Story: Indonesians

In Indonesian batik designs, chrysanthemums and grapes signify the Dutch influence, bright filigree birds are of Chinese origin, and geometric patterns are Islamic. New Zealand’s Indonesians also represent such a blending of cultures: Dutch colonials, Javanese, Sundanese (from West Java), Sumatrans, and Chinese.

Full story by Carl Walrond
Main image: Mr Widiyanto holds a Javanese shadow puppet

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A Dutch colony

For centuries Indonesia was a colony of the Netherlands, known as the Dutch East Indies. It was renamed the Republic of Indonesia when it became independent in 1949.

Population and ethnicities

Relatively few people born in Indonesia have settled in New Zealand. In 2013 they numbered around 4,900, mostly living in Auckland, and were made up of three main groups:

  • Dutch colonials. From the late 1940s there was a big influx of Dutch immigrants after Indonesia became independent.
  • Indonesians from Java and Sumatra. Many in this group came as students in the 1960s. There was a new wave of arrivals in the 1990s, and in 2013 the population reached 4,137. Most were Christian, and around one-third were Muslim.
  • Chinese Indonesians. These were mainly businesspeople who came in the late 1960s and again in the 1990s.


There is a rich variety of music, arts, crafts and cuisine. Wellington’s Padhang Moncar music group produces the interweaving metallic and woody sounds of the gamelan orchestra. Authentic dishes, flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass and other spices, are served at restaurants throughout the country.

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How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond. 'Indonesians', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 17-Sep-14