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Memento : Issue 26
IT’S OFTEN THOUGHT that the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act stopped Japanese and other Asian people from entering Australia. As it turns out, Japanese people lived in many parts of Australia from the 19th century until 1941, and a handful stayed throughout the war and beyond. The amendments to the Act allowed certain Asian nationalities, including Japanese, to enter Australia on a passport for 12 months and then to apply for extension of stay and exemption from the Dictation Test. Exceptions were granted for business, travel and study purposes. Our collection holds the stories of thousands of Japanese people who travelled south in search of adventure, business opportunities or to join family members already living in Australia. Our latest research guide, Allies, Enemies and Trading Partners: Records on Australia and the Japanese by Dr Pam Oliver, describes records in our collection on Australia’s relations with Japan and its people since before Federation. Pam Oliver is an Honorary Research Associate at the School of Historical Studies at Monash University and has published extensively on the Japanese in Australia before 1941. Researchers have generally believed that most Japanese people entering Australia before the turn of the 20th century worked in the pearling industry. Although many did this work, our records show that trade was the major drawcard for Japanese to Australia before and after Federation. Communities of merchants and small businessmen grew up around the Australian coast, with Sydney becoming a major centre for merchants. Thousands of Japanese men came to Australia to work in Japanese trading companies or to explore new business possibilities. A large body of over 10,000 records in our collection relate to the Japanese in Australia before 1941, consisting of company records, entry documents and security service dossiers. These records are a valuable resource for Japanese people whose ancestors visited, worked or lived in Australia. Some of them married Australians and integrated with communities in the cities or country towns in which they lived. One example was the Muramatsu family who settled in Cossack, Western Australia in the 1890s. The family opened a shop selling imported Asian goods, and Jiro, one of the sons, later became the owner of a large pearling fleet. It was clear that the family had the support of the (above) New Year’s Day celebration at the Japanese consulate, Sydney, 1939. Photo by Ichiro Kagiyama. NAA: C123, 9895 (centre) Minister for Trade, John McEwen at the Japanese floating trade fair aboard the MS Aki Maru, 1960. NAA: A1200, L37049 (right) Pearl lugger crew, Broome, early 1900s. NAA: K1394, WA00272[A] 16 MEMENTO News from the National Archives