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Handmade menu with red star and masonic symbol

Date: 13 January 1946
Overall: 180 x 112 mm, 2 mm, 0.013 kg
Medium: Ink on paper, gilt, tape
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from John Godschall Johnson
Object Name: Menu
Object No: 00027318
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    This handmade cardboard menu was created for the Indian Seamen’s Union of Australia and features a red star and masonic symbol on the cover. Written across the inside in black ink appears the text ‘Guests of Honour; Who have assisted Indian Seamen in their struggles for independence’ and is accompanied by a number of guest signatures.
    SignificanceThis menu provides a record of the dispute between the Indian Seamen’s Union of Australia and Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM) in 1946. It illustrates a sense of cohesion, especially through the text on the inside of the menu which reads, ‘Guests of Honor; Who have assisted Indian Seamen in their struggles for independence’. It was addressed to John and Phyllis Johnson, who aided the union’s cause.
    HistoryIn September 1945, Indonesian crew members refused to sail the Dutch ships in Melbourne and Brisbane to Java, after discovering that arms were being held in the vessel. The Indonesians believed that the arms were to be used by the Dutch to reclaim colonial control over Indonesia, after it had been lost to the Japanese during World War II. KPM ordered Indian crews from other vessels to sail the ships in question, however the crew members refused. In response to this order, the Indian Seamen’s Union of Australia was formed in October 1945 by Indian and Australian seamen in support of the Indonesian cause.

    In the meantime, other union issues were fuelling the dispute between KPM and its Indonesian workers. Indonesian workers received lower wages than that of their Australian and Dutch counterparts. According to Indonesian and Indian workers, wages and working conditions were systematically determined based on racial lines. In response to these conditions, 125 Indian sea workers occupied KPM offices in George Street, Sydney in December 1945. A few days later, over 200 Indian and Indonesian protesters undertook another occupation.

    Underlying the boycott was a sense that the union members from the three nations, Australia, Indonesia and India, were attempting to break the tide of colonial influence and establish their own voices. In the end, the protests lasted for nine months and delayed 559 vessels including Dutch merchant ships, Royal Australian Navy vessels and British troopships. A group of Indonesians illustrated the atmosphere of the 1945 protest and articulated the sense that the ‘struggle’ was much broader than workplace conditions proclaiming, ‘We hope for an everlasting friendship and cooperation between the Indonesian and Indian people in general…both struggling for national independence, freedom and humanity.’
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Handmade menu with red star and masonic symbol


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