Page 1 – Population
Considering the size of Indonesia’s population, relatively few of its people have chosen to settle in New Zealand. Among arrivals, there are three distinct groups: Dutch colonials, Indonesians (Javanese, Sundanese – Muslim people from West Java – and Sumatran) and Chinese Indonesians.
For centuries Indonesia was a Dutch colony, known as the Dutch East Indies. The 1921 census records 13 New Zealand residents born in the Dutch East Indies.
In the late 1940s the first of several waves of Dutch settlers arrived in New Zealand. The East Indies gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949, and became the Republic of Indonesia. During this period, most Dutch immigrants came from Indonesia, rather than the Netherlands.
By 1951 the Indonesian-born population in New Zealand numbered 303. Most of these immigrants, such as the artist Theo Schoon, were Dutch colonials.
Javanese, Sundanese and Sumatrans
In the 1960s many Indonesian immigrants were students or worked for the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington. The New Zealand Indonesian Association was established in the capital in 1964, and an Auckland section soon followed.
The Wellington branch often organised events that featured wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), pantum (folk poetry), warong (food stalls) and displays of batik (dyed cloth). They also raised funds for Pusat Rehabilitasi Yakkum, a charity for disabled Indonesian people.
In 1982 Wellington’s Indonesian community had a radio show, and by the 2000s there was a women’s club, Dharma Wanita. It was not until the 1990s that there was a sizeable influx, mostly of Javanese, Sundanese and Sumatran migrants. During this period the population more than doubled – from 861 in 1991 to 2,073 in 2001. In that year many of these immigrants were students. Most lived in Auckland (58%), Wellington (16%) and Christchurch (9%).
In the 1960s Rieke, an Indonesian woman, came to Wellington as a student. Before returning to Indonesia alone, she secretly married a New Zealander. When her husband went to Indonesia to bring her back to New Zealand, Rieke acted as translator between her parents and new husband. They married again in Indonesia before returning to Wellington to raise a family. After nearly four decades in the antipodes Rieke still clung to her origins: ‘I always feel Indonesian, very much Indonesian’. 1
Chinese have lived in Indonesia for hundreds of years. Their success as business people made them targets of resentment in times of popular discontent. A group of Chinese Indonesian refugees arrived in New Zealand between 1967 and 1971, and in 1998 some 1,500 came, fleeing Indonesian riots. Around 800 overstayed their visas. Of these, two-thirds were granted residency, and the remaining third were sent home.
Other Chinese Indonesian migrants included businesspeople who arrived during the 1990s in search of a more relaxed lifestyle. Education and family reunification were important reasons for migrating. By the mid-1990s many Chinese Indonesians lived in the Auckland suburbs of Glenfield, Mt Roskill and Mt Eden.