 June 1950 – 24 January 1954 Sir Alan S Watt, CBE
26 January 1954 – 4 April 1965 Sir Arthur Tange, CBE (CP 229)
5 April 1965 – 3 April 1970 Sir James Plimsoll, CBE (CP 452)
6 April – 5 November 1970 Sir Keith Waller, CBE

Short biographies of most of the ministers and secretaries listed above can be found in Appendix 5, 'Key Commonwealth persons'.

Australia did not adopt the practice of appointing its own foreign ministers or consular representatives to foreign countries until 1940, relying instead on a limited system of liaison. Except for the High Commission in London (which reported to the Prime Minister's Department), Australia maintained liaison officers in Tokyo and Washington.

The crisis of World War II forced a rapid change and by 1945 Australia had appointed official representatives in the United States, Canada, Japan, China, New Caledonia, Singapore, the United Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), New Zealand, India and France.

Representation in Indonesia

Image 5: Prime Minister Gorton with Indonesian officials at an Army parade ground, 1968.

Image 5: Prime Minister Gorton with Indonesian officials at an Army parade ground, 1968.
NAA: A1200, L73379
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Australia was dissuaded from establishing a consulate-general in Batavia in 1945 by the British who wished to press the Netherlands into setting up political arrangements to accommodate the Indonesian Republic. Australia therefore sent a political representative to be attached to the Allied Forces, Netherlands East Indies (AFNEI), which occupied the area freed from the Japanese.

W Macmahon Ball,20 the Australian Political Representative to the AFNEI, arrived in Batavia on 7 November 1945. His task was to investigate the situation and to assess both the strength of nationalist feeling and the quality of republican leaders. He advised that the situation could become the focus of East–West conflict and could affect other parts of South-East Asia. He returned to Australia in December 1945.

On 25 February 1946, Dr Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, announced the appointment of Mr F K Officer, formerly Chargé d'Affaires at the Australian Legation, Chungking, as Australian Political Representative (Minister) to South-East Asia. His brief was mainly to handle postwar negotiations with Siam (now Thailand). Evatt initially directed him to report on the situation in the Netherlands East Indies. Officer was in that region from late February 1946 to early March and again in April of that year. He submitted his report on 14 April, shortly before negotiations between Netherlands and republican representatives, under the chairmanship of a British official, broke down. In June 1946 Officer was appointed as Minister to The Hague.

In March the Department of External Affairs transferred Alfred Brookes from Singapore to Batavia. Brookes recommended that Australia support the republican government in the United Nations. His departure in early June, because of ill health, coincided with the arrival of Richard Kirby, who had originally been sent to Java to investigate the murders of three Australian war crimes investigators.21 Kirby then acted as Australia's Political Representative in Indonesia, returning to Australia on 28 July 1946.

Mr B C Ballard was appointed as Australian Political Representative with AFNEI on 16 August 1946.22 Remaining closely in contact with Canberra, he provided information about the political and military situation in the Netherlands East Indies, which was seen to be of vital strategic concern to Australia. Dr Evatt directed him to establish informal relations with the Indonesians and to act as Australia's de facto diplomatic representative to the republican government in Jogjakarta.

Ballard attended the resumed Netherlands–Indonesian negotiations as an observer from October of that year. As a result of these negotiations, the Linggadjati Agreement was initialled on 15 November 1946. This agreement provided for the Indonesian Republic to be a component state in a federal United States of Indonesia that would in turn form an equal partnership with the Kingdom of the Netherlands in a Netherlands–Indonesian Union under the Dutch Crown from 1 January 1949. Both parties were anxious for an agreement before the planned departure of AFNEI from the end of November 1946.

The post of Consul-General was created following the departure of AFNEI, when Ballard's accreditation ceased to be recognised by the Netherlands East Indies Government. He was formally appointed Consul-General on 5 December 1946 and accredited by the Netherlands East Indies Government on 12 February 1947. He held this appointment until September 1947 when Group Captain C Eaton, the former Consul to Portuguese Timor, replaced him.

In 1950, the Consulate-General in Djakarta (Batavia) was raised to the status of an embassy. The first Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia was Mr J D L Hood.23 Following independence, which was effected by the full transfer of sovereignty from the Dutch to the United States of Indonesia on 27 December 1949, Australia set up its Djakarta Embassy, with its Ambassador (see Table 3) invested with full plenipotentiary powers.

Table 3 Australian ambassadors to the Republic of Indonesia, 1950–72

1950–52 John Hood
1953–54 Vacant, J C G Kevin (Chargé d’Affaires)
1955–57 Walter Crocker
1957–60 Laurence McIntyre
1960–62 Sir Patrick Shaw
1966–69 Harold Loveday
1969–72 Gordon Jockel

Representation in Timor

The Australian Consulate in Dili commenced operations on 1 January 1946 with the appointment of Mr Charles Eaton, OBE as Consul. The Australian Government had previously been represented in Timor by Group Captain David Ross (1941–42) who reported to the Department of External Affairs as an Official Representative. He was also accredited as the British Consul in Portuguese Timor and was arrested when the Japanese invaded Timor in February 1942.

The Dili Consulate was established as part of the overall postwar expansion in Australian representation overseas. However, on 3 May 1971, the Hon. R W C Swartz, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, announced the consulate's closure because its workload had been light for a considerable time and the building itself required extensive renovation to bring it to a reasonable standard. Moreover, closer liaison with the Portuguese Government had been achieved with the opening of the Lisbon Embassy, which would carry out work previously handled by the Dili establishment. The last consul, Mr M F Berman, closed the Dili post on 31 August 1971.

Table 4 lists the Australian consuls in Dili from 1946 to 1971.

Table 4 Australian consuls in Timor, 1946–71

1946–47 Charles Eaton
1947 A Rigram (acting)
1947–50 Henry White
1951–52 N McE Elliott
1953–54 Vacant
1955–61 Francis Whittaker
1962–64 J S Dunn
1965–67 D W Milton
1968–69 John Denvers
1970–71 M F Berman

Types of External Affairs records

To deal effectively with the large number of series created by the Department of External Affairs and agencies now under its control, this chapter is divided four sections:

The series included in sections 2–4 usually contain only the types of records described in their titles. However, in the case of general correspondence files, all types of records, including those from sections 2–4, can be found. It is not unusual to find copies of cables, despatches and the occasional photograph among the usual collection of letters, memos and newspaper cuttings in general correspondence files.


Chapter notes | All notes

20 William Macmahon Ball was a former head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Melbourne, and had also been head of Radio Australia during World War II. Researchers should note that Macmahon is often incorrectly shown as McMahon or MacMahon in official records.

21 NAA: A5954, 2273/6, 'Indonesia. Murder of Australian Officers in Batavia'

22 Ballard had previously been Political Liaison Officer with the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers and adviser to W Macmahon Ball

23 Former head of the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations and Australian Representative at the United Nations Security Council.

24 Please see Appendix 2 for further details.

25 The annotations on the binders for the 'Originals and Spares' and 'Roughs and Spares' are not consistent. In some cases the inward cables are described as 'Originals', or the binders are simply marked 'Spares', whether or not they contain inward or outward cables.

26 The annotations on the binders for the 'Originals and Spares' and 'Roughs and Spares' are not consistent. In some cases the inward cables are described as 'Originals', or the binders are simply marked 'Spares', whether or not they contain inward or outward cables.


Types of External Affairs records