Why we should question the “History” of the Cowra breakout

25 August 2021 5pm (AEST)


During WWII, the limited knowledge around Japanese detainees in Australia was largely informed by one incident known as the Cowra breakout. The violent uprising and escape attempt by POWS in a small rural town, almost a year to the day before Japan’s surrender, was one of the largest escape attempts in ever recorded. However, over 75 years after the event, distorted reports about what occurred that night are still being perpetuated in historical accounts, fiction, and media reporting. How many people actually died? Were all the prisoners recaptured? Why were there no legal experts present at the Australian Court of Enquiry? This presentation reveals the long history of misinformation which has embedded itself in both Australian and Japanese understandings of this tragic event, which could expand Australia’s ongoing history of wars into a broader Asian-Pacific context.

Speaker Bio

Rebecca Hausler is an academic and PhD Candidate at UQ’s School of Languages and Cultures. Her research interests focus on Australia-Japan connections, particularly through literature, history, and film. Her thesis analyses historical fiction which depicts Japanese detainees in Australia during WWII. She has a chapter featured in Japan in Australia explores the Japanese television show Monkey which enjoyed a cult following in Australia, and a forthcoming chapter in Border-Crossing Japanese Literature: Reading Multiplicity which investigates transcultural themes in three novels about Japanese internees. She has also written several articles for the academic news website The Conversation.


A recording of this seminar is available here


The ANU Japan Institute Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Japan Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute