Lawyer, ‘Refugee Alien’, Intelligence Officer and Advocate of Indonesian Studies: Johannes (Hans) Arndt Leyser

Dr Helen Pausacker1

1The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Hans Leyser (1902-1969) gained his Doctor of Laws from the University of Freiburg in 1933.  As the Nazis assumed power, he was deprived of the right to practise law on the grounds of being ‘politically unreliable’ [in the eyes of the Nazis] and of being partly ‘non-Aryan’. Fleeing to Melbourne, Leyser was recruited for the Commonwealth Investigation Branch for special intelligence work. After WWII, he began work in legal practice, often acting for other refugees, in addition to his regular legal work. In 1951 he was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. In the early 1950s, he travelled to newly-independent Indonesia, researching adat (traditional law) and legal complications involved in the nationalisation of Dutch corporations. Together with William Macmahon Ball (Politics), Leyser acted as an advocate for Indonesian Studies both at the University of Melbourne and in the wider community. He was mentor and/or lecturer for a number of students, who have contributed to Asian Studies, and Indonesian and international law. As a refugee, Leyser showed a passionate commitment to his adopted university, wider academic community, country and region. His pioneering work in advocating for Asian Studies, particularly of Indonesia, deserves recognition.


Helen Pausacker is Deputy Director of the Centre of Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS) at the Melbourne Law School and Academic Convenor of the Indonesia Democracy Hallmark Research Initiative (IDeHaRI), both at the University of Melbourne. Helen is joint Executive Editor of the Australian Journal of Asian Law.


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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