Pritchett's prediction: Australian foreign policy towards Indonesia's incorporation of East Timor, 1974-1999

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis (not CDU)


Between 1974 and 1999, Australian Governments pursued good relations with Indonesia by supporting Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. Australian Governments provided diplomatic and military support to Indonesia’s occupation and acted to neutralise public opinion in Australia. Australian public support for self-determination in East Timor ran counter to the policy of maintaining stability in the Australia-Indonesia relationship.This thesis explains why East Timor complicated Australia-Indonesia relations by examining government policy, activism and public opinion. It draws upon archival research and investigation into existing literature and knowledge. The thesis argues that activists created a powerful counter-narrative about the war in East Timor, transforming Australian public understanding and undermining government efforts to neutralise public opinion. This public opposition to official policy had enduring consequences for Australia-Indonesia relations. By September 1999, public support for an independent East Timor had forced a dramatic reversal of past policy with Australia’s leadership of the United Nations-peacekeeping operation to East Timor.Central to this thesis is the policy divide between Ambassador to Indonesia, Richard Woolcott and First Assistant Secretary at the Department of Defence, W.B. Pritchett. Woolcott developed a policy to support Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and shape public opinion to contain any damage to Australia-Indonesia relations. However, Pritchett submitted a significant counterpoint to Woolcott’s policy. Pritchett argued that Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor would require significant force, and that the Government could not contain the public impact in Australia. Pritchett predicted that public opinion would damage Australia’s relations with Indonesia. Ultimately, Australian intervention in East Timor in September 1999 fractured relations with Indonesia and fulfilled Pritchett’s prediction
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of New South Wales
Award date31 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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