Troubled Waters: Borders, Boundaries and Possession in the by Ruth Balint

By Ruth Balint

The dramatic transformation of Australia's northern seas—from an neglected backwater to the main militarized and fiercely guarded waters within the region—is chronicled during this attention-grabbing quantity. as soon as a bridge among coastlines and cultures, within the final years of the 20 th century the Timor Sea has develop into Australia's frontline opposed to the specter of invasion. whilst Australia increased its territorial limitations by way of two hundred nautical miles in 1979, its territory reached your doorstep of japanese Indonesia—an profession pushed through the concept that of mare nullius, the concept the ocean used to be empty and that not anyone might endure for his or her claims. yet for the conventional fishermen of West Timor, those waters represented the resource in their livelihood, and this robust tale comprises the struggles of a humans evicted from their seas.

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Those Japanese who remained during World War II were arrested and interned as far away as Victoria and South Australia, often with their Aboriginal wives and children. Peter Matsumoto and his entire family (including his Aboriginal mother) were arrested as enemy aliens and spent the war years interned in a camp in South Australia. They were one of the very few families to Final Pages 29/3/05 1:50 PM Page 31 The Timor Connection 31 eventually return. As the Japanese disappeared, reliance on the Indonesian labour trade continued, and Kupang became an increasingly important centre for the recruitment of crews in the 1940s.

18 Unstated, but no less of a real concern, was that the French or the Dutch might get there first. In 1838, Fort Essington was established to great fanfare and grandiose imaginings of a future rich in trepang and trade. Two years later, malaria struck, and in the intervening years between 1840 and the fort’s eventual abandonment in 1849, the commandant, John Macarthur, reported that at times practically all of his men were crippled with fever. The place stank with sickness, decay and death. 19 Those who could escape did.

Even after our father passed on we are still maintaining connection with family and the islands’. For these locals, Broome is still very much a ‘part of Asia’. Its gaze remains fixed firmly seawards. Final Pages 29/3/05 1:50 PM Page 32 STAKING THE TIMOR SEA Australia’s history of maritime expansion T HE PEARLERS OF Broome may have looked across the sea with mercantile ambition, but for the rest of white Australia Asia’s proximity was viewed as anything but advantageous for the new nation. 1 Alongside the question of federation, a fervent fixation with the presence of a multitudinous Asia beyond Australia’s shores dominated fin-de-siècle politics.

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