‘Friends in Australia’ – a message from Sutan Sjahir, the Prime Minister of the newly declared Republic of Indonesia, November 1945.

On 17 August 1945 and two days after the Japanese surrender, Soekarno and Hatta unilaterally declared Indonesia’s Independence and became the first President and Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia.


Hatta and Soekarno preparing the declaration of Independence


Soekarno Proclamation

Soekarno reading the Declaration of Independence on 17 August 1945

Brothers and Sisters All!

I have asked you to be in attendance here in order to witness, an event in our history, of the utmost importance.

For decades we, the People of Indonesia, have struggled for the freedom of our country- even for hundreds of years!

There have been waves in our actions to win independence, which rose, and there has been those that fell, but our spirit still was set in the directions of our ideals.

Also during the Japanese period, our efforts to achieve national independence never ceased. In this Japanese period it merely appeared, that we leant upon them. But fundamentally, we still continued to build up our own powers, we still believed in our own strengths.

Now has come the moment, when truly, we take the fate of our own actions and the fate of our own country into our own hands. Only a nation bold enough to take its fate into its own hands, will be able to stand in strength.

Therefore last night, we had deliberations with prominent Indonesians from all over Indonesia. That deliberative gathering was unanimously of the opinion that NOW has come the time to declare our independence.

Brothers and Sisters:

Herewith we declare the solidarity of that determination.

The Dutch East Indies government in exile was based in Brisbane, Australia and the Dutch prepared ships to carry arms, munitions and troops to re-occupy Indonesia and re-establish their colonial state.  Indonesian seamen living in voluntary exile in Australia during the war,  together with other Asian seamen, and Australian Waterside Workers,  imposed a ‘black ban’ on loading Dutch ships bound for Indonesia in Australian ports. The efforts of the Indonesian seamen, the support of ordinary Australians for Indonesian Independence and the actions of the waterside workers who, maintained the  ‘black ban’, caused Dutch efforts to quickly re-occupy Indonesia to falter.

The Australian government  did not support the Dutch in their efforts to re-establish their colonial state and instead took the side of the new Indonesian nation. The Australian Government under Prime Minister Chifley refused to break the ‘black ban’ on the grounds that it was a dispute involving a foreign nation and their own subjects.

In November 1945, Sutan Sjahir, the Prime Minister of the newly declared Republic of Indonesia sent this message of thanks to the Australian people, who by their actions, helped support Indonesia’s independence at the most crucial point in its history.


‘Friends in Australia, I am unknown to most of you and yet I call you my friends. Most of you, who really are the workers, who refused to load the Dutch ships with arms and munition, which would be used against our Republic. The thousands, who are holding demonstrations, to protest against the onslaught against our independence, the thousands of you, who sympathise with our struggle for our freedom. You are all my friends.

When the war broke out, I was still a Dutch exile on the island of Banda. I heard of Australians being landed on the island of Ambon and the island of Timor. They came there to fight the Japanese, to defend their home country. Australians fought in Malacca, and  in Sumatra, Australians fought in Java. Australians fought all the way back from North Africa to Papua to defend their homeland. An invasion of Australia by the Japanese was threatening. Then things took a turn. Australians and the Americans fought the Japanese back through the jungles and over the seas to their homeland. Australia had a narrow escape. I think Australians are tough fighters. But, I admire most of all, that, you did not fight for territorial or political nor economical gains. You, Australians fought so bravely, because you wanted to defend your freedom. You are fighters for freedom, all the way long from North Africa to Australia up to Japan.

I think, that is why you ought to understand our position now, we are fighting for our freedom!

 With you, we want a world where freedom of the people and freedom of men are really safeguarded. With you, we want to stand to together against all enemies of freedom. If we have achieved our aims, become strong and independent country, we assure you, you need not fight anymore in Sumatra, in Java, in Borneo, Ambon, Timor, for freedom. We ourselves, we will withstand all onslaught on freedom of our country. And so defend, your freedom too, you will be able to keep your sons at home, working for the welfare of your people and for the welfare of humanity.

We know, that your country has come out of the war as an important industrial country. We are still an agricultural country. We need your engines and other industrial products.  I suppose, you can use our agricultural products. Therefore, we can and we will certainly, establish close relations as good neighbours, exchanging the goods of our countries.’

DSCN0486 - Copy

Sutan Sjahir speaking to foreign journalists

My thanks to Anthony Liem for his research on this subject and his enthusiasm in making sure that this story is as widely known as possible.


About ianburnet

Author of the book, Spice Islands. Which tells the History, Romance and Adventure of the spice trade from the Moluccas in Eastern Indonesia over a period of 2000 years. Author of the book, East Indies.Which tells the history of the struggle between the Portuguese Crown, the Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company for supremacy in the Eastern Seas. Author of the book 'Archipelago - A Journey Across Indonesia'. Author of the book 'Where Australia Collides with Asia' Author of the book 'The Tasman Map'. Author of the book 'Eastern Voyages'.
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2 Responses to ‘Friends in Australia’ – a message from Sutan Sjahir, the Prime Minister of the newly declared Republic of Indonesia, November 1945.

  1. paul scully says:

    The least known member of the three leaders of the Independence movement, but an important figure nevertheless. I have a book on his life, in Indonesian, which I will now read. The small museum in Banda is mainly focused on Hatta, Sutan Sjahir who was there in exile at the same time is barely mentioned.

  2. ianburnet says:

    Paul. The next time you are in Banda, the Sjahir House is just a few doors down from the small museum. As a private house it is not always open but the first room is full of photographs and paintings of Sjahir and some of his history.

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