Australia and the 1947 United Nations Consular Commission to Indonesia

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The Netherlands’ colonial empire was a source of wealth, pride and prestige, being seen by some as an essential element of Dutch identity and the key to the Netherlands’ status as a European power. The most prized of the empire’s components was Indonesia. When nationalists declared the independence of the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945, Dutch colonialists refused to take it seriously, but they soon discovered that the Indonesians were willing to fight for their newly-declared freedom. They also found that international opinion, especially as expressed in the new United Nations (UN), defended the Republic’s right to exist. Australia has been acknowledged as an important contributor to international recognition of Indonesian independence through its actions in the UN Security Council and its membership of the UN Committee of Good Offices (CGO). This article, however, focuses on a lesser-known part of the story: Australia’s role in the UN Consular Commission, established at the same time as the CGO. Although the Commission was active for only a short period in late 1947, it deserves recognition on a number of counts: for its pioneering work in UN peacekeeping; as an early example of Australian diplomacy in its region; and for how an examination of its activities, and the responses of the Dutch, the Indonesians and others, can be useful for understanding the course of the Indonesian independence struggle in the years that followed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-553
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Legacy
Issue number5
Early online date19 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

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