School of Arts

Kathryn Avery

CRCAH doctoral candidate

An oily stepping stone: Portuguese Timor, Japan and Australian security, 1902-42 (working title)


Situated within close proximity to Northern Australia, the small yet strategically important colony of Portuguese Timor played a significant role in Australian security considerations during the first half of the twentieth century prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War. To date understandings of Australian interests in Portuguese Timor have focussed on the Japanese occupation period between 1942 and 1945, as well as the more recent history in Timor-Leste with respect to tensions over access to oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. Yet the significance of Portuguese Timor to Australia prior to the outbreak of the Pacific War has received scant attention. Australia’s leaders feared for their nation’s security should the colony fall into the orbit of Japan’s sphere of influence. This thesis explores the origins of the strategic significance of Portuguese Timor to Australian security, as well as the measures pursued by Australia’s leaders in an attempt to counter Japanese penetration of the colony from within the context of British Imperialism and the wider international crisis of the time. Further, it exposes Australia’s inherent policy inconsistencies - appeasing Japan in its expansion into China, while taking a firmer stance in checking the Japanese when closer to the Australian mainland.


Kathryn is a Research Priority Area PhD scholarship holder in the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History at Federation University Australia. In 2015 she graduated from her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) with First Class Honours at Deakin University where she was the recipient of the Renee Erdos Memorial Prize. In 2013 she graduated from the Bachelor of Arts with Distinction, majoring in history and sociology  at Deakin University. Kat is also currently part of the teaching team for the Bachelor of Social Science program at Federation University Australia where she has worked in various roles since 2005.


"Towards a goal farther south': Portuguese Timor, Japan and Australian security, 1902-41". Australian Historical Association Conference,  Canberra, July 2018.

"Scaling the Australian government’s responses to Japanese intentions in Portuguese Timor". Scaling Australia seminar series, Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College, London, April 2018.

Book reviews

Avery, Kathryn. A carefree war: The hidden history of Australian WWII child evacuees [Book Review] [online]. Agora, Vol. 53, No. 2, Jun 2018: 73-74. Availability: <;dn=772888405359937;res=IELAPA> ISSN: 0044-6726