Australia’s Asia Pacific Relations. Historical Overview 1900 - 1945. Boxer Rebellion, China 1900-01. The new Australian Government was anxious to aid Britain and the other European powers against a Chinese uprising to remove the European influence from Beijing. Gallipoli and the Anzac Legend.
1900 - 1945
The new Australian Government was anxious to aid Britain and the other European powers against a Chinese uprising to remove the European influence from Beijing.
This was the first battle in WW1 that the Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought in. Although the battle itself was lost and was unimportant for the war it cemented relations between Australia and New Zealand and was one of the first events seen as part of the slow separation of Australia from the UK.
In 1882 the British and Germans divided up what is now PNG. In 1902 the British gave Papua to Australia to administer and at the end of WW1 New Guinea also came under Australia administration. Australia saw it’s role as supporting Australian and British plantation owners and in the 1920’s offered confiscated German land to ex servicemen. In the 1930’s the first local leaders start to question Australia’s methods and want more say and better conditions for local workers. At this time the Australian administration reacted by arresting the troublemakers. In WW2 major battles were fought by Australian troops in PNG (Kakoda Track)
The European owned plantations produced cash crops that were exported to Australia and elsewhere – copra, cocoa, coffee, rubber, tea. They depended on local labour. Burns Philp controlled the trade.
The Kakoda Track was a major operation for Australian soldiers in WW2. Conditions were terrible with very rough terrain, constant rain, disease and well trained Japanese enemy. They saw themselves as protecting Australia from invasion.
Suppling troops was a major problem and the army depended on local carriers to collect supplies and carry them across the rough terrain. The local villagers also evacuated wounded soldiers and provided scouts and guides.
From Feb1942 until the end of 1943 Darwin and other towns across northern Australia were regularly and often severely bombed by the Japanese. The Australian government was sure the Japanese intended to invade Australia and had plans to evacuate the population the the southeast if this happened.
In Feb 1942 the Japanese Army invaded Timor. Throughout 1942 the Australian Army, aided by Dutch and Portuguese Colonial forces fought the Japanese. They were soon overrun but the Australians remained throughout 1942 to fight a guerrilla war with the Japanese in East Timor. Their successes depended heavily on the aid given by the local East Timorese.
Of the 22,376 Australian prisoners of war captured by the Japanese, some 8,031 died while in captivity, particularly on the forced death marches ( eg at Ranau only 6 out of 2500 survived.) and as forced labour on the Burma railway.
After the end of the war, War Crimes Trials were held to investigate reports of atrocities and massacres. Many Australians felt resentment towards the Japanese for many years because of the treatment of Australian POW’s .