by Yuriko Nagata

Japanese-Australians in the post-war Thursday Island community

Queensland Review: Asians in Australian History (2) 3044.

1999

From the late 19′” century, a scattering of small Japanese communities gradually established themselves around the northern coast of Australia. These communities existed as ethnic minorities within already established communities of Europeans and indigenous Australians in towns such as Broome, Darwin and in the sugar growing areas of northern Queensland. The largest of these communities were found on Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, and Broome, in Western Australia. At the outbreak of World War II, Thursday Island was the largest Japanese community in the country. As a result of wholesale internment during World War II and repatriation of internees to Japan after the war, these Japanese communities were largely eliminated. After 1946, only 141 ex-internees were allowed to remain in Australia. The attempted re-establishment of normal life by these Japanese-Australians may be only a small part of the history of post-war reconciliation between Australia and Japan, but their story is significant in that it paralleled the wider regrowth of trust between the two nations and remained the only actual link between the pre- and post-war Japanese communities. The most successful reintegration of Japanese was on Thursday Island (hereafter TI) and it is there that the most substantive link, albeit small and tenuous, remains between the pre- and post-war Australian-Japanese communities.

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