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Thursday, 3 December 1959

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- I wish to speak for only a few minutes and I do so because we will not have the opportunity to speak here again until March next. The matter to which I wish to refer was raised in a question asked by my colleague, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). It relates to the Japanese children of Australian servicemen in Japan. I had intended to ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is now in the House, a series of questions about this matter earlier to-day, and I will ask the questions now. Is he aware that the Australian Council of the World Council of Churches has just paid £500 in legal costs for the adoption by American citizens of eight Japanese children of Australian servicemen? Is it a fact that the council has asked the Australian Government for a grant of £12,000 to add to its fund of £50,000 for the education of these unfortunate children in Japan? I had intended to ask also that the Government consider amending its immigration laws to permit the adoption of some of these children by Australian citizens who wished to do so.

To my knowledge, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have both accepted responsibility for the children of their servicemen in Japan and I commend them for their humanitarian action. It is about time that this country came into line with the United States of America and the United Kingdom on this point. The Government has done absolutely nothing to help with the education or the maintenance of these destitute children in Japan. There are about 400 or 500 of them, or the figure may be 600. I know that this is not a popular matter, but that does not concern me because our responsibility for these children is equal to that of the Japanese mothers, who are themselves outcasts because they have had children by Australian servicemen. This is not a new problem. It has arisen with every war and has been known through the centuries. However, in the twentieth century we should be able to do something. The Government should show a little bit of humanitarianism and open the way for any Australian citizen who wishes to adopt a Japanese child. I do not suggest that our citizens should be forced to do so. The Government should also give the £12,000 that the Australian Council of the World Council of Churches has sought to augment its fund of £50,000, which will be spent in Japan to assist with the education of these children. If the Government were to do that, it would be a start, and many people with humanitarian ideals, and the Churches themselves, would be grateful to the Government.

One Japanese child, adopted by an Australian citizen, is already in this country although hardly any one knows about it.

An Australian ex-serviceman adopted a child in Japan. Last year he came home with the forces and got the child into Australia. He is living in Tasmania in the electorate of the honorable member for Braddon. I have met him and I have met the child. The ex-serviceman married a Western Australian girl and he is working happily in Smithton in Tasmania. The little chap is seven or eight years of age and he is a credit to the ex-serviceman. The man wandered about the country with the boy for about a year, during which time the Army said he was absent without leave. This case has set a precedent. As one of these unfortunate Japanese children is now in Australia, why should the Government not come into line with other governments and accept responsibility for the children?

I commend our friend in Tasmania for his great courage and for his humanitarianism. He is bringing up this little boy as an Australian citizen and there is a wonderful relationship between them. What he has done could be done by other kind-hearted people who are willing to adopt these children and give them a future in this country. Japanese war brides have been naturalized. The immigration laws are not now as rigid as they were when we were in government, and I approve of some of the things that have been done by this Government in this respect. If Australia were to make this gesture of admitting some of these children, I am sure that it would be deeply appreciated in Japan, where a committee is trying to keep the children alive - that is about all it can do at the moment. The children are outcasts amongst the Japanese. They are, as it were, children in noman'sland. I sincerely appeal to the Government to give another thought to this matter which has been raised before in the Parliament.

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