Aimo Albert Kaurila
Albert Kaurila, as he was known, was born in Pyhäranta in Finland on 30 January 1896. He moved to Australia in 1926, soon moving to Queensland where he acquired a sugar cane farm at Long Pocket near Ingham.
Married with five children, Kaurila’s world turned on its head on 8 December 1941, when the Australian Government declared war on Finland. That declaration was a significant moment in Australia’s history. In September 1939, Prime Minister Menzies had taken it as inevitable that Australia would fall in line with the British declaration of war on Germany. In December 1941, Prime Minister Curtin followed a different path when Britain declared war on Finland, Hungary and Romania. While not disagreeing with the British decision, Curtin took the view that Australia must make its own declaration of war. To this end, the Curtin government formally advised the King to assign to the Australian Governor-General the power to declare war. The King’s assent received, Cabinet proceeded to advise Lord Gowrie Lord Gowrie to sign a proclamation officially declaring war on Finland, Hungary and Romania. The document was countersigned by Prime Minister Curtin; for the first time Australia had declared war separately from Britain.[i]
It was a rare phenomenon for democracies to be at war with each other, but Finland and Australia found themselves in circumstances largely beyond their control. The Finns were fighting to regain territory lost to the Soviet Union in 1939-40; after Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Australia was an ally of the Soviet Union, Finnland’s enemy.
While there was no history of animosity between Finnland and Australia, the consequences for Finns living in Australia like Albert Kaurila were enormous. They were now ‘enemy aliens’.
Kaurila was arrested in March 1942 and transported to Loveday via the internment camp at Gaythorne in Brisbane. As with the arrest of other Finns in North Queensland, Kaurila’s arrest was regarded as a ‘precautionary measure’, since there was no record of disloyal or subversive behaviour. Inevitably his internment created enormous hardship for his wife Selma and their five children.
Kaurila appealed against his internment. He represented himself at a hearing before the Aliens Tribunal that convened at Loveday on 23 October 1942, giving evidence and facing cross-examination. He had been able to provide to the Tribunal a number of character testimonies from friends and associates in North Queensland.
The Tribunal was ‘favourably impressed’. Kaurila was one of just two Finns released from Loveday in November 1942 to return to Queensland, where for a time they were subjected to a restriction order but otherwise permitted to return to their previous lives. Shortly after Kaurila, 29 other Finns were released from Loveday, but they were required to work on the coal gantries at Osborne in Adelaide for most of the rest of the war.
Kaurila remained on his farm with his family. Before war’s end he became the father of twins. He applied for, and was granted, naturalisation.
NAA: BP242/1, Q21831 Kaurila, Aimo Albert - Queensland investigation case file
NAA: A367, C62724 Kaurila Albert Aimo
NAA: D1901, K53, KAURILA Aimo Albert
[i] Patrick Ferry and Darren Watson, ‘Declaration of independence’, https://www.naa.gov.au/blog/declaration-independence