Civilian Internment in Australia during World War II: history, memories and community heritage
This international symposium was held during Cowra’s annual Festival of International Understanding between 6 to 16 March 2014 in Cowra, NSW. This symposium and the arts programs associated with it were the first significant Nikkei Australia events.
About 200 graves of the Japanese civilian internees who died during the Pacific War are located in the Cowra Japanese War Cemetery. The stories of these civilians are not well known, and this symposium’s objective was to address this gap in historical understanding.
The symposium was targeted at both researchers and non-researchers, as well as former internees and their families, who shared their life stories. Historians, creative writers, artists, and members of the communities where internment camps were situated talked about how they have maintained and developed the legacy of the wartime camps as part of their community heritage.
The organisers hoped that the event would expand our understanding of the consequences and legacies of internment inflicted upon all nationalities, and re-examine the impact of war and conflict on the civilian population. Participants came from Australia, Japan, as well as New Caledonia.
Co-convenors: Dr Yuriko Nagata and Dr Keiko Tamura
The Preliminary program is available here.
Dr Yuriko Nagata – Project, Internment, Community
Dr Yuriko Nagata is an honorary research senior fellow in the School Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies, the University of Queensland. She researches and publishes locally and internationally in two areas – Japanese diasporic experiences in Australia, and pedagogy on teaching Japanese as a foreign language. Her major publications include Unwanted Aliens: Japanese Internment in Australia During WWII, UQ Press 1996 and the Japanese edition published by Kobunken, Tokyo, 2002; an edited book co-authored with Anna Shnukal and Guy Ramsay – Navigating boundaries: The Asian Diaspora in Torres Strait, ANU Press 2004; Voices from Japan by Kurosio Publishers, 2009 and many other journal articles and book chapters. Unwanted Aliens is considered an invaluable reference for not only for researchers with an interest in Japanese history of internment, but also for former internees and their descendants. She is expanding research sites to include other Asia-Pacific regions with a view to work with other researchers who are writing on the Japanese Diaspora in the region.
Jan Lingard – Indonesian Political Prisoners in Cowra
Dr Jan Lingard is a former lecturer in Indonesian at the Australian National University and at the University of Sydney. She has published several collections of translations of Indonesian literature, and is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Literary Translation for a collection of short stories – Eye Witness, by Indonesian author Seno Gumira Ajidarmo. She is the author of Refugees and Rebels: Indonesian Exiles in Wartime Australia.
Other details about the Symposium:
- Pre symposium dinner with guest speaker Professor Bill Gammage on his award-winning book the Biggest Estate on Earth, on March 6
- Community youth performances inspired by civilian internment experiences, facilitated by Mayu Kanamori with artists Alan Schacher, Weizen Ho, and Jumaadi
- Photographic exhibition EVIDENCE: The fate of an Okinawan internee in New Caledonia by Mutsumi Tsuda at Cowra Japanese Gardens and Cultural Centre, telling the story of a Japanese-Kanak family broken up by the war
- Unveiling of an interpretive board and a special commemoration ceremony for the Japanese civilian internees buried at the Cowra Japanese War Cemetery
Registration fee for the symposium: Full AUD $130; One day only AUD $80
- lunches, morning & afternoon teas during the symposium (7 –8 March)
- Unlimited admission to the Cowra Japanese Garden
- Unlimited admission to the photo exhibition EVIDENCE
Pre symposium dinner: $70 – Symposium delegate, $85－ Individual general public, $150－per couple general public
Shuttle Bus Service: Sydney – Cowra- Sydney $65 for one way per person. See registration from for further details.
The registration form is available here.
The press release is available here.
This project was supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Your Community Heritage Program