It is World War II: the colonial masters of the Netherlands East Indies an their surviving forces have fled to Australia to avoid capture by the Japanese. Most wash up in wartime Sydney where something remarkable happens: Indonesians living in White Australia are accepted as more than just 'natives'. Among them are former political prisoners and educated Christians, like ship's purser Anton Maramis. Their Australian supporters are wharfies, radicals, businessmen, anthropologists, clergymen and many strong women, like 16-year-old Charlotte (Lottie) Reid. Her story encapsulates the political drama that unfolds as Australia turns away from its affinity with colonial powers to support the indonesian struggle, a critical moment in its emerging engagement with its Asian neighbours.
In the retelling Lottie tells of falling in love with Anton Maramis, defying official and social discouragement to marry, and moving to war-torn Jakarta on the eve of Indonesian independence. Along the way, Lottie and Anton suffer indignity and obstruction from British and Dutch colonial authorities.
Their love story takes you to the moment millions of Indonesians line Jakarta;s streets and gather around village radios, tears running down their cheeks, to listen as Indonesia's first president declares Merdeka! (Freedom!).
Lottie takes you inside the houses, markets and laneways of the impoverished new nation and into the warmth of her new relatives, her hilarious chronicling of it all as a journalist on a Jakarta newspaper, and to Anton's death and State funeral in Indonesia, and his bust in Jakarta's Museum of National Struggle.