A Brief History

The Republic of Indonesia first saw light on 17 August 1945, just days after the Japanese surrender to the Allies at the end of the war in the Pacific, when the Indonesian nationalist leaders, Sukarno and Dr Mohammad Hatta, proclaimed the country's independence on behalf of the Indonesian people after nearly 350 years of Dutch colonial rule and a further four years of Japanese occupation. However, following the Japanese surrender, the Dutch were hell-bent on regaining control of the territory and between 1945 and 1949 the infant republic was faced with military threats to its very existence as a nation. During this difficult period, of all the Western countries, Australia had been the most sympathetic to the Republic's independence cause and, in time, the Australian Government itself came to the view - that was not shared by the Dutch and the British - that not only was it entitled to pursue economic relations with Indonesia but that it would accept its representatives, for the time-being on an "informal" basis.

Accordingly, in June 1947, Indonesia sent its first representative, Dr Usman Sastroamidjojo, of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, to Australia as the "chief of the diplomatic and consular service for the Indonesian Republic". He was accepted on "an ongoing basis" and had frequent discussions with Australian leaders, most importantly, of course, on Australia's continued support for Indonesia's status as an internationally recognised sovereign state. On September 28, 1950, the Republic of Indonesia was admitted as a member of the United Nations. Dr Usman returned to Indonesia in 1951 with his mission accomplished.

Based initially in Melbourne, Dr Usman and his small staff moved to Canberra in 1949. From then on, the Embassy occupied several temporary locations in Canberra, firstly at the Hotel Canberra (now the Hyatt Hotel), and then in the Canberra suburb of Deakin, before moving, in August 1971, to its permanent home in Yarralumla.

H.E. Mr Raden Hidayat, Ambassador (1968-70), laid the foundation stone for the new Indonesian chancery in Yarralumla on 15 January 1970 and, upon completion, was "handed over" by the architect, Mr George Holland, to the new Indonesian Ambassador, H.E. Mr Sujitno Sukirno (1970-73) on 13 August 1971. Originally, the complex was comprised of two buildings, a chancery and a special pavilion, known as "Wisma Wisata Budaya", to be used to display Indonesian arts and crafts and for entertaining.

As already noted, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, General Suharto, officially opened the Indonesian chancery on the afternoon of 7 February 1972 during the course of a four-day State visit, which was, incidentally, the first visit to Australia by an Indonesian Head of State. The President was accompanied by Mrs Suharto, Mr Adam Malik (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Professor Widjojo Nitisastro (Minister for National Development) and Major-General Umar Wirahadikusumah (Army Chief of Staff).

The main office block was constructed just like any other Indonesian government building of that period. However, the exhibition or display hall (built in the style of a Javanese pendopo and containing a selection of traditional Indonesian arts and crafts and musical instruments) and the series of hand-carved Balinese statues beside the steps and around the terrace, to the left of the main building, are a unique expression of Indonesian culture and to the present day make a distinct contribution to Canberra's tourism objects.

The original office building was renovated and another office block was added during 1983 and 1984, and a year later, work began on the construction of a second hall, known as "Balai Kartini", alongside of and built in the same style as the original display hall. The certificate of completion of this project was issued on 7 Mar 1986. Leith Bartlett and Partners Pty Ltd of Canberra was the architect for both projects and Griffith Building Group (NSW) Pty Ltd, were the builders.

The "Balai Kartini" is not generally open to the public and is used variously for meetings and as a venue for official ceremonies. It was so named to commemorate R. A. Kartini (1879-1904), a national figure and one of the best-known pioneers of the Indonesian Woman's Movement. Kartini Day is celebrated each year in Indonesia on 21 April.


Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Canberra