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Curtin launches web publication and travelling exhibition: Australia and Japanese envoy

Media release

Curtin University of Technology has launched an online resource and travelling exhibition focusing on the relationship between wartime Prime Minister John Curtin and the Japanese envoy to Australia, Tatsuo Kawai.

Written by former ABC foreign correspondent Bob Wurth, the resource showcases the research he undertook as the 2009 John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library (JCPML) Visiting Scholar.

Mr Wurth said there had always been strong interest in Australia’s relationship with Japan during World War II and he hoped his research would provide an insight into this time in the nation’s history.

“The website and travelling exhibition point to the different ways in which the three prime ministers related to Tatsuo Kawai, Japan’s new envoy in Australia in 1941 as Japan prepared to go to war,” Mr Wurth said.

“Robert Menzies, Arthur Fadden and John Curtin were deeply fearful of Japan becoming embroiled in the world war.

“Menzies tended to appease the Japanese, stressing that negotiation was the way forward, while Fadden was more pragmatic and openly clashed with the new Japanese envoy.

“Curtin had by far the closest association and was involved in long and frank private discussions, which shifted from outright appeasement to strong verbal clashes with the new ambassador.”

Curtin JCPML Manager, Lesley Wallace, said the online resource also provided fascinating information about Japanese-Australian relations post-war.

“The eventual growth of the trade between the two countries post-war is covered in the web collection as is the continuing personal friendships,” Ms Wallace said.

“The resource will be a useful tool for scholars, school students and anyone with an interest in Australian history.”

Mr Wurth is the author of 1942: Australia’s Greatest Peril and Saving Australia: Curtin’s Secret Peace with Japan and his latest book, Capturing Asia, will be published in June 2010.

The online resource can be found at:

The exhibition, coordinated by the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, will be on display at Curtin’s Robertson Library from 19 November 2009 – 16 February 2010.

It will then be available to travel to other institutions. To host the exhibition, contact Amanda Bellenger on 08 9266 4186;