Australia’s Wartime Internment Camps
By Peter Monteath
Published by NLA Publishing
RRP $ 39.99 in paperback • ISBN 9780642279248
In November 2018 edition of Australian Defence Magazine, where these reviews are first published, we featured the book ‘Dunera Lives’.
The story of the Dunera boys resurfaces in this book too along with the stories of countless other supposed enemy aliens, a term that was to become familiar in Australia in both the First and Second World Wars.
My own grandfather, a Swiss national with a German name later anglicised by my father, was threatened with internment if he did not join up.
The fear of enemy aliens on national security grounds masked deep seated prejudices, the like of which we see today.
In two World Wars, Australia interned people of German, Italian, Bulgarian, Austro-Hungarian and later Japanese origin. Some were naturalised Australian citizens. Others had been born in Australia to foreign parents. Most were interned without a shred of evidence that they posed any threat to Australia.
This is why books such as this are important and deserve a wide readership. If we do not understand the past and confront our own deep seated prejudices, are we not bound to repeat them? It begs the question: why are we so afraid of difference?