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Province of Darwin

by Douglas McDonald





-Indonesia invades Australia in January. In a lightning strike, they take Darwin. Their advance is halted by Australian troops at Katherine.

-International condemnation of the Indonesian invasion comes to no avail, as the Australian line comes under continuous assault. Indonesian troops are shipped in to reinforce Darwin.

-Indonesian troops break through the Katherine lines, and continue advancing south. Australian troops have suffered a major defeat, and are confused and lacking leadership.

-Indonesian troops advance towards Alice Springs.

-Battle of Alice Springs. After a bitter, bloody battle, the town is taken, although it is almost levelled in the fighting. Indonesia now controls the Northern Territory, and looks poised to strike at Adelaide. Suharto has no interest in a prolonged war, however, and sets out terms for a ceasefire.

-Australia is forced to accept a humiliating peace. The Northern Territory will remain under Indonesian control, but the war will end. East Timor is not mentioned. The Northern Territory will become the Province of South Irian, under military rule. Disgusted, the Country Party break off their coalition with the Liberal Party. Fraser is almost universally condemned.

-In October, Fraser’s Liberal Party suffers electoral Armageddon. The party loses 40 seats, including Fraser’s. Bill Hayden, who campaigned on an anti-Asian, anti-Indonesian platform, becomes Prime Minister. Doug Anthony, leader of the Country Party, becomes Opposition Leader. John Howard becomes Leader of the Liberal Party, who are effectively marginalised as a political force.

-Protests in Darwin over the Indonesian occupation are brutally put down by the military.



-Australia Day is marked by demonstrations for the retaking of the Northern Territory. War is still too near for Prime Minister Hayden to comment, although he is privately understood to be sympathetic.

-The first Governor of South Irian is inaugurated. Although political elections have been postponed indefinitely, he promises to listen to the concerns of the people. Violence is still widespread, and clashes between occupying forces and the residents of Darwin are common.

-Prime Minister Hayden condemns Fraser’s policies of multiculturalism, blaming them for the loss of Darwin. He calls for a ‘return to the old Australia, of unity in tradition, culture and blood’. Within days of his speech, a wave of attacks begins on Asian immigrant communities.

-Cabramatta Riots. In one of Australia’s biggest ethnic enclaves, white Australians begin a campaign of terror against Asians. Leaders across Asia condemn the riots. While Prime Minister Hayden condemns the violence, he does not condemn their motives.

-Asian immigration to Australia slows to a trickle.

-A widespread program of Indonesian immigration to Darwin begins.

-Indonesian troops begin building up in Darwin. A second war is feared.



-On January 1, the anniversary of Federation in 1901, Prime Minister Hayden calls for ‘the reunification of Australia’. This is interpreted as a call for the return of the Northern Territory. Relations between Indonesia and Australia take a turn for the worse.

-In Darwin, protest marches take place for the restoration of democracy.

-In response to the marches, local council elections are held in Darwin. Although political parties are banned, candidates generally follow their former party lines, and condemn the invasion. A local independent, Jack Sullivan, supports an end to the violence against Indonesian authorities.

-Sullivan wins, against accusations of Indonesian vote rigging. Within days of his election, riots break out across Darwin. Sullivan’s house is firebombed, and he is assassinated by a local militant.

-Indonesian forces are called into Darwin from East Timor to restore order. Reports of civilian massacres reach the outside world. Hayden stands up troops on the South Irian border, threatening to invade to end the violence. War seems imminent.

-On April 17th, 16 days after the election, Australian forces invade. They quickly take Alice Springs, and begin steamrolling their opposition all the way into Darwin. They proceed rapidly into the city, but face stiff resistance. Indonesian forces fight a guerrilla war against the Australian forces, while their lines through the centre of Darwin hold. Soon, the entire city is aflame, divided roughly in half along Bagot Road. Darwin Airport is destroyed by the retreating Indonesian forces.

-A counter-attack by Indonesian forces lead to a break through Australian lines in Darwin. The Australian military are forced to withdraw from Darwin, establishing new lines at Katherine. The city, and the surrounding countryside, has suffered massive damage. Thousands of residents are dead, as many by the Australian bombing as by Indonesian forces. The population of Darwin is now 150, 000, with an Indonesian population of about 10%.

-A ceasefire is declared, once it becomes apparent that neither side will be able to strike a killing blow. Although Indonesia’s Australian territory is vastly reduced, it still keeps Darwin, and all territory up to Katherine. The rest of the Northern Territory is placed under Australian military government.

-While leaving the peace talks, Hayden is assassinated by an anti-Indonesian militant. He has become the victim of the race hatred he himself stirred up. After a bitter leadership contest between Lionel Bowen and Bob Hawke, Bowen becomes Prime Minister, Hawke’s former multicultural beliefs counting against him. Bowen is a reliable but unspectacular Prime Minister, appearing rather colourless compared to the growing popularity of Opposition Leader Doug Anthony.

-The reconstruction of Darwin begins. The Governor of South Irian sponsors large-scale migration to speed construction, and soon the Indonesian population has increased to 30, 000. The new Darwin begins to take on Indonesian architectural influences.

-New local elections are held after the death of Sullivan. The former Labor Party candidate, whose position has become considerably more moderate out of fears of more violence, wins.

-Britain cancels their Ashes Tour in Australia, in protest about the invasion and about Australia’s new racist laws.



-On the 5th of March, Bowen calls a double dissolution election. The election is fought over the issue of Darwin, with Anthony calling for its retaking and Bowen for peaceful relations to be restored with Indonesia. The election ends with no party in majority. The leader of the Liberal Party, John Howard, who opposes another war, forms a coalition with the Labor Party to enable them to stay in power. Anthony resigns, to be replaced by Ian Sinclair.

-Gradually, life begins to return to normal in Darwin. For the first time, flights to and from Australia are allowed. Although many Darwiners leave, many more decide to stay.

-Australia has become a bitter, racist nation, where many Australians still have not accepted the loss of Darwin. Gradually, however, Australians begin to accept that it is lost. Racist sentiment is still high, however, and discriminatory laws become commonplace. ‘Multicultural’ is the new profanity.

-The population of South Irian continues to rise. By the end of 1983, the population is at 200 000, with about 50 000 Indonesian soldiers and civilians.

-Talks begin about the demilitarisation of South Irian.

-South Irian becomes a haven for the ‘boat people’, refugees from the Cambodian Civil War, as Australia flatly refuses them. Cambodian influences become apparent in Darwin life.



-The first Indonesian troops begin leaving Darwin.

-In Australia, a double dissolution election is called, after the coalition between Bowen and Howard breaks down. In the resulting election, the Liberal Party, already weakened by the shadow of Fraser and by the effective usurpation of their policies by the Labor Party, is reduced to a rump of a few seats. This is the last time it will be an effective force in Australian politics. Bowen gains a majority in his own right.

-Islam begins to become popular amongst the Aboriginal community in South Irian.

-In South Irian, four years after the invasion, provincial and gubernatorial elections are held, with the Golkar Party the only real contestant. An Australian collaborator, Steven Carlyle, is set up as the Golkar Party Chief Minister in the South Irian Legislative Assembly, the reconstructed Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, to attempt to give the election some legitimacy in the eyes of Australians, and to echo the pre-war political state. However, he has little real power, with most decisions still resting in the hands of the Indonesian governor.



-The Darwin Mosque opens; built in Indonesian style, the interior bears homage to Aboriginal culture. The opening is heralded as a sign of greater cooperation between the disparate communities.

-For the first time, South Irian reaches a 50-50 split between Australians and non-Australians, with a population of almost 300 000. The non-Australian population is mostly Indonesian, but with a large Indochinese minority.

-Joh Bjelke-Peterson, Premier of Queensland, resigns and goes into federal politics, contesting a safe National seat. Within hours of his election, Sinclair is forced by overwhelming demand to resign in favour of Bjelke-Peterson, who has achieved lasting notoriety in Australia for his virulent anti-Indonesian stance.



-Joh Bjelke-Peterson publishes his work, Australia for Australians, which takes a virulent anti-foreigner stance. His popularity skyrockets in Australia. Seeking to capitalise on this, Prime Minister Bowen blocks non-British immigration.

-Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser lead a joint protest against Bowen’s actions, with Whitlam stating, ‘We have become a new South Africa’. Police break up the march.

-In South Irian, Australia for Australians is banned by Indonesian authorities. A black market in its sale soon becomes widespread, however.

-After a four-year lull, violence begins again against Indonesian authorities, fuelled by the release of Bjelke-Peterson’s book.

-In the Australian Senate, the Australian Democrats join with the National Party to block supply, forcing an election which it is obvious Bjelke-Peterson will win. Bowen accepts defeat and calls the election. He loses in a landslide, with the National Party gaining majorities in both houses.

-Bjelke-Peterson draws up a radical realignment of electoral boundaries, effectively an Australia-wide gerrymander in favour of the National Party. He proposes a plan for ‘ethnic communities’, essentially ghettos. The plan is implemented.

-Thanks to Bjelke-Peterson’s policies, Australia becomes an international pariah.

-Migration to Darwin continues, with South Irian now 60% non-Australian. The architecture of Darwin, its only major city, is a fusion of Australian, Indonesian and Cambodian styles; the population is about 220 000. GDP per capita is much lower than the Australian average, but higher than the Indonesian average.

-A military build up begins in Darwin. Soon, tens of thousands of Indonesian troops are stationed there.

-Bjelke-Peterson calls upon Suharto to return Darwin; Suharto refuses. War is imminent.

-On November 11, Remembrance Day, a peaceful protest by the Australian population escalates into a riot, which ends with the Darwin Liberation Front (DLF), a pro-Australian organisation, taking control of much of Darwin. Indonesian troops begin an immediate bloody crackdown.

-Accusing Bjelke-Peterson of provoking the riots, Indonesia declares war. It invades the Northern Territory, quickly breaking through the Katherine Line and taking Alice Springs. Indonesian forces begin moving southwards, towards Adelaide.

-Bjelke-Peterson introduces a program of conscription, resolving to defeat the Indonesian invasion and retake Darwin. However, Australia’s international isolation makes this difficult.

-Battle of Adelaide. In the outskirts of Adelaide, Australian and Indonesian forces meet. Unimaginable carnage results. In the end, Indonesian forces are forced back, and move into retreat, under attack all the way.

-The Indonesian retreat ceases at Alice Springs, and the long siege begins. Neither side is able to claim a decisive advantage.



-Australian forces finally gain the advantage, and force Indonesian forces back. Eventually, Indonesian forces are returned to their pre-war positions.

-Battle of Darwin. The battle rages over several days, but eventually Indonesian forces, already wearied by the long push across Australia, are forced out of the Port of Darwin. Darwin is free.

-In the resulting peace settlement, it becomes obvious that the multicultural Darwin will not fit in to the new racist Australia or totalitarian Indonesia. The people of Darwin are given a choice in a preferential referendum; join Australia, remain in Indonesia or become a republic. By a slim margin, the republican option wins.

-The Republic of Darwin, population 320 000, is declared.


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