Honorary Research Associate, Australian National Maritime Museum
In 1975, on his first visit to the Republic of Indonesia, Jeffrey Mellefont was drawn into the maritime life of this enormous equatorial archipelago with its extraordinarily diverse cultures and history – as well as the study of Bahasa Indonesia, a national language with its roots in the ancient world of sailors and seaborne traders. Extensive travels and voyages in South-East and South Asia widened this interest, but Australia’s near neighbour Indonesia has been his principal focus. He has published extensively on these subjects in both popular and academic journals.
At last count Jeffrey has made 30 visits to Indonesia of varying duration, as a traveller, sailor, researcher and speaker of Bahasa Indonesia, and has visited 75 of its islands (with some 17,000 still to go!). He has voyaged extensively in these waters, making many passages under sail on traditional, engineless Indonesian trading prahus in the period 1983–2000, recording them during those last decades before the mechanisation of world’s biggest surviving sail-powered fleet. He has also sailed the Indonesian archipelago west to east, from Sumatra to Timor, on a modern sailing yacht, and continues to voyage there at any opportunity.
Many of these Indonesian visits occurred during his years as a research consultant, and then long-time staff member, of the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) in Darling Harbour, Sydney, from 1987 until his retirement in 2014. After working with other foundation staff to develop this new national cultural institution, guiding it to its public opening in 1991, Jeffrey became the museum’s publisher and editor. He established, edited and wrote for the museum’s quarterly journal Signals, and continues as a contributor. Throughout his career at ANMM, Jeffrey advised and assisted with Indonesia-related acquisitions and exhibitions, undertaking field work and exhibiting his own photography. He devised and led a series of group tours for museum members to Indonesia, India and Cambodia, exploring the maritime cultures and history of Asia.
Upon retiring Jeffrey was appointed to the newly created position of Honorary Research Associate, assisting the museum in projects related to Indonesian maritime history. These have included liaising with Indonesian counterparts to place a travelling exhibition from the ANMM into Indonesian museums. He has represented ANMM as a guest lecturer during cruises and expeditions in the Indonesian archipelago, on the APT cruise ship Caledonian Sky and the traditional Indonesian sailing ships Ombak Putih and Katarina operated by SeaTrek Bali. These reflect his commitment to sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for this oceanic world and its people; his richly illustrated presentations draw upon decades of research and adventures sailing with the traditional seafarers and boat builders of Indonesia.
Jeffrey Mellefont was born in Sydney in 1951 and studied anthropology, prehistory, literature and education at the University of Sydney. He had an extremely short career as a high school teacher in the East African Kingdom of Swaziland, preferring to pursue marine occupations during his 20s and 30s. These included working as a wharfie and tuna fisherman in Australia and as an ocean-going yacht navigator and skipper on the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas. On returning to Australia he worked as a yachting journalist, photographer and yacht-magazine editor prior to joining the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Jeffrey raised a family at Bondi Beach and Coogee Beach, Sydney, where he is based with his wife Anna.
- 2016: ‘Spice Islands Eclipse – Astronomy, celestial navigation and spice trade history’ [March 9 total solar eclipse viewed in Moluccas], feature article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 115 March 2015:24-31
- 2016: ‘Maritime tourism helps keep Indonesian traditions alive’ [Cruise on a Bugis pinisi from Ternate (Moluccas) to Kendari (S.E. Sulawesi)], Australian National Maritime Museum blog, https://anmm.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/maritime-tourism-helps-keeps-indonesian-traditions-alive/ 27 January 2016
- 2015: ‘Floating art galleries of Madura [Survey of boatbuilding sites and traditions in Madura]’, Australian National Maritime Museum blog, https://anmm.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/floating-art-galleries-of-madura/ 12 June 2015
- 2015: ‘Bali’s Secret Fleet – A glittering armada’ [Madurese selerek fishery of Jembrana province, western Bali], feature article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 110 March 2015:24-31
- 2014: ‘Members in Makassar – Celebes Sailors, Ships & Spice tour 2014’, feature article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 108 September 2014:16-21
- 2011: ‘A well-seasoned history – Spice Islands – The history, romance and adventure of the spice trade over 2000 years by Ian Burnett’, book review, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 97 December 2011:56
- 2010: ‘The floating world of Cambodia’, feature article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 89 December 2009:32-33
- 2005: ‘Serve me a sea cucumber’ [teripang traders from Makassar and Madura in northern Australia], article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 72 September 2005:34-35
- 2005: ‘Memories of maritime India’ [ANMM Members tour of maritime traditions of Tamil Nadu & Kerala], feature article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 70 March 2005:26-30
- 2003: ‘1421 – the year China discovered the world by Gavin Menzies’, book review, The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History Vol 25 No 2 2003:44-46
- 2003: ‘Pâris in India [continuity of sewn-plank and log-raft fishing craft traditions, southern India]’, feature article, Signals, quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 64 September 2003:26-29
- 2001: ‘Noah’s Art – Maritime Arts of Madura’, essay, TAASA Review, Journal of The Asian Arts Society of Australia, Vol 10 No 2 2001:18-19
- 2000: ‘Heirlooms and tea towels: views of ships’ gender in the modern maritime museum’, refereed paper, The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History Vol 22 No 1 2000:5-16
- 1999: ‘Seni Bahari Madura – Seni Nabi Nuh [Noah’s Art – Madurese maritime arts]’, feature article written in Bahasa Indonesia and English, Gamelan No 9 September 1999:46-51
- 1999: ‘Lamalera Weavers, Whalers & Sailors in Eastern Indonesia’, feature article, Garuda Indonesia Inflight Magazine, January-February 1999:10-14
- 1998: ‘Lamalera Whale Hunters of Indonesia’ [polychrome wood carving & weaving in a unique subsistence whaling society], essay, TAASA Review, Journal of The Asian Arts Society of Australia, Vol 7 No 4 1998:22-23
- 1997: Co-authored with Leonie Oakes, ‘The Welcoming of Strangers’ [Relations between visiting Makassan seafarers and Ganalbingu people of Arnhem land], feature article, Signals quarterly journal of the Australian National Maritime Museum No 38 March 1997:4-6
- 1997: Co-authored with Nick Burningham, ‘The exceptional janggolan engineless sailing ships still trading from Madura, Indonesia’, research paper, The Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology, Vol 21 Nos 1 & 2 1997:35-66
- 1996: Co-authored with Nick Burningham, ‘Indonesian Seacraft: Photographs & Notes by Geoffrey Ingleton 1932’ [prahus in Makassar, Surabaya and Jakarta harbours], research paper, The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History Vol 18 No 2 1996:97-112
- 1994: ‘The Madura Salt-Runners’ [the bifid-construction janggolan of Sreseh], feature article, Classic Boat [UK] No 77 November 1994:56-61
- 1994: ‘Rare Artworks record an exotic vanished maritime world’ [maritime ethnography – the lithographs of Admiral Paris’ Essai sur la construction navale…], exhibition review, Antiques in New South Wales, May 1995:45
- 1993: ‘New Maritime Wing at Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences’ [review of exhibition of Asia-Pacific small craft], essay, The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History 14(2):67-69
- 1992: ‘Appropriate Technology or Sow’s Ear?’ [prahus for western sailors], essay, Watercraft, Journal of the Wooden Boat Association (No 10)5-10
- 1992: Sekar Aman, an Indonesian lete-lete from the National Maritime Collection, Australian National Maritime Museum broadsheet series, 1992 4 pp
- 1991: ‘Between tradition and change: an Indonesian perahu in an Australian collection’ [Sekar Aman, a lete-lete from Raas], research paper, The Great Circle, Journal of the Australian Association for Maritime History Vol 13 No 2 1991:97-110
- 1991: ‘The Balinese Jukung’ [outrigger lateen-sail fishing boats of the tourist island], feature article, Garuda Indonesia In-flight Magazine 11(4):15-22
- 1990: ‘Sailors of the East Monsoon’ [introduction to Indonesian prahu], essay, Journal of the Australian Institution of Navigation 1990:16-18
- 1990: ‘An Indonesian Prahu in an Australian Collection’ [ANMM lete-lete Sekar Aman], essay, Australian Sea Heritage (No 24):30-31
- 1990: ‘Makassar – Mecca for Mariners’ [guide to homelands of the boatbuilding ethnic groups of South Sulawesi], travel feature, Club Marine No? 1990:20-28
- 1988: ‘Australia revisited’ [Makassan trepang voyage re-enactment], feature article, The Weekend Australian, January 23-24 1988: Magazine 5
- 1988: The lete-lete of Raas: the geographical, economic, social and technological context of the vessel Sekar Aman, consultant’s report for the Australian National Maritime Museum, 1988 [mss held in ANMM Vaughan Evans Library]
- 1988: ‘The Australian National Maritime Museum’ [Raas lete-lete & voyages to Australian waters], essay, The Indian Ocean Review 1(4):3,21-24
- 1985: ‘Sarimanok in Bali’ [Departure of Bob Hobman’s Sarimanok expedition Indonesia–Madagascar], feature article, Modern Boating September 1985:62-67
- 1984: ‘Night passage to Madura – a journey in time’ [lete-lete passage from East Java], travel feature, The National Times 27 January-2 February 1984
- 1984: ‘Indonesian Prahus Part 2’ [the last Buginese pinisi to trade exclusively under sail], feature article, Cruising Helmsman March 1984:56-61
- 1984: ‘Indonesian Prahus part 1’ [introduction to prahu fieldwork, construction and trades, focus on lete-lete, janggolan, bagok, lambo], feature article, Cruising Helmsman February 1984:28-39
- 1984: ‘The timeless Chinese junk, [technical innovations of hull and rig], feature article, Cruising World [USA] October 1984:151-154