When the Japanese invaded the Netherlands East Indies in 1942, over 5000 Indonesians – soldiers, sailors, civilians, political agitators – were evacuated to Australia. Before this period, Australians and Indonesians had little contact with or knowledge of each other, despite their geographic proximity, and Australia was a country whose racism was enshrined in the White Australia Policy. After the War, most returned as rebels to support Soekarno’s fledgling Indonesian republic. This is the story of their time in Australia and of what happened when their struggle for independence found Australian support.
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