The last voyage
: Indonesian fishing boats in Australian Museums

  • Paul Scott Clark

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    The apprehension, confiscation and in most cases destruction of approximately 2000 Indonesian fishing boats for breaches to Australian fishing regulations since 1980, has arguably been one of the most taxing aspects of Australia’s bilateral relations with Indonesia. Together with the influx in refugee arrivals by boat onto the Australian coast, the media representations of these ‘illegal’ vessels constitute a major element of the visible history of Australia’s relations with one of its nearest neighbours.

    Against this broad background of geo-politics, border protection and diminishing marine resources, this thesis explores the histories and transformative processes entailed in the apprehension, acquisition and display of three fishing boats that escaped destruction and found their way into the permanent collections of three Australian museums. Previous studies of Indonesian boats have usually focused on architectural, technological, or economic perspectives. This study is the first of its kind to look at Indonesian boats and their significance as museum objects. Using a case study approach, the ethno-histories and provenance of the three sloops, or perahu lambo as they are known in Indonesia, are researched and examined. Their museum histories, the process of acquisition, transformation and display are also described, in order to better understand their significance as artefacts that have entered the museum environment from their largely unknown ‘lives’ in eastern Indonesia.

    This thesis, therefore, examines some of the implications these boat histories have for current museum debates on curatorial practice, acquisition, display and the question of significance and ultimately what justifies their continued existence in museum collections.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDavid Mearns (Supervisor) & Steven Farram (Supervisor)

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