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"
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
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.