On this day in 1941, Australian authorities arrived at the homes, business and schools of Japanese residents bearing arrest warrants. Even third generation Japanese Australians had to be registered as aliens under the Acts of the time, so the names and addresses of every person were known in advance, and the arrest warrants had been issued months previously, awaiting the outbreak of war for their date and signature.
Most people were arrested and taken to their local gaol within 24 hours. Most were allowed to pack a suitcase, though no one knew how long they would be away for – some policemen suggested it would only be a couple of days, leading to those arrested taking nothing with them but a pair of pyjamas and a toothbrush. Homes and businesses had to be abandoned and some school children were arrested by soldiers with fixed bayonets in front of their schoolmates. On Thursday Island there were over five hundred people to arrest, so instead a barbed wire fence was built around the Japanese quarter with machine guns installed at each corner, making a temporary prison of their homes. Read the rest of this entry
Browsing in the awesome Kimberley Bookshop in Broome I came across Noreen Jone’s book Number 2 Home, which explores the history of the Japanese in Western Australia. I was intrigued: I’d heard a lot about the role of Chinese and Afghan/Pakistani people in Australia’s history, as well as English, Scots, Irish, Greeks and Vietnamese, but very little about Japanese people. I bought it and discovered an intriguing and heart-breaking history of a thriving community that was essentially wiped out with the Second World War. Read the rest of this entry