Goa wants Australia back

Adrian Vickers

A rather strange footnote in the history of Australian-Indonesian relations. Based on his claim to be the heir to the Sultanate of Goa (which was defeated by the Dutch East India Company in 1669), the king of Goa asked the British ambassador to Indonesia, Kermode, for the return of ‘Marege.’ The king claimed that Makassarese sultanate had ruled over the Philippines, New Guinea, the Lesser Sundas [Nusa Tenggara] and Australia.

This is interesting for two reasons: first, the exaggerated historical claim that Goa’s empire included Australia, and secondly that the claim was made to the ambassador of Britain based on its use of Australia as a penal colony, not to the Commonwealth of Australia. Later writing by Australian historians of the relationship is about ‘the Macassans’ coming to Australia, when in fact a significant number of Indonesians who came to northern Australia were from other ethnic groups. For the key work on this history, and the starting point for other Australian historical writing on the subject, see Campbell MacKnight’s book, Voyage to Marege. The Global Encounters and First Nations Peoples project is adding depth and complexity to this picture.