Cowra Voices storytelling app was launched at the 75th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout in August 2019. At the time, Bill West was the Mayor of Cowra. He was asked to speak about the World Peace Bell, which is location number two on the app. 


This audio interview with Bill West was recorded on 18 September 2018 in Cowra by Nikkei Australia’s Mayu Kanamori and Masako Fukui. This interview was recorded for the Cowra Voices geolocative storytelling app, created in 2019, and launched to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the Cowra Breakout. For more information, please refer to the Overview in this archive.

Bill West  00:31

I’m Bill West. I’m the Mayor of Cowra Shire Council, elected in 2008, as the Mayor and elected onto Council in 1999.

Masako Fukui  00:38

Were you born and bred in Cowra?

Bill West  00:41

Born and bred in Cowra. Had a couple of years in the late 70s – sorry, had a couple of years in the early 70s living in Sydney, but city life not for me. So I came back to the family farm.

Mayu Kanamori  00:55

Can you tell us a little bit about your family farm and..

Bill West  00:59

Family farm. I’m a fifth generation family farmer. Obviously, my parents bought the current farm in 1947, where I continue to farm. And it’s an interesting occupation when it’s good, it’s very good. And when it’s dry like it currently is, it can be a little bit difficult. But no, I enjoy farming and got involved in local government, not by accident, but I just put my hand up for election, if people want to vote for me they did. And the rest is kind of just a journey that I’ve been on. Never, something I – not something I ever sought to do and never dreamt I would be doing. But that’s the way life works sometimes. And that’s such a journey.

Mayu Kanamori  01:41

You’ve been Mayor for quite a while now. It’s very stable –

Bill West  01:45

Ten years. And prior to that the my predecessor was Mayor for, I think 14 years. So Cowra’s very fortunate in the context of – and I won’t comment on the quality of the current mayor. But  Cowra’s been very fortunate that we have stability, both with their mayors and our general managers, which makes it, I think it’s a benefit to the community to have that stability. And I see a number of councils and local government areas and companies and organisations where there is instability. You don’t have your eye on the ball and you finish up looking at other things. And rather than what should be looking at.

Masako Fukui  02:19

It’s a general comment on Australia at the moment isn’t it. (Laughter)

Bill West  02:25

You can take it anyway you want, because you know that I meant it.

Mayu Kanamori  02:30

So before you became Mayor, were you, were you in public – ? Or do you have a public office or public life other than working on your farm?

Bill West  02:43

I had been very heavily involved in cricket administration, having played a lot of sport, with cricket administration. Obviously, the Rural Fire Service, which was kind of what you did, because that’s where you lived. And had some involvement with some community based organisations that were working with unemployed and disadvantaged people. So there was a little bit of community involvement in that sphere, which I guess helped to heighten my, I guess my interest in the community affairs.

Mayu Kanamori  03:15

As you know, this app that we’re making is about peace, and peace stories that’s unique to Cowra and what Cowra has done post World War II to herald peace to the rest of Australia and perhaps to the world. Can you tell us a little bit about that and your involvement in it?

Bill West  03:37

I think that the Cowra certainly is a leader if you like in terms of peace in Australia and the world. Certainly for the community this size, we certainly punch above our weight so to speak, we are. And my own involvement, I guess, was in early days was, someone who just observed it but didn’t really probably understand it fully. But when you become mayor you do start to understand that appreciate exactly what Cowra has done and what our forebears actually did subsequent to World War II in terms of, of peace and reconciliation, particularly around the Japanese and the Breakout.

Bill West  04:15

But I think also the story around the Indonesians at the Prisoner of War Camp. And the Indonesians that are, were there and of course, eleven are buried in the Cowra cemetery. And after that, after the war, you had the situation where the –  what was the army camp became a migrant hostel for displaced peoples from war-torn Europe in particular. So we had a very significant role to play in re-homing people if you like back in those days. So it’s a complicated story, but I think that the Prisoner of War Camp and the Breakout is certainly the one which brings most people’s attention to the fore. But I think it also helps us to highlight the other components of why Cowra is such a leader, if you like, in peace and reconciliation.

Mayu Kanamori  05:05

Can you tell us a little bit about the Peace Bell?

Bill West  05:09

Peace Bell was an interesting component to our town. It’s a replica of the one which was first presented to the United Nations and is in the forecourt of – in New York, of the United Nations building. Late 80s, I think the gentleman called Rod Blume and others involved, but Rod became of course, a Mayor and Shire President of Cowra, got interested in this possibility, and they pursued it. And subsequent to that I guess that the authorities, the powers who were in charge of the World Peace Bell Association, provided Cowra with the Australian Chapter of the World Peace Bell, which is normally something an honour bestowed on capital cities. But Cowra with our history, and I guess the perseverance of those involved, we, it got homed in Cowra.

Mayu Kanamori  06:03

Do you have any personal stories in relation to the Bell?

Bill West  06:10

My only involvement with the Bell has come out of the fact that I obviously got on Council. And then became Mayor and there’s obviously a number of significant civic functions at the Bell. So that has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of some of the history of the Bell. Certainly the fact when it was established, and then we had, the then Governor Marie Bashir came to rededicate it a few years ago. And the fact that the roof is designed to have a Japanese design. The structure is in keeping architecturally with the Civic Centre and the buildings around it. Some of the mosaic, pavers and tiles around the building were done by local schoolchildren. So there’s been a great effort to embrace our community in its construction and its establishment. And it’s something that quite often within the walls of this building, you hear being rung quite resoundingly at any particular occasion. And because we, we encourage people to ring it anytime they go past it.

Mayu Kanamori  07:07

Do you ring it?

Bill West  07:08

I ring it whenever I get a chance. And I probably, I don’t rush out to ring it every day, but quite often on ceremonial occasions, I relish the chance to be able to ring it and, and I like to ring it as loudly as I can.

Mayu Kanamori  07:21

So when you ring it, there’s a kind of a resonance.

Bill West  07:25


Mayu Kanamori  07:26

How do you feel when you ring it? Is there like, do you pray for peace? Or do you just want to hear the sound? Or do you do? Do you feel like you’re meditating? What, how do you feel when you’re doing that Bell?

Bill West  07:36

I think it’s probably a combination of feelings, that certainly –

Masako Fukui  07:39

Sorry I need to ask you to phrase it as if she hasn’t asked that question. So when I ring the bell, I feel like  –

Mayu Kanamori  07:49

We want it to be personal.

Bill West  07:50

It’s just me not you, yeah. I guess when I ring the Bell, it can be a combination of feelings. Certainly, is a little bit of meditation involved, certainly a little bit of feeling of humility to have the chance. It certainly makes a nice noise. And it does echo and ring which causes it to sort of sit in the mind a little bit. But I think it’s an opportunity to actually do something which is tangible, about world peace, reconciliation. It could be akin to slamming a door when you’re angry that you get that feeling of just doing something tangible, but it’s a small thing. But I think a lot of small things in the way of peace mean they will build up to something substantial.

Mayu Kanamori  08:35

So, do you think if you had a little argument with your wife in the morning and come here, and you might feel better.

Bill West  08:44

I think if I get frustrated, I know I wouldn’t rush out and take it out on the Peace Bell because the Peace Bell is quite to me a symbol of peace and reconciliation. So I would be very, very cautious as to how I – the circumstances in which I rang the Bell. I think it’s something that we need to treat with –  we need to use it, it is something that should be rung and rung often. But it should also be a reminder of peace and reconciliation. So not to be rung when you’re when you’re angry or cranky at someone but rather with that mindset of peace and reconciliation and goodwill and harmony.

Masako Fukui  09:16

How central is the Bell? There’s all these places, Gardens, POW Camp. But what’s your feeling about the centrality or the symbolism of the Bell?

Bill West  09:30

The Bell situation in Cowra is quite central to the main part of the town and it does link to, if you like, the former Army Camp, which became the migrant hostel. There is a climb up the hill, of course to the Japanese Gardens then further beyond that it has a – you go to the War Cemetery and in between you’ve got the Prisoner of War Camp itself. So it is a trail as opposed to a square. But Council also have some plans at the moment afoot to, to look at whether how we might treat where the Bell is as a Civic Square. So there is that opportunity that maybe its position will be enhanced by some of that consideration. And that would not be inappropriate. But there’s also an Italian monument at the end of the main west, sorry, the eastern end of the main street, so it does link all those together, plays a significant role in what we call the Peace Precinct.

Masako Fukui  10:27

Tell us a little bit about the Italian Memorial. I saw that this morning.

Bill West  10:31

The Italians at the Prisoner of War Camp is a story that is probably overshadowed to some extent, but up to I think it’s about 5000 Italians went through the Prisoner of War Camp. And they worked on farms in the town or in the area. Food production in particular, but they were considered to be, anecdotal evidence, they were considered very friendly, very happy people. Quite happy to go and work, sing, and some of the young people at the time, who are now a little bit older, of course, but they remember them being as a happy, friendly people who made toys and threw lollies. So it was a, they were different different culture, and some of them were quite happy to be here, I think it just see the war out.

Masako Fukui  11:14

So the monument at the end. So you know, at the end of the street, end of Kendal Street, how did that come about?

Bill West  11:26

I’m not sure about how that one came about. But it’s been a, there have been people in in this community who have been, I think interested in for some time in telling the Italian story. Just the same as it’s important that we remember the Indonesian story as well. And they’ve been quite keen to put up some monuments and of course, as a monument to the Italians at the Prisoner of War Camp, as well. And the stories that are out there and the plaques that are out there do tell the stories of the Italians as well. So it’s just recognising our history and people at the time decided that’s what they should be doing.

Mayu Kanamori  12:05

Do you have any particular stories or memories about peace or reconciliation with the Japanese or with any other groups for that matter that you want to relay?

Bill West  12:17

I guess that there are probably a number of stories that might come to mind over a period of time. But I think in terms of the migrant camp, for example, I know there’s been some former migrants come back to Cowra. And they’re really really people who, sorry they’re people who really really are appreciative of the start they got in Australia, and passionate about it. And we had Belarus as a guest nation in our Festival of International Understanding a couple of years ago. And that came about because the Belarusian community that are in Sydney, who wanted to showcase their culture, their heritage, if you like even though there’s probably a slight slight difference in some of their political opinions within their groups.

Bill West  12:56

So that was a fascinating story that came out of there, and with the Italians who have certainly been – a son of one of the former prisoners who was responsible for building what was a chapel or a battery hut up there, which is still a remnant but partly standing. So that was significant that he came to Australia and that was very, very emotional and very moving. With the Japanese connection obviously it’s been a chance to talk to the Embassy, the Ambassadors, various dignitaries, and I guess get a deeper appreciation of peace and respect from them as well. The Ambassadors have been very very supportive as have the Consul Generals from Sydney, very supportive. So yeah, I think across the landscape, people are really just keen to tell the story with dignity that it deserves.

Mayu Kanamori  13:44

Tell me about your childhood. Did you grow up thinking that Japanese were a scary people? Or what was the sentiments then? And how has it changed?

Bill West  13:56

I guess I’m a baby boomer, which means that yes, I did grow up with a little bit of – some of the anti-Japanese sentiment. Not that that was necessarily my own. But I was aware of it, not necessarily my own opinion, but I was aware of it. But that certainly has changed over years. And I think the fact that when you look upon reflection that the Japanese were an ally in World War I, very significant trading nation in the last 40/50 years. And it was the members of the RSL, the returned men themselves who actually went up to start to look after the graves in the War Cemetery. And I think when you look at that, that’s a complete justification for one having a mindset that says we need to move on and work in harmony and peace. And Cowra has an opportunity, I think a very unique opportunity to lead the way and show the light, if you like in terms of peace, reconciliation, human rights.

Masako Fukui  14:52

Why do you think those, I mean, obviously it’s speculation, but maybe you have some insight –  why do you think those members of the RSL did what they did, given that it was very shortly after the war?

Bill West  15:04

The rationale for the RSL members to go to the War Cemetery and look after the graves is a difficult one and you’d need to really sort of try and research them a little bit. But I, I think that there was a respect if you like among return men for a fellow fallen soldier. There was a kind of, I think an appreciation of those who paid the supreme sacrifice whether they were a friend or a foe. And I think that there was a respect that came out of just making sure their final resting place was appropriately tended to. A little bit same as in World War I with Atatürk in Gallipoli, where the comment was about we will –  in essence and I paraphrase – we will look after the – mothers not weep, we will look after your sons.

Masako Fukui  16:03

Yeah, so, kind of going on from that, why do you think – like, for me, it’s puzzling to me why small country town like this has been so welcoming of Japanese people. You know, my mother used to come to Cowra and give cooking lessons, you know, like, like all Japanese people in Sydney, of a certain age, maybe not the younger ones, know of Cowra. It’s like a place of pilgrimage almost, and not necessarily the Cemetery. But just a place you go because of the Gardens. So why is Cowra been able to do this when you don’t see this kind of sentiment in Sydney for example?

Bill West  16:41

I like to think we’re a community with a heart, and appreciation of the world around us. But I would think that Australians make pilgrimages to Gallipoli, for want of a better word. I’ve been to Yokohama War Cemetery in Japan. It’s a beautiful war cemetery that’s incredibly well maintained and looked after. So I think it has evolved out of the story of the Breakout. I don’t think anybody would ever have sat down 60 years ago, or 70 years ago and said, or 75 years ago and said, you know, we’ll do this, and in 75 years time, we will have this. I think that’s just it’s just evolved. And I don’t think anybody has ever wanted to try and cash in on if you like, in some form of commercialism. It’s just been a matter of doing the right thing, and the appropriate thing, and it has just evolved and grown.

Bill West  17:33

And now, I think, given the fact we have the Australian Chapter of The World Peace Bell, we had the beautiful Japanese Gardens, we have a Prisoner of War Camp area that we’ve been able to improve in, like in terms of the visual understanding. People go up there now and understand the story in a discreet quiet way. And of course, the War Cemetery and the War Cemetery is not just those who died in the Breakout, but in 1964, they reinterred all those who died during the war in Australia, including the civilians.

Masako Fukui  18:04

So was it some, you know, over the 75 years, is it some key people who have been the instigators? How did they bring the community along, do you think?

Bill West  18:17

I think that sometimes you just do the right thing for the right reasons, and the community comes on board. Certainly, I would think at some stage, there was some community concern. But it was the right thing to do. And they had the courage of their convictions. So cleaning up the graves of the War Cemetery was in their eyes the appropriate thing to do. I think history’s proven them to be correct. I think those who built Japanese Gardens again, there may have been some concern about it. But I think that history’s proven them to be correct. Just the same as the Peace Bell. I think that that was considered perhaps by some people as a step too far, getting a little bit beyond what a town like Cowra should be doing. But again, that’s proven to be history proven to be correct. So it’s about people doing the right thing for the right reasons and being prepared to, to do the hard yards so to speak. And I think that’s the –  the proof is now in the pudding.

Mayu Kanamori  19:09

Yeah, I wanted to know and it may or may not reflect on what we are doing. But we’re interested in the peace and reconciliation story. I’d like to know what your happiest day and your saddest day had been.

Bill West  19:34

My happiest day –

Masako Fukui  19:39

In relation to the peace story –

Bill West  19:40

I was gonna say in relation to  – in relation to the to the subject yes –

Mayu Kanamori  19:45

Doesn’t, it doesn’t have to be completely, totally related. It could. If it’s about peace –

Bill West  19:58

I don’t think I’ve had any sad days. I’ve had some frustrating days, where things have been difficult. But that’s part and parcel of what we have to do in life anyway. Most days involving the Japanese Gardens and the Peace Precinct and Prisoner of War Camp site, I think making sure that it was – that the Prisoner of War Camp has improved in terms of the interpretive signage and being cleaned up. I think that’s something that’s been very pleasing to see. The way we’re able to maintain the Sakura Avenue and the War Cemetery is also very pleasing and rewarding. In terms of one specific happy day, I don’t, I tend not to sort of say, that’s the best day of my life. I think they’re all good days. And when you’re dealing with a subject of reconciliation, and I think that everything can be a challenge. But I think meeting Mr Murayama, sorry, Mr Murakami, Mr Murakami, who’s a delightful gentleman is certainly someone that you, I find that very, very, very satisfying and enjoyable.

Masako Fukui  21:04

Could you tell that story, I don’t know that story.

Bill West  21:06

Mr Murakami, of course, is a former prisoner, one of the former prisoners of war, and probably one of the very few surviving, if not the only surviving member of the Prisoner of War Camp. Very sprightly man in his 90s. Very independent thinking man, got a beautiful sense of humour, delightful character. And I first met him obviously, when he was, when he came in, I think it was the 70th anniversary of the Breakout, he came. Then we had lunch with him at the Japanese Embassy. And then have caught up with him, I think about three or four occasions, including the last visit to Japan, where he actually made his way to Tokyo to have dinner with us. So he’s really just a charming man, who’s got a wonderful and bit of a wicked sense of humour. And I had the pleasure of doing a press conference with him in Hiroshima, four years ago, when we had a press conference about Australia, about Cowra, about the Breakout. And he and I did a press conference. And that was kind of fascinating and very interesting, and it was great to be in Hiroshima to be able to tell the Cowra story with the support of of him, but also of some of the couple of members of the family, of daughters who had fathers who had passed on, but who had been prisoners of war in Cowra, and who had been to Cowra and seen what the Cowra story is about.

Masako Fukui  22:23

So I get the feeling from talking to everybody, that it’s the personal connection between the Japanese peoples or certain peoples. So can you give us some idea of some of the personal relationships that you’ve had with Japanese people and how that’s affected you?

Bill West  22:42

I think that reconciliation and peace is about understanding. And you only understand when you actually meet people and have that interaction with individuals. So I’ve always found the Ambassadors to be very engaging and easy to talk to and keen to communicate, delightful, delightful. The Consul Generals, the same thing. The embassy staff, always been very keen and we have a very good relationship. But then there are individuals, the Mayor of Joetsu, we have a good relationship with Mr Murayama. And of course, there’s the Nagakura Foundation. Seiji Nagakura and his Foundation, who are very generous supporters of Cowra and delightful people, delightful people. So there are a number of people, and obviously have – last trip to Japan, we met one of the World Peace Bell Association representatives in Australia in February and had a chance to catch up with the World Peace Bell Association in Japan as well. So it’s just about meeting individuals and having that connectivity with just people and talking about ordinary things in life. And I think you’ll find that most of us probably have the same dreams and aspirations and fears in many respects. It’s not something peculiar to Australia, Japanese, or any other nation. I think we really are just –  I think we’re all struggling to do the right thing by our family, our children, our communities.

Masako Fukui  24:15

Was talking about –  was it Bruce Miller was talking about meeting the Imperial Family. Did you meet the Japanese Imperial Family?

Bill West  24:23

No, he met the – he was very fortunate, he got to meet the Imperial family – when I think it was the Crown Prince came to Australia. But no, I haven’t been that fortunate. We did make an attempt when we were over last time but they weren’t able to pull that off but  –

Bill West  24:43

I’m sure the new Emperor will be invited to the 75th. We’ll make sure that happens, yes. Because the 75th, there’s a lot of big plans for the 75th, so it should be good.

Masako Fukui  24:57

Do you think they’ll come?

Bill West  24:57

Well, we will –  We will invite them but it will also be a matter of us having friends, both in Australian political community and the Japanese community to encourage the Imperial Family to visit as well. I think no matter how important we are in the scale of things in terms of peace in the world and reconciliation, I think it’ll still need a little bit of support from people who are in higher positions than the Mayor of Cowra.

Masako Fukui  25:27

Are you working on it now?

Bill West  25:28

We’ll be working on it don’t worry.

Bill West  25:30

Wasn’t the Gandels was it?

Masako Fukui  25:34

I don’t remember their name but I do know them through this connection (unintelligible).

Bill West  25:40

It may well be the Gandel family, who were very very good supporters of the Australia-Japan relationship.

Masako Fukui  25:49

How come?

Bill West  25:52

You need to ask them, but it’s mostly Mrs Gandel that has a deep interest in Australia-Japan relationships and matters, and Japanese culture and heritage.

Mayu Kanamori  26:06

Can I just, sorry, I want to talk about Father Glynn.

Bill West  26:11

Tony Glynn? Yeah.

Mayu Kanamori  26:16

There’s a little plaque for Father Tony Glynn right by the Bell. And I guess it’s worth mentioning that as well, I think, because when people have the app, they’re at the Bell. So we talked about the Bell, can we talk about.

Bill West  26:34

I’m not really not really fully aware of the Tony Glynn story other than he’s Australian, and he had a, I think an involvement in the reconciliation and the Australian-Japanese story. And he was also involved with the Peace Bell coming. So it was a matter of him being highly regarded enough to have his small part of his story being told in the Peace Bell itself, but for certainly Father Glynn was a very key figure in the Australian-Japan relationship for many years and was in Japan for many, many years.

Masako Fukui  27:11

For a lot of young people they don’t – .they’ve never heard of the Cowra Breakout. They don’t know. And I think that story is going to  – just like the ANZAC story has different resonances for newer generations, especially for, for newer migrants, for example. I mean, obviously, I grew up in Australia, but the ANZAC story has a different resonance for me, obviously. What, as the Mayor, what would you like to – young people that visit here, what’s something that you’d like them to know?

Bill West  27:45

If you’re going to be a little bit philosophical, I think that you need to observe and remember your past, as you move forward, otherwise, you are just destined to make the same mistakes. So there’s an opportunity, I think, to look at the Cowra story, and how out of adversity, tragedy, human endeavours, conflict, how out of that you can have peace and reconciliation. You can actually turn a bad situation into a good situation. I think the story, the Cowra story is not well told. It hasn’t been recorded in history as well as other other things such as Gallipoli may have done. I’m not comparing it to Gallipoli at all,but but there are other stories in Australian history, which aren’t probably recorded as well as they might be. And this was, after all, the only land battle during the Second World War in Australia. 231 Japanese and four Australians died, perished as a result of it. So it is a story in our history, that should be told, without any commentary or judgement on the right or wrong other than the fact that it was part of our history.

Masako Fukui  28:59

Why do you think that history hasn’t been told as well as you would like perhaps?

Bill West  29:04

I think it’s a good question. I think there’s been some sensitivities around cultural heritage history and showing respect to those who are involved from the, from the individuals right through to to the national perspective. So it’s just been something I think we’ve been quite happy to just maintain in a dignified, quiet manner. Paying respect to the situation as opposed to turning into some loud event in history, which it was a bit in history, but I think that he has been treated with respect and dignity deserves.

Mayu Kanamori  29:42

Is there anything you want to tell tourists as they come to your town?

Bill West  29:47

I think it’s a great opportunity for tourists to come and have a look around our town and to come to understand the special place around peace and reconciliation and the very unique story about Japan and Australia. And Japan and Cowra of course, but about Japan and Australia. It’s significant, by anybody’s stretch of the imagination. So it’s an opportunity to come and bring the Peace Bell, to have a wander around the the Prisoner of War Camp site, to reflect at the Japanese War Cemetery, and then have a nice relaxing stroll around the beautiful Japanese Gardens and then maybe get the Visitor Centre and look at the wonderful hologram which, which in itself tells the story of the Breakout from a local girl’s perspective.

Masako Fukui  30:34

Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?

Bill West  30:38

Now that was just some notes. If you ask me some questions about how it got to Australia, that was all, so.

Masako Fukui  30:44

So the 75th anniversary is going to be quite big?

Bill West  30:47

75th’s going to be quite big. And that’s a story that was put together by Rod Blume. Rod Blume is the guy I spoke to, he went to he went to Japan in 88 or thereabouts to have discussions with the World Peace Bell Association about getting the Australian Chapter. I think you are talking to Rob Blume.

Masako Fukui  31:06

We’re talking to him.

Bill West  31:08

Yeah. Yeah, he’s in Sydney. Yeah. He wasn’t at the time. But he became Shire President or Mayor, which is the same thing about four years in the early 90s. He’s the guy who went to Japan. And he heard that it was a possibility. And he got some contacts off the local member of parliament and made contact in Japan, and then went to Japan himself and negotiated with negotiators, and lo and behold, it turned up in Cowra. The rest is history. So yeah.

Masako Fukui  31:37

So how does it feel to be the Mayor of arguably the only place in Australia that has peace tourism?

Bill West  31:46

I think a lot of places would have peace tourism in one form or another but we’re the only one that would have peace tourism based around Second World War and the circumstances in which caused that. And I think it’s something we should be looking at given particularly the conflict in the world today. And you take peace to the, to the to the bottom of, –  if you take peace in its true context it’s not just about, we too often get caught in the conversation about peace being some global conflict that we should solve. Peace is really about the individual, about yourself. about your family, your friends, about the schoolyard, about your workplace, and that then transcend into the broader peace, if you like. Reconciliation and understanding of people’s opinions and point of view. I think that’s where peace really, really does start. I think that’s what resonates in the Cowra community. It’s not just about ending global conflict, because that’s going to be a big task. But if we can look at peace in bite sized chunks, so to speak, be peaceful ourselves, look at human rights and understand human rights. I think that’s where places like Cowra can play a very significant role. And if we can be a leader in that field, good. We’ll do it.

Masako Fukui  33:00

Spoken like a true leader – (laugh).

Bill West  33:07

You’ve got to walk the walk too you know.

Masako Fukui:

I’m sure you do, Cowra’s a charming place, we always have a nice time here – is there anything else?

Mayu Kanamori  33:19

I think, I think because Bill, you are a Mayor, you speak like a Mayor. And I keep wanting you to say I instead of we on some of the things, because when the Mayor is I, it touches the heart more to the listener.

Bill West  33:48

Yeah, that’s probably my personality.

Masako Fukui  33:52

So we want an ‘I’ story. Yeah.

Bill West  33:55

Okay. You ask me a question and I’ll try and put an ‘I’ in. Yes, fine. I’m guided, I’m guided by the professionals. But that’s but that’s my, that’s my style. I wouldn’t say consensus but it’s about, it’s not, it’s not me, because I’m here for the journey. And I’ve inherited something very special. So I didn’t do a great deal to get it to here, I’d like to think that I’m doing something significant to maintain it and to improve it. But I’ve got to pay due respect to the people who really worked hard over many years to establish what we currently have. But my job, the way I see it, is to maintain it and to improve upon it. And I certainly get a great deal of pleasure in looking at what we have and working with all sorts of dignitaries from all sorts of parts of the world, particularly the Japanese, in terms of how we can improve that relationship. And I’m, I think as a Mayor, I take that on board and it’s something that I need to be very conscious of and work very hard to, to maintain, maintain that and I’m very keen to see that we will improve it. I’m also keen to make sure we can encourage people to come and see our special part of the world and the story which we have I have to tell.

Bill West  35:03

I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve witnessed and met Chor Farmer. I’ve been and met school students and various members of the community at tree planting ceremonies. I had an amazing experience with a young high school boy probably about twelve years of age, who was, I guess almost mobbed by some young Japanese schoolgirls who, and he didn’t know exactly what to. It was quite amusing. But it was interesting and you won’t print that will you –  So I’ve seen I’ve seen the best of  – with Chor Farmer and I’ve met the Ambassadors and so there are very few things that are, that have been unpleasant about the whole, but I don’t, but I tend not to sit and reflect too much upon what’s been. It’s about, I’m looking more what’s gonna happen tomorrow and 75th anniversary coming up, and how are we going to prove the relationships and taking on board what I get told. But yeah, I’d have to sit and think about some of the personal stories a little bit more but –  an opportunity to get down to Melbourne for the opening of a part of the art gallery in Melbourne, to certainly meet a prisoner of war, to have a close relationship with the Ambassadors and the Consul Generals as always, always very special and it’s part of the journey which I’ll always remember.

Masako Fukui  36:31

So this is atmos, Mayor Bill West.

The Cowra Voices Audio Archive Project 2023

Cowra Council is the copyright holder of all the audio works in the Cowra Voices Audio Archive. If you would like to reuse or copy any of the materials in this Archive, please contact Cowra Council. Australian copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth).

error: Content is protected !!