International study leads to POW Camp

All roads lead to Cowra – at least this is the case for two university professors whose research has led them to visiting the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp and other Japanese sites in the town. 

Independent scholar Lynne Horiuchi and Associate Professor Anoma Pieris at the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp last weekend.

Independent scholar Lynne Horiuchi and Associate Professor Anoma Pieris at the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp last weekend.

Anoma Pieris, an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning and Lynne Horiuchi, an independent scholar from Berkeley/Oakland have combined their efforts to look at Pacific War POW and internment camp environments from the perspective of architectural history.

“I look at the planning, design and construction of the, what we refer to as camps for the Japanese Americans during WW2,” Dr Horiuchi said. 

“I’m interested in how people lived these experiences and how people moved through the camps as well.” 

Associate Professor Anoma Pieris said her focus is on a four year, Pacific region project looking at camp environments. 

“It’s a comparative study between Singapore, the US, Australia and a little bit of Japan,” she said. 

“I look at how different camp designs and architectures are created for the POW capacity, whether by the Japanese or these other countries. 

“People don’t really recognise how many there were and how diverse they were and how much they were part of the experience of the Pacific War.” 

Together, the two Professors saw the potential to add Cowra to their equation. 

“We used to share the different ideas we had… led us to think maybe we could do this stuff together,” Professor Pieris said. 

“Anoma is pulling me into the Pacific rim now,” Dr Horiuchi said.

The pair heard about Cowra’s Prisoner of War camp from a neighbour in Melbourne whose family had resided in Koorawatha who would tell them stories about the Camp. 

“Many people don’t know these stories,” Professor Pieris said. 

“I brought a group of students to Cowra in 2013, they came and looked at the camp site and their project was to design a proposal for an innovative centre for the Cowra POW Camp.

“Little by little, people are getting interested.” 

Dr Horiuchi says she couldn’t imagine how well Cowra would demonstrate a sense of reconciliation through integrated landmarks in the town. 

“I really needed to come here to understand, I’m not sure I could understand it without visiting the campsite today and the cemetery,” Dr Horiuchi said.

“In particular the campsite is very well interpreted and it just tells a compelling story.” 

She said it was also interesting to learn about the Italian history of the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp and thanked Don Kibbler for his work on the Cowra Japanese Gardens. 

“I’m fluent in Italian… it’s extraordinary,” she said.