Decolonisation and Citizenship in the New Future

Heather Goodall

Professor Emerita at the University of Technology Sydney

This paper explores the meaning of Indonesian Independence in Australia and India as well as Indonesia. How did anti-colonial activists in 1945 think about the future they hoped to share? A little-known photograph shows Indonesian activists, in Sydney in September 1945, during filming for Indonesia Calling!, displaying a banner in Arabic including the word Merdeka and flags of Nahdlatul Ulama, which had just before defined the war against the Dutch as a holy war. Although seldom in the Australian accounts (Lockwood and Lingard), the importance of Islam for Indonesians was discussed at the time by Australian maritime unionists, South Asian seamen and Chinese-Australian activists in Sydney and by South Asian troops and diasporic civilian merchants in Surabaya. All expressed views about the type of society they wanted – for Asia as well as Indonesia, India and Australia. Were these activists – all working with and for Indonesian independence activists – envisioning secular or religious societies? Socialist collectives or liberal democracies? Racially exclusive or multi-racial societies? Self-contained nationalist states or a networked and decolonised region? There were areas of confusion and misunderstanding between all these groups but as well there were shared visions which explain the movement’s solidarities.


Heather Goodall, Professor Emerita, University of Technology Sydney, works on Indigenous histories and environmental history in Australia, on twentieth century decolonisation and on maritime history in the eastern Indian Ocean. Recent publications include Beyond Borders: Indians, Australians and the Indonesian Revolution, 1939-1950 and Teacher for Justice: Lucy Woodcock’s Transnational Life.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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