House debates

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Statements on Indulgence

Cowra Breakout: 75th Anniversary

6:54 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | Hansard source

Can anyone think of any wartime incident, any military event at all, occurring in regional Australia that, 75 years on, is still having such a profound impact internationally as the Cowra breakout? Ordinary men, on both sides, did extraordinary things that fateful day of 5 August 1944. War does that—digging deep into the very essence of a society, the core and conscience of humanity, and asking questions that demand answers, then and even now, many years later.

Rather than merely allowing what happened on that winter Saturday morning in the central-west of New South Wales to fade into the obscurity of history, it has been embraced to promote peace and understanding. As a result, an indelible link has been forged between Australia and Japan, one which will never be broken. Bonds of friendship have been established and families of those more than 200 Japanese men who lost their lives that day can be comforted, knowing their loved ones may be buried many thousands of kilometres away but are very much at home and very much at peace. Residents of Cowra are proud of the goodwill that has developed, and the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre is splendid testimony to that. Even though our nations were bitter enemies during World War II, the fact that hatred and violence have now been replaced with cherry blossoms and harmony says a lot about the beauty and inner strength of the people of Cowra—a triumph of the human spirit, for certain.

Knowing the full horror and atrocities in the Pacific theatre of war did not deter the good folk of Cowra from appropriately and respectfully honouring all of the breakout dead. Over the decades that commitment has endured and led to something quite special. United, Cowra stands to forever remember those who fell, on both sides, and to always promote the fact that the things that do unite the two countries are far greater than those that divide us. To quote a well-known Japanese saying: 'Aame futte ji katamaru.' It means, literally, 'After the rain earth hardens,' or 'Adversity builds character.' After a storm, things will stand on more solid ground than they did before.

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