Hello and welcome to this momentous and highly significant occasion which commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Cowra Prisoner of War (POW) Breakout. This historic event marked August 5, 1944 in our calendars as a day where 1,104 Japanese POW attempted a mass breakout. Both countries experienced losses - Japan who lost 234 of their men during the attempted escape at Cowra's WWII POW camp and Australia losing five soldiers during the escape and in the days that followed.
Much has changed since 1944, so much so that our peoples are now the firmest of friends in areas as diverse as trade, tourism, culture, and international security. In 1964, the Australian Government established a cemetery to hold the remains of all Japanese citizens, both military and civilian, who died in Australia during WWII. In 1992, Cowra became host to Australia's first Peace Bell, signifying Cowra's reconciliation and friendship with Japan, and in 2019 our two nations worked together to launch the Cowra Japanese War Cemetery Database, allowing Japanese relatives to search for their loved ones lost during WWII, see what happened to them and where their remains rest.
Out of this tragic event, a spirit of peace and amity has developed between our nations that continues to grow and deepen. This year marks 75 years since the breakout occurred, and it is still as fresh in our minds as it was for the people who witnessed and experienced it. It is a day we will continue to remember and pause to reflect on the lives lost and the incredible bond that has grown out of this conflict 75 years on.