2017 media releases

Foreign Minister renews Australia’s commitment with Indonesia

to protect HMAS Perth (I) wreck at opening of new exhibition commemorating its loss 75 years on

The Hon. Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, today outlined positive steps taken by Australia and Indonesia to achieve formal legislated protection for the wreck of WWII cruiser HMAS Perth (I).

At the opening of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s new exhibition Guardians of Sunda Strait – the WWWII loss of HMAS Perth and USS Houston, Minister Bishop reaffirmed Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s commitment from February this year to increase cooperation on our shared maritime cultural heritage.

Minister Bishop also thanked the Indonesian Government for its ongoing support and positive cooperation.

US Consul General Valerie Fowler unveiled a plaque in memory of the crews of HMAS Perth (I) and USS Houston during the ceremony.

Also at the opening ceremony were the two remaining HMAS Perth (I) survivors Frank McGovern (aged 97) and David Manning (aged 94) together with Indonesian Ambassador His Excellency Mr Kristiarto Legowo, Australian Fleet Commander RADM Stuart Mayer AO, CSC*, RAN  and museum director Kevin Sumption PSM.

HMAS Perth (I) was lost in company with USS Houston, during the Battle of Sunda Strait against the Imperial Japanese Navy on the night of 28 February 1942 off the coast of Indonesia.

The Guardians of Sunda Strait exhibition tells the heroic story of the crews of USS Houston and HMAS Perth, as they fought a superior force of Imperial Japanese warships.

It brings together emotional accounts from survivors of the battle as well as significant objects from various international collections including the Australian War Memorial, the Royal Australian Navy’s Heritage Collection, the Sea Power Centre - Australia, the University of Houston and the US Navy’s History and Heritage Command.

The exhibition also examines the wrecks of both ships which remain on the seafloor off the coast of Indonesia, and the recent work of Australian and Indonesian authorities, including the Australian

National Maritime Museum and Indonesia’s National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS), to protect them from illegal salvaging.

The museum and ARKENAS conducted a joint dive on the wreck of HMAS Perth (I) in May this year, supported by officials from TNI-AL (Indonesian Navy), Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture (Jakarta), the Directorate of Heritage and Museum- Regional Office Serang (BPCB) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

The dive revealed HMAS Perth (I) had suffered significant damage from illegal salvaging with only 40 per cent of the vessel remaining.

Since the May dive, Australian and Indonesian authorities continue to work together to achieve legislated protection and support this protection once formalised. Submission of the report from the dive to Indonesian authorities is an important step in that process.

Guardians of Sunda Strait is part of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s ‘War and Peace in the Pacific 75’ Program supported by the USA Bicentennial Gift Fund. The exhibition will remain on show at the Australian National Maritime Museum until 19 November 2017, entry is free.

Media images available on request.

All media inquiries:

Shirani Aththas (02) 9298 3642; 0418 448 690; email