Australian Embassy

Ambassador Hayhurst remarks at afternoon tea for the Mayor of Cowra



I acknowledge the Mayor of Cowra, Ruth Fagan, Deputy Mayor Paul Smith and former mayor, Bill West.

You are very welcome at the Australian embassy in Tokyo.

We are honoured to welcome here Otsuka sensei, Secretary-General for the Japan-Australia Diet League, and Horii sensei and from the Diet.

I also welcome former Ambassadors of Japan to Australia, Ambassadors Takahashi, Sato, Kojima, Kusaka, and Yamagami.

To all of our guests, thank you for joining us to welcome the delegation from Cowra, led by Mayor Fagan.

Cowra – the town, its people and its famous Japanese garden – represents something profound about the relationship between Australia and Japan.

It represents the power of reconciliation and mutual respect, and the triumph of friendship over enmity.

From being enemies, Australians and Japanese became not just partners, but close friends forging a shared future.

The delegation from Cowra is in Japan this year to mark 80 years since the Cowra Breakout in 1944.

That day was yet another terrible episode in a destructive conflict.

As Australia looked to develop its relations with Japan after the War, many people forged links in business, politics and education.

But the people of Cowra played a special part in our reconciliation.

Soon after the war, several Australian returned servicemen in the town started tending the Japanese war graves.

This, at a time when there was still considerable anti-Japanese sentiment in the community.

They believed that Japanese fallen soldiers deserved the dignity of a final resting place.

This was a powerful gesture.

We have seen similar acts of remembrance in Japan, such as at the Nao Etsu Peace Memorial Park on the site of a former prisoner of war camp.

And from such beginnings, and with years of exchanges between our two peoples, here we are, eighty years later, as the closest of friends.

There are many ties that now bind us, including in defence and security, but I end by talking about Australian and Japanese students.

Because this friendship between nations has been forged by people, old and young, and by many generations, not by governments or officials alone.

A great example is the Seikei High School and Cowra High school exchange program which is more than fifty years old and we hope it continues to prosper.

And I acknowledge the representatives the school, and of Seikei University here today.

As we look to a future of shared peace and prosperity, we celebrate our continuing exchanges as we welcome Mayor Fagan and the delegation from Cowra.

Thank you for your kind attention.