Arthur Locke/ Chang, former Secretary of the Chinese Seamen's Union and actor in the 1946 film Indonesia Calling! passed away on 15th of January. On the film still of this page we see Arthur delivering a fiery address to a crowd of seamen in Sydney in 1945 in support of Indonesia Merdeka / Independent Indonesia. This was the only sequence of Indonesia Calling! with sound registration.
He arrived in Australia as a 13 year old with his dad who was a cook and Arthur was asked to stand on his own feet in a harsh world and order of deportation under the white Australia policy. The Seamen's Union gave him the 'protection and education' and he combined this with being articulate and this was recognised by his mentor Fred Wong.
As the Secretary of the Chinese Seamen’s Union, Arthur stood together with the Australian Waterside Workers, Indonesian seamen and Indian seamen, to impose a black ban on Netherlands Indies ships, intent on returning to Indonesia to suppress independence and facilitate the reinstatement of the 200 year old Dutch colonial rule. It was this shipping ban that granted the embattled Indonesian Nationalists an invaluable pause and opportunity, to set up a fledgling government and fight a desperate battle against superior forces in Surabaya and Semarang in November 1945. Subsequently, this support for the Indonesian independence movement by the Australian Maritime Unions and their friends, won the support of the Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley and his Foreign Minister Herbert Evatt in the United Nations. Notably, the Australian government later accepted Indonesia’s request to represent it, in the independence negotiations in the United Nations.
In 1942, when the Indonesians, mainly seamen, arrived in Australia with their fleeing Dutch masters, seeking refuge from the advancing Japanese army, it was the Chinese Seamen’s Union and the Chinese Youth League in Sydney’s Haymarket, that looked after their welfare. They housed and fed the seamen, who went on strike for equal work conditions and pay, and in 1945, for an independent Indonesia. These seamen had not been paid by their Dutch employers and a number of them had been gaoled, because of their political beliefs.
Against this backdrop, on a cold Sydney morning, on the initiative of his mentor, Kenneth Frederick Wong, President and Founder of the Chinese Youth League and the Chinese Seamen’s Union, young Arthur Locke, drove a truck to collect some 20 Indonesian sailors, all TB patients evicted by the Dutch from the Princess Juliana Hospital in Turramurra. Fred and Arthur sheltered them in the Chinese Youth League premises in Dixon Street, to be cared for by the Chinese community. Arthur and his mentor Kenneth Fredrick Wong, had had a long, close and committed association with Indonesian seamen to improve their welfare and their fight for an independent Indonesia.
These instances, together with Arthur’s sustained battles to have the White Australia Policy lifted, are but a few examples of his whole-hearted dedication to the principles of ‘Humanity, Justice and Equality’. He was a man who fought for his convictions. Arthur Locke foresaw a multicultural and dynamic Australia, enjoying close ties to its nearest Asian neighbour, Indonesia, taking its place as a G20 economy, alongside China, the world’s second largest economy. Who would have thought this possible 70 years ago?
Arthur Locke was a man of vision, a man with hope.
This speech was delivered by Anthony Liem
Arthur Locke shaking hands with the Embassador of Indonesia in Australia, during the opening event of the Black Armada exhibition at the National Maritime Musuem of Australia in Sydney, last August. At the background: Anthony Liem.
MARTIN O’HARE AND ANTHONY REID – AUSTRALIA AND INDONESIA’STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
JAN LINGARD – REFUGEES AND REBELS –INDONESIAN EXILES IN WARTIME AUSTRALIA
CHARLOTTE MARAMIS – ECHOES – CHINA.AUSTRALIA.INDONESIA
JORIS IVENS – ‘INDONESIA CALLING’ (1946 FILM ON THE BLACK BAN OF DUTCH SHIPS IN SYDNEY HARBOUR)
JOHN HUGHES – ‘INDONESIA CALLING; JORIS IVENS IN AUSTRALIA’ (2009 DOCUMENTARY )
ANNE TURNER – ARTHUR LOCKE CHANG INTERVIEW IN 1991 (NATIONAL LIBRARY)
MIKE CARLTON – INDONESIA, A REPORTER’S JOURNEY (SBS TV FEATURE)
AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM - EXHIBITS ON THE CHINESE SEAMEN’S UNION AND BLACK ARMADA
NOEL BUTLIN ARCHIVES CENTRE, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, CANBERRA