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Between 1957 and 1968, the Prime Minister Robert Menzies and several of his ministers, including Alexander Downer, the Minister for Immigration from 1958 to 1963, were inundated with hundreds of letters of protest demanding that action be taken to assist Japanese children fathered by Australian soldiers who had been stationed in Japan during the Allied occupation and beyond it between 1946 and 1956. The response from the Australian public forms the basis of this article to consider how attempts for the transnational movement of children in the postwar period point to understandings of humanitarianism at this time. The response to the predicament of the Japanese‐Australian children offers, I argue, an intriguing narrative of postwar humanitarianism that articulates the beginning of several historic shifts. The incident points to the growing challenge to the White Australia Policy, paradoxically on racialised and paternalistic grounds to bring white Australian children to Australia. The government shifted the discussion from one of immigration to foreign aid as a way of diffusing the public response and in doing so positioned itself in the new narrative about supporting rehabilitation and development. The media was crucial in evoking a response that depoliticized the issue of responsibility by reducing it to an emotional reaction.


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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Journal Article

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