Witnesses to War: Depictions of Featherston and Cowra POW Camps as Depicted in Australian and New Zealand Children’s Literature

Rebecca Hausler2

2University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia

In the midst of the Pacific War, two violent, but largely unknown incidents occurred on either side of the Tasman straight. Hundreds of Japanese Prisoners of War were gunned down in two separate incidents at Featherston, New Zealand in 1943 and in Cowra, Australia in 1944. The death tolls of Japanese prisoners from these incidents were 48 and 234 respectively, with many others injured. Due to conflicting reports and national security concerns at the time, history has been unable to piece together a complete picture of the events that occurred. My research explores the filling of these gaps through fictional representations of Japanese incarceration during WWII. This presentation will focus on two texts which depict the above events: Enemy Camp by David Hill (2016), and Battlefield by Alan Tucker (2010). My paper aims to dissect how Japanese people are depicted by these authors, through the eyes of their young protagonists. By doing so, I aim to examine how wartime Japan (and by extension, Japan as a whole) is depicted to school-aged readers in Australia and Japan.


Rebecca Hausler is an academic and PhD Candidate at the University of Queensland. Rebecca’s broader academic interests explore Japan’s transcultural connections with Anglophone nations through popular culture, literature, and film. Her PhD thesis investigates fictional representations of Japanese incarceration in Australia during WWII.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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