Heijiro Murakami is an unusual case, because before his internment he was living on Samarai Island off the south-east coast of New Guinea. At that time New Guinea was an Australian-administered territory.
Murakami was born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1875 and moved to Thursday Island and then New Guinea in the late 1800s. He was living on Samarai with his partner and children and working as a farmer when war broke out in December 1941. Murakami was arrested on 10 December 1941 and held in a civilian prison on the island until transferred to Port Moresby for transport to Australia. He arrived in Sydney on the TSS Marella on 14 January 1942. Murakami was initially sent to Hay internment camp in NSW but in May 1943 was transferred to Loveday.
On 21 January 1946, Murakami was one of seven Japanese arrested in New Guinea to request that they be repatriated to New Guinea. Murakami gave his advanced age and a wish to be looked after by his son as the reasons for his request. There is no record of a specific response to the petition, but a month after most Japanese internees were repatriated to Japan in February 1946, Murakami was transferred to Tatura camp in Victoria and then in September 1946 to Rushworth camp, also in Victoria. Since New Guinea was an Australian territory and his partner was a citizen, the Australian authorities debated whether to return Murakami and another nine Japanese interned in New Guinea to New Guinea or deport them to Japan. In January 1948, he was repatriated to Rabaul, where he was detained in a detention camp pending the Administrator’s approval for his release.
Text by Rowena Ward
Iwamoto, Hiromitsu, 1999. Nanshin: Japanese Settlers in Papua and New Guinea, 1890-1949, Canberra: The Journal of Pacific History (available online at: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/132632/1/JPH_Nanshin.pdf)
NAA: MP1103/1, MJ18500 Prisoners of War/ Internee: Murakami, Heijiro; Date of Birth – 1875, Nationality – Japanese.
NAA: A445/ 258/18 Japanese Internees A. Release in Australia B. Deportation
NAA: A1066 IC45/1/11/5 Internees in Australia – Japanese - Repatriation