Malaya bound: Australia's colonial perceptions of Asia, 1955-1965

Mathew Radcliffe

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1 Citation (Scopus)


On 1 April 1955 Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, announced the deployment of a large Australian military force to Malaya for garrison duties with the Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. In preparing for the establishment of a permanent garrison in Malaya (including the families of service personnel), military officials were forced to articulate their understandings of Asia in practical ways that defined the administrative and structural dimensions of the Australian presence. This article argues that, in the absence of much genuine knowledge of Malaya, military officials, and indeed the broader Australian military community, viewed Malaya predominantly through the lens of British colonialism. In doing so, military officials reflected not only the dearth of knowledge about Australia's northern neighbours among sections of the general Australian public during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but also the impossibility of any more nuanced understandings of the region while colonialism continued to be the main organising principle through which the majority of Australians continued to perceive Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-96
Number of pages21
JournalHistory Australia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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