Established in 1941, the Cowra prisoner of war camp was built for Italian prisoners of war captured in North Africa, and held Indonesian merchant seamen and civilian Indonesian internees (including women and children). In January 1943, a section of the camp was opened for Japanese prisoners.

Monday 5 August marks 75 years since 1,104 Japanese prisoners of war attempted to break out of the camp.

While acknowledging the tragedy of the breakout, the central-west New South Wales town of Cowra is now a place to reflect on how Australians can pave the way for peace and reconciliation.

The creation of a Cowra Japanese Garden was proposed in 1973, and it now stands as a powerful symbol of good will, encouraging reconciliation and peace. In 1992 the decision was made to locate the Australian World Peace Bell in Cowra. The Cowra Australia–Italian Friendship Memorial was established in 1997.

As the 75th anniversary of the Cowra breakout is commemorated, the lives of those who made up the camp have been recognised in a striking new memorial. Cowra POW Breakout 75th Anniversary Art Installation was recently unveiled; five steel sheets feature a laser cut design depicting aspects of camp life: Australian soldier on guard, Japanese playing baseball, Italians and their love of music, and Indonesian mothers.  

Places of Pride, the National Register of War Memorials is recording every war memorial across the country and looking to add photos of these important memorials to our website. If you have participated in commemorative activities, we are asking that you create an account and upload them to Places of Pride.

The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, delivered the commemorative address for the 75th anniversary at Cowra. Read his speech on the Australian War Memorial website.

Further reading