Black Armada

Page Title

In August 1945 in the Sydney suburb of Woolloomooloo, a group of Indonesians were listening to the short-wave radio set in the Indonesian Seamen’s Union offices, monitoring the news from Batavia Radio. The news was broadcast announcing the proclamation of Indonesian independence on 17 August.

SS Moreton Bay was one of the vessels chartered by the Dutch government-in-exile. (Photo by Australian National Maritime Museum Collection)

Immediately after Indonesia declared its Independence on August 17, 1945, the Australian Waterside and Seamen Unions, alongside the Chinese and Indian Seamen Unions, committed themselves to supporting this Independence declaration by imposing a black ban on all Netherlands East Indies (NEI) ships returning to Indonesia. They refused to deliver cargo (including armed soldiers, ammunition and weapons) owned by the Dutch who wanted to supply their troops to re-colonize Indonesia after the proclamation. The strike was known in historiography as the ‘Black Ban (s)’ phenomenon. The Australian Trade Union supported the Black Ban by the ships, which the majority of ports in Australia have applied Black Ban to the Netherlands. This ban affected some 500 ships including Dutch warships in Australian ports.  It was followed up by the support for the upholding of the Indonesian Independence by the Australian government in the United Nations in 1947and 1948.

The announcement of the proclamation of Indonesia Independence was the climax of a long campaign for independence from Dutch colonial rules and also began a four- year-long political and military struggle for Indonesian independence to be accepted by the Dutch and acknowledged by the international community. During this period, Australian support for Indonesian was prominent. This crucial Australian support for upholding the Indonesian Independence is unfortunately not widely known in Australia or Indonesia. 

President Sukarno paid tribute to the ‘freedom-loving’ stand taken by the Australian labour movement. “The Understanding and support given us by the Australian people will never be forgotten and we will convey this history of our struggle in your land to our countrymen at home. We hope that the friendship between our two peoples may become stronger and endure in the best interest of democracy” (Wrote in Brisbane based Central Committee of Indonesian Independence).

Timeline - Historical Context

  • 1926: Tana Merah, Communist Party uprising

  • 1935: Boven Digul momentum of Hatta and Syahrir being exiled and detained

  • 1942: In March Dutch Indies exile government offices established in Melbourne and Brisbane

  • 1943: 500 Digul prisoners arriving in Cowra, NSW. 13 people died due to sickness.

  • 1945: KNIL headquarter in Melbourne, 53 Indonesian rebel KNIL soldiers and navy officers relocated (part of 400 Indonesians possibly Ambonese) in army camp in Casino, NSW. 2 people shot dead.

  • 1945 Black Armada Event:

    • 23 Sep 1945 first interview with Sukarno by Sydney Morning Herald

    • 24 Sep 1945 in Sydney, Brisbane and spreading Melbourne and Fremantle.

    • 28 Sep 1945 in Sydney demonstration outside Dutch Shipping company and diplomatic office supported waterside workers and trade and labour council.

    • Strike continued for 2 years until 1947

    • Supported by Australian Maritime Union

    • Karsik Ship in Melbourne with Dutch money

    • Merak Ship in Melbourne

  • Post Black Armada 1945-1949:

    • 1946: Linggarjati Agreement

    • 21 Jul – 5 Aug 1947: Dutch Military Aggression I

    • 30 Jul 1947: Australian took diplomatic step and revert the conflict at the UN SC as bridge of peace Article 39

    • 7 Sep 1947: PM Syariffudin cabled Ben Chifley asking to represent Indonesia in the UN negotiations for Indonesia Independence (KTN/Good Offices Committee) Dutch (Belgium), Indonesia (Australia), UN (US)

    • 8 Sep 1947: Ben Chifley cabled Syariffudin agreed

    • Jan 1948: Renville Agreement

    • Dec 1948: Dutch Military Aggression II

    • 28 Jan 1949: New Dehli Forum supporting Security Council for Indonesia

    • 7 May 1949: Roem-Royen Agreement

    • 23 Aug – 2 Nov 1949: KMB in Den Haag

    • 27 Dec 1949: The Netherlands transfer sovereignty to The United States of Indonesia (RIS)

    • 1950: Republic of Indonesia established

Australian Very Important Persons Supporting Indonesia Independence

  • Ben Chifley (Prime Minister Australia)

  • Thomas Critchley (United Nations Commission for Indonesia 1947-1950)

  • Richard Kirby (Chairman of Good Offices Committee - Komisi Tiga Negara)

  • John Douglas Lloyd Hood (President of the United Nations Security Council 1947)

  • Noel Constantine (Royal Air Force pilot transporting medical supplies to Indonesian republican fighters)

  • Charles Eaton (Australia’s Consul-General in Batavia 1946 and Chairman United Nations Consular Commission for Renville Agreement)

  • Prof Joe Isaac (academic, diplomat and author main supporter of Indonesia)

  • Lord Mountbatten (British - Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command)

  • Douglas MacArthur (American -  Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area) 

Historical Persons Involved in Black Armada


  • Fred Wong (Sydney Entrepreneur – Chinese seamen organiser) – Sydney

  • Arthur Locke (Chinese seamen organiser)

  • Dar Singh (Indian seamen organiser) – Prof Heather Goodall

Koninklijke Paketvaart-Maatschappij (KPM) Seamen

(open movement in Black Armada strike 24 Sep 1945)

  • Jimmy Imawan (President KIM - Komite Indonesia Merdeka)

  • Leo Lasut (Secretary KIM)

  • Jan Walandouw (Sarpelindo - KIM - Orator) – Sydney

  • Pet Tangkilisan (KIM - Propaganda) - Sydney

  • Andries Sorongan (KIM) – Sydney

  • Anton Maramis (KIM) - Sydney

  • Charlotte Reid (Lottie) Maramis (Australian Journalist) - Sydney


(political movement to support Indonesian independence)

  • Tukliwon (Sarpelindo - CENKIM - Central Komiti Indonesia Merdeka) – Sydney - in BAE Sep 1945

  • Jamaluddin Tamin (President CENKIM)

  • Mohamad Bondan (Secretary CENKIM) - Brisbane

  • Molly Warner Bondan (Australian Journalist) – Sydney

In 1946 All KPM Seamen and Digulists who stayed in Australia moved together.

Indonesian Politicians

  • Dr Raden Usman Sastroamidjojo (1st Indonesian Ambassador to Australia)

  • Sutan Syahrir (Prime Minister Indonesia)