J.B. Chifley and the Indonesian Revolution, 1945–1949


  • David Fettling

    1. Australian National University
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    • My thanks to John Murphy for supervising the University of Melbourne Honours thesis on which this paper is based, and to Nicholas Brown for subsequently helping me develop my ideas further. My thanks also to the two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.


This article traces the role of the Prime Minister, Joseph Benedict Chifley, in Australia's response to the Dutch-Indonesian colonial conflict. It argues for Chifley's centrality to the formation of Australia's eventual policy to support Indonesian nationalist aspirations, a policy often in antithesis to the views of H.V. Evatt. This is significant because a focus on Evatt has distracted historians from ascertaining the causes of Australia's policy. Examining Chifley's attitude and role reveals that Australia's response to revolutionary Indonesia stemmed from an application to the Southeast Asian colonial question of a labourist and post-war reconstructionist ethos, an idea of sweeping reform to rectify deep economic and social grievances.