Joseph Shibuya was born in Mikage, Japan in 1922. His Japanese sea captain father died before he was born and his Australian mother returned to Australia with 6-months-old Joseph and his 2-year-old sister, Hannah.
In 1940 Joseph lied about his age, and gave his place of birth as Geelong, to enlist in the Second Australian Imperial Force. He wrote:
[A]ll my friends and schoolmates were joining up and I didn’t see why I shouldn’t do my bit for Australia.
Military intelligence discovered his Japanese birth and he was discharged after eight months on racial grounds.
Joseph’s stepfather, Sakuhei, was anti-British and had opposed Joseph’s desire to enlist. When authorities arrived to intern him in December 1941, he denounced Joseph and Hannah as also Japanese. All three were interned at Liverpool Camp, with Joseph and Sakuhei later moving to Hay and Loveday Camps.
Joseph did not speak Japanese and found his pro-Australian views set him apart from most of the other internees.
...the worst part of the internment was having to associate with the Japanese... Several of them tried to get at me with propaganda; the others were very hostile.
Joseph Suzuki, interview with Sunday Telegraph 1945
He was recommended for release in 1942, but this was denied by military authorities who considered his training in survey work and geography would make him an ideal spy. Joseph’s health suffered and he was hospitalised with depression several times. In August 1944 he was finally released on medical grounds. He returned to work as a surveyor and, upon being naturalised in 1945, changed his surname to avoid unwanted associations with his Japanese heritage.
Internees at Loveday Camp
Reproduced courtesy of Australian War Memorial
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Reviewed 24 April 2023